Starting a blog is one of the most exciting, exhilarating and overwhelming things I’ve ever done. I remember when I started my research and my to-do list just kept growing and growing. There are so many little bits and pieces to figure out and put together.
So if you are feeling a little overwhelmed, out of your depth or just want an up to date fuss-free list of the latest and greatest blogging resources I’ve put together everything I’ve researched, used and loved over the past year and a half – and the best news is most of it is FREE to use!
I will be updating my little pink book of the very best tools and resources as I go, and will also be adding lots of helpful and information rich posts on blogging and Instagram here soon. So be sure to bookmark this page for your reference!
This post does contain affiliate links that I earn a small commission for (with no extra cost to you), however as always all opinions are my own. I only ever recommend products and services that I personally love! Any purchases you make through links helps me keep my blog running and I’m oh so grateful for your support!
The Little Pink Book of Blogging
The first thing you will want to do is choose a blog and domain name. Before you get too stuck on a name idea make sure you check if the business name (if you want to register as a business in the future, which you will need to do if you want to monetize your blog) and domain name are available. It’s definitely good for your branding to have consistency across your blog name and domain name.
Over the past few years I have dabbled in website and website development and have used a number of different hosting services. I decided on Media Temple for my blog because firstly they have a great reputation for customer service and hosting performance. Secondly they have a dedicated hosting plan for WordPress users which makes it super easy to set up your WordPress site and I love their user interface. Over my two years with Media Temple I’ve submitted three help tickets and they have all been resolved quickly and easily.
Content Management Systems + WordPress Templates
Once you have your business and domain name sorted it’s time to choose a CMS to populate your domain with a website and your content.
There are a number of market leading content management systems (CMS) that make it easy for anyone to start a website now, including Squarespace, Wix and WordPress. I honestly haven’t done much research into Squarespace or Wix because even though WordPress can take a little getting used to it is definitely the best option for flexibility and plug-in options. WordPress has also just launched their new drag and drop developer tool making it much easier for someone without any website building experience to get started. WordPress.org enables you to install the WordPress software to any web server and gives you total control over your domain name, hosting and themes.
If you would prefer an all-in-one solution wordpress.com offers complete bundles including domain name, hosting and themes. Perfect if you want fuss free, but not as flexible as using WordPress.org.
Want the best of both worlds? Add the Jetpack plugin to your wordpress.org site and keep the flexibility but get all the structure of a wordpress.com site. Jetpack helps you with the design, marketing, and security of your website.
I did a lot (I mean A LOT) of research before I decided on my final theme. If you aren’t across themes yet, they are the basic design setup of your site which give you a great starting point to customise and add your content to. I ended up choosing one from the ThemeForest range. I love that you can see heaps of reviews and there are lots of different contributors so there are loads of options.
Must-have WordPress Plugins + Widgets
The best part about using a CMS is that you can avoid having to do any coding or complicated back end stuff. Like I mentioned above the thing I love about WordPress is that there is such a huge range of plug-ins to help you build your perfect blog and here are my very favourites.
Insert Headers and Footers | A plugin everyone should have – it allows you to access the bit of backend code in your website header and footer, which you will need to place script code in for applications like Google Analytics to have access to your websites data.
Advanced WP Columns | My WordPress theme doesn’t allow me to put in responsive (which means adaptable for different device sizes like mobile, tablet and desktop) columns of text or images, and this plugin allows me to do so easily.
jQuery Pin It Button for Images | Ever wondered how to get your own personalised Pinterest pin it buttons when you hover over image on your website? This little plugin does it and it makes it oh-so easy for your website visitors to repin your content.
WooCommerce | If you ever plan to have your own website shop then WooCommerce is the way to go. It’s free to use and easy to set up for both digital and physical products.
WooCommerce MailChimp | Want to make sure you are capturing all of your customers email addresses for your email list? This handy little plugin does it all automatically. Perfect for when you have a free product you are using to grow your email list.
WP Menu Cart Pro | Want one of those cute little carts to pop up when customers start shopping? This is the plugin you need!
Customer Reviews for WooCommerce | Reviews are everything when it comes to online shopping and this plugin will automatically remind your customers to leave a review after they’ve made their purchase.
Product Open Pricing (Name Your Price) for WooCommerce | Want to allow your customers to choose the price they pay? This plugin lets them type in their price and you can set the minimum and maximum.
Social Media + Sharing
Sumo | Sumo is a very powerful plugin tool for collecting email lists and encouraging website visitors to share your content on their social media channels. I use the social share and image share features and plan to start using and test out the email list collection pop-up soon.
