Occasionally I’ll have people ask me for recommendations for blog hosting, blogging/small business services, etc. Below is a short list of resources I currently use.
(These are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission on any sale at no extra cost to you).
For blog hosting: Ramnode
- My thoughts: Ramnode is one of the most affordable hosting options out there, and as it’s run by tech lovers, it also has some of the best software out there for making sure your site runs super fast and can handle a lot of traffic. They also have insanely fast customer service, and they’re great to work with you if you run into glitches. The only drawback? It’s not the most user friendly hosting service out there, so I had to go through a tech-savvy friend to get everything set up (though after I’ve now contacted their customer service a few times, I’m betting they would have been happy to walk me through it, had I asked!)
For scheduling pins to Pinterest: Tailwind (This link will get you a free month trial!)
- For a long time, I ignored Pinterest as a way to promote my blog, to my cost. Once I wised up a bit, I realized that I really didn’t have the time or energy (or desire) to be getting onto Pinterest multiple times a day to pin in order to try and grow my blog’s following. So I tried Tailwind for a month and totally fell in love with it. Basically, it’s a way of scheduling out pins in advance so that you can just do a batch at a time and then forget about it (but still have those pins go live at the optimal time for views and repins). Tailwind also recently struck a deal with Instagram where you can now start scheduling IG posts too (though I haven’t been able to try that one yet, as I don’t own a smartphone and have to update my Instagram through a special computer app called Gramblr).
- While I’ve heard mixed reviews about keeping MailChimp once your email subscribers have reached a certain point, after doing a lot of research, it seems like it’s by far one of the best options when you’re just starting out. For starters, it’s totally free up to 2,000 subscribers, and it’s super customizable as far as templates and design go. The user interface of the site takes some getting used to, but overall, I’m really happy I chose them.
For creating downloadable photo galleries: SmugMug
- For the longest time, I did the old school thing of burning all the images I wanted to give my photography clients onto a c.d., but when I realized there was a better, easier way (that had no limit on how many full resolution pictures I could give someone to download), I jumped on it. You can also upgrade your plan through them in order to sell prints of your images through their site, but I haven’t done that yet.
- I’ll admit, I’ve been a big fan of Ultimate Bundles for awhile, even before I decided to try my hand at monetizing the blog. Basically, they partner with tons of different bloggers and content creators to put together themed bundles of online courses, ebooks, printables, etc., which would cost into the thousands if you purchased them all separately. I first bought their Ultimate Homemaking Bundle years ago (largely for the financial spreadsheets and meal planning stuff, though I enjoyed perusing through all of it!), and last year, I was SUPER impressed with the Genius Blogger’s Toolkit that I bought. Although I wasn’t new to blogging, I was very new to monetizing, and the bundle held scads of resources for bloggers both brand new and experienced. I’m STILL working my way through all the content I got from this one! (As just a hint of how this resource helped me, I went from basically almost no monthly viewers on my Pinterest to having close to a million a few months in (Tailwind helped a lot with that, of course, but so did all the concrete strategies from a few of the courses in the bundle).
- Ah, Lightroom, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…Seriously though, I could go on for quite awhile about my love for Lightroom. The genius of the program lies in the fact that you can keep it as basic as you want or get pretty darn complex, and the best part of Lightroom (versus Photoshop, say) is that you can then apply your editing settings to a whole batch of photos (rather than having to edit them all separately), which saves SO MUCH TIME. Even if you don’t want to get into all the ins and outs of Lightroom or Elements, there are tons of presets you can either buy or even download for free.
- I started out my photography journey with Photoshop Elements, and I still use it whenever I need to make a more major change in a photo, such as a head swap, taking bystanders out of the background, etc. I also have some “actions” (like the presets in Lightroom) that I love in Elements, so occasionally I’ll pick a couple standout photos from a session to edit in Elements using those. Elements is also broken down into different levels, depending on your expertise. You can go with the auto settings, the basic settings, or the advanced settings, and you get many of the benefits of Adobe Photoshop without the huge sticker shock of the actual program. Definitely worth the $80 if you’re trying to actively improve your photography at all!
- Both of these are free, secure websites that allow you to link all your bank accounts, investing accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. into one place and track your income and expenses over time. They both have been enormously useful in helping me to make sure I don’t let any blogging or photography expenses or income slip through the cracks, which is very helpful come tax time.
For discounts on products bought online (such as photography gear): Ebates
- I talked pretty extensively about my love of Ebates in this post, but as a quick summary, Ebates is a browser button you can download that lets you know if whatever retailer you’re visiting online has any cash back bonuses you can take advantage of (or coupons/promo codes). I don’t shop online a ton, but whenever I do, I ALWAYS check to see if Ebates will give me cash back from my purchase (and their browser button makes it super easy to check). I’ve gotten up to 25% cash back from purchases before!
As an FYI, my blog logo was done my extremely talented father, who is a senior lettering artist at Hallmark. You can find more of his work on Instagram @1upstream.