It takes a host of resources to keep this blog up-and-running! After years of trial and error, I’ve discovered some of my favorite tools for effective blogging and productivity and can’t wait to share them with you. I’ll keep this list updated as I streamline my blogging process.
Got any solid recommendations for resources that have saved your life? Let me know!
Note: Some of these recommendations contain affiliate links. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Ampersand Creative possible at no extra cost to you!
Domain and Hosting
I am fiercely loyal to Bluehost, as they have served me well over the last few years. The domain and hosting purchasing process is a smooth and inexpensive one. Most importantly, the few times I have had hyperventilating panic attacks over some sort of technical nightmare, Bluehost has come to the rescue quickly and efficiently! I can’t recommend them enough.
Content Management System (CMS)
Though Squarespace has started to rise in the ranks in popularity, I currently pledge my allegiance to WordPress.org. Because of its extensive and widely-known platform, it gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of design and management compared to Blogger. If you’re a novice blogger, try the free WordPress.com version, but be aware that you will have limited control over themes and customization. You can always convert your free version to a self-hosted or WordPress-hosted version later.
For the DIY designer, it’s particularly useful to start with a framework and then design or layer a child theme over top of it. After two years of using the Thesis framework on The Modern Austen, I changed gears and took the plunge with Genesis. And I love it! It’s a versatile framework that allows even non-designers the ability to customize with ease.
Foodie Pro Genesis Child Theme
I’m really picky when it comes to themes, but Shay Bocks nailed it with her Foodie Pro Child Theme for Genesis. Though it was initially designed with the food blogger in mind, I find it so versatile that it can easily be customized for any niche. Just take a look at her showcase to see what I mean.
- WordPress SEO by Yoast
- WordPress Editorial Calendar
- Google Analytics by Yoast
- iTheme Security
- jQuery Pin it Button for Images
- Pretty Link Lite
- Simple Social Icons
- Alpine PhotoTile for Instagram
Social Media Management + Email Marketing
Buffer is hands-down my favorite social media management tool. It allows you to schedule your Facebook posts, tweets, G+ posts, and Linkedin Posts; curate outside content; and strategically plan out your social media marketing on a seamless, easy-to-use platform. Not only does Buffer’s product make life easier, but their blog content is chalk full of relevant and applicable tips, strategies, and life hacks for all sorts of verticals.
If you’re interested in starting a newsletter or maintaining an active email subscription list, use Mailchimp. Its interface is intuitive and easy to use and allows you to target specific audiences for more purposeful engagement. Regina from ByRegina.com has a fantastic tutorial that explains how to use Mailchimp to grow your brand.
Note: If you’re in the retail marketing realm, skip these two and give SnapRetail a try. It’s the best in email, social media, AND website marketing for small business owners.
PicMonkey and Pixlr are perfect for the non-designer or even for those who are bit more design savvy but either don’t want to pay for Photoshop or just need to make some quick edits. I use the Royale version of PicMonkey to have access to some extra features.
Sam Bell Creative – For Petite Branding and Design
For someone who likes to control and be involved in every aspect of the blogging process (or in life in general…), I can’t speak more highly of my experience working with Sam Bell Creative. Sam always left me feeling comfortable and confident, giving me the voice to share my honest thoughts and making impressive tweaks along the way. Sam always went above and beyond in her delivery and I can’t recommend her enough!
Lauren Renee Designs – For Portraits, Headshots, and Product Photography
Lauren of Lauren Renee Designs is an incredibly talented and wonderful person to work with. Featured on Lemonade and Lenses, she has an eye for capturing the beauty of portrait and product photography and somehow always finds the most beautiful light in every shot. Not only does she do beautiful maternity, family, and headshot photography, but she also has a phenomenal series called The Dogs of Pittsburgh. Lauren is responsible for my lovely sidebar and about page photos and I can’t thank her enough!
Blogging + Planning Tools
byRegina’s Epic Blog Planner
Everything that is generated from Regina’s creative soul is utter perfection, but I must give a specific shoutout to her EPICblog planner. This workbook started it all for me. I was able to map out my entire brand strategy and narrow down my focus for each month using the various sections.
This fabulous app follows me wherever I go, both on my desktop and on my phone. Keep your notes tidy and organized in various notebooks, capture articles and images for later use, and add to your drafts–all in one place. The key to Evernote, according to my lovely friend Kristin from My Life as a Teacup, is the more you add to it, the better it will work, and she’s right! I gave up a few times before I committed to adding more content and now I love it.