Do you have to spend money to make money? Not necessarily. But can spending money on your blog help you grow? Absolutely. For the longest time, I thought that it was just lucky that some people blogged for a living. But the truth is, I think there is room and opportunity for everyone. I used to believe that I had to have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers in order to be successful. Thankfully, that isn't the case at all. It takes hard work, determination, and some tools that can help you along the way. I wanted to share my best investments of all time that helped me become a full-time blogger and also leverage my worth online.
I started my blog way way back in 2012 after falling rock climbing. I didn't do it for money or fame or validation. I started writing as a creative outlet. But as time went on, I started to spend money on things that would help my blog grow, save me time, and help me make money. Now, I'm a full time blogger and I can tell you having your work also be your passion is one of the best things in the world. Whether you're looking to make an income, gain followers, or get more notoriety on your blog I think there are a few investments that can really help. You can make an impact doing the thing that you love, which is what I get to do. I can tell you that is the best benefit of all.
This January was one of the biggest months ever for my blog with over 200,000 pageviews. It's no secret that I'm a bit infatuated with blogging. I love using tools that can help me grow and continue to improve what I'm working on. Whether it's an investment that will help me save time, make money, or just teach me something new, here are the 15 best investments I've made for my blog. I'm also including a rating system: basic, intermediate, and advanced blogging so you can see if this is right for you.
15 of the Best Blog Investments of All Time
Website – WordPress
Wanna have a laugh? For what feels like a century I was on good ol' free Blogger. Blogger is just fine. But it's lacking so many capabilities. WordPress is a robust system. It's not just a blogging platform. It's capable of being a website, hosting your store, selling products, and so much more. I've been on all of the big blogging platforms: Blogger, Squarespace, and WordPress. I'll tell you right now, if I could go back in time, I would choose WordPress every time. I also recommend Genesis Framework for a hosting theme. If you want to see from start to finish how to set up a WordPress blog, check out this very detailed post.
[bctt tweet=”If I could ask a genie for three wishes, it would be to make carbs not count, all puppies have homes, and have THESE tools for my blog. ” username=”heleneinbetween”]
Website Hosting – SiteGround
A WordPress site needs hosting. There are so many companies out there. And to be PERFECTLY honest with you, most of them offer the same service. SO how can you cut through the noise and choose the right one? Simple: it needs to support your blog while being supportive. I've realized that as I've grown my blog it's so essential to have support when you need it. What if something goes wrong? You don't want to wait hours for a response or worse yet, not talk to a real human being. That's why SiteGround is above and beyond and supports sites of any size.
Site Support – WP Help
The other day I was up at 4 am pulling out my hair because my sales page was “broken.” I Googled answers. I emailed some support services. I'll be the first to tell you I can't do it all. And often times I think I have everything under control. I assure you, I do not. I ended up reaching out to WP Help and within 45 minutes the issue was solved and I still had all of my hair. WP Help does things like site maintenance, moving your site, installing blog design, and so much more. It's all my tech support in one place. It's something that I will never live without. And I mean that sincerely. I have a support system for things I just don't understand.
Rating: Basic – Advanced
Blog Design – Restored 316 / Creative Market
Having a blog design is essential. But it's also hard to figure out where to find the good ones. You want something that looks unique, but you also don't want to pay an arm and a leg. Custom blog designs are INSANELY expensive. Starting at $1,000s and up. And in my humble opinion, not necessary. I feel like my blog design represents me. My current design was found on Creative Market and I also recommend I also love the Restored 316 designs. Truth be told, WP Help designed it and made it look more like “me.” You can still take a template design and make it look like your own.
Email Provider – Convertkit (Free Plan Click Here)
It took me years to start an email list. (Are you seeing a common theme here?) But when I realized that this was a great way to communicate in a deeper and more direct way with my audience then I jumped on board. I started with MailChimp. I quickly switched to Convertkit. It's not quite as cheap as MailChimp but it's so much more powerful and intuitive. It's simple, easy to use, and helps me directly connect with my subscribers. If you'd like to see how to set up a newsletter or why you might need one, check out this post. There is a free plan of Convertkit for up to 2,000 subscribers you can find right here!
Keyword Research – SEMRush
SEO is how we're found on Google. Google means massive pageviews. Pageviews = more followers, readers, sharers, and frankly, more money. I'm your basic nerd when it comes to search engine marketing (SEO). SEMRush is the best tool out there to do keyword research and study the trends online. I get hundreds of hits daily from blog posts where I've focused on SEO and creating a keyword rich, but interesting blog post. SEMRush is not cheap. It's also not for the faint of heart- it can be hard to figure out. But for me, it's an necessary tool.
Payment System- Samcart
I sell courses, ebooks, and Lightroom Presets on my blog. I need an easy way to take payments. I also want something that works with both PayPal and credit card payments. Oh, and I'd like it all hosted on my blog so anyone interested doesn't have to go to a separate site. One more thing, it needs to work directly with my email provider. SamCart does it ALL. I used to use online programs like Teachable to sell my stuff but they took such a large percentage of the sale and I just hated the platform. It didn't feel like something I created. That's why I made my course, Instagram for Success and Blog Boss Babe, all on sites I created. Then I integrated SamCart to create the payments.
