My Top 17 Tools for Making Money Blogging (That Won't Give You a Tech Headache!)
When it comes to my blog and business, I’m all about keeping things simple. 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 tools, programs, and platforms for bloggers and entrepreneurs. Some I instantly fell in love with, and some, not so much. In today’s 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 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 every week
c) Their price tag is totally worth it (some of them are even free!)
d) They help me make more money
I’m a stickler when it comes to business expenses, and I won’t pay for something if I don’t see a lot of value in it. With that being said, over half of the tools I’ll be mentioning are free and for the ones that aren’t, I’ll explain why the additional expense is so worth it.
My top 17 tools for making money as a blogger
17 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, and more.
My top premium tools
1. ConvertKit - $29/month for under 1,000 subscribers
ConvertKit is by far my favorite email list providers. One of my favorite ConvertKit features is how easy it is to "include" and "exclude" certain subscribers from receiving certain emails. For example, you can exclude people from a launch email sequence if they’ve already purchased the course or product, or send an email only to people who are enrolled in one of your courses.
>> Join ConvertKit here (*affiliate link) - you can also request a demo first and play around!
2. LeadPages - $25/month
LeadPages is another email list tool, and it’s been a huge help in growing my list. With LeadPages, you use their super easy drag-and-drop templates to create things like:
Landing pages for freebies
Pop-up boxes for freebies
Webinar signup pages
Thank you pages
Giveaway signup forms
If you’re like me and not particularly “design savvy”, LeadPages will be your best friend when it comes to creating gorgeous landing pages without the hassle. It is an investment, but you’ll use it for literally everything so the price tag is well worth it.
>> Get LeadPages here! (*affiliate link)
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 software. But hear me out! If it wasn’t for Jessica Safko’s Adobe Illustrator Masterclass (*affiliate link), 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. I absolutely love it and will never go back to anything else!
>> Ready to step up your design game? Download Adobe Illustrator here! (*affiliate link)
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.
For my web hosting company, I use InMotion (*affiliate link). 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 (*affiliate link).
(*Update: In 2019, I switched my blog over to Squarespace and I absolutely love it!)
5. Tweak Me V2 WordPress Theme - $69
I’ve used a few different WordPress themes, and this one is hands down my favorite. It’s the only theme I’ve ever used on Blog Beautifully, and it's served me well through several website 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, or no sidebar. You can set a default sidebar layout, but you can also change the sidebar position on a single page or blog post.
2. You can create a static homepage with sections of different columns (one column, two columns, three columns) that can be re-ordered however you want. This makes designing a cute homepage super easy!
3. Google fonts and Font Awesome icons come pre-installed, so you have tons of choices for different fonts and icons to use on your site.
4. You can change the colors of absolutely everything: headings, fonts, sidebars, the footer, top menus, and more — without needing to know any code.
>> Purchase the Tweak Me V2 Theme! (*affiliate link)
6. Haute Chocolate Styled Stock Library - $33/month
For the longest time, my visual branding suffered because my photos and graphics just weren’t up to par. I’ve never been a wiz with a camera, and trying to take photos for my blog posts used to be a nightmare.
I’ll admit that I was hesitant to purchase stock photos for my website, but when I finally found the perfect ones, I knew that it was the right investment. Since I started using photos from Haute Chocolate’s Styled Stock Library, my blog and business have only continued to grow! 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 (*affiliate link) — you can also get free sample photos!
My top low-cost tools
7. and 8. PayPal and Stripe (fees vary)
PayPal and Stripe are the two tools I use to collect payments from clients, customers, and students. Both of these payment processors are technically free to use and set up, but they each deduct a small fee from every transaction made through your account.
If you work with clients, you can use PayPal to send branded invoices to your clients. I also have Stripe 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).
9. Tailwind — $10/month
Tailwind is the best (and really the only) Pinterest scheduling tool on the market. It’s undoubtedly the main reason my Pinterest account has grown so rapidly and I continue to get tons of traffic to my blog from Pinterest every day. If you want to grow your business with Pinterest, you definitely want to get Tailwind.
>> Sign up for Tailwind here (*affiliate link)
My top free tools
If you want to automate your social media accounts, particularly Facebook and Twitter, Recurpost will be your best friend. It allows you to “recycle” your content so that every so often (on a set schedule you create), the same content is shared to your Facebook pages and groups or Twitter account over and over again. Why waste time creating fresh content every day when you can simply re-use the great stuff you’ve already created?
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 all in one place. Not only does it host my courses, it also allows me to create sales pages, generate coupon codes, set up an affiliate program, and more.
Teachable has several different plans, but you can start off with a free version if you’re just dipping your toes into the online-course-creation world. That’s what I did at the beginning, and once things picked up I upgraded to the Basic plan ($39/month).
>> Create your Teachable school here! (*affiliate link)
12. Google Drive
My business was a mess before I discovered Google Drive. I had folders scattered all over my computer, I could never find what I was looking for, and it always made me super stressed out. Sound familiar? If so, you need to get involved with Google Drive a.s.a.p., trust me.
Not only is it the perfect way to store all of your blog/biz-related files, images, and documents, it also has built-in tools for creating 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.
Can you tell I’m a bit of a Google fan? It’s hard to believe that two years ago I was using hotmail (cringe) for my emails. I’m so much happier with Gmail and my inbox is now clean and organized 24/7. I highly recommend Gmail to anyone who receives a lot of emails and wants to stay on top of things.
For my online courses, there are a lot of videos involved. Profit From Your Passion has over 70 video lessons, and all of those videos had to be edited before they were uploaded.
iMovie comes automatically installed on all Mac computers (score!) and it’s great for handling all of the basic video editing stuff — cropping, sound adjustment, transitions, etc.
A lot of my video tutorials and course lessons involve me demonstrating a tool or technique on my computer screen. To film the actions I’m taking on my computer, I use a tool called QuickTime to record my screen.
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, so it’s basically an all-in-one video creation tool.
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 workshops or webinars. To do this, I use a YouTube Live stream that I’ve embedded onto a LeadPages landing page.
17. PDF Escape
For the longest time I wanted to make my workbooks and checklists “fillable”, meaning people could type right into my freebies on their computers without having to print them off. Someone recommended PDF Escape to me, and it changed my life! 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 (is that a word?) check boxes where a tick mark is added up whenever someone clicks on the box. It’s super cool, and I use it for all of my opt-in freebies and course materials now.
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? Do you use any of the ones I mention?