Blogging Toolbox

There are a lot of things that I use to keep this blog running smoothly.  This includes hosting, emails and other resources or tools in my Toolbox.  I’ve categorized them below including information on how to earn money through affiliate sales.  I’ll continue to update this page as I learn more.

Creating a Brand New Blog

First, you’ll need to pick out a name and decide your niche, BUT don’t get too caught up in it either.  I’ve seen plenty of bloggers start out with one idea and then transition to a new one once they figured out what they preferred to write about, or once they saw what was resonating with their readers.  There are plenty of name generator sites out there, but I’m not listing them as a resource because all they do is take your three or four words to describe your blog and then spit back out blog names using only those words.  You can do that on a piece of paper.  (Haha, had to throw that one in there!  Moleskine journals are my favorite playground for my words.)

Next, you’ll need to pick a host.  There are plenty of hosts out there and I’ve found that many of them are all owned by the same company, EIG.  I did a little research and based on my blog size, I moved to Just Host.  If you use my link below you can host your blog for only $3.95 per month.

You will be able to find your domain name (aka your blog or website name) sign up for it and then sign up for web hosting. Once you have your hosting nailed down, you can load WordPress onto your site.  WordPress is a free platform that you can use to build your blog. The great thing about WordPress is that while it seems overwhelming, there are a lot of great videos out there, plus WordPress has its own tutorials on how to use all that it offers.  If you ever question what comes next, just research it, you will find the answer.

You can also take WordPress courses through Skillshare.

Make Your Blog Look Pretty – Picking a Theme

Picking a theme is also important, it’s the format or layout of your blog.  For those just starting out, you can grab any of the free themes that are available.  I highly recommend any WordPress theme (such as 2021 or 2022) as you know they will be kept up to date.  Staying up to date is important, you’ll not only get the latest and greatest plugins (kind of like apps for your blog) but the latest and greatest security.

But if you’re ready to take it to the next step with a theme, I highly recommend the Divi theme from Elegant Themes.  They have great tutorials on their website that show you how to upload Divi and how to create blog posts within their theme.

No matter what theme you decide upon, be sure it’s a Responsive theme.  Responsive means that your theme adapts to the different browser sizes out there.  You want to make sure that your blog looks good across the spectrum from desktops and laptops, to tablets, and mobile phones.  If not, some people won’t even look at your blog if they can’t easily read it on their mobile phones.

Make Me Pretty Please

The fonts you use and the color choices you make will play a part in how your blog is received.  Images that you use will also be important.  I recommend two resources that work for me.

Blog Beautiful – 50 Tips & Fixes to Make Your Blog Glow by Marianne Manthey.  It’s loaded with tips on how to make all of your pages look great.  It starts with setting goals, what you want the overall look to be, and then covers headers, footers, sidebars, and your posts and images.

The World’s Best Grammar Checker.  Grammarly.  When you blog, you want to make sure that you’re not only spelling words correctly, but that the sentence structure is ok as well and that it flows when you read it. That’s where Grammarly comes in.  It even spots when you’ve added in extra space between words or sentences.  Use it.  It’s helpful.

For my images, I use Canva.com.  There are plenty of options out there, but I find this is clear and easy to work with, especially if you don’t have a background in using Photoshop.  All of the images that I create on my site are through Canva. I upload a lot of my own pictures, but Canva also offers free images as well as ones that you pay for.  Each image is only $1.00, which I find very reasonable.

Deal Jumbo is another place that I get images from and you will usually find deals here!  There are always freebies and then weekly deals that you can download for 2 or 7 or 9 dollars.  The images all come with extended rights for personal and commercial projects.  This means you can also upload these Deal Jumbo images into Canva to create your Pinterest image and you can upload them into Zazzle and create products.  Make sure to always check what rights are being extended.

Building A Community

Finding readers takes time.  There are plenty of ways to do it.  One is to read and comment on blogs that are similar to yours and also to read and comment on blogs that are not similar.  I know that sounds contradictory, but you have numerous interests, why wouldn’t your readers?  You want to find people who are coming to you for a variety of reasons—might also help you to develop a better sense of which direction to go into.  When I started my blog, I was only posting about trying new things, but then I created some posts about creativity and I found that my readership of those posts was higher than the others.  This added a new dimension to my blog.

