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Starting a Website
Domain Registration & Hosting: SiteGround* has cheap domain names, affordable shared hosting options, and wonderful tech support. A great choice for beginning bloggers OR those with tons of traffic. (I currently use GoDaddy on all of my sites and have had no problems, but SiteGround* seems to be the #1 recommended for speed & customer service.)
Website Setup: I HIGHLY recommend setting up your website through WordPress.org. It's free, and how most professional websites are run. Using WordPress also means you own your own website & have full control over it, forever.
Website Design: Once your website is up and running, it's time to design it. My favorite tool of all time is the Divi Visual Builder* from Elegant Themes*. In fact, it's what I used to build this website in just a few days! It requires NO knowledge of coding, and features a really unique drag & drop website building tool. Highly recommend!
Running a Website
Monitoring Traffic: It's essential to know how many people are visiting your site each day, how they get there, and which pages they are viewing. Use Google Analytics to keep track of it all! It's free, and they have an app for monitoring on the go.
Setting Up an Official Email Address: Signing up for G-Suite* ($5/mo) allows you to set up an email address using your domain name, like email@example.com, while still using all the wonderful features Gmail offers.
Website Speed: A slow website can impact user experience & hurt your SEO rankings. The W3 Total Cache plugin helps reduce load times on your website, increasing the chance people will stay on your page, and improving your search rankings. Did I mention it's free?
Image Compression: If you run a website with lots of images, like a food blog, image compression is a MUST. Bulky images slow down your website, big time. Luckily, the plugin Imagify can quickly and seamlessly compress the images, making the smaller without losing quality. Win-win.
Website Security: Prevent brute-force hacking of your website by using WP Limit Login Attempts. This plugin limits the number of incorrect logins allowed on your website before being locked out.
Website Backup: Sh*t happens with websites, and you don't want to be caught without a backup! Installing VaultPress gives you peace of mind. In the event that your site crashes, you'll always have a fresh backup copy available for quick installation.
Monetizing Your Website
Ad Revenue: If you're a new blogger, Google Adsense is the easiest ad network to get started with. You won't make the big bucks, but it's an easy way to cover your hosting costs with a few unobtrusive ads. When you reach at least 25,000 sessions per month, you can apply for bigger networks, like MediaVine and when you reach 100,000 page views per month, you can apply for AdThrive.
Amazon Affiliate Sales: Whenever you link to a product you love (books, food, videos, etc.) that is sold on Amazon, you can use an Amazon affiliate link. If someone purchases the product (or anything else on Amazon within 24 hours), you will receive ~4% of the sale price. Easy peasy!
Other Affiliate Sales: If you promote other products or events, you can sign up as an affiliate through Commission Junction or ShareASale*. That way, if you promote a product within a blog post, and encourage people to purchase it, you can earn a percentage of the sale.
Selling Digital Products: If you're selling e-books or other digital products on your site, you'll need a way to accept credit card payments and deliver the goods. Gumroad is an easy low-cost solution! They take care of both payment & delivery for a low monthly rate & processing fee.
Selling Courses: If you're ready to sell courses on your website, Thinkific is highly recommended. They provide a great user experience, and various pricing tiers to accommodate businesses at different levels. Not the right fit for you? Teachable* is another frequently used platform, with equally high reviews!
Email Marketing: Let's face it, segmented and automated email marketing is here, and if you're not taking advantage of it yet, you should be! My favorite tool for keeping in touch with my readers is ConvertKit*. You can “tag” your readers based on their interests, and make sure you only send them emails that resonate.
Graphic Design: Need graphics for your website, marketing materials, or social media accounts? Canva is your best bet. It's free for basic use, or $12.95 for a business account. I use the free version all the time. Highly recommend!
Stock Photography: Unsplash is a FREE resource for stock photos. You can download them directly to your computer, and use them for any purpose, including commercial use, without attribution. Winning!
