Blogging and running an online business is hard work! As a poor college student, I’m constantly looking for a balance between affordable and efficient options to run my business as smoothly and as effortlessly as possible. I’m all about finding affordable resources for new bloggers. With the right tools and systems in place, I can set as much of my business on autopilot as I can. Instead of slaving away for hours on Pinterest or Instagram, I get to focus on what I (and my followers) love best: creating great content.
These are my favorite tools, resources, and odds and ends that make my business an efficient beast.
Note: Affiliate links denoted with (*). Although these are all products and services that use, love, and always recommend regardless of affiliate sales 🙂
Related: Check out The Ultimate Guide to Starting a WordPress Blog if you haven’t yet made the plunge!
Hosting: Bluehost*—I absolutely love Bluehost over any hosting service. They have great customer service, 24/7 chat, and I’ve never had major issues with my website crashing. An absolute must for starting a WordPress blog.
Bonus: Sign up with Ebates* and get $20 cashback ($10 from Ebates for signing up, $10 for a purchase through Bluehost)
Theme: Genesis Framework* and Brunch Pro* Child Theme—I love the crisp clean look of my theme and the flexibility that Genesis provides. I don’t have to be an expert coder and everyone at Feast (makers of Brunch Pro) has been more than kind to help me customize my theme settings just as I want.
Font: Anter* from Creative Market and Raleway—Creative Market is a serious playground of design resources. You can find anything and everything there. Plus they have options for all budgets. Make an account and get 6 Design Freebies a week!
Email Service Provider: ConvertKit*—I can’t even tell you how much I HATED MailChimp. It was ugly, awkward to use, and I couldn’t segment, schedule, or automate anything without tremendous effort. ConvertKit makes all of that an absolute breeze and I can’t say enough good about it. I can easily make email courses, landing pages, and all sorts of opt-ins without having a million and one things going on in the back-end. If there’s one paid service that’s absolutely worth it, it’s ConvertKit.
Email Scroll Box: MailMunch—I love my little scroll box from MailMunch. It syncs to my ConvertKit account and is much more polite than a popup (oh, do I hate popups). I set my scrollbox to appear once the reader has read a good portion of my blog post. So if they like my stuff, they’re welcome to join my list. And if they’re not interested, I don’t feel like I’ve intruded on their day.
Pinterest Scheduling: BoardBooster*—Ideally, I would love to use Tailwind* because it’s scheduling system is easier, but it’s a bit out of my price range for now. But at $5/mo, BoardBooster is a great alternative. I loop my top boards to repin (Best of Be Simply It and Self Love) and set up secret boards to schedule pins to my group boards.
Instagram: Later*—I recently discovered Later and haven’t looked back. I’m a huge fan of “micro-blogging” for Instagram (i.e. writing mini blog posts in the captions) because I can provide more value and content to my followers. Since these captions are usually a bit lengthy, Later lets me type them all out on my laptop then post from my phone. How sweet is that? Definitely saving my tiny thumbs extra leg (thumb) work. Later’s free plan (the one I’m using) gives you 30 posts/month for free plus you’ll get an extra 10 from me! Just what you need to post 1-2 times a day.
Note: It’s against Instagram’s TOS to use automatic schedulers (i.e. let an app schedule and post for you). So Later will send you a notification of when it’s time to post your photo. It’ll open your image in Instagram, copy the caption to you clipboard, and you post away. If you use another service that posts for you, your account might be shut down. So just know that in advance.
Facebook, Facebook Groups, Twitter: Buffer—Ok, I fully admit that I’m the laziest person with my Facebook page and Twitter account. I just push my Instagram posts to my Facebook page and pretty much never post on Twitter. It’s absolutely acceptable to focus your energy on the platforms that work for you. I never felt comfortable with Twitter (I’m way more word-y than 150 characters). So better to rock one or two platforms than be mediocre at best on multiples. Buffer let’s me schedule posts directly to my Facebook Group and Twitter account, up to 10 posts in the queue, for free!
Laptop: Macbook Pro*—Ol’ faithful for my college student life
Phone: iPhone 6S—Easily syncs with my laptop, takes great photos, and very app friendly
Camera: Sony a5000*—I chose this camera specifically for it’s shape (kinda weird, I know). It has a great compact shape and size. When I start my consulting job, it’ll be much easier to pack than a bulky Canon. However, I plan to upgrade to a Canon T4i when I have the funds for an “at home” camera to pair with my “travel” camera. Disclaimer: I’m definitely no expert photographer
Image Editing (desktop): Canva + PicMonkey—I admit that I bounce between the two depending on what I need done. PicMonkey has a great overlay feature that let’s me make my font gold. But Canva makes it easier to center and align your images and texts. So just depends on what I’m looking for in the image.
Image Editing (phone): PicTapGo! + Snapseed—PicTapGo! has great filters to improve your lighting. You can also save editing recipes. So if you have a shoot that you’ve done in the same light, you can quickly edit the rest of the photos with the same recipe. I love Snapseed for it’s brush tool (easily cool down or de-saturate a specific area) and it’s white balance feature.