Another way to find your community is to look for Facebook groups.  There are plenty out there, you just have to search for them.  Here are some that I belong to.

Midlife Bloggers Association is just what it sounds like.  A group for midlife bloggers that is dedicated to supporting these bloggers grow.

Connecticut Bloggers Group.  If you’re a Connecticut Blogger then please join.  If you’re from a different state do some searching on Facebook or Google and I’m sure you’ll find a group that’s perfect for you.

Growing Your Blog

Email there are many programs out there.  I use MailerLite which is free to use up to 1000 contacts.  So if you’re building your blog slowly, you don’t want to pay out monthly fees for emails that you’re only sending to 25 or 50 people.  MailerLite offers templates to create your emails, you can drop in your logo to keep everything branded.

Let’s Get Social Together

This can get complicated.  There is so much to go over.  The big thing to take away from here is to find the 2 to 3 platforms that you’re going to rock.  If you’re into Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, then use them like crazy.  If you like Pinterest the best, then rock it out.  Unless blogging is all you ever do, it’s not possible to be truly active in all forms of social media.  Especially considering how quickly new types come along each day.  Pick what interests you and then rock it like crazy. This is important because algorithms change on a regular basis with these platforms.  The more active you are the better your chances of being seen by your readers. The below order is of importance to me.  If you click the links below, you’ll be taken to my pages on these platforms. Please feel free to follow.

Pinterest – Pinterest is the scrapbook of the internet and I mean that it in a good way.  Want to curate images for your decorating project or recipes?  Go to Pinterest.  Want to create a travel bucket list, find great blog posts, or pick your next outfit?  Same place.  Pinterest is also the place where you will entice potential readers to click over to your blog.  Follow me on Pinterest.

Twitter – Reach out to people in 280 characters or less.  You can tweet teasers about your blog, links to your blog, or anything else that you feel like tweeting about. Follow me on Twitter.

Facebook – The old tried and true.  My biggest recommendation for Facebook is you have to do more than just post links to your blog.  Interact with people.  Post other people’s things.  Ask questions.  Have fun. Follow me on Facebook.

Instagram – If your blog will have a lot of pictures, this is the place to be.  In fact, Instagram is even the place to be if your blog doesn’t have a lot of pictures.  What does matter are the pictures that you share on Instagram and how you connect them back to your blog.  Follow me on Instagram.

Monetizing, Affiliates, & Side Hustles or How to Make Some Dollar Bills (y’all)

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing is a great course from Michelle Schroeder of Making Sense of Cents.  Michelle regularly makes over $50,000 in affiliate income from her blog.  I like how she set up the progression of this course.  Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing includes step-by-step instructions of how Michelle set her blog up and her posts in order to get the most interest for her links.

Your First Affiliate Sales in 24 Hours.  This course is offered by Elise from House of Brazen.  Your First Affiliate Sale focuses on how you can use Pinterest to generate interest, clicks, and income.  I like this course and I did see more click-throughs to my posts with affiliate sales once I started using the methods in this course.

Amazon Affiliates.  This is another way to earn money.  There are many ways to use your affiliation with Amazon.  You can create ads within your content.  You can link out to something for sale on Amazon, etc.  An example would be doing a book review on your blog and then having an Amazon Affiliate link to the book.  If a reader clicks on it and buys the book, you earn a small commission.

ShareASale is an affiliate program.  Through this link, you can sign up to be an affiliate for Grokker, Stella and Dot, Warby Parker, and more.

Need some side hustles to earn additional money?

I like to get discounts and earn cash back while shopping.  And there are two easy ways to do it.

Rakuten   This is one of my favorites.  If you sign up for Ebates, you can shop almost anywhere and get discounts and cashback.  If you sign up using my link and spend at least $25.00 then you’ll earn $10.00.  If you continue buying through Ebates you will continue earning money back on what you spent.  The dollar amount varies based on the merchant.  Rakuten also runs special discount days.  At Christmas, I spent $450.00 buying presents, merchant discounts, and additional discounts and bonuses from Rakuten and received over $40.00 in cashback. Yes, cashback, was sent right to my PayPal account.  Who doesn’t want to get paid while shopping??

That is the list as it is so far.  I will continue updating as I have more and learn more.  If there is something that you feel is missing from the list and you want to know more, then please let me know.  I’ll look into it.