Blogging has been a tremendous blessing for me. Some days, I still can’t believe that I have a career that allows me to stay home with my kids and earn a living. It has also allowed me to meet incredible people online, some of whom have become true friends and it gives me the opportunity to challenge myself daily.
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By no means is blogging an easy way to earn money, nor is it a quick fix to a financial problem. Earning a living online takes years of hard work. If you find a book or course or website that tells you differently, I would suggest that you not invest your time or money in their products because there is no “get rich quick” scheme when it comes to earning a living through blogging.
When people approach me about becoming a blogger, I am honest with them. I usually start off by asking them, “are you prepared to put in more than full time hours earning little to nothing for at least one or two years?” If their answer is “yes”, then I tell them more about how to get started and I tell them what the longer term potential is for earning.
I’ve tried to break down what I consider to be essential tools for professional bloggers. There are many other things such as social media scheduling tools and VA’s that could be added to the list, but I’ve tried to focus on what I feel are the tools that will give you your biggest bang for your buck so to speak, the tools that I couldn’t do what I do without.
If you are just getting started, I don’t suggest spending a lot of money until you know if blogging is right for you. You will need a website (preferably a .com) and a host. When you are starting out, you can use something like Bluehost as your blog host, but as soon as you start getting a significant amount of traffic to your site, you will want to switch to a host that caters to larger bloggers. I use Black Chicken Host and am very happy with them.
For the design of your blog, you can start with a free wordpress theme, but you will likely want to upgrade to a Genesis theme and may even need to invest in a web designer if you aren’t inclined in that way.
You will need a computer or iPad to blog on. I use a MacBook Pro and I love it because I can take it with me anywhere and can even blog from the kids’ swimming lessons or while on vacation, but any computer will do when you are first starting out.
Photography has never been my strong suit. In fact, up until this past December, all the pictures on my blog were taken with my iPhone. Images are increasingly important to a blog’s success so I took a deep breath and decided to figure out how to use a proper camera. A professional quality camera isn’t necessary when you are starting out, but I had reached a point where I felt that I needed to invest in this camera.
Once I started using a real camera, the book Tasty Food Photography was a huge help. I still have a long way to go, but it has helped transform my photos, particularly the recipes.
Of course, in order to take pictures, you need a good camera or an excellent camera phone. If, like me, you live somewhere where natural light is not in abundance, you will also need lighting. You can purchase expensive lighting and also have to worry about backdrops or you can use a Shotbox and get both in one.
The Shotbox works with any smartphone or camera and provides built-in, adjustable lighting. It comes with some backdrops but there are lots of easy ways to make your own without spending a fortune. I often use scrapbook paper or linens. You can also use the Shotbox for making videos.
You will also need a photo editor. I use Picmonkey. It is a free online photo editing website that allows me to make some basic edits, create collages and add text and watermarks. I pay a small monthly fee to have access to some of their upgraded features. I mainly use my own images, but when I do purchase stock photos, I usually use 123rf.com.
your own products:
Creating your own products isn’t a blogging tool, but I had to include it in this list. Earning money blogging whether it be through ads, affiliate sales, direct marketing, sponsored posts, or related income streams such as virtual assistant work, coaching and speaking is achievable, but those income sources are related mainly to traffic and that is something largely out of your control. Working to create your own products allows you to control more of your earnings and can really change your future.
Currently, about 1/3 of my income comes from my own products, mainly from the sales of my Chicken Dump Recipes and Beef Dump Recipes ebooks. I am working towards having 2/3 of my income come from my own products. I am in the process of creating a video e-course as well as a series of freezer meal plans and writing two more ebooks. I am THAT convinced that product creation is the most important factor in increasing blog revenue. Having said that, you need to create quality products and market them well.
In order to market them, you will need to build your email subscriber list. I currently use ConvertKit for my email list.
If you are already an established blogger, you can easily create an ebook from your existing content or based on subjects you write about. This book is excellent for putting you on the path towards putting out your ebook. The author of the book also offers editing services which I have used (and wish I had used for some of the books that I tried to edit myself).
The internet is always changing. Social media platforms and their algorithms change all the time. The only way to keep on top of what is new, what is working and how to grow is to continue to educate yourself. Listen to podcasts, read the latest developments that affect bloggers, follow relevant groups on Facebook, read books not just on blogging but on marketing and business, and take courses.
The courses you take or books you read will depend somewhat on what you are currently doing on your blogging journey. I’m in the middle of creating a video e-course so my recent education has been focused on e-courses, sales funnels, video, and email subscribers. In the past when my focus was on other areas of my blog, my research reflected that.
One thing that even as a veteran blogger I have found helpful is changing the way I blog based on information hidden in my Google Analytics. The book Skyrocket Blog Pageviews Using Google Analytics is great for this.
Another book that I found helpful is the book 17 Strategies to Increase my Page Views from 17K to 350K+ a Month in 9 Months. It has actionable points that even bloggers who already have high page views can benefit from.
other critical tools:
a blogging tribe – having a network of other bloggers that you can brainstorm with, ask questions of, be honest with and ask for honest opinions in return, promote each other’s posts, and grow with is absolutely invaluable. I would not be where I am today without my blogging friends.
blog conferences – attending a good blog conference can propel you to the next level as it motivates you, educates you and most importantly, allows you to network and form connections. I am an introvert, so I have always chosen smaller blog conferences that have a good reputation as far as their content goes but that limit the amount of attendees so that I can meet people and not feel overwhelmed. This year, I am going to push myself out of my comfort zone and attend a larger conference. Blog conferences can also be a place for you to meet brands and form ongoing relationships with them that can be mutually beneficial.
a positive outlook – social media platforms change their algorithms or disappear altogether. Viral posts lose their steam. Posts that you worked 12 hours on and were sure would be the next big thing fizzle and die a quick death. Your traffic can take a nose dive. Commenters can attack and be cruel. Spammers or bloggers can steal your posts or images and try to claim credit for them. Other newer bloggers can surpass you. You can feel like you’re not part of the blogging “in” crowd. This job can be discouraging on the best of days. A positive outlook and a glass-half-full attitude are essential tools for surviving. A sense of humour doesn’t hurt either!
chocolate – As I write this, it’s 1 a.m. My kids are sleeping, but I know that tomorrow is going to come before I’m ready for it. Right now, my kids have Chicken Pox and they are itchy and miserable. I have a sponsored post that is due, too many emails to return, some technical issues to work out, and an Easter party to plan. Chocolate is my friend. Not quite the same way that Jesus is my friend, but some days, it feels almost as necessary.
caffeine – I suppose that for some, this is optional, but for me, it is an essential tool to my blogging survival. Even though tonight will be a late night of work, I will still set the alarm to wake me up early tomorrow so that I can get some work in before the kids wake up (because did I mention that they have Chicken Pox?!) so caffeine will be needed tomorrow and the next day and the next. My caffeine takes the form of tea or Pepsi but for others, it may be coffee.
What are your essential blogging tools?
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