I’m all about keeping things simple when it comes to my blog and business.
In other words, why take 10 steps when 3 will do? Why use a super-confusing software when a simple one gets the job done?
Since starting Blog Beautifully, I’ve tested out dozens of different tools, programs, and platforms for bloggers and online business owners. Some I instantly fell in love with, and some – not so much.
In this post, I’m talking about the tools that “stuck”; the ones that are now so ingrained in the day-to-day management of my blog and business, that things would undoubtedly fall apart without them.
These 17 tools made the cut because:
a) They’re easy to use once you master the learning curve
b) They save me TONS of time each week
c) Their price tag is worth it (or they’re free!)
d) They help me make more money as a blogger
I’m a stickler when it comes to business expenses, and I won’t pay for something if I don’t need it or see a lot of value in it. With that being said, over half of the tools I’ll be mentioning are free (wee!) and if they’re not, I’ll explain why the additional expense is worth it to me. Usually it’s because the R.O.I. is crazy high – that is, the tool helps me earn a lot more money than I have to pay to use it.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
My 17 Top Tools For Making Money Blogging
17 tools might sound like a lot, but this truly is everything I use to run my blog and business – including social media scheduling, invoicing, collecting payments, selling my books and courses, graphic design, and more.
TOOLS WORTH INVESTING IN
1. ConvertKit – $29/month for under 2,000 subscribers
Even though MailChimp users on a free account can now use the “automation feature”, I still think ConvertKit comes out on top as a better email list platform. Put simply, you can do things with ConvertKit that you can’t do with free platforms like MailChimp and MailerLite.
One of my favorite ConvertKit features is how easy it is to “include” and “exclude” certain subscribers from receiving specific emails – depending on whether they’ve already made a purchase from you, are enrolled in one of your free/paid courses, or if they’ve simply downloaded a freebie on a certain topic (among other options).
>> Join ConvertKit here – you can also request a demo first to see if you like it
Related: ConvertKit 101: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
2. LeadPages – $25/month
LeadPages is another email list helper, and the #1 tool I credit with the rapid growth of my email list. With LeadPages, you use easy drag-and-drop templates to create things like:
+ Landing pages
+ Pop-up boxes
+ Webinar signup pages
+ Thank you pages
+ Giveaway signup forms
+ And more!
If you’re like me and not particularly “design savvy” or “code savvy”, LeadPages will be your best friend when it comes to creating gorgeous landing pages without all the hassle. It is an investment, but you’ll use it for everything so the price tag is well worth it.
>> Purchase LeadPages here
3. Adobe Illustrator – $20/month
I know, I know – I just said that I wasn’t “design savvy” and now I’m talking about a professional design program? *Cough* hypocrite *cough*. But hear me out!
If it wasn’t for Jessica Safko’s Adobe Illustrator Masterclass, I’d still be trucking along with Canva, and struggling to create halfway-decent images and graphics for my blog.
I won’t list out all of the premium design features you have access to in AI, but let’s just say there are a LOT. Anything you can dream up, you can create in Illustrator.
>> Ready to step up your design game? Download Adobe Illustrator here!
(Don’t let it scare you! Take Jess’s course and everything will make sense in no time – I promise).
4. InMotion web hosting – $5.99/month
As I’m sure you know if you read my blog regularly, I’m a huge fan of self-hosted WordPress. It wasn’t until I switched from Blogger to WordPress that my blogging income skyrocketed, and it’s what I recommend to all of my readers and students.
Related: 7 Reasons Every Serious Blogger Should Be on WordPress
For my web hosting company, I use InMotion. I’ve been very happy with them thus far, and they’re great for blogs that need more robust hosting. For a beginner-friendly host, I also love and recommend Siteground.
Related: 3 Easy Steps to Start a Self-Hosted WordPress Website
>> Sign up for web hosting with InMotion here
5. Tweak Me V2 WordPress Theme – $69
I’ve used a few different WordPress themes, and this one is my favorite by far. It’s the only theme I’ve used on Blog Beautifully, and it’s served me well through several site makeovers. Here are some of my favorite features of the Tweak Me V2 theme:
1. You have six different sidebar options to choose from: left sidebar, right sidebar, two on left, two on right, one on each side, no sidebar. You can set a default sidebar layout, but you can also change the sidebar setup on every single page or blog post.
2. You can create a static home page with sections of different columns (one column, two columns, three columns) that can be re-ordered however you want. Check out my homepage to see this in action!
3. Google fonts and Font Awesome icons come pre-installed, so you have tons of choices for the fonts and icons on your site.
4. You can change the colors of absolutely everything: headings, fonts, sidebars, the footer, top menus, and more.
>> Purchase the Tweak Me V2 Theme here – you won’t regret it!
6. Haute Chocolate Styled Stock Library – $33/month
For the longest time, my blog and branding suffered because they looked very unprofessional. I’ve never been a wiz with a camera, and taking photos for my blog posts was usually a nightmare.
I was hesitant to purchase stock photos to use on my website, but when I finally found the perfect ones, I had a feeling it would be a smart decision that would amp up my branding and save me tons of time (and I was right!)
Since I started using photos from Haute Chocolate’s Styled Stock Library, my blog and business have soared. My branding looks beautiful (finally!) and I’m constantly getting compliments on the way my website looks and the images on it. I highly recommend this membership to all bloggers who struggle to take their own photos and want something quick, easy, and gorgeous!
>> Join the Styled Stock Library here (you can also get free sample photos!)
