Have a side hustle blog and looking for ways to make it easier to manage? Save time and work more efficiently with these tools and resources for niche blogs with smaller audiences.
Want to learn more about how to enhance your hobby or early-stage blog? The resources below may help advanced bloggers who’ve already made a career of their publishing platforms. But I’ve directed this resource guide more toward side hustler or niche bloggers looking to build on a newer or growing blog with limited time and fewer resources.
I’m a modern mom with a corporate job, so blogging fits into the tiny spaces between these other commitments. While I can’t opine on professional blogging because it’s not my gig, I certainly understand the hobby blogger looking to make their blog a bit of a side hustle (something I’ve been doing for nearly four years).
Thus far, I’ve only included resources here that I regularly use and can recommend with great confidence. I know this list is far from exhaustive, but that’s not my goal. I’m sharing with you the few resources that I’ve found to be particularly helpful and a valuable use of my limited free time and financial investment. I continue to update this list as I discover new resources, so be sure to stop back periodically for new nuggets!
Don’t forget to stop by my Pinterest Business of Blogging Board where I link to all of my favorite tutorials and guides I’ve discovered. I think it’s a really great resource library! I follow several bloggers that write about blogging tips and tools. All the best posts go on my Pinterest board so you can use it as curated spot for lots of informative articles.
Learn The Ropes: General Resources
Problogger ~ Darren Rowse, a longtime blogger and blog expert, started the podcast with 31 episodes featuring his 31 Days to Build a Better Blog series. Each of these is really helpful and definitely worth a listen. He’s continued to provide regular periodic lessons, in essence, addressing all sorts of aspects of owning and managing a blog to help make everyone a little more successful. If you have time for one podcast to help you build a better blog, this the place to start.
I’d recommend starting with the first 31 episodes as you have time to listen to them. Many of the episodes build on the previous ones and the early episodes are well worth digging through the archives to find.
Social Media Examiner (Blog and Podcast) ~ With interviews from some of the top experts in social media, I absolutely love this podcast and listen to it regularly. I’ve found so many amazing resources and ideas for growing and enhancing my blogs and the related content and publishing avenues around them (like Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, etc..). This is definitely worth checking out (and totally free!).
Smart Passive Income Podcast ~ This podcast offers guidance and tools for more serious bloggers looking to turn their blog into a business. I’m not always sure where my blog is going or where it will take me. But I know it behooves me to understand my options and be aware of what’s going on in the world of online publishing and marketing and social media. I love this podcast and the wealth of knowledge it’s offered me.
Google Analytics ~ Because it’s just good business to know your customer and see where they’re coming from and where they’re headed. I use this only for the most basic of data and learn a bit more with each tutorial I read. I think I should know more, so learn along with me! At the very least, take ten minutes to set it up so you can start the tracking and have some historical data to review when you are ready to analyze.
Create Great Ideas: Content Development
Evernote ~ This collaboration and idea organization tool helps me jot down all my ideas, build them over time as they ruminate in my head, and ultimately bring them to my blog or other content publishing platforms. As a sole contributor, I haven’t used the multiple user collaboration tools. But I love the content organization tools (notebooks and notes, they’re called). I also have the iPhone app, which syncs to the software on my computer, so I can work on ideas when I’m away from my desk. I use the free version which has been perfect for me. Paid versions with additional features are available.
Feedly ~ I love this reader. Unlike some other readers which seem to focus on certain types of blogs or publishers, I’ve found this to feed content from a vast range of media providers. And it can be connected to myriad other platforms like Evernote, Twitter, Buffer, and so many more.
IFTTT ~ This web-based tool, which stands for If This Then That, automates actions connected through the Internet in TONS of different ways. I only use a few of the automation channels, but it essentially will take one action and automatically enact another action if you set up the prompts accordingly. You can see just a few of the channels below but this list of all channels available is quite impressive.
For example, I’ve connected my Twitter and Google Docs accounts, so every time I favorite a tweet or post a tweet in Twitter, the tweet is added to a spreadsheet in Google Docs giving me a history of all the tweets I’ve liked and shared (some of which make for great recurring content in the future). I’ve linked my Feedly account to Evernote, so each time I save an article in Feedly, a new note is created with this article in Evernote that I can later use as a starter for a new blog post or other piece of content.
Make It Beautiful: Design & Graphics, Visual Content
Canva ~ A web-based, social media graphic design company based in Australia, these guys are killing it! They have taken a very complicated (in my opinion) field of graphic design and made it so achievable for everyday “joe schmoes” like me. With preset templates for myriad social media platforms, plenty of free and very inexpensive photos, backgrounds, and designs, they provide all the pieces to create beautiful graphics for any social media or online publishing platform in just a few minutes with very minimal skills. They also have a Design School to provide further guidance on great graphic design.
