Do you have a blog or want to start one? I’ve been blogging in some form or other since 2001 and I’ve tried a lot of different services. Here are my favorite blogger resources to get started, to reach out, and to monetize.
Build Your Site
Go WordPress Self-Hosted all the way. It requires a little bit of technical skill, but the things you’ll learn will help you run it better. (If you don’t get it, I highly recommend html class at Code Academy. It’s free.) My favorite hosting is with WP Engine. I recently moved there after Bluehost and Hostgator kept having outages and not great communication or support during them. WP Engine is great so far, I get so much more out of it. You can see my review here.
For themes I have two different ways to go. I’ve gone premium and I’m never going back. In my experience, with free themes you get what you pay for. Inevitably you hit a point where you can’t do what you want to do. Here on the Mess I used Headway, for a few years. It has a great drag-and-drop visual editor so I can make everything exactly the way I want. It’s also the easiest theme I’ve ever found for changing colors and fonts. It’s one of the cheaper premium themes if you’re looking to work on a budget. If you’re very visually focused, it’s a good one to use. It can be tricky but their support and forums were always helpful for me.
My other favorite is using a Genesis theme from Studiopress. Genesis is the parent theme or framework. I’ve used several different child themes, but my favorite is Prose. It’s super flexible and has a great customization menu that makes changes simple.
Once you’ve got it up then you want to make it pretty. My first logo was from 99designs. I spent years wanting a redesign but not being able to commit to a designer. I couldn’t look at anyone’s portfolio and see what they’d do for me. But at 99Designs you say what you want and a whole crew of freelance designers design a logo for you. You can leave feedback, ask for specific colors and styles, and you can poll your readers to see what they think of your choices. If you don’t like anything you can get your money back. And if you find something you love, now you have a designer to help you with any future help you may need.
Building Your Reach
If you don’t know where to go without Feedburner, I am head over heels for MadMimi. Not only can you do an easy RSS-to-email feature here, to keep your readers getting your posts in their inbox, you can also design newsletters. I use it for Red Letter Reads newsletters and they’re a snap! You can also share your newsletter to go beyond your subscribers.
To manage social media accounts, Buffer is the bomb. I love being able to schedule tweets or rather not schedule them, but stick them in Buffer to throw out at the perfect time.
I make pretty much all of my graphics in Picmonkey. I have Royale and it’s been completely worth it. I don’t want to get stuck in the same fonts all the time and the variety of overlays is fantastic. I have tutorials on making your own social media icons and your own clickable media kit in Picmonkey. It’s that versatile. I have also started using Canva, where you can do almost everything for free and has a few tools that are more developed.
When you’re picking up PR contacts right and left, I recommend Highrise. You can organize your contacts by company or client, which is super helpful when you have PR firms who manage multiple brands. You can probably get by on the free plan if you play it smart, I’ve been using it for Red Letter Reads for nearly a year and I’m a big fan. It’s hard to keep track of all my publishers, imprints, PR people, readers and books. I’ve been able to use its features to make my life a LOT easier.
My new favorite approach to monetization is Affiliate Marketing. Easier approval processes, a wider choice of brands, a greater amount of control. Plus you can get more revenue off of it than ads that are almost identical through an ad network.
If you haven’t done any Affiliate Marketing before, you can check out this recording of my live webinar on how to get started.
And here are links to some of the platforms I mentioned. (Full disclosure: I am an employee of CJ/Commission Junction!)
I recommend all the networks I use (you can find them in my sidebar) to get sponsored posts. I’ve had great experiences with them all.