Hey there! Just a year ago, I knew absolutely nothing about blogging, other than I loved reading blogs, and they provided me with tons of inspiration! Then one evening, one of my favorite bloggers posted about how she got started blogging, and I mentioned it to my husband. He said, “You could do that!” and, the rest is, you know…
The thing is, it’s not as easy as just opening up the computer. Especially for me. I was absolutely terrible at photography- but I knew that great pictures were essential for a good blog. I knew nothing about technology- but I knew that I’d have to learn to get started. And Pinterest? Not even.
Since then, I’ve started this little blog and learned a TON- but I’ve also wasted a ton of money too. I tend to jump right into new projects feet first, and buy ALL OF THE THINGS that I think I need to learn it all. So much money wasted on the many different “how-to” blogging products out there that are nonsense, or just didn’t work for me.
I wanted to share this resource page with you with all the products and “how-to’s” that I’ve found valuable and have worked for me. There are affiliate links, but I’m only recommending them because I truly use and love these products and resources. Again, I’ve spent and wasted more money-and time- than I care to admit on resources and tools that didn’t work- I’m only sharing what does! Hope this is helpful!
My favorite blogging resources:
To get started:
I got started with Abby Lawson’s Building a Framework course, and I would absolutely hands down recommend this course for anyone else just starting out. In fact, with my very basic technical knowledge, I’m not sure that I could have navigated all that starting a blog entailed without taking her course. It’s comprehensive but easy to understand, and Abby is just so super nice. Plus, when you enroll in her course, you get access to her private Facebook group, which is so helpful, and Abby answers tons of questions on there herself. If you only have the money to take one blogging course to get started, it has to be this one!
Okay, remember how I said that good pictures are crucial to blogging? It’s true, especially if you are in a visual niche like mine, design/decor. I took a course that Abby recommended, and I’m so glad that I did! It’s the Ultimate Photography Book by Aniko Levai. I love that her ebook is geared towards bloggers- most photography guides are not, and the needs of bloggers are a lot different than other photographers!
Now, I’m still not a professional by any means- remember I have a more than full time job, so I haven’t had tons of time to devote to learning this- but in the short time I’ve had, I’ve learned so much from this ebook. It’s been well worth the very reasonable cost. Here’s a before and after of my photography skills:
Aniko also breaks down what kind of gear to buy, which helps me immensely because I had no clue. I would have thought that I needed the most expensive camera and lens, but that’s not the case. Reading her ebook saved me money just in equipment costs! So much better than any free advice I’ve read online, and believe me I’ve poured through tons of it. If you’re planning to do interior photography, this is well worth the cost.
The Ultimate Photography Book includes a choice of a Basic package, a Pro package, and Master package. The Basic package, with just the eBook, has tons of valuable information itself, but the Master package includes the Lightroom templates, which are amazing- they save me SO MUCH TIME with photo editing!
I use Adobe Lightroom for photo editing. I initially chose it because of the templates that are included in Aniko’s book, but I’ve loved it so much I keep paying for it every month ($9.99/month).
I started out with one theme and was not happy with it. It was difficult to install (the directions weren’t very clear) and once I had it, the design wasn’t flexible to my needs at all. I ended up changing themes about 6 months after I launched, and man am I glad that I did! I changed to a theme from Restored 316.
I cannot recommend Restored 316 enough. The setup instructions were so clear and easy that I was just kicking myself for not choosing them first. Plus, they have so many different designs to choose from. I have never needed support, because everything has functioned so smoothly for me from the get-go, but in Abby’s Facebook group, they have an active presence, and folks there are always raving about how great the support is.
I have the Refined theme, which I love because it has so many different features, is completely customizable, and comes with some great templates that I was paying extra for with my old theme!
Some advice- if you are starting out, don’t be swayed by the pretty colors like I was! Think about how you need your page to function. You can make it look pretty much however you want to, color-wise, but the function of the theme can’t often be changed beyond its programming. Make sure that what you choose will function well for your needs! For example, are you going to sell a product? Make sure that your theme supports that. Look at different themes on active websites, think about the different features on them, and make sure the theme you are choosing supports those features before you choose!
If you want to get your blog out there (and you do, if you want more than just you and your mom to read it) then mastering Pinterest is a must. And probably, you’ll need some help with that, because Pinterest is a beast with many heads that keep changing all the time. I had no clue when it came to Pinterest. I literally thought that you just pinned one picture on there one time and then folks would come running to your blog. Ha! I can’t emphasize enough that I had no clue. I lost tons of valuable time, and traffic, because of how little I knew about Pinterest for the first few months I blogged.
