A blog is a great way for a writer to develop an online presence. You can share your writing, and you can also sell books and other resources quickly and easily. I’ll be sharing the resources that I used to develop my blog, create graphics, and sync my blog to my other profiles online.
Note: I use WordPress, so many of the resources will be related to that, but some of the tips and tools may be used for other platforms.
To create a WordPress blog, you must have a domain name, the WordPress software, a WordPress theme, and a hosting site to host the site. It may sound technical, but don’t worry. If you were savvy enough to navigate to this web page, you have enough technical skills to start a blog. Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that I will receive a small commission at no additional cost to you, if you click through the link and make a purchase. I only recommend resources that I have personally used and found to be helpful.
Starting a Blog
Domain Name – Your domain name is your online address. It’s what you type in to navigate to a website. My domain name is debrajohnson.com. I use GoDaddy to buy all of my domain names. Simply navigate to the site, type in your desired domain name to see if it’s available, and buy it. You can often find coupons for GoDaddy by searing for “GoDaddy coupons.” Also, some hosting services offer a free domain name when you sign up for a plan.
WordPress Software – WordPress is a free, open-source software. That means that lots of developers create products and services around WordPress, and it is the most popular blogging platform. When you search for information about WordPress, you will find information about the free WordPress.com version and the self-hosted WordPress.org platform. I recommend that you self-host your blog. I started out on WordPress.com, and it’s a great platform for writers, but it has some limitations.
WordPress.com hosts your blog for you, and you can get started for free. On the free version, WordPress can run ads on your site, and you can’t custom code your site, or ad any of your own themes. There are premium themes available, and there is an ad-free version, but you have to pay for those features. You will also have to use a domain name that is a subdomain of WordPress.com, unless you pay for an upgrade (debrajohnson.wordpress.com, for example).
Over time, those extra features and upgrades add up. It’s very easy to self-host a blog, so I’d recommend going that route to have the greatest flexibility and control over your site. But, if you are low on money, then you could try WordPress.com to get started blogging right away.
I use and recommend WordPress.org is what is commonly referred to as self-hosted WordPress. Technically, you are paying for hosting and not self-hosting, but either way, you have control of your site. You don’t have to install the software from WordPress.org yourself. Most hosts offer one-click installation, which means that they install the WordPress software for you automatically. Simply select a host that offers WordPress hosting and you’ll be ready to get started.
WordPress Hosting – A host is how you publish your content on the web. I have two WordPress hosts I recommend. Bluehost is the least expensive and easiest way to get started with WordPress hosting. I also recommend GoDaddy WordPress hosting if you plan to host multiple sites. Both plans usually offer a free domain name with a hosting plan.
WordPress Themes – When I first got started with self-hosting my own WordPress site, one of the hardest parts was picking a theme. There are so many out there, and some provide more support than others. I was really confused, plus some of the themes were just plain ugly. Thankfully, I found two great companies that offer chic, feminine and professional WordPress themes for bloggers. Both of these companies are woman-owned, and they each offer amazing support and documentation that guides you through each step of installing and using the themes.
BluChic is the very first WordPress theme company that I fell in love with. They have very easy to use WordPress themes, and they also offer graphic templates and landing pages. The themes work well straight out of the box, and you can incorporate a store into BluChic themes that are WooCommerce compatible.
Restored316 is the other WordPress theme company that I love. I am currently using a theme by Restored316, called Captivating. This theme is made specifically for bloggers. Restored316 has themes that have slightly more advanced features, but the themes are still really easy to use. I recommend Restored316 themes for bloggers who are comfortable with technology. They are made on the Genesis framework, which means that you have to purchase and install Genesis, then install your theme from Restored316. It sound a bit complex, but it’s not.
Graphics & Picture Storage
Once you have your blog all set up, you’ll need to create some attractive graphics to add to your site and your social media pages. If you haven’t yet, make sure you grab your social media handles for different platforms. It’s best to be as consistent as possible. All of my handles on social media are either debrajohnson or bydebrajohnson.
Planoly – Planoly is an amazing way to organize your Instagram feed before you post. Instagram is a highly visual platform, so it’s important that your feed is consistent. This is so important that I’m starting my feed over and I’m using Planoly to make sure that it looks the way I want it to. It also allows me to plan out captions, add videos, and create my Instastories before I post.
LinkinProfile – If you’re using Instragram, LinkinProfile is a great way to drive traffic to your blog posts and other places around the web using the one link in your profile that you are allowed to have on Instagram. LinkinProfile is one link that users click in your profile. From that link, a user can click on the picture to go where you direct them to. It’s a great way to use your Instagram feed to get readers to actually read your blog instead of just scrolling through your Instagram.
Bitly – Shorten, mask, and track long links using Bitly. I use this to mask affiliate links and to store my frequently used links in one spot so I don’t have to keep looking them up to repost them. I can also easily change where a link leads to without going back to find every place where I placed the short link. Simply create an account for free and turn your long links into bitlinks.
Stock Photography – If you are a good photographer, you can totally use your own photos on your blog, but I like to have a polished look to my site. I use a mix of my own photos together with stock photographs to create a consistent look and feel on my site.