Snap Widget | This is one of THE BEST widgets I have found, like a hidden little gem! You can automatically display your Instagram, Facebook and Twitter content within your site and posts in all sorts of formats, you can even filter what you show by hashtag. But my favourite feature is the little Instagram pop-up which helps convert blog visitors into Instagram followers – GAME CHANGER.
SEO + Traffic Growth Tools
SEO is very very important when it comes to growing your blog. It’s pretty complicated but to put it simply SEO (which stands for Search Engine Optimisation) helps google (and other search engines) find and rank your site so that it shows up in their search results.
If you have a website, you absolutely have to have this plugin. Yoast gives each page or post in your website a SEO rating and a checklist you can go through to so you can make your SEO as good as possible. You then get a little red, orange or green rating depending on how your SEO is rated.
While SEO is everything for blog growth another method I’ve found very very effective in growing my blog traffic is using Pinterest Groups and frequent posting of my blogs content to those groups. This is a process that is very time consuming to do manually and that is where Tailwind comes in – this clever application takes care of all your Pinterest posting. I cannot stress enough how important Pinterest is for generating traffic. I don’t spend money on many subscriptions but this one is worth every penny.
But how do you find Pinterest groups to start with you ask? Well the answer my dear friend is pingroupie.com – I’ll be honest it takes some time to trawl through the options and then apply to as many as possible but it’s well worth it for the results you get out of sharing your content to large Pinterest groups.
Want to know if the topic you want to write about is actually something people want to know? Or even the best way to frame your content so that it gets found in search engines. Answer the Public is a handy little tool that helps with just that!
Need help writing headlines that will grab attention and help you boost your SEO? The Headline Analyser tool by CoSchedule is really helpful and gives you great instant feedback on your ideas.
Design doesn’t have to be as complicated as it can feel sometimes. Full disclosure here – I have a background in graphic design so I do use professional software from the Adobe range to do most of my design work. But I have lots of other simple to use tools to share for those of you who aren’t across the Adobe Creative Suite.
As I mentioned above I have a background in Graphic Design and so I use professional design software from the Adobe range – which is the most flexible and powerful suite of design tools out there. If you really want to have your blog and social channels looking incredible without needing to hire a graphic designer then you may want to look into learning how to use the software – the design courses on Skillshare look like a really convenient way to learn at home and in your own time – you can even get two months of Premium Skillshare for free here. But if design isn’t really your thing there are plenty of other tools I can recommend.
Create beautiful layouts for your blog graphics with Canva – you can use it on desktop or mobile and the user interface is very straightforward.
An amazing app for adding text overlays to images, with preset sizes for all of the main social media channels. Simply choose your image (or one from their free library), type your text and let WordSwag turn it into beautiful typography that you can place anywhere on your image.
Make charts and infographics in a breeze with Piktochart – they have a wide range of templates and a beautiful user interface.
Photography + Editing Tools
I currently use my Nikon D5300 DSLR camera for all of the photos you see on my website and Instagram (with the rare exception on a photo taken with my iPhone). I love that this camera has a flip screen so you can see what’s in the frame when you are using a self-timer or remote. It’s also really handy if you are holding the camera quite low or high so you can still see the screen. My Nikon is super sturdy and comes with me everywhere!
I switch between the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G kit lens (kit just means it comes with the camera) and my 50mm f/1.8 lens. The 18-55mm is perfect for most travel situations (except for really long distance zoom which I don’t tend to need), and the 50mm lens is great for portraiture and creating nice blurry backgrounds.
A must have for solo travellers and for when you don’t have anyone else around to get your photo (Jase and I use this all the time for our couple pics), is the Nikon ML-L3 Infrared Remote. Simple choose to control your camera via remote in the settings and you can then click the remote to take a photo!
Another very handy piece of equipment to have is a portable tripod. I love my littie Manfrotto Portable Tripod because it is super compact and easy to prop up on other objects to hold your camera while you get the perfect snap. Great for using with your camera remote and also for low light shots that require the camera to stay really still.
Having good photos is a combination of shooting in RAW on a DSLR camera and editing with high quality software. And there really is no better software for photo editing than Adobe Lightroom. This genius program was a big game changer for me, my Instagram and my blog. Nothing can beat it for creating a consistent colour scheme and look across your channels. If you want to get a feel for it’s editing capabilities the Lightroom CC phone app is completely free, and I also have some tutorials here. A great place to learn how to use Lightroom is over on Skillshare – you can even get two months of Premium Skillshare for free here.
Free Stock Photos + Graphics
I’m always on the search for new travel inspiration, keeping notes and making bucket lists as I go! Here are some of my favourite tools for getting inspired.
