This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
As bloggers, we end up using a lot of tools. There are tons of them out there. Some are amazing… and some are not so amazing. To try to help separate the good from the not-so-good, I’ve compiled a list of the many tools, links, and resources over the years that I would recommend and stand behind 100%. Hopefully this list will be a helpful reference as you navigate your own blogging journey!
Books, Reading, and Training
Building A Framework: The Ultimate Blogging Handbook. This is my cornerstone training program to help you start, grow, and monetize a blog around your passions. It can be done! There’s an eBook-only option as well as several packages that include training videos.
BookBoss: Write + Launch a Profitable eBook in 90 Days or Less. We created this premium course to give bloggers a step-by-step guide through the eBook process that has been the main generator of income for our business!
Crush It. Donnie read this book while we were on vacation on the summer of 2012. It’s a super motivating book on why now is a very special time in history, where the barrier of entry is very low to create an online business. Six months after reading this book, I started JustAGirlandHerBlog.com, and now Donnie and I get to work together on the blog full time! The business principles in Gary Vaynerchuck’s first book are still very relevant today.
Fizzle. This is the membership site where Donnie and I spend a lot of time learning about building an online business. We’ve brought a lot of the ideas and strategies we’ve learned in Fizzle to our blog with great success.
Say Goodbye to Survival Mode. I love this book by Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom on becoming more balanced in life– something I think we all need!
Audible. Continually reading and learning is super important and has been a game changer for me. If you’re struggling to find time to sit down and read, consider audible. Here you can listen to all the best books in audio format while you drive, work out, or clean your house.
The Blogger’s Simple Guide to Taxes: A Guide to Saving Time and Money. My oh-so-smart sister-in-law Sarah Korhnak, who is both a blogger and a CPA, wrote this incredibly useful guide to help bloggers understand the tax implications for their businesses.
How to Start a Blog. If you’ve always wanted a place online to teach or express yourself, you need to start a blog! This post and video walkthrough will get you up and running before you finish that cup of coffee.
Why We Switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit. This is a long post that explains why we switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit for email marketing. MailChimp is great, but ConvertKit is better for most people. It’s been a game changer for growing our subscriber base as well educating our subscribers about our various eBooks and courses.
WordPress is the content management software we use to to manage JustAGirlandHerBlog.com. It’s infinitely customizable and the platform of choice for 99.9% of successful blogs.
SquareSpace. If WordPress seems too confusing or intimidating, consider starting your blog with SquareSpace. It’s an all-in-one hosting and content management solution for your website or blog. Everything looks beautiful with minimal effort.
10 Day Blogging QuickStart. This is a 10 day mini course packed full of information to help you finally start your blog and grow it the right way. It’s one email per day for 10 days.
Instapage. There are many landing page software options, but this is the one we use. It helped us create the landing pages for Building a Framework, The Intentional Life Planner, Simplify, and The Paperless Home. It’s more flexible that LeadPages but easier to use than Unbounce. It couldn’t be any easier to create a landing page with the drag and drop features of Instapage.
Bluehost. This is the best place to start for new bloggers. The price can’t be beat and their support is wonderful. It’s fast, reliable, hosting that is easy to set up. You can watch our video walkthrough on how to start a blog here.
SiteGround. We’ve recently discovered SiteGround as a fast, reliable option for beginner hosing, and we’ve been incredibly impressed with what they have to offer.
Media Temple. This is another good hosting option that we have experience with. The good thing about MediaTemple is that you can start with their $20/month WordPress specific hosting and then move up from there as your needs change. Their user interface is my very favorite out of all the hosts I’ve used. If you don’t want to pay upfront like with BlueHost, then MediaTemple is a great option.
Synthesis. This is our current host. It’s WordPress only hosting optimized for use with the Genesis Framework. The nice thing about Synthesis is that they do all the work for you. Need to make a change or adjust some type of setting? You can’t, but you just send a support request and a professional will take care of it for you. This shouldn’t be your first host because of the price, but when your pageviews climb and you’re in need of dedicated hosting, we can’t recommend Synthesis highly enough.
CloudFlare. CloudFlare is not a host but rather a security and caching service. They have nearly full-featured free plans as well as a $20/month plan that we pay for. If you are running into bandwidth or security issues on your blog, CloudFlare could be a great solution. It will help dramatically in both of those areas.
Genesis. Genesis is more of a “framework” than a theme. What this means is that it’s a platform on which WordPress developers create very custom child themes. Buying a child theme for the Genesis Framework means that you’ll have a rock solid code base and will minimize the bloat of some other standalone WordPress themes. We run all of our blogs and websites on the Genesis Framework.
