We Lived Happily Ever After: How To Start Your Own Blog And Make Money Doing It | Part 2: Tools And Resources

Thursday, February 18, 2016

How To Start Your Own Blog And Make Money Doing It | Part 2: Tools And Resources





READ ALL THE POSTS IN THIS SERIES:


I wish I had had a friend or big sister who blogged who could show me the ropes... but instead, I had to figure it all out on my own. One of the things I had to do was research, and stalk other blogs to find out what sort of programs, equipment, and resources they used for blogging. It was really hard since I didn't have any terms or basic web knowledge to go off of. Thank goodness for Google! 




This post is devoted to showing you all the basic tools I use on a daily basis. You may not need them all, depending on your specific blogging topic, but most of these are things I couldn't live without. 

This series will be divided into three sections: Setting Up Your Blog, My Favorite Tools And Resources, and How To Monetize A Blog.




Okay, so this one goes without saying. You need a laptop and or a desktop, as well as some big old external hard drives. I use an Asus Desktop (I switched over to this one HERE recently) with over 3 terabytes of space on the hard drive. And I have a gorgeous 24" screen (HERE) which I LOVE for all my graphic design needs. I do love Apple products, so I may switch over at some point, but for now, I'm a windows girl. 


I also have several external hard drives. These are a must as you really should back up your files on at least two sources. I have mine on three different devices, and some of my most valuable and important files on dropbox as well. The reason I am a "crazy backup person" is because I recently had a nightmare situation where I took everything off my desktop so I could take it in for some work, and I put everything on my external... which died a few days after. My wedding photos, June and Jason's baby photos (and whole childhood up to that point), all my high resolution blog photos, and Etsy business was gone. I was devastated, so I had to send it in for recovery (drivesavers) and it cost me 2K to get everything back. Lesson learned: Never again!!!!




Let's talk Photography. This is what makes, or breaks your blog. It's the backbone of your content. Now I'm not a photography expert, but I LOVE my camera. Seriously, ditch the iPhone & get yourself the real thing.

My Camera is a Canon t3i. It has since been replaced by a newer model like this one: Canon t5i I really need to get a clicker remote too, but this camera does have a timer, and can do both video and photos.

The started lens it comes with is the 18-55 lens. It's great for generic, every day use.  You can see it in the top photo, and to it's left is an unedited photo I took with it in natural light.

My favorite lens is actually a fixed lens (it can't zoom, but boy does this baby focus!) it's the 50 mm 
f/1.8 II lens. You can see it in the bottom right photo, with the photo to the bottom left showing the same photo as the 18-55, but taken with this lens. Every time I use this lens, my photos turn out better focused, with more vibrant color, and it really creates a dreamy soft light. The downfall to it is that you have to stand really far back to get a normal photo, because it doesn't zoom in or out. It's a fixed lens.

One photography tip: Shoot in natural light, and turn up the exposure on your camera (for good lighting) 

Also, I recommend getting a lens protector to keep dust & scratches off your lenses. I use one like THIS.



Also, everyone needs a tripod. It really makes a world of difference to be able to take photos with a steady hand. I got mine at Best Buy. 





PHOTOSHOP.

Seriously. Get it. It's only $10 a month, which is the price of  a couple cups coffee a month. You don't have to have a degree to use it, and the ability to edit your photos, design your site, and use layers and actions (filters)  is priceless. My blog, you-tube and google- we will all help you learn. But it seriously is leaps and bounds better than everything else out there.




While I don't use it for my photo editing, I do use picmonkey for their awesome free collage tool. It's so much easier than manually doing it in photoshop.




So this is a tablet that you can draw directly into the computer with. It's basically a mouse pad with a pen that you connect via USB to your desktop or laptop. I have a wireless kit for it too. I started using this baby in 2012'ish, and I could never go back. It's a great, inexpensive way to be able to draw, and use your own hand writing directly into the computer, and makes photoshop a breeze. 

