If you want to make money blogging, you’ll need to spend a little money for hosting, a domain name, and other tools of the trade. However, I firmly believe that you can start building your for less than $50 per month. The below list of resources are all completely free! Some of them do have a premium version, but start with the free version. Then, as your blog starts to make money, upgrade.
*This list contains affiliate links, but I never promote products that I wouldn’t recommend to my best friend, just to make a quick buck.
In order to run a blog, you need a platform to build your website. I 100% recommend WordPress over Blogger, Squarespace, Wix, and any other solution out there. With WordPress, you just pick a theme to determine how you want the site to look (there are thousands of free options out there) and add plugins to customize it perfectly to your needs. There is a bit of a learning curve, but if I can figure it out, you can too.
Google Analytics is industry standard for tracking your traffic. And it is free! There’s a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress to make set up very easy, or you can simply add the tag to your header. Don’t get intimidated when you first sign in! Google Analytics is a beast. Just look at the most basic stats to start – your pageviews, uniques, bounce rate, etc. – and check out where your traffic is coming from so you know what is working and what is not.
I absolutely LOVE PicMonkey. It is the most important and heavily-used tool in my toolbox. PicMonkey allows you to edit your photos without having to know how to use Photoshop. Plus, it is free! Now, full disclosure, I do pay for the premium version of PicMonkey, and I think it is fully worth the price. But you can get started with just the free version, which is fine if you just need to do easy graphic creation or want to crop photos. I did a full review of the PicMonkey, which you can read by clicking the button below.
Some bloggers think they don’t need any kind of project management system. I believe this is a mistake! Make yourself a task list, so you don’t get off track. Otherwise, it is really easy to wake up one day and realize that you haven’t written a post in weeks. There is no way to “set it and forget it,” unless you have the money to hire a staff to do the work for you. Asana helps you stay on track, and it’s free!
Dropbox is easiest way to share documents with others and between devices. Now, if you need to collaborate on a document, I like google Docs better because you can see the changes the other person is making. But if you’re just sharing a doc that is already done, Dropbox is the best tool. A free account comes with enough space for most bloggers, but if you want to use Dropbox to save larger files like photos, you might want to upgrade.
Sometimes, you will have the need to shorten a link, so it is easier for other people to type or remember. Bitly is great for this. You can create a link on the go, but you have to sign up for a free account if you want to customize the link. I recommend doing this, because Bitly also allows you to track the link, which can be super helpful if you want to know whether or not people are clicking. Yes, you can set up this kind of traffic using Google Analytics, but if you just need some bare bones numbers, Bitly is easier.
Share Link Generator
I recommend that you install a WordPress plugin to add social sharing buttons to your website for every post. However, sometimes you want to create a one-time-use button or link that people can click to share on a specific social network. Share Link Generator works perfectly for this need. It’s super easy to use.
This is the best tool for running a giveaway on your blog. You can have people complete an action in order to enter, such as follow you on Twitter or leave a comment on your blog. The premium version gives you some extra options, but most bloggers will be fine with the free version.
Moz’s Beginner Guide to SEO
If you want to learn about about search engine optimization, this is the best beginner’s guide out there. Knowing the basics of search engine optimization will allow you to get better jobs and charge more for your work, so I definitely recommend reading through this guide. Plus, it’s free, so I mean… you really have nothing to lose!
Premium Resources I Use & Love
While everything on the above list is free, I do recommend spending a little money once your blog starts bringing in an income. Here are tools that I gladly pay for:
($7.99/month or 50% off if you pay for a year in advance)
See above… I LOVE PicMonkey. It is 100% worth every penny I pay for the premium version. I would actually gladly pay even more – that’s how much I love this tool!
($75/quarter or $225/year)
I’m not a graphic designer, but I haven’t hired one to help me with my blog. So how does it look so good? Haute Chocolate. This is a membership site for styled stock photography, mockups, and graphics. They release new photography every month, and you also get access to the entire library of 1000+ images. I use Haute Chocolate for almost every design element on my blog. It is DEFINITELY worth the money.
($2.99/month for bloggers)
This tool helps you create pretty lists of links, which is perfect for a blog hops (aka link parties), creating lists of affiliate products, and more. They have a free version, but it’s really worth the upgrade. With the free version, you can’t add images.
Food Blogger Pro
If you’re not a food blogger, you might still be interested in this, since a huge percentage of the information in this membership site is relevant to all “lifestyle” bloggers (niches like fashion, parenting, or just general lifestyle). If you ARE a food blogger, then you should DEFINITELY check out this membership site. The forums are filled with bloggers who are super helpful when you have a question, and the information in the videos is spot-on.
($29/month for 1000 subscribers)
I recently switched from Aweber to Convert Kit and I love it! This tool allows you to collect email addresses so you can send out newsletters, sales emails, and more. Building an email list is going to help you get more traffic and make more money as a blogger, so I definitely recommend starting one! Mailchimp is free, but honestly, I don’t really like that tool. I’d rather pay for a tool that is easier to use.
($24/month for 1000 contacts)
If you will be doing outreach to write guest posts, BuzzStream is a great tool to help you find contact information and track your links. I also use this tool to find, contact, and track conversations with potential sponsors.
($9.99/month)I absolutely love Tailwind for Pinterest scheduling. I don’t have to manually pin my blog posts anymore. I can just add them to my Pinterest queue via Tailwind. They also have a new featured called “Tribes” that allow you to band together with other like-minded bloggers so you can promote one another.It has made my traffic from Pinterest skyrocket.
(Starting at $9/month)
If you’re selling digital products, such as ebooks, SendOwl is a great way to deliver them, as well as set up sales and coupon codes. You can even run an affiliate program through SendOwl.
21 Strategies I Used to Increase My Monthly Page Views from 17k to 400k+ in 10 Months
This is one of my favorite ebooks about how to build your traffic. It’s a steal. My traffic has significantly increased since implementing the tips in this book. I’m not at 400K per month (yet!), but I’m heading in the right direction.
Blog Posts from Other Bloggers I Recommend
- The Definitive Guide to Link Building from Backlinko
- Fix These 10 Blogging Mistakes & Quadruple Your Traffic from Blog Beautifully
- How To Place Ads on Your Blog Without the Clutter from I Can Build a Blog
- More to come… 🙂