Information overload. That’s what we are in now in this digital age. You do a simple Google search and come up with pages and pages of results. You search how to do something on You Tube and everyone has their own way to do it. You ask a Facebook group what the best website platform is and you get tons of conflicting answers. It’s difficult to find direct answers when you search online. This is a problem when you are a beginner blogger and you hear about all of the different apps, programs and tools that people use to get ish done. Another factor is that you may not have as much disposable income as the next person, so though you may like a tool that they use, you don’t have the extra $60 to dish out a month for it. I totally feel you and have been there...hell, I still am! I’m still on my road to blogging and business success, so I can tell you first hand what I’ve done to combat these issues. Today I’m going to discuss the apps and programs that I used as a beginner and now intermediate blogger and how much money was spent. This is going to also help you figure out what you really need to spend money on and at what point you can start upgrading.
As a beginner blogger that also works a 9-5, you need to focus on the following things:
1 / Website platform
The platform that you use for blogging will be based on various factors. You will need to determine what your main focus is. For example, if you are a blogger that also sells products, you may want to consider a platform that has e-commerce integrated in the platform. If you are strictly just a blogger that doesn’t sell anything but you have an email list, you may want to use a platform that has built-in email marketing capabilities. If you just blog and have beautiful images that you want to post, you would need a platform that offers larger images. This is a huge debate...if you ask for public opinion of which platform is best fo a website/blog, you will hear Squarespace, Wordpress.org, Wix and others that I may not know about. This becomes confusing because there are so many options. I can tell you from my experience that I started out using Blogger for my blog and I also sold products using Big Cartel. The crappy part about that was that I had two different sites for one brand. I needed a platform that supported blogging and commerce, so I switched to Squarespace. It was one of the best decisions that I made. I pay $18 a month for Squarespace and I pay $12 a year for my URL, so $19 a month for my website. This is actually less than I was paying when I used Big Cartel and I have so many more options of things that I can do in Squarespace. It was a no-brained and win-win for me to use Squarespace.
Related: Squarespace 9 Months In
2 / Professional Email account
Perception is everything, especially in the beginning. Just because you may be a beginner blogger, it doesn’t mean that you have to appear as one. I’m not saying to lie or be deceptive, I’m just saying to make more professional decisions. Your email account is the easiest way to show how professional you are. Do not...DO NOT run a blog or business using a free email address (@gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc.). You need your own email address with your own domain on it. This is also incredibly affordable. I pay $5 a month for a business email through Google. That’s the equivalent of one Venti from Starbucks a month. The great thing about getting a business email address through Google is that you also get access to other apps that you can use for your blog/biz. Here’s the link to learn more about Google for Work.
3 / Email marketing
If you are interested in growing an email list, you may be confused on which email marketing platform to use. You may hear MailChimp, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, Ontraport, etc. Again, what your needs are heavily has an effect on which platform to go with. I started out using MailChimp because I could do basic and intermediate functions using their free account. Basic functions are creating an email template that will be used for every email that you send to your list and creating opt-in forms to add to your website to collect email addresses. Intermediate functions were offering opt-in freebies and delivering them automatically through email and creating automated email courses that were sent on a schedule. You can do more advanced things with MailChimp, but as a beginner this is perfect. And it’s free for up to 2000 subscribers! I have since switched to ConvertKit for my email marketing because I needed a more robust platform to do the things that I wanted to do, but I still use MailChimp for a few functions that Convertkit hasn’t perfected yet.
Related: MailChimp vs. ConvertKit
4 / Custom graphics to personalize your brand
In the beginning, you should also focus on your brand. Use customization where you can. It’s important to get a professional logo, but if this is something that you can't afford currently, just keep it simple and use a particular font for your blog name and stick with 2-3 brand colors that you use on everything. Other things that you will want to customize are your blog post graphics (the big, pretty ones that are Pinterest friendly), email signature, email template (if doing email marketing), website header and social media graphics (like those quote graphics that people post to Instagram that have their brand colors and logo on it). You can create all of these things using the free online design tool, Canva, so yeah, no money spent there :)
5 / Automating blogging tasks
I believe strongly in setting up automated tasks that can step in and do things for you when you aren’t able to. Like, maybe you’re at a meeting at work and aren’t able to pin your new blog post to pinterest, or perhaps you’re in the middle of a big project at work and aren't going to be able to consistently check Instagram for everyone that posts a particular hashtag to engage with them. Automated tasks can do this for you and so much more. It’s the side-blogger/hustler’s best friend. IFTTT and Zapier are the two platforms that were built to perform automated tasks for you. IFTTT is free, so you should take advantage of this platform as much as you can. Zapier has a limited free plan that is still quite robust. I use both platforms and have used the free version of Zapier. I have upgraded to the lowest plan because I needed to create more complicated tasks and I needed access to have more active tasks on my account. I pay $20 a month for Zapier, but as a beginner the free plan is more than enough.
Related: Zapier vs. IFTTT
I hope this has helped to clear up a few things for you if you have been struggling to figure out what you should invest in as a beginner blogger. There are more apps that I use and other ways to save money as a beginner that I have rounded up in a handy free guide. The guide also lists what to use as an intermediate and advanced blogger with approximate monthly costs associated to all tools, programs, etc.