tools and resources for beginning bloggers

I have been blogging for a long time, but only recently started taking it seriously as a viable way to earn income from home. Once I made the decision, I began scouring the internet for resources to help me reach my goal of monetizing my blog faster. I spent hours upon hours pinning and reading articles about sponsored posts and affiliate income, searching for books about blogging (I learn best by reading), and adding ebooks and courses to my online shopping cart, then leaving them there, trying to decide if they were worth the investment. (CLICK HERE for my article about how to start earning income as a new blogger).

As a former teacher, I love being able to shorten the learning curve for other people. Anytime I can make the process easier for the people one or two steps behind me, I jump at the chance! I am definitely not an expert blogger, and so far I've earned a little extra income, but no one's retiring to travel the world on a luxury yacht anytime soon. However, I've consumed a lot of information over the past 5 months, and want to share the resources that have been helpful to me throughout the process of writing, publishing, and promoting my blog posts, and how to grow my readership. So here we go - my top tools and resources for beginning bloggers:

1. How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul (by Ruth Soukup)

I asked for this book for Christmas, and just now got around to finishing it. I was digesting it slowly, putting things into practice as soon as I read them, so it took awhile to complete. It was perfect for the stage of blogging I was in. Not a beginner to the blogging world, but a blogger who knew literally nothing about how to monetize. If you're looking for a step-by-step guide for setting up a blog, this is not your book. If you have already started a blog, and want to learn how to monetize and grow your readership, this book is excellent! Found HERE on Amazon. 

2. Google Sheets + Docs

A free resource! For awhile I was able to "wing it" and just write posts whenever they came to me, but I quickly found I was running out of content ideas, or would forget what I wanted to write about when I sat down at the computer. Then once I started landing product reviews and sponsored posts, I found I had to plan at least 2 weeks in advance to make sure that (1) I wasn't forgetting about content that brands were counting on and (2) I was spacing out sponsored content, and not writing about the same topic 2 days in a row. Honestly, normally I'm a paper and pen kind of gal, but I found the quickest and easiest way to stay organized was a spreadsheet - my actuary sister would be so proud! Now I have an editorial calendar spreadsheet and a Pinterest Group Boards spreadsheet available on my laptop and iPhone, so I can check it at any time! 

Related: How I FINALLY got traffic to my new blog using Pinterest

I also find using Google Docs very useful for collaborating with other bloggers. For example, when I started my Tuesday Mom Talk on Instagram, I needed a way to keep track of who was signing up for which day, and a location where new participants could go to get the caption we were using. Google Docs for the win! 

3. LinkTree

Adding LinkTree to my Instagram bio has been a game changer! I would get very frustrated when someone would comment on one of my older posts asking for a link to the topic I had been talking about, and I had no quick way of getting it to them! I also would stress about how long to leave links up, when to change them, etc. 

Thankfully, I was introduced to LinkTree by Alex Tooby - the creator of the Instagram course I took to grow and monetize my Instagram. It's a free website where you can have multiple links up in your Instagram bio at once, and it's actually pretty aesthetically pleasing, too! Now you I can link to my latest blog post, a landing page, an email sign up, or even a sponsored website (did you know you can get paid to Instagram?) and not have to take any links down. It's seriously one of my new favorite tools.

Related: How to use Instagram for your home-based business

4. Canva

Another free resource! Canva is basically a free graphic design website for the masses who know nothing about graphic design. They have pre-made designs for every type of social media post. You can also create your own design with just the preset dimensions. I mainly use Canva to create Pinterest friendly images - vertical pins with text overlay. There's also a free app so you can use your phone to design your images. 

5. Pinteresting Strategies by Carly Campbell

I have heard so many bloggers say they get the majority of their traffic from Pinterest, but I honestly didn't even know where to start with it! I got some great tips from How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul, but I still wasn't seeing an influx of traffic from Pinterest. I learned to create pins on Canva, and read free articles other bloggers had written, but so many of them were a commercial for Tailwind or Board Booster, and I wasn't willing to pay a monthly fee to have a machine pin for me. 

This ebook was so informative and so worth the very affordable price I paid. I learned so much that I wasn't able to find in any free articles, and I loved that it focused on how to pin manually to give your pins some traction. I've been applying the tactics from the book for just a week now, and have already seen an uptick in traffic. I can't wait to see where it takes me in a few weeks of consistently using the strategies! I highly recommend it if you're trying to boost your traffic, and you think Pinterest could be the way to do it. HERE is my affiliate link. I think you'll be really impressed with it, too! Practical tips are everything for a new blogger!

Related: How I FINALLY got traffic to my new blog with Pinterest

6. Mail Chimp or ConvertKit

I'm currently using the free version of Mail Chimp for my very small but growing email list. When I finally decide to come up with a freebie or opt-in, I could definitely see myself upgrading to the paid version. So many bloggers rave about ConvertKit, but I feel like I don't have a solid plan for an email campaign just yet, so I've been holding off on investing in it. Mail Chimp isn't the most user-friendly, but once you figure it out, you can create some beautiful layouts for your emails, then save the template for your weekly or monthly email. So far it's worked beautifully for me as a beginning blogger. 

7. iPhone photo editing apps

My favorite editing apps to use when editing photos for my blog are PicTapGo, Afterlight, and Snapseed. Afterlight and Snapseed are great for touching up and editing your photos. I like to boost the brightness and contrast, and play with the white balance. I use PicTapGo for amazing filters, because it helps me create a look specific to me. You can adjust the intensity of the filters, and it also remembers your "recipes", so when you edit your photos a certain way, the app remembers which filters you combined to get that look. It helps to create a cohesive flow for your Instagram account, makes your Pins recognizable, and gives your whole blog a branded feel. I sometimes even edit my photos taken on my Nikon on these apps, just so they'll have the same look and feel as my iPhone photos! Otherwise I just edit my pictures on the Photos app on my MacBook, and make the same adjustments I mentioned before - brighten, contrast, white balance. I always aim for a crisp, white feel to my photos. Readers and brands alike look for large, quality pictures when they come to your blog (along with your unique writing style), so it's important to take the time to make your photos look just the way you want them!

So that's it! Those are my top resources to help you take your blog to the next level. It can feel like there are a million things you need to learn and master as a new blogger - writing, photography, editing, SEO, graphic design, coding, social media, and how to collaborate with brands - it can all be so overwhelming! We should take any chance we get to help each other out!