12 Must-Have Tools for Successful Blogging

Welcome to the #WAHMhop event! I’ve partnered with a bunch of my favorite bloggers to share tips and tricks to help anyone out there who’s interested in starting their own business, or making money from home, get a jump start to success!

So, I’m not an expert, but I’ve been blogging for over 4 years, and have been pretty successful. So, I want to share my tips with you guys, in the hopes they may help you too!

12 Must-Have Tools for Successful Blogging

1. Business Plan: Every business must have a plan. Because if you don’t know where you want to be, how will you know how to get there? I have seen many friends start small businesses, of many kinds, that failed. Not because they didn’t have amazing ideas, talent, or work ethic – but because they didn’t have a plan. There’s a great article I refer to each year from Problogger – How to Make a Blogging Business Plan. It has some great questions to consider. Myself personally, here’s what I do: Answer these questions, each year, because your focus does sometimes change. Think about where you want to be in a year. Make 3 big goals. Then break those down into one goal per month. Then each month I write down 3 steps to reach that goal. It makes it all more doable, helps you focus your energy and time, and keeps you on track. This is how I reached a full time income within one year of blogging. You CAN do it, if you plan wisely :)

2. Planner: Everyone needs some type of way to track their business plan, goals, and build an editorial calendar. I know a lot of people who like to use things like Google Calendar, spreadsheets, and an editorial calendar plugin. But I’m more of a paper and pen girl. Funny, since I work online all day, right? So each year I make a new Blogging Binder, with printable planning pages that fit MY needs. Things like monthly calendars, where I can see at a glance what series I have planned, due dates for sponsored work, goals, to-dos, etc. If you’re the type that wants everything all in one place, here is a huge list of free printable planners on Pinterest, and stay tuned this week to see how I put my blogging binder together {subscribe by email, or pin this post and come back when I update it.} But you need some type of “Command Center” where you have all of your notes, ideas, plans, etc in one place to reference.

3. Expense Tracker: It’s important to track your income and expenses from the very beginning, even if you don’t plan on making your blog a full time business. Any income you earn blogging has to be reported, even if you don’t receive a 1099 form. Even if it’s a small amount. But, there is a boatload of stuff you can claim as business expenses too – like PayPal fees, business supplies, some conference travel expenses, hosting and domain name, advertising, etc. So, don’t get stuck at the end of the year trying to figure it all out, start tracking from day one, even if it starts out as just pennies {Like it did for me, lol.} There are a million ways to track expenses, but here’s a really great Blogging Expense Tracker you can download if you don’t have a method already.

4. A Budget: Once you have an idea of your income and expenses, or even before that – you need to set a budget. The more you earn, the more you can adjust the percentage you put back into your business. You know – the whole, “It takes money to make money” idea? And, over time you can get a good idea of which sites and methods are working best for monetizing, and which to let go of. It’s just like setting a household budget – there are fixed expenses, like hosting and host renewal. But set a budget for investment too. Things like joining group giveaways, getting a new design, premium plugins, books and online courses. You might want to set up a savings account for conferences – which I promise are worth it. Also, have an emergency fund: My site got hacked two years ago, and it was a lengthy, pricey mess to fix. Be sure to set money aside for things like that.

5. A Camera: Now, clearly a really good DSLR camera is ideal. But not all of us have the budget or skills to buy this right away. I used a point and shoot and my iPhone for over a year when I started blogging. But if you can’t invest in a new camera, at least learn as much as you can about taking good photos with what you have. Beautiful images on blogs have become one of the most important things that set you apart from others, and make your site look professional. If you’re looking for a point and shoot, read these posts to see a couple I’ve used and liked: The  Nikon COOLPIX S800c for a really solid camera, with lots of capabilities, settings, and filters. The super tiny Nikon COOLPIX S01, which you can see in the post is smaller than a salt shaker. But still takes amazing shots! Great for in your purse, on the go. And one of my personal favorite EVER genius inventions: The Sony QX10. You have to see this to believe it. It’s not a camera. It’s just a sweet lens. It absolutely is phenomenal. No matter what you use though, learn as much as you can: lighting, composition, staging, etc. For some awesome info, no matter what level of photographer you are, here are two resources: My Take a Better Photo board on Pinterest, which is focused on people without a fancy camera. And Craftsy photography classes. They have awesome “go at your own pace” courses on family photos, landscape, learning your DSLR {which I’m taking because I haven’t mastered my new Nikon yet.} and even product photography. LOVE them.

6. Plugins: Every blogger needs plugins. Which ones will be most beneficial to you depend on the type of blog you have. But – here are a few to consider: Akismet is a great plugin to limit the spam comments you get. Not perfect, but has worked well for me for over 4 years now. Yoast for SEO and so much more. This plugin makes sure every post is optimized for search engines, and more. You’ll love it. You absolutely MUST have some type of plugin for social sharing – but I’m not going to recommend one because everyone likes different styles. A couple things to keep in mind when you look for one: The type that has “floating” social buttons, along the left side of a post, are nice to remind people as they read along to remember to share – but on mobile, they can be a pain, and cover half of the content. And when you search for a plugin, look for one with lots of good reviews, that’s updated often {goes for any plugin, actually.} And please, PLEASE, whatever you do – format whichever one you use to share a tweet with your Twitter handle, and not a generic handle from whatever brand plugin it is, like @Shareaholic. You need to get credit and notice when people tweet your awesomeness so you can connect!