MINIMAL INVESTMENT TOOLS
7. and 8. PayPal and Stripe – fees vary
PayPal and Stripe are the two tools I use to collect payments from my clients, customers, and students. Both of these payment processors are technically “free” to use, but they each collect a small fee from every transaction on your account.
For client work, PayPal is fabulous because you can use it to create and send branded invoices to your clients. Stripe is hooked up to my Teachable school, and I use it to collect credit card payments from my students (particularly important if you want to offer monthly payment plans).
>> Check out PayPal and Stripe here
9. BoardBooster – starting at $5/month
BoardBooster is the only tool I use for my Pinterest account, and I currently receive around 5,000 views per month from Pinterest. I’ve talked on and on about my love of BoardBooster before (check out this post as an example), and considering it starts at only $5/month, I feel like it’s a no-brainer for any blogger looking to grow their traffic with Pinterest.
>> Start a free trial with BoardBooster here!
Related: Pinterest for Beginners: 12 Action Items to Start Off With a BANG
For all social media accounts besides Pinterest, I use Hootsuite to schedule my posts. Hootsuite works for Instagram, Facebook (groups and pages) and Twitter, and you can hook up a maximum of three social media accounts on a free Hootsuite plan.
I prefer Hootsuite to all other free scheduling tools because it allows you to have an unlimited number of posts scheduled at one time. I used Buffer in the past, but their free plan only allowed me to have 10 posts scheduled, which was never enough (especially for my Twitter account, which performs best with 10-15 tweets shared per day).
>> Get started with Hootsuite here
Related: The 4 Best Twitter Tools to Grow & Automate Your Account
Teachable is the platform I use for selling and hosting my online courses and ebooks. I currently offer several courses and books about blogging and social media, which you can check out here.
The biggest reason I chose Teachable for my courses is that it has everything I need in one place. Not only does it host my courses, it also allows me to create sales pages, generate coupon codes for discounts, set up an affiliate program, and more.
Teachable has several pricing tiers, but you can definitely start off with their Free plan if you’re just dipping your toes into the online-course-creation world. That’s what I did at the beginning, and I slowly progressed to the Basic plan ($39/month). I now upgrade to the Professional plan ($99/month) during big course launches.
>> Create your Teachable school!
12. Google Drive
My blog and business were a MESS before I discovered Google Drive. I had folders scattered all over my computer, could never find what I was looking for, and always felt incredibly stressed out because of it.
Sound familiar? If so, you need to get involved with Google Drive ASAP – trust me.
Not only is it the perfect way to store all of your blog/biz-related files, images, and documents, it also allows you to create spreadsheets and slideshows. I use Google Slides for the slideshows in my webinars and online courses, and I use Google Sheets to track my business income and expenses, blog post links, and affiliate marketing info.
>> Get started with Google Drive
Can you tell I’ve become a bit of a Google fan?
It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was using hotmail as my email provider. Gah! Gmail is soooo much more intuitive, organized, and has a million advanced features that hotmail lacks.
My inbox is now clean and organized to a T 24/7. I highly recommend Gmail to all bloggers who receive a lot of email on a regular basis and need a way to stay on top of things and keep everything organized.
>> Sign up for Gmail here (note: your gmail account will be attached to your Google account)
For my online courses, like Profit From Your Passion, there are a LOT of videos involved. Profit From Your Passion has over 70 video lessons, and those all had to be edited before they were uploaded.
iMovie comes installed for free on all Mac computers (score!) and it’s great for handling all of the basic video editing stuff – cropping, sound adjustment, transitions, etc. My only gripe is that it makes my Macbook run reeeeeally slowly, but I suppose that can’t be helped.
>> Check out iMovie here!
A lot of my video tutorials and course lessons require me to demonstrate a tool or technique on my computer screen. To film the actions I’m taking on my computer, I use a tool called QuickTime. QuickTime has an option called “Screen Recording” which is perfect for this kind of thing.
QuickTime is another program that comes installed for free on Mac computers, and it also allows you to create audio recordings and video recordings through your computer’s webcam.
>> Download QuickTime here
Curious what Mac I use? This is the one (and I love it!)
16. YouTube Live
One of my favorite ways to grow my email list, connect with my audience, and sell my paid offerings is by hosting live online training events or “webinars”.
Because I’m all about saving money where I can, I have yet to invest in fancy webinar software. For now, I use a YouTube Live stream (free) that I’ve embedded onto a landing page. It works just as well, and it’s free!
For reference, I also like having a chat box for my webinars, and I use this tool to create my chat boxes.
>> Learn more about YouTube Live webinars here
17. PDF Escape
Last but certainly not least, we have PDF Escape.
For the longest time I wanted to make my workbooks and checklists “fillable”, so that my email subscribers could type right into my PDF freebies on their computers without having to print them off. I heard that this could be done with Adobe Acrobat, but I didn’t want to shell out the money for i
Then someone recommended PDF Escape to me, and my whole life changed!
Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but seriously – PDF Escape is fantastic.
It allows you to make fillable boxes in your PDFs that people can type right into (great for workbooks or worksheets), and checkable check boxes where a tick mark will be added up whenever someone clicks on the checkbox. It’s super cool, and I use it for all of my opt-in freebies and course materials now.
>> Check out PDF Escape here!
Related: 5 Steps to Create an Opt-In Freebie Your Audience Will Love
So there you have it: the 17 tools that keep my business running smoothly and help me earn a living as a blogger. What are your must-have blogging and business tools? I’d love to know in a comment!