Collect Information: If you'd like to survey your readers & collect information from them, Typeform is the way to go. Their user interface is gorgeous, and you can collect up to 100 responses/month for free!
Editorial Calendar & Scheduling: Co-Schedule is a life-saver for bloggers. It allows you to schedule social media posts directly in WordPress while writing blog posts. It also has a powerful content calendar to keep your blogging and marketing strategies organized. It's not cheap, but worth investing in once you're making some money.
Pinterest Scheduling: Tailwind* is my go-to tool for Pinterest management. Tailwind* allows you to bulk-schedule pins to be published at pre-set time throughout the week, ensuring that your pins are seen by the maximum number of people. Plus, you can knock out a whole week's worth of pins in an hour! Obsessed.
DSLR Camera: If you're a food or lifestyle blogger, a high-quality digital camera is a must. The Canon EOS Rebel SL1* is an excellent entry-level camera. It takes great photos, without costing an arm and a leg. Plus, you can find them used on Amazon* for even less money.
A Nice Lens: Using the right lens is key for getting photos with a high quality look (re: the foreground is in focus, while the background is blurred). My personal favorite is the Canon 50mm 1.4 lens*. It's basically what all the food bloggers use. If you can afford it, a fun splurge is the “macro” lens: Canon 100mm 2.8*. This is the lens that lets you get right up in there, and capture those seductive drips from ice cream, or condensation beading on a cool glass.
Professional Lighting: Lighting kits are perfect for cloudy days or winter time, when soft natural lighting is sparse. The Cowboy Studio Lighting Kit* is a low-cost way to give your videos or photos a bright, professional look, without appearing washed out or artificial. This kit is the same one I use for my food photography, and my boyfriend uses for his inspirational videos.
Photo Editing Tools: For just $9.99 per month, you can sign up for Adobe Creative Cloud and get access to Photoshop and Lightroom, without splashing down the cash for the full software.
Photo Editing Tips: If you're a newbie to editing food photos, save yourself A TON of time & just pick up this inexpensive e-book* by Lindsay Ostrom from Pinch of Yum. Lindsay breaks down exactly what you need to do to make your photos pop. Trust me, proper editing is the main difference between drab and fab in food photography.
Filing Legal Documents: If you're ready to incorporate your business, but prefer a low-cost DIY approach, Legal Zoom is for you. It allows you to file your own paperwork online to form an LLC or Corporation in just a few simple steps.
Filing for a Trademark: Ready to trademark your business name? Want to make sure the name for your business or product idea isn't already taken? The United States Patent and Trademark Office allows you to search all registered trademarks, current and expired, to help guide your decisions.
Registering for a Tax EIN: All business owners should register for an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for their business. With an EIN, you can put your EIN number on all payment and legal forms, reducing the risk of getting your social security number stolen.
B-School by Marie Forleo: B-School is an 8-week online program designed to help you create a business and life that you love. It's an investment, but totally worth it if you are still struggling to find purpose in your business and make an impact in your niche. If you've already got a rockin brand with a following & tons of engagement, then you're probably too far advanced for this course. For real though, the community is awesome, and a great place to connect with like-minded women and business owners.
Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp: If you struggle to charge premium prices, constantly self-sabotage when you're on the verge of success, or find yourself working hard with nothing to show for it, it's time to look within. Denise Duffield-Thomas hosts the online course, Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp*, and runs the corresponding Facebook group. I can honestly say this course has completely changed my perspective on money, wealth, and owning your power and skills. The private Facebook group is worth the cost alone. Highly recommend. You won't regret this one, promise.
Food Blogger Pro: Food Blogger Pro* is a membership site run by Lindsay & Bjork Ostrom of Pinch of Yum. They have successfully grown their food blog from making just $21.97 in their first month, so $67,000 per month, 5 years later. Their membership site provides how-to videos for setting up and monetizing a food blog, plus, my favorite part, an engaged community of like-minded bloggers to learn from.