Restored 316. Lauren of Restored 316 has created dozens of beautiful Genesis child themes. This is the first place to look for a customized child theme for the Genesis Framework.
Feast Design Co. Another great and highly customizable Genesis child theme creator. Thousands of bloggers (who aren’t even food bloggers) run their site with Shay’s Foodie Pro or Brunch Pro theme. (We are currently using the Brunch Pro child theme.) Her child themes are known for their high level of customization options.
Pretty Darn Cute Designs. Pretty Darn Cute is another fantastic source for beautiful, well-coded, feminine child themes for the Genesis Framework.
Akismet. Protect your blog from comment and trackback spam.
Genesis eNews Extended. This plugin makes it easy to create good looking email newsletter signup forms on your Genesis site. The newsletter signup box on my homepage was placed using this plugin.
Pretty Link Lite. Create, shrink, re-direct, and track links from your website. You’ll see these links all over this page. This plugin makes it easy to manage affiliate links and track clicks.
WordPress SEO. This is a helpful plugin that allows you to edit post meta data and other SEO options. It’s easy to use and highly recommended. When I switched to Synthesis hosting, they recommended this plugin more than the popular All In One SEO Pack.
Related Posts by Zemanta. This plugin puts related posts at the bottom of each post I write to grab readers’ interest and get them clicking around my site, increasing pageviews.
Genesis Simple Hooks. For use with sites running the Genesis Framework only, this plugin allows you to add code to various areas of your blog without messing with your theme files.
Haven Conference. I have attended the Haven Blogging Conference in Atlanta, Georgia twice now, and I always come back refreshed and motivated to take my blog to new heights! Geared toward home decor bloggers, Haven is a great place to come together with other bloggers who share similar interests and passions.
SNAP! A blogging conference geared toward home and/or craft bloggers, held in Salt Lake City, Utah each spring.
World Domination Summit (WDS). This is a massive conference hosted by Chris Guillebeau every summer in Portland. It’s not just for bloggers, but other creative types as well.
Pioneer Nation. Another conference by Chris Guillebeau. Pioneer nation is a much smaller conference than WDS, and the focus seems to be on breaking out into smaller groups for individual strategy sessions.
Online Blog Con. Go to a conference in your PJs! This virtual conference is held online in late summer/early fall. I’ve had the privilege of speaking at this conference in the past.
New Media Expo (NMX). A massive conference in Las Vegas for bloggers, podcasters, and others interested in online business.
Social Media Marketing World. A San Diego based conference with some of the biggest names in online business as presenters. The focus is on social media strategies.
7 Days to Organize Your Life. Take our free organization course designed to help you get your schedule in order and become more productive in just one week!
Simplify: 35+ Printables to Help You Organize Your Life. Our collection of over 100 printable pages (in two sizes!) of organizational aides to help you organize everything from your home to your kids to your finances!
The Intentional Life Planner. I created this goals-focused planner to help myself and others get organized and start crushing their goals! It comes in both standard and junior sizes.
The Paperless Home. If you’ve ever wanted to get a little sanity back in your life and reduce your paper clutter, you can start by reading this post or purchasing our eBook and course. This will not only make you an Evernote expert but will also help you develop a paperless workflow. Donnie’s paperless strategies save him hours every week and ensure we always have our most important documents at our fingertips.
Evernote. This is our digital filing cabinet and the cornerstone of our paperless strategy. We can scan physical paper directly to Evernote or capture interesting things from the web and organize them in Evernote. Even if you have no intention of going paperless, you can use Evernote as your “digital brain” to organize notes, articles, documents, ideas, etc. The iPhone app is incredible and gives you mobile access to all your documents.
Asana. This is the project and task management app we use for our team of three. It helps us organize action steps by project. You can also have team “conversations” in Asana and attach relevant documents and add notes to tasks. This may be overkill for the solopreneur, but it’s a great tool for small teams.
Google Calendar. A calendar app should be simple to use. That’s exactly how I would describe Google calendar. Donnie and I share calendars so we are both on the same page at all times concerning our schedule and possible conflicts.
Trello. I like to think of Trello as a flexible project management and organizing app. At least that’s what we use it for. It takes some getting used to because of its infinite flexibility, but Donnie and I have used it in the past to organize our major product launches. We can store files, thoughts, ideas, schedules, and tasks all inside Trello. Best of all, it’s free!
Day One. If you’re looking for a digital journal, look no further than Day One. It has a beautiful interface and makes recording your daily thoughts, ideas, struggles, and any other “journal” type stuff really fun and easy.