DSLR Camera – Nikon D5600
I didn't really get into taking photos for my blog until I got a hand-me-down DSLR camera from my little sister. The thing had been dropped a time or two, but I was surprised by how powerful it was to create cool images. This past year, I finally upgraded my 10-year-old Nikon camera and went with the Nikon D 5600. It was a lengthy process to determine which camera suited me best. But I really love how my photos turn out. They are perfect for my blog and Instagram. After all, these are visual platforms, so we need the graphics and images to back it up. Here's my ultimate guide to buying a new camera.
Photo Editing – Lightroom
While having a good camera is great for photography, I believe the secret sauce is in the editing. With Lightroom you can completely transform a dark image, manipulate colors to your liking, fine-tune details, create a theme with how you edit, and bring a picture to life. I can bulk edit photos so it means I spend less time editing and more on shooting. I created my own Lightroom presets to quickly and seamlessly edit my photos.
Rating: Basic to advanced
Social Sharing Plugin – SocialWarfare
One of the best ways to get traffic to your blog is to get other people to share it with their audience. You need to make it SUPER SIMPLE. And I also believe fully in social clout. When people can see that hundreds, even thousands, shared the post, they feel encouraged to share it as well. The SocialWarfare plugin is a paid plugin for WordPress that makes sharing your post streamlined. If you're not on WordPress I suggest SumoMe.
Webinar Set Up and Email Opt-Ins – Leadpages
I love hosting webinars and workshops. It's the best opportunity I have to really chat with my audience and get to know what their needs are. I create everything for my workshops inside of Leadpages. I also create all the opt-ins for the workshops in Leadpages (they call them Leadboxes). It's something I've been using for years. Basically, if you have Leadpages you have everything you need to host a webinar. You don't need fancy webinar software or expensive plugins. It works directly with YouTube Live Events! If you are wanting to host live workshops or create beautiful email opt-ins, I suggest checking this out.
Pinterest Scheduling – Tailwind
Pinterest is one of the best ways I drive traffic to my blog. Especially when it comes to travel related posts. Many of my pins from the past year get repinned tens of thousands of times. Some of my pins went “viral” this year and that's all in thanks to Tailwind. I currently have over 10,000 pins scheduled over the next few months. I love this because it spaces out my pins and ensures that my pins go to the right boards. I cannot even fathom manually pinning anymore! You can see how I've used Tailwind to go viral right here.
Virtual Assistant – Virtual Staff Finder
Have I mentioned yet that I like to do everything myself? I answer all my emails, set up my site, handle all my social media, and also am trying to code an app. Like everyone, I get overwhelmed. I finally got my act together after reading Tim Ferriss' “4 Hour Work Week” and realized I needed to release the reigns a bit and get some help. He recommended Virtual Staff Finder and I LOVE my virtual assistant! It was a quick and thorough process and I got someone that fit my needs exactly.
Social Schedule – Hootsuite
I love scheduling things. Give me a planner and a pen to cross things out and I'm a happy camper. There are many scheduling tools out there but Hootsuite just seems to work best for me. I schedule literally EVERY tweet for my blog posts and Facebook posts on Hootsuite. Even better? Instagram just announced that Business accounts can now schedule Instagram posts via Hootsuite! I love this because after I'm done writing, my brain is still buzzing, so I can schedule my social media when it's still super clear. Plus, I don't forget to actually share my blog posts once they go live. See how I schedule my blog posts here.
I read something recently from a blogging guru, Ramit, that said, “the best entrepreneurs are obsessed with learning.” This made me feel invigorated. The secret sauce to success is to continually hunger for understanding and improvement. The beauty of the online world is you can learn virtually anything online. Want to understand HTML? Take a course! Need some self improvement? Take a training. Want to learn graphic design? It's out there.
I've purchased BIG courses like Marie Forleo's B-School (a $2,000 price tag). Despite my fear of losing money it catapulted my success as a full time blogger. I've made the money back, in case you're wondering, and then some. I've also taken an in-person photography course, a Facebook ads course, a course on affiliate marketing that really helped me see the light and more along the way. One of the biggest take-aways is that there is always room to learn. I haven't regretted a single course I've taken. After all, you are your own best investment. So improving your skills can be pivotal for taking your blog, website, shop, social media, etc. to the next level.
Rating: no matter what stage you're in, we can ALWAYS learn. So basic, intermediate, advanced would all apply here.
Build Your Course/Ebook/Product/Service – Kajabi
I have tried SO MANY programs. Teachable, Thinkific, and I even built my own, from scratch! Here's my issue: these course sites take such a high percentage of your sales! Then, if you build your own site it's extremely daunting plus, you need so many tools like payment processors, email opt ins, webinar pages, sales pages… AH!!! Kajabi has it all. In fact, you could even use Kajabi for email collection! They have webinar pages built right in (I actually got rid of Leadpages switching to this!) and it just makes everything so so easy. It's by far my favorite tool. You can use this to sell anything!
We all have room to grow and learn. Investing in yourself is one of the best ways to put yourself on the path to success, meeting your goals, and making money. I know that all of these tools helped me to make money and become a full time blogger. I hope these tools and resources help you on yours!
What's a must have investment for your blog? Tell me in the comments.
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