Gorgeous photos that are free to use? Yes please! Unsplash has an incredible collection of high quality photos that don’t have that tacky stock photo look – win-win!
A wonderful free resource library full of illustration style images.
Similar to Freepik but an icon version – perfect for when you need little symbols or icons!
Free Vlog Music
SoundCloud Free Music for Vlogs is an incredible free resource for finding the perfect music to use on your vlogs and YouTube content.
I love this YouTube channel for finding free music to use on vlogs and YouTube videos.
I’m always on the search for new travel inspiration, keeping notes and making bucket lists as I go! Here are some of my favourite tools for getting inspired.
No matter who you are or what your blog or website goals are I strongly believe you should have Google Analytics installed. You can gain incredible insight into your audience and traffic to help you analyse, grow and monetise (if you want to) your blog.
Another thing you should start doing from day one is collecting email addresses for your email list. Even if you don’t use it right away, having those emails on hand when you do decide you want to reach your audience is invaluable. MailChimp is without a doubt the market leader when it comes to automating your marketing emails and their simple drag and drop interface makes its easy for anyone to design pretty little emails.
Want to start earning an income from your blog? There are a wide range of ways you can do so once you have built up a good amount of traffic. Some of the best ways are selling your own digital or physical products (you can see how I’ve set up my shop here), placing advertising on your blog and using affiliate links, which pay you a commission when someone clicks through and makes a purchase (I do this will links to clothing I wear and products or services I use).
Selling digital products like e-books is an incredible way to make a passive income and monetise your blog. I already talked about WooCommerce earlier but I’m adding it in here again because it is the best tool for setting up your own online store!
One of the largest networks for adding advertisements to your blog or website – Google AdSense is easy to integrate into your WordPress theme and shows smart, personalised advertisements to your website visitors. Google AdSense has a pay per click interface, so you get paid a small amount each time someone clicks on an ad.
RewardStyle is an affiliate network mostly focused on fashion and lifestyle that allows you to create and insert affiliate links for clothing and household items that you are talking about in your blog posts. You can also create nice ‘shop the post’ widgets! RewardStyle has a pay per purchase interface, so you get paid a small amount each time someone clicks on a link and makes a purchase. The application process with RewardStyle can take some time, but as a current member I can help fast track your application by referring you. If you’d like me to do so just send me an email and ask!
Awin is a global affiliate network that has over 6,000 advertisers across a wide range of categories. You can apply to be apart of brand campaigns which then allows you to use their text links and also banner/sidebar advertisements on your blog.
Similar to the Awin network ShareASale allows you to apply for brand campaigns and use their text links or banner/sidebar advertisements on your blog to earn a commission any sales made from clicks on your link or ad.
It took me a while to get a hang of Instagram but once I did I was able to grow my account from 2K to 40K (and counting) in about six months.If you are feeling stuck with your instagram account and want a fresh perspective to help you get back on track, a check-in to re-align your goals and strategies or you simply want to pick my brain then my one-on-one coaching session is perfect for you.
Want to know all the tools I use to create a beautiful and cohesive Instagram feed? Well here they are:
As I mentioned earlier, there really is no better software for photo editing than Adobe Lightroom. This genius program was a big game changer for me, my Instagram and my blog. Nothing can beat it for creating a consistent colour scheme and look across your Instagram feed. If you want to get a feel for it’s editing capabilities the Lightroom CC phone app is completely free, and I also have some tutorials here. If you aren’t sure where to start I can also help you create your very own filters (known as presets in the Lightroom world) so you can edit your photos with one click just the way you like!
I love using VSCO to apply filters to my videos for Stories as Lightroom doesn’t have this function yet. At the moment video editing is only available on the VSCO X subscription.
Snapseed has a great tool (the healing tool) for getting rid of stray people or things you just don’t want in your photos.
Want to add a little lighting magic to your photos? Lens Distortions is a great app for adding sunbursts, lens flares, rain, snow and sparkly effects.
This little app is a life saver when it comes to planning out my posts and captions. Unfold allows you to populate future posts and see how your feed will look once new posts are made. It even has a great feature that lets you see how your feed would look if you delete posts that are already up.
A great all round video editor, I use InShot to add music, apply filters, crop and trim and rotate videos for my Instagram Stories.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked on my Instagram DM’s is – ‘what app do you use to create your Stories layouts?’ – and as always I am happy to share all the amazing tools I use. Unfold is the app – and it lets you create beautiful layouts with video, photo and text.
It’s just the worst when you have a video that goes for longer than 15 seconds right? When you want to post a continuous video to Stories CutStory will chop your video up into 15 second clips ready for you to post.