Feedly. Feedly is an RSS aggregator that makes it easy to stay up to date with your favorite blogs and websites. Instead of visiting all the sites individually, you can scan your Feedly list and pick and choose which articles to read. I use the free version.
WaveApp. This is the free accounting software we use to keep track of business income and expenses. It’s super simple to use, and it even syncs with your bank account for free! Xero and Freshbooks are other good options, but if you’re looking for something free, WaveApp is perfect.
Dashlane. This is a great password manager. Dashlane is super secure and can generate a unique and strong password for everything. Internet security is a big deal. I’ve used LastPass and OnePassword but Dashlane is my favorite. Dashlane even got the nod from the Wall Street Journal as the most secure and feature rich password manager.
Zapier. This app enables you to connect various services together using their API. It helps to automate various processes. For example, you can use Zapier to send you an email everytime someone posts a comment on your blog. You can also use Zapier to add someone to your email list automatically after they purchase a product. I have “zap” setup to automatically save any picture I post to Instagram to my Evernote account. The possibilities are literally endless. Click over to Zapier and take a look at the hundreds of supported services you can connect together.
Noisli. What do you listen to when you want to get into focused work mode? For me, I like some background noise instead of silence. Noisli is a neat little service to mix and match the perfect background noise to help you focus.
HelpScout. HelpScout allows us to jointly manage various email accounts. Some companies use it to keep track of customer service requests, but we have our main business email accounts forwarded to HelpScout where our assistant can review, respond to, and assign out email responses.
Backup and Online Storage
BackBlaze. This is the service we use to back up all of our computers and external hard drives to the cloud. We used to use CrashPlan, but we’ve found that BackBlaze uses less system resources to run in the background.
Dropbox. Donnie and I use Dropbox to share large files with each other. It’s a super simple service and the free plan is the only thing most people will use. It has a neat new feature that integrates directly with Gmail so you don’t have those small attachment size limits.
Google Drive. We use Google Docs whenever Donnie and I need to write and collaborate together. It’s easy to make edits, comment, and even work on a document the same time as someone else.
Amazon S3. This is super cheap but somewhat complicated cloud storage. We back up our entire blog database to Amazon S3 every single night. Amazon S3 is worth exploring if you have a need for a lot of cheap online storage.
SeaGate External Hard Drive. I use a MacBook pro with quite a bit of storage. Donnie’s MacBook Air has a tiny solid-state hard drive, so he has to supplement that with a little portable external HardDrive. We’ve used Western Digital and Toshiba in the past, but we’re loving this SeaGate 1TB External Hard Drive.
BoardBooster. BoardBooster is a helpful pin scheduling service that I use to keep my content in front of readers. I use BoardBooster to circulate pins for my new posts because I can set up an exact schedule for the pin to follow over the first several weeks after my post is live. For more information, see the video guides in Building a Framework.
Tailwind. Tailwind is a pin scheduling service that allows me to keep my content circulating on Pinterest without having to sit at my computer all day to do it manually!
Meet Edgar. This is an expensive but unique social media scheduling tool. The unique thing about Edgar is that you create categorized libraries of social media updates. Once you run out of updates in a particular category, Edgar will automatically loop updates back to the beginning.
CoSchedule. CoSchedule is a helpful app for scheduling posts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Tumblr. More than just a scheduling service, it’s an integrated WordPress plugin so all the scheduling can happen in the same place you write your posts.
Buffer App. BufferApp allows you to schedule posts to Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. Another plus for Buffer is that it’s an official Pinterest API partner.
Blog Post Research
BuzzSumo. We use the limited but free version of this app to research blog post and title ideas. If you type in a subject or phrase, you can filter results to see the type of posts and articles that are doing well on specific social media channels.
MOZ Content. Another handy tool for researching content ideas.
ConvertKit. This is our email marketing provider of choice. It’s the perfect balance of powerful automation and segmenting features and ease of use. Read about why we switched from MailChimp to ConvertKit in this article.
MailChimp. With their free account for up to 2,000 subscribers, this could be the best place to start with email marketing. It’s where we started. The UI is beautiful and the email editor is the very best in the industry. A paid account will get you more advanced automation features.
AutopilotHQ. This is marketing automation software that I’m experimenting with. The idea is that you can map out and automate an entire customer journey. AutopilotHQ is more expensive and more complicated than ConvertKit but is potentially more powerful.
OptinMonster. This subscription tool allows us to create custom designed pop-ups and other email capture forms. The options and control over the display of your forms is second to none with OptinMonster. It’s not a cheap service, but it does offer a lot of control. It also integrates directly with ConvertKit.
