Every now and then I get asked questions about my blogging resources and what tools I’m using. I’m surprised to find myself giving advice to newbie bloggers because I never thought of myself as a person in a position to give advice on blogging. I suppose that after 6 years of blogging, a few international blogging awards, and learning to do it all on my own from scratch, I could give a tip or two that someone might actually find useful!
When I started blogging, my computer skills consisted of replying to emails and browsing the internet. No joke! So I had to learn everything from zero. Blogging is actually a never-ending learning process, you learn something new everyday. I’ve tried different things and made lots of mistakes along the way, so this list will be from my experience and pov what has worked for me. I hope it helps someone out there just getting started. I’ve also candidly shared with you the cost of “upkeep” of Blue Abaya.
Naturally not everyone who starts a blog wants it to grow big or to become professional bloggers. For example many Saudi based bloggers write for their families back home about their life in KSA.
Check out my Top 20 Saudi Arabia based blogs list here!
This is a list of tools and resources I wish I had known and used from day one. It would’ve saved thousands of hours of wasted time and from having to pull my hair out and have mini heart attacks every so often.
What I’ve noticed is that quite a lot of people don’t realize how costly blogging actually is and how much hard work it requires. So for those people eager to start their own blogs or just starting out, there’s a few things to consider investing in, if you want your blog to be successful and take it a step further than a personal journal type blog.
At the end of this post you will see the cost of one year of (pro) blogging. I think many will be surprised! Or shocked like I was.
My Essential tools for a successful blog:
1. Sign up for wordpress account. I recommend wordpress over blogspot especially if you want to take things the extra mile and purchase a beautiful theme for your blog.
2. Get your own domain name. You absolutely need to purchase your own domain name if you want to have credibility and for the long run if you want to turn your blogging into a business. This way you also get an email address with your own domain name. Domain names cost anywhere between 10-20$ per year. (You can get one domain for free at Bluehost when you sign up!) I went from blueabaya.blogspot.com to blueabaya.com in 2013 by purchasing a domain name and hosting plan from Bluehost and moving everything to wordpress.
3. Get a hosting provider. Bluehost has hosting plans as low as 2.95 per month, I highly recommend this hosting service which I’ve used since 2013. Bluehost have 24 h customer service and tons of handy add ons. Use this link (my affiliate link) to sign up and grab the 2,95$ per month hosting service promo until 31st May! (Blue Abaya current plan is 25.99$ per month.)
4. Create Blog logo. You could design your own if you have the skills to save money. See the online image editors mentioned further in this post. if you decide to hire someone, the budget option is looking for people on networks like Upwork, Etsy, or Creative Market.
5. Purchase a custom theme. You can get nice themes for wordpress for free from ThemeForest, but it’s worth investing in your theme to make it more customizable, achieve a personalized look and make it easy to navigate. I’m using a drag and drop website builder ProPhoto (199$ for the ProPhoto license + 150$ custom PP theme + 79 $ installation.)
6. Customize and design your site. I designed my own site and learned everything on my own, it’s an ongoing learning process and at first can take months of your time. If you hire a designer make sure they know what they’re doing. Ask to see their verified previous work and talk to previous clients.
7. Watermarking. If your blog is going to have a lot of photography, especially if you are a professional photographer, you will need to get various software to edit your photos with. Photoshop, Lightroom are a must. You’ll also need something to watermark and resize a batch of images at once, the best option for this I’ve found in BlogStomp (49$ one time purchase). BlogStomp will batch resize, watermark, sharpen and rename hundreds of images at a time in just a few seconds.
8. Online photo editors and graphics maker. I use mainly two online photo editors. Picmonkey is great for quick fixes, adding text, image layers, making collages and social media images. Picmonkey costs 4,99$ per month for the upgraded version which I highly recommend investing in. They have the coolest fonts and you get access to galleries of overlays with the upgraded version. Picmonkey is super easy to use even if you have zero experience in editing graphic design like I did when I started! Picmonkey has a vast archive of tutorial videos you can learn with.
Another more recent excellent graphics editor discovery for me has been Canva. I use Canva for Work, which costs 12.99$ per month. You can make pretty much anything with Canva, social media images like facebook cover photos, twitter headers, etsy store banners, greeting cards, ebook covers, business cards, flyers, posters etc etc. The possibilities are endless and they have thousands of ready-made templates to use. Most templates are free and some are 1$ extra.
9. Online storage. You will need to be able to access your images from various places not just your home pc or laptop, so the best solution for me has been Dropbox pro extra storage. Dropbox is really handy in sharing material too and serves as a backup for your images as well. This will cost you 9.99$ monthly for 1TB.
10. Back-ups. You will need to back up your blog regularly, for this I recommend Backup Buddy which is easily purchased through Bluehost. Cost is 100$ per year.
11. Security. Don’t overlook this part! A good password is not enough to protect your site. I have purchased SiteLock which is 99$ a year from Bluehost. The amount of hacking attempts and malicious malware this program has stopped is amazing. I’ve been really satisfied with it, it’s worth the extra investment for your peace of mind. Consider that if your site gets hacked or infected with a virus, (like what happened to me before I got the SiteLock) it cost over 300$ to fix it.
12. Mailing list providers. You will need to get an email marketing program like MailChimp or Convertkit to send out email to your subscribers and create signup forms with. Mailchimp is free for under 2000 subscribers, but once you pass 2000 subscribers, it’s 30$ per month. I use Convertkit because of the more flexibility and additional features like landing pages, cool sign up forms and outstanding customer support they offer starting 49$ per month.
And the grand total of this thing called blogging?
1926.52 USD per year.
That is when we count all the one time purchases in the sum.
For a rough annual “maintenance” figure of keeping things running, for Blue Abaya it’s 1449.52 USD per year.
Shocking right?? I sure am shocked! This was the first time I ever added everything up like this. I kinda wish I hadn’t, it seems like a huge waste of money right now. Then again my blog is very important to me, it’s like my third baby! I’ve invested literally thousands of dollars from my own (and sometimes husbands) pocket into it because I believe in Blue Abaya and its future and I know it helps thousands of people. I can say I’m very proud of what I’ve achieved, mostly by just pure will power and probably some famous Finnish “Sisu” in the mix.
Perhaps the single most important tool a blogger needs is passion! You really need to be passionate about what you do
This list does not count all the $$$ that goes into hiring freelancers for various tasks like the technical stuff which I suck at, or some more advanced graphic design work, coding, web development or a virtual assistant, which I desperately need.
For anyone just starting out don’t be discouraged by these large figures, in the beginning you will not need so many upgrades right away and there are some free alternatives, whatever works for me might not be best way for another blogger in a different niche or different set of goals.
For sure a newbie blogger really has to be dedicated, persistent and not give up! You will also need to figure out ways to pay for these blogging bills with your blog which is easier said than done. One such way are affiliate links, (which this post contains, and bloggers should always mention) or advertisements, and creating products like ebooks, courses or webinars..But that’s a lesson for another time.
I suppose next time someone calls me greedy for writing an ebook guide and charging a WHOPPING 4.99$ for it, I’ll direct them to this post. Or when companies want me to write articles which takes me many days to compile and pay me in “exposure” “free meal” or better yet “tweets”. Yeah, I’ll definitely send them a link here :)
Good luck to all beginning bloggers, I wish you all blogging success!!
Are you a blogger? What are your favorite essential tools and resources for blogging success? Please share with us in the comments.