The downfall of this is you have to draw on the pad while looking up at the screen. I got really good at it, but there is really no substitution for drawing directly on a screen, which brings me to my recent upgrade (below)





So I am in Love. The End.


This is the designer's dream machine. I use it every day. 

What is it? It's like a large tablet that acts as a computer monitor. You can draw directly on it... it's kinda like using an iPad, but better. It's much more expensive than the Wacom Intuos, but if you are at all into digital design & photoshop, this machine will not disappoint. I can't sing it's praises loud enough.

The only downside to the 13HD that I have is that you have to use it with a 3 in one power, hdmi, and usb cord, which I've already had to replace twice (it was toggling in and out...) They actually have one that doesn't need to be plugged in and is a touch screen too. I should have gotten that one, but it's a lot more expensive, and I exclusively use this on my desk anyways. But all in all, an amazing "I can never go back" tool.



I use Inlinkz's Project Manager tool to organize all my posts by subjects in my menu. Some people are able to do thumbnails by using html... but I am all about user friendly, so this is what I use to organize my posts and menus.


I use Bitly  to create short, tracking links so I can tell how many people click on my links on places like facebook, links to my printables in my dropbox folders, sidebars, etc. It's super easy to use.


This is exactly what it sounds like. Google Analytics gives you lots of insight on your viewers, where they click on your site, how long the spend, etc. It's good stuff.


Anyone who has spent 5 minutes on my blog knows how much I use Drop Box. It's awesome for file sharing. I use it for freebie printables, graphics, and patterns.


The short and simple: I use Paypal for invoicing & having clients pay me for custom work. They do take a small processing percentage, but I can live with that. A girl's got to get paid, right?

So those are my top used tools and resources (all of which I basically use on a daily basis!)

Stay tuned for Part 3: How To Monetize Your Blog

This post includes affiliate links. All opinions are my own, but I only promote things that I love and think you will love too! :)




8 comments :

  1. wow! is all i can say, well, that and thank you. this is amazing stuff! i've been looking at cameras for my portfolio and will look into these you mentioned. keep the tips coming! please and thank you!

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  2. Awesome tips! I love my prime lens as well, but it's definitely a huge pain when I can't get a shot into frame since I can't zoom out. But you're right, the focus is amazing.

    Mimi
    www.coffeeandsunday.com

    ReplyDelete
  3. super helpful!! this is the post i have been waiting for!!! let me ask you this though...did you start monetizing your blog before you invested in a camera or not until you started making a little money???
    thanks for all of the help!!

    http://k-g.us/

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    Replies
    1. Good question! I started out with a point and shoot, and then started borrowing my sister in-laws camera. I did have ads on my blog from almost the start, but they didn't really make me anything until I invested in a good camera (good content = traffic, which = ad clicks)

      For my content, I needed a good camera right off the bat- and honestly, I've deleted, or redone my old content with the point and shoot camera.

      The newest iPhone is okay with it's quality, but it really doesn't compare to focus and quality on a real camera.

      Hope that helps!

      XO
      Hannah

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  4. Ok, I have a question for you. I would love to get more into graphic designing, but I don't know where to start. There are tons of websites that offer beginner courses, but do you recommend a way to start learning. I've read tutorials here and there, but I'd love more concrete way to start. Also, I'd love to get one of those pads, the stuff I've drawn I've had to scan and then edit in photoshop. However I'm not sure I can pay that much until I feel like I know what I'm doing. Sorry this is really long.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Havanlah! Skillshare would be a good one- honestly I just learned everything though trial error, and a lot of google! I started with the smaller Wacom Intuos tablet first for the very reason you are mentioning. But if you are serious, and if business is picking up, then you can decide if the more expensive one is the way to go for you. Hope that helps!

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  5. Hi, thanks for a wonderful blog. Your blog is beautiful! I'll like to ask how do you make your photos look "light-washed" and with that bit of vintage feel? Is there a particular filter you use each time in photoshop? Thank you very much!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! :) Yeah, I just use all sorts of adjustment layers in photoshop (curves, brightness and contrast) and some matte actions from Creative Market. Hope that helps!

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