I’ve been blogging consistently (about 5 days/week) since October 2011. I had a blog prior to that but October 2011 marks the moment when I began to blog full time. Let me tell you…I honestly cannot believe it has been that long. January 2013 is the marking point when I decided that I was going to turn my blog into a business. I rebranded into Pink Heels Pink Truck and hit the ground running and never looked back. I’ve had my blogging slumps when my creative juices just weren’t flowing. And I’ve had moments where my editorial calendar was booked out 3 months in advance. I’ve tried out various programs to help me become more efficient. I’ve tested the waters of hiring interns. I’ve done a little bit of everything, all while working a full time job which requires me to be on the road Monday-Friday, away from my home, my husband and my stuff. Yes…I miss my stuff. You can’t quite understand what it’s like to live out of a laundry basket (aka my suitcase cause it’s easier to throw stuff into) for the last 3.5 years. I literally look like I’m moving in or moving out depending on if I’m coming home or going back on the road.
So, all that to say, I’m going to give you my advice on what has worked for me so far. How I’m running a blogging business and growing every week. First let’s talk about the tools I use to run my blogging business.
HootSuite – Social Media Management: I use HootSuite to schedule out twitter accounts. I pay for the pro version so that I can have multiple accounts all in one framework. You can also connect Facebook (pages, groups and profile), G+ Page, LinkedIn and Instagram (you can’t post to it though). I pay $9.99/month for the Pro Account and I have at least 4 different twitter accounts connected if that gives you some idea (not including all the Facebook accounts I have connected).
BufferApp: I use buffer to schedule out Retweets. I set up a specific schedule and then when my tribe has stuff they want me to help promote, I will “Buffer” their tweets and Buffer will send them out according to my specific schedule. Makes it super easy to have content going out on twitter when you aren’t around and you’re supporting your friends. Win-Win!
Meet Edgar: Edgar is used for my Twitter Schedule as well. You are probably thinking why am I using HootSuite, Buffer and Edgar. Well, for me they each have their own pros/cons. For Edgar, I can load in all the tweets from all of my blog posts, set a schedule and basically let Edgar have at it. I only have to login to add my latest posts into the rotation. It’s $49/month
Tailwind: Tailwind is my Pinterest Scheduler. It’s $15/month and if you pay for a year up front, you can get it for $9.99 a month…basically 2 months free if you pay up front. The analytics on your Pinterest account alone are worth paying for Tailwind. And bonus: it’s a Pinterest Partner. So when I schedule out my Pins, it pushes to Pinterest as if I was the one doing it live.
Google Docs in Google Drive: I use Google Docs all the time. I share between my assistant, my blog tribe friends, whomever I need to create docs with and share. What’s nice is that more than one person can be on the form or spreadsheet at the same time. So you can make live edits while someone else is in the form or doc. I also use Google Forms a lot. Or use Google Docs to host PDFs that I share on my blog (think Printables). Makes it super easy for people to download to the computer. And I can access from anywhere, including my phone.
Gmail: My email is my life line to the world. Well my social media is too…but I am addicted to my email. I have folders out the wah-zoo and try to get things organized. Although if you visited my inbox, you’d think it wasn’t organized.
So that’s it for the tools that I use. Let’s talk about my website and what I use for it. I’m on the Self-Hosted WordPress platform. I run Genesis Framework + a child theme to hold my design all in place. Here are the details of what I use:
Website Platform: Self-Hosted WordPress (aka WordPress.org). The versatility of WordPress is amazing.
Website Framework: Genesis Framework + Pretty Chic Child Theme (as of 3/25/15). A framework/child theme is like using a template for your design. Think of it as the skeleton of your site. It gives you the bones to use and then you can make it look pretty on your own or by hiring a website designer.
Website Hosting: RFE Hosting…if you need an amazing hosting service, check out RFE. I’ve been with Aaron for over 2 years now and have all of my domains hosted through RFE and well…hands-down the best host ever. I’ve rarely ever had a problem. And when I have had a problem, it’s been me that caused said problem. Aaron’s customer service has come to my rescue many many times.
Now let’s talk about some of the plugins that I use on my site:
Akismet: You need this one for sure. It’s a spam catcher. I pay for a Pro Account (billed yearly) because I have a couple of sites I have Akismet running on. I recommend you paying for this if you are blogging for business. I think you can get their Donation version, but because I’m making money off of my blog, I pay for the Pro version.