7. NOT to do: Ok, this isn’t a tool you need. And kind of ruins my “12” you need list. But one plugin to never, ever, EVER use is the CAPTCHA one. People will never leave you comments. Even the ones who aren’t annoyed will try, but they probably will give up after three to three hundred attempts to get it right, lol. And please for the love of us who are number dyslexic, don’t do the captcha thing where I have to do a math problem, lol. But honestly, with every tool you use, plugin you add, tool you use, post you write… Make sure that your mom and dad can figure it out. Maybe even your grandma. Have your friends check it out. Make sure it’s something that makes sense to people who don’t work online all day like we do :)

8. Security: As I mentioned earlier, I was hacked once. And it can happen to anyone, big or small. So take some basic precautions. A couple I recommend are Sucuri, and their services, since they monitor your site for a low price, and will fix problems if they occur. The plugin Wordfence, to stop hacker attempts, and alert you to problems. And if you ever have an issue on your site and you don’t know if it’s just you, your computer, a glitch, etc – this is the BEST tool I use all of the time: Run a scan on ismyblogworking.com. Sucuri does a free scan too, which is also awesome {and sometimes if you think you have a real problem, it’s great to have two options!} but ismyblogworking has a tool that you put right in your toolbar, making it super quick to check.

9. Google Analytics: I am always amazed how many people rely on other options to track their traffic. As long as you’re watching them all consistently, they probably all give you a good idea of your ups and downs. But 99.9% of brands will ask you for Google Analytics stats, and screenshots. Which means whether you believe they’re the most accurate or not, if we all are living by them – they’re the best to get loaded, so you have the stats if needed. {Also – no idea if this is accurate, but I’ve been hearing this a LOT lately – lately is 2-9-15 – that when analytics updated awhile back, not all of our codes are working right. I’ve heard if you delete your code, add it again with the newly generated code, you soon see a big increase in views. Just an idea? I haven’t had time to try yet, but can’t hurt!}

10. Schedulers: Another quote – work smarter, not harder. Which means finding anything in this big ol’ crazy smart internet that can help automate your tasks. Things like CoSchedule or Hootsuite. Or hiring a VA to help you out. But every successful blogger needs some type of automatic scheduler, to keep posts being shared even when we have a real life.

11. Pretty Office Supplies: First off, I can’t recommend Office Candy Enough. I buy most of my office goodies from them. But, no matter where you shop, I honestly think that pretty office supplies make you more productive. Nice pens and highlighters, a clean and organized desk, pretty folders, a nice notebook for ideas – they all lead to more productivity. Seriously. It’s worth investing in some things for whatever workspace you have – to have things that make you smile :)

12. Help: The last “tool” I’ll recommend is any type of help. None of us can do it alone. Join a Facebook group. Hire a housekeeper. Hire a Virtual Assistant. Subscribe to amazing bloggers that inspire you with their post ideas, or the ones who offer great tips each week.

What are your best tips for working at home, while still being productive?

If you’re looking for more tips, check out these posts, and be sure to follow these other awesome bloggers too, and check out the #WAHMhop hashtag on your favorite social media:

 

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Comments

  1. Definitely a great list. I agree with them all. My camera really has made a huge difference in the quality of my posts and I could not live without my planner!

  2. I always enjoy your blogging/business posts!

  3. Thanks for this wonderful list! As a newer blogger I’m always looking for ways to improve. I’ve seen Google Analytics recommended by several bloggers and just started using it. Next on my list is a better camera.

  4. I agree with all of them! Especially Captcha, it’s the enemy of any blogger who actually wants comments. I also don’t like that math captcha alternative thing. Some of those problems are really hard when I haven’t had enough coffee, lol. I definitely need to start getting more help. I’ve reached the point where I can finally afford it (yay!), so now I have to just let go and accept that it’s okay to delegate.

  5. GREAT list! Thanks for the camera suggestions, one day I want to get a DSLR. Agree about Captcha! I don’t know if pretty office supplies will make me more productive but it will make me want to use them more!

  6. I finally have a planner I love and am taking advantage of scheduling tools. Both have been life changing to be honest!

  7. Great tips! I’m adding this to my favorites bar.

  8. Yes to this list. The big one that I am missing is a business plan. I have a general plan I revamp every year but it is far from a complete business plan. I will work on that!

  9. Loved these tips! I definitely cannot wait to finally switch over my blog this year from a weebly hosted blog to my own self-hosting through WordPress. I’m just so scared for the moving and transporting process…If you have anyone to recommend to help switch over content from a Weebly blog to a WordPress self-hosted blog, please let me know!

  10. I am a new blogger and these tips are great! Thank you:)

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