Picmonkey ~ I use this for basic editing of all my photos on my blog. It’s super easy and efficient to use. The photo editing tools certainly don’t provide the same level of control and precision that something like Photoshop can do. But I also 1) don’t know how to use Photoshop well and 2) Photoshop takes much longer and doesn’t provide me (with my very limited skills) significantly better results. Should I take the time to invest in learning the Photoshop behemoth better someday, I have no doubt I would find it very valuable. But for a blogger like me with a family and full-time job, PicMonkey is my happy medium between perfect photos and efficient editing.
Spread The Word: Social Media & Audience Engagement
CoSchedule ~ Though only available to WordPress users, I honestly think this might be reason enough to switch from Blogger to WordPress. I made the switch in May 2015 (and wrote about it for you here), and I honestly haven’t looked back! The opportunity to use CoSchedule was one of main reasons I finally decided to switch. I wrote an entire post about CoSchedule if you’re interested in how I use it as a smaller blogger. It’s the most expensive financial investment I make in my blog (by far), but it’s well worth the cost.
Update: After using CoSchedule for two years, I am an even bigger fan and advocate of the company. As my needs have changed, I have worked with the company to help ensure I have the right plan. They even helped me work through technical issues to transition over to a new and much less expensive plan that fit my needs even better than the previous options available.
As an aside, I’ve written several posts related to using WordPress vs. Blogger that might be helpful if you’re contemplating which is right for you.
Tailwind ~ This application makes scheduling Pins on Pinterest and posts on Instagram a breeze. I pay for this for my blog and really like it. The initial set up of pins to schedule is really easy, thanks in part to a browser extension that allows you schedule a pin from any site (including Pinterest) on the internet.
My favorite feature is definitely the Shuffle function. After I schedule all my pins, some of which go to multiple boards, I can shuffle up my queue with the click on one button to make the pin order much more random and organic.
If you’d like, you can use my referral link to get a $15 credit on your account when you sign up and purchase the tool. Enjoy!
Buffer ~ I obviously can’t sit at my computer all day posting to various social media sites. For free, Buffer allows me to schedule a limited number of Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest posts at times pre-determined by me. The application also offers some great suggestions on things my readers might like that I can share. An enhanced paid plan is available that offers more scheduled posts and tweets, but I haven’t found that necessary yet for the volume of activity I commit to my blog. (Other more diverse social media scheduling applications are available as well, though the ones I have investigated were not free for the volume of activity I desired to use.)
Later ~ This application integrates with Instagram to help schedule posts and generate more click throughs to other content.
In the basic version, which you can try for free, Later allows me to schedule a set number of posts each month. While I still have to manually upload the posts via my phone on Instagram (because of the way that Instagram is set up), it makes it so much easier and quicker when I’m engaged in offline life. The reminder pops up on my phone, the photo and caption are all set, and I copy and paste into Instagram.
I have an upgraded version (for an annual fee) that allows me to schedule more posts month and attach a permanent link to each post. The limited linking abilities of Instagram, particularly in conjunction with feeds that are no longer chronological, make it difficult to encourage Instagram followers to act on a post (like click through to the blog post, for example). Later has a Link in Bio module that makes it easier for readers to find links from past posts and follow the call to action.
(Referral Link: Use this link and get an extra 10 posts per month for free when you sign up and use Later.)
Rafflecopter ~ Readers seem to love contests and giveaways. I mean, really, who doesn’t like winning something once in a while? I’ve found giveaways to be a great way to promote some of my favorite brands as well as offer readers a little thank you for their regular presence. The basic version of this tool is free and so easy to use. I set up my first giveaway in about 15 minutes, and it’s been smooth sailing every since.
Disqus ~ While I initially defaulted to Google Comments and then upgraded to Google+ Comments, I’ve found Disqus to be a much better option. The email notifications help me know when people have commented, especially on older posts, so I can return and respond to these readers. I didn’t like that Google+ commenting required users to have a Google+ account, which many people don’t have. I know there are many other commenting applications, but this free option worked quite well for me until I switched over to WordPress.
With my switch to WordPress, I opted for the WordPress commenting system. Disqus works on WordPress and I could have switched it over, but I wanted to stick with the WordPress system because I liked the streamlined and consistent aesthetic. So far, this has been working well too.
Beyond Your Blog ~ Learn how to spread the word about your work by contributing to other sites. Whether it be for cash, publicity, or just to join a community, let Susan Maccarelli share with you her wealth of wisdom about growing your audience by capitalizing on the audiences of other publishing platforms. If you’re lucky (and a great writer, of course) you may just land yourself a paid gig or two as well!
Make Some Dough: Monetization
I’ve written a whole post about it, so stop on over for details.
Got questions? I’m more than happy to answer them.
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Disclosure: I have included some referral links above. Note that I only refer products I use and for which I am paying user, when applicable (some I use for free just like you might). All of these products I either use or have used and believe to be great quality. While any commission or benefit I receive is small, the amounts help to cover the cost of maintaining the blog and ensuring it’s free for you. Thanks for supporting Honestly Modern.
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