WordPress SEO: The best SEO plugin ever. Plus you can get your sitemap through this plugin which is super important if you want google indexing your entire website….which you most definitely want to do.
Add Signature: I use this plugin to call my signature into my post. It’s a shortcode that is a lot easier than typing in my graphic signature, social media links, pinterest widget and subscribe/opt-in form for my website.
All-in-One Favicon: It’s what makes the little pink truck appear in your browser tab.
Filament: The social media share buttons you see on the left-hand side of the screen.
Genesis Simple Hooks: This plugin allows me to make changes to my site without going into my .php files and potentially crashing them.
LinkWithin: I haven’t decided how I feel about this one now. I’m leaning more towards coding my own “If you liked this post, check out these.”
Remove Amazon Links from RSS Feed: If you are an Amazon affiliate, you defintely need this plugin. In their TOS, it states that you cannot promote Affiliate links in any kind of email or RSS feed. This plugin kills your links in your RSS Feed and Email. It does not affect your links on your website. Now the downfall is that it kills all of your links going out through the RSS Feed and Email. So just FYI on that.
Simple Custom CSS: a great plugin to make quick design changes to your website without getting into your editor.
Sucuri Security: Highly recommend this install to track the security on your site. You can set it up to email you when someone is trying to hack into your website. Sounds scary. It truly is (to me at least). You might be thinking, why would someone want to hack into my website?? Well..great question. I just know they do, because I get brute force attack emails weekly. The most recent happening last night from about 1:30am till about 2:30am. The amount of notices of bruteforce attack that were in my inbox was astounding. This also leads to me to tell you to have a super super super strong password on your logins.
WordPress Backup to Dropbox: My website automatically backs up to my Dropbox account every Monday at 11pm. Make sure you have a regular backup of your website stored somewhere!
WP Gallery Custom Links: I use this plugin so that my Recipes Page, #bloggingedumacation Page and #NOEXCUSES Fitness Page has clickable gallery photos that will take you to the post I’m trying to direct you to. Without this plugin, if you create a gallery of images on a page or a post, they will only lead to the image. They will not lead anywhere else.
Now, let’s talk about how I make money. I’m a pretty open book when it comes to my blog and my blog business. Partly why I have this #bloggingedumacation series. Plus I love to teach. I make money a few different ways. Through Affiliate Networks, Ads and Sponsored Posts. Let’s look at some of my Affiliate Networks.
Amazon Associates: This is probably one of my biggest Affiliate programs. I make a decent amount of money through Amazon especially around the holidays. And what’s nice about it…you can practically buy anything and everything through Amazon.
ShopSense: This affiliate network is specifically for fashion, beauty and home. It’s open to those that want to apply to become a ShopSense Affiliate.
shareasale.com: This is a platform that has a ton of different affiliates within it. A few that I’m linked to are StudioPress, HootSuite. There are so many more, but I recommend only applying to be an affiliate for brands you absolutely, 100% love love love.
My Ads that you see on my website (on the desktop and mobile/tablet) are managed by The Blogger Network and Marfeel. Both of these require a minimum of 100k pageviews/month. If you signup with either, tell them I sent ya!
The Sponsored Posts and Ambassadorships are things I’ve worked on throughout my years of blogging. Currently, I’m working with the following blogger networks for sponsored posts (outside of the brands I work directly with): Lunch Box and PopSugar. Both are invite only. Lunch Box has an email you can use to find out about opportunities. There are no guarantees for you submitting an email inquiry (but I think that goes for most blogging networks).
The business side of blogging can be tedious. Keeping up with your monthly expenses and income for tax purposes. Deciding what kind of company you are going to form (I’m an LLC). Keeping up with your social media and your community. I started to feel the overwhelm last summer, so I went in search of a few interns. I hired 2 interns for a 6 month period. One of those interns, I turned into my assistant after the 6 month period was up. Best decision ever.
So that’s my blogging biz info in a nutshell. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out! If you’d like me to dive further into the business side of blogging, let me know! I’d be happy to write future posts on anything you are curious about!! I’ve got some fun stuff in the works for all my creative entrepreneurs out there! I cannot wait to share what’s been going on behind the scenes!!
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