As you’re reading this, I am at my son’s house, caring for my grandson as my daughter-in-law gives birth to my granddaughter, Emma Marie. Just sayin’.
edited to add: As of 2:14 on Wednesday, August 26, I have a beautiful new granddaughter. And I finally got my grandson down for a nap. Mother and daughter are doing fine.
There will come a time, if you truly want to take your blog to the next level, that you will need to make a financial investment in your blog. As with any business, it is necessary to invest some money in order to help you get a better return. Even if you don’t intend to make money blogging, a good looking, well run blog is a matter of pride. It is a reflection of you after all, and you put a lot of time and effort into it. Here are the best ways to invest in your blog.
The Best Ways to Invest in Your Blog
Buy your own domain name
Probably the least expensive investment that you will make in your blog, it will also have the most impact. If you head over to Domain.com right now, you can purchase yourblogname.com for just $9.99 a year. Whether you already are blogging on a free server, or if you’re ready to start your blog from scratch, your domain name will be the image you present to the world.
Go self hosted
If you appreciate freedom of expression, or if you really want to make a business with your blog, you will need to go self hosted. Most free blogging websites like WordPress.com or Blogger, have policies that limit your ability to offer advertising, sell services, or offer sponsored posts. Your options are also limited with regards to plugins and other theme add-ons. When you pay for self hosting, you have complete freedom to do whatever you wish to do with your blog. It truly is yours.
Getting started with self hosting is easier and less expensive than you might think. You can start with packages that cost from $5 to $10 per month, and most web hosts make it simple to transfer your information to their servers. I have been with Hostgator since I first went self hosted and I’ve been very happy with them. I have had virtually no down time, they are responsive when I ask for assistance, and they made it easy for me when I recently upgraded my hosting package.
Hostgator has recently introduced dedicated WordPress Hosting, which has a lot of features designed specifically for WordPress users, including a Minimalist Control Panel plus:
- A WordPress Cloud Interface focused on usability, minimizing the complexities of traditional web hosting
- Auto-backup with one-click restores; configurable for full or snapshot backups
- One-click scalability to handle traffic spikes and increased capacity requirements
- Easy access to all your email accounts
Flash sale! If you’re ready to pull the plug, you can Save 60% on all New Hosting Packages on Hostgator.com with code AUGUSTFLASH6 on 8/26/15 from 3pm-5:59pm CST.. The flash sale excludes the Optimized WP Packages. If you need a little longer to decide, you can still Get 20% off all HostGator Hosting plans with PROMOCODE: SNAPPY. Packages for as low as $5.56 a month!
Several years ago, shortly after I went self hosted, my site got hacked. All of a sudden weird things were happening and when people came to my site, Google warned them away, saying that it was dangerous. Not a good thing when you’re trying to bring more people to your blog.
Through a Facebook group I was in, I was referred to Ryan Sullivan and WP Site Care. Within an hour, Ryan had fixed my problem, cleaned my files and got me up and running again. He didn’t charge me for any of this, but I decided right then and there that I needed someone to protect my website. There are several different packages, but I pay $29 per month for 24/7 security monitoring, daily cloud backups, WordPress, theme, and plugin updates, access to WordPress tutorial videos, and realtime activity tracking. Best of all, if I’m concerned about anything that’s going on, I can send an email, and get a quick response, telling me either not to worry, or that they already fixed the problem.
That is peace of mind and totally worth the price to me.
Buy a theme
Once you are self hosted, it is time to invest in a theme of your own. While free themes are available with both Blogger and WordPress, well, they look like it. They are cookie cutter themes that pretty much look like many others out there. If you are working hard to make your blog the best it can be, you need to have a beautiful theme that reflects your style.
There are many choices out there. So many, in fact, that your most difficult decision will probably be choosing just one. I have the Beautiful Pro Theme, which is a child theme of the Genesis Framework. You need to purchase both, but if you change child themes later on, you will not have to purchase Genesis again. I purchased both through StudioPress.com.
The best way to pick a theme? Take a look at some of your favorite blogs and get an idea of what is out there. That’s what I did (check Carla’s blog, it may look a little familiar).
I also purchased Genesis Design Palette Pro. It gives me the freedom to change colors, fonts, backgrounds, margins, and padding without knowing anything about CSS or html.
Buy some tools of the trade
Depending on what you blog about, there are some tools that can help. A DSLR camera is a must if you’re blogging about food. You can get a good, entry level camera for $500-$700. I have the T2i version of this camera: Canon EOS Rebel T5 Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm IS II + EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III Bundle. I got it about three years ago and I love it. The new one costs $499 for the bundle above.
Of course, having a good camera is pointless if you don’t know how to use it, so a few photography lessons might be in order. Then you need to edit those pictures. Photoshop is always an option. It is available for $9.99 a month. If you haven’t learned to use it yet, try PicMonkey or Canva. Both have free versions. For $33 per year you can upgrade PicMonkey, which gives you more design options and a lot of new fonts. Canva just introduced Canva for Work for $9.99 a month.
If your lighting is poor, it might be wise to invest in a light tent and some good lights. This one, a Lighting Kit Set even comes with a tripod (another great tool).
These are a few more things that, while not a top priority, will be useful as you grow your blog.
Unless you’re proficient in html and CSS, if you really want to personalize your blog you will need someone to help you. I have heard from several bloggers that Pretty Darn Cute Design does an exceptional job for a good price.
Other Miscellaneous Tools
An editorial calendar is a great way to plan and schedule your blog posts. Co-Schedule has a lot of bells and whistles that might make it your perfect choice. It is also an easy way to schedule your social sharing. The pricing starts at around $15 per month.
I pay around $10 a month for Hootsuite (there is also a free version). One thing I love about it is the Chrome extensions which make it easy to schedule my social sharing with several accounts.
Buffer is another option that has both free and paid versions. It recently added Pinterest sharing.
I just started using Board Booster to schedule Pinterest. I’m loving it so far. My repins have more than tripled since I started using it. You get your first 100 or so free to try it out (I actually had about 300+ pins before they asked for any money), then there are plans starting at $5 a month. Other options include Tailwind and Viralwoot, both of which let you try them out before you have to purchase a package.
These tools will help you create a blog that is both beautiful and professional. You will find that it is not difficult to quickly find a return on your investment.
This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase using my links I will make a small amount of money which helps me pay for some of the above blogging tools.
I know many of my readers are bloggers. What tools do you use that are worth an investment in your blog?
My weekly linkups! Please stop by and check out all of the great recipes, workouts, and information that all these awesome bloggers share every week!
Inspire Me Monday with Janice
Anything Goes with Marilyn
Bonnie, the Pin Junkie
Tip Tuesday with Debbie in Shape
Wednesday Wisdom with Nanna’s Wisdom
The Blog Booster Party with Kathleen