When I finally realized that I needed to take a course, I was so behind the 8 ball it wasn’t even funny. I would recommend that you take a Pinterest course at the beginning of your blogging journey. Trust.
Like with my theme, I made a mistake with the initial one that I chose. The author recommended what I consider are some shady techniques to build a following on Pinterest (well, some things that just aren’t for me) and I never even got off the ground with that course. Then I started a free course by Pinning Perfect, and the techniques made so much sense to me that I signed up for the full paid course.
Pinning Perfect is taught by Melissa Culbertson and Anna Luther, who both often have the inside scoop on Pinterest changes, what actually helps and doesn’t with the algorithm, etc. Plus, they are also active in the private Facebook group, access to which comes with the course. Within just a few weeks of taking the course and implementing their techniques, I had a huge upswing in traffic from Pinterest. This has been one of my most worthwhile purchases.
As an example, Pinterest recently made (more!) algorithm changes. While other bloggers were scrambling to adjust their pinning techniques to keep up, I just kept doing what Anna and Melissa had taught me- because it wasn’t anything different. Their techniques are that good, that solid, and that in line with what Pinterest recommends, that if you learn the basics from them, you’re set.
A Pinterest tool that I happily pay for and love is Tailwind. I tried manual pinning for awhile, but just couldn’t keep up with it, especially with my full time job. I love the scheduling features, of course, but I REALLY love the analytics that come with Tailwind, which allow me to see which pins and boards are performing the best, and focus on those. And of course- Tailwind Tribes, which let me both contribute to and support fellow bloggers. I did pay for an use a different Pinterest scheduling tool for awhile, but I found it complicated and really didn’t have great results with it- but I can enthusiastically recommend Tailwind!
Ahh, another mistake. Aren’t you guys glad that you can learn from mine?
So I first signed up with a different, super cheap hosting service, and of course, being me, signed up for 3 years of service at once! Sometimes I need a good swift kick.
Almost immediately I started having issues. Whenever I needed help, there was always a super long wait- as in, sometimes I’d have to wait on hold for over an hour, once over an hour and a half. My site often ran really slow, and with how little traffic I was getting, there was no excuse for that. In all of the Facebook groups I was in, folks always talked about how terrible this hosting was.
The thing is, if your hosting service can’t maintain your site, you’re in trouble. People will bounce from a slow site in no time. I regretted signing up for that cheap hosting almost immediately.
Luckily, I found SiteGround.
SiteGround is awesome. It’s super fast. Despite more page views than ever before-sometimes thousands at one time, when a post goes viral- my site has never run faster. And I post tons of large pictures which I know should really slow down my site. And, whenever I’ve needed support or had questions, the longest I’ve ever had to wait was 2 minutes! And I’ve always had complete resolution of any question or issue.
Let me give you an example. Recently, an update to a widely used plug-in caused tons of sites to crash- including mine. I just got on live chat with SiteGround, and within 15 minutes they had the issue completely resolved and my site was back up- no worries. On Facebook, I saw tons of people who use other hosting whose sites were down for hours or even days whose hosting services couldn’t even figure out what the issue was, much less get their sites back up.
I was, yet again, so relieved to have SiteGround.
The visual, above, gives you a good idea of the different options available. When you click on it, it’ll walk you through step-by-step how to sign up and get your site going. And, through my link, you get a pretty big discount on hosting, if you choose SiteGround.
A terrific free resource to learn about making money blogging
It’s SmartPassiveIncome.com. Pat Flynn, who owns the website, is amazing. I stumbled upon his blog when I was looking for a tutorial for my email service, and I’ve learned so much from Pat. He has a podcast that has so much great information. I paid close to $200 for a course on affiliate marketing from another blogger, and to be honest, Pat covers most of what was in that course for free on his website and in his podcast. Before you spend money learning how to monitize your blog, please check out his free resources- I wish I had!
The biggest free blogging resource that I can’t live without
It’s Canva! While I have a paid account with PicMonkey, and it is helpful, my go-to is Canva. I only use the free version, which gives you tons of options for editing and adding text to your photos and graphics. I would recommend that you play around with Canva before you buy a paid account with PicMonkey. That said, tons of bloggers only use PicMonkey and love it!
So, these are the blogging resources that I use and love and 100% recommend. If you’re thinking about starting a blog- do it! You won’t regret it!