Sumo Me. This is another popular email capture system that I’ve tested. It’s super simple to implement and they have a feature-rich free version. If you upgrade, you get additional form templates.
Popup Ally. This is another pop-up plugin. It has my some beautiful templates and great display controls.
Payment Processing and Product Delivery
Gumroad. If you sell something online, you should consider Gumroad. It’s super simple to use and has a fantastic buying experience for your customers. They’ve recently introduced PayPal and affiliate management options to make payment processes even more convenient.
SendOwl. SendOwl is another good option for digital content payment processing and delivery. SendOwl has more features and options than Gumroad but also has a steeper learning curve.
Video and Audio
Blue Yeti Microphone. This is a solid USB microphone that is easy to set up. It isn’t top of the line by any stretch, but the audio quality is pretty good. We use it for interviews and recording our screencast tutorials.
Screenflow. A Mac-only screen capture and editing software. We use it to edit not just screencasts but interviews and other videos as well. It’s surprisingly powerful but still very simple video editing software.
Wistia. If you manage or host a lot of video content for your blog or course Wistia is a great solution. The price is reasonable, the service is great, and the features are amazing.
Vimeo. A cheaper but less feature-rich option than Wistia. Vimeo seems more geared towards artists and creatives, and Wistia seems more geared towards bloggers and business owners.
eCam Call Recorder. We use this software to record Skype calls. We then use Screenflow to edit the videos.
Food Photography School. No, I’m not a food blogger, but this course has helped me tremendously with photography and photo editing skills. (And it was so good that I devoured the whole 130-video course in one weekend!) From getting me thinking about color, texture, and pattern to talking about camera angles and styling, to walking through the photo editing process and even showing me how to take better iPhone photos, this course has it all! Highly recommended!
Canon 6D. This is my current camera. This full-frame camera is known for amazing low light shots. It is somewhat pricey, but it has totally taken my photography to the next level and has been worth every penny.
Canon Rebel T3i. This was my first DSLR! If you’re looking for an affordable cropped-sensor DSLR, you can’t go wrong with the Canon Rebel series.
Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II. For around $100, this lens was my very first purchase after I bought my first Canon DSLR camera. For a lens in this price range, the clarity you can get is amazing.
Tamron AF 28-75mm f/2.8. This is now the primary lens I use with my Canon 6D. It is reasonably priced, and I can get the wider-framed shots that I couldn’t with my 50mm. Keep in mind this lens only works with full-frame DSLRs.
If you’re looking for some quick-yet-helpful blog posts on improving your photography, I like these ones:
IHeart Blogging Series: Photography Tips by Jen at IHeart Organizing
Favorite Phone Camera Apps + Tips by Chelsea at Two Twenty One
Vlog- Step by Step Tutorial: How I Edit My Phone Photos by Natalie at The Busy Budgeting Mama
My friend Rachel at Maison de Pax did an entire photography series that was amazing and so helpful. Her posts include…
Images and Photo Editing
PhotoPin. This is a free photo search tool that searches creative commons databases. Just make sure you check the copyright and attribution rules for each individual photo.
50+ Sites for Free Images, Fonts, and Icons. This is a fantastic post on the Fizzle blog with dozens of free photo resources.
Adobe Creative Cloud. I edit most of my photos in Photoshop, and while I probably don’t even scratch the surface of what it is capable of, it has helped me improve my editing tremendously. I will also use LightRoom if I am editing a batch of photos all taken under the same lighting conditions.
PicMonkey. PicMonkey is a helpful photo editing site that I used as my primary photo editing program for years before I learned Photoshop. I still use it to make collages.
Canva. Canva is a great site for designing your own graphics.
I have a few apps that I use to edit photos on my iPhone. My favorites are…
PicTapGo– I use this app for easy, super quick photo edits.
Snapseed– If I want to do a more detailed edit of a photo on my phone, I usually use Snapseed.
Afterlight– Afterlight has some really pretty filters that I like to use on my photos.
A Color Story– This is the most recent addition to my photo editing apps and allows me to create beautiful colors and edits on my photos without much effort!
Ulysses. This is the Mac App that Donnie uses to write the first draft of every post and article. It’s fast, distraction free, and supports markdown. Once done, he copies and pastes the article into Google Drive for our assistant to proofread.
iBooks Author. If you have a Mac, this is a great free place to create your eBook. We’ve never published anything to the iBooks store but instead design our books in iBooks Author and export as a PDF. We used it to create Building a Framework as well as The Paperless Home.
My Proven eBook Launch Sequence. If you’re thinking about writing an eBook, my launch sequence can help you figure out what you need to do when. It has helped me with numerous successful launches over the past few years.
What blogger resources would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.