Some of the stock photography companies that I use are SC Styled Stock, CreateHER Stock, Color U Bold, and Haute Stock. You can also search for “styled stock” on CreativeMarket or Etsy. Over time, though, a stock membership may be the best bang for your buck. Make sure that you read the licensing terms for the photos.
Canva – I use Canva for most of my graphics. It can even be used to make a basic logo if you don’t have the money to hire someone to make one for you. Canva has a free version, and you can also do a paid upgrade to upload your own fonts, and save your brand colors, logos, and templates.
Adobe Creative Cloud – Adobe has EVERYTHING. I had an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription for a while because I was ambitious enough to feel like I could learn Illustrator and Photoshop, but I never had the time.
I did use Adobe PDF products a lot to make and edit PDF files, and I also used Adobe Premier to edit YouTube videos (though I prefer iMovie). You can also write eBooks and create PDF files using Pages for Mac and Word for Windows.
PicMonkey – PicMonkey allows you to create graphics and edit photos. This great for those who don’t have the time or ability to learn Photoshop.
Back-up Storage – Canva and Adobe can store the graphics you create for you, but you can also back them up with DropBox, Amazon Cloud, and you can back up your entire iPhone (which I use a lot for social media) with iCloud for iPhone.
Selling eBooks and Courses
Payhip – You can easily upload and sell a digital product on Payhip, and the best part is that you only pay when you make a sale.
Gumroad – Gumroad is for selling digital products, and you can also presale, sell subscriptions, or utilize their marketplace to drive traffic to your site.
Selz – Selz is another digital selling platform. I once used it and Payhip for the same product, and Payhip converted better for some reason.
Kindle – Of course, you can sell eBooks on Kindle, but you have to follow Amazon’s rules about listing and pricing.
Teachable – Use Teachable to easily create and sell online courses. There is a free version you can try before upgrading to a paid subscription.
Selling eBooks and other digital products is a great way for writers to bring in extra income. Some of these platforms also help you build your email list through email integration with your selling platform.
Besides the digital tools that I use for my blog, there are some actual resources that I use to do my work, like my all-in-one desktop computer, my printer, my laptop, mouse, my camera and camera equipment, and more.
At the bottom of this post, I have linked all of the items mentioned in Amazon. I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
MacBook – This is the absolute best laptop for writing on the go. I actually carry it around with me in my purse. The only downside is that it has only one port, but I use two adapters similar to this one to make it work. I carry my adapters in my pencil case with my flash drives, pens, and sticky notes. Since I carry my MacBook in my person, I also have this hard shell to protect it.
HP Pavillion 27″ Touchscreen All-in-One – This is my more powerful computer that I like to use when I’m designing or when I’m writing for long periods of time. Mine has an i7 processor, which is kind of hard to find. The one with the i5 processor is good also.
Logitech HD Webcam – Both of my computers have decent web cams, but I prefer an HD one for livestreams. I have the wide angle one from Logitech, but the wide angle is not necessary at all unless you are recording more than one person at a time.
Canon t6i DSLR camera – I absolutely love this camera. It can be used for high quality photos and HD video. It also has autofocus functions, and you can add external mics and lights to enhance your images.
Canon lenses – I have two Canon lenses. One is the kit lens, which is the 18-55mm. My other lens is the “nifty fifty” 50mm lens, which I use for close up pictures and blurred backgrounds on video.
iPhone 6s – When I’m in a pinch, I use my iPhone 6s for pictures. It also takes great video in natural light, and it’s handy for Instastories and going live on the go. Although the iPhone 6s is an older model, it has touch ID and it was the last generation of iPhones with a headphone jack.
SanDisk SD Card for digital camera – I like to use SanDisk, and I get at least 64 gb to be sure that there is enough storage for video.
RodeMic VideoMic Go for digital camera – This the external camera I use to enhance the sound when I record video on my DSLR camera.
“Kitten” or Dead Cat for the RodeMic – This is used to muffle wind sounds when shooting outside.
Lavalier Mic for Phone – This is a plug in mic that can be used for your phone or DSLR, and it attaches to your lapel. I still have an iPhone 6s, so my phone has a headset jack.
Lighting & Staging
Ring Light – Ring lights create a soft glow directly on the face or other subject that is very flattering and great for lowlight. Lots of beauty bloggers use ring lights and I have used more than one brand.
Umbrella Lights – Studio umbrella lights are also great for filming in low light. I have an umbrella light set. If you want a softer glow, go with a softbox set (diffused lighting).
Desktop Photography Kit – I recently purchased a desktop photography set for taking pictures of books, since I will be blogging book reviews soon. A kit like this isn’t entirely necessary unless you are doing a lot of product photography.
Sunpak External flash for digital camera – This is the external flash I use to enhance the lighting when it’s dark and I’m taking pictures with my DSLR camera.
Socialite Light for Phone – This is the mini ring light that I use for my phone. I like this better than a case because it doesn’t block me from using a tripod, and I can still use it when I get a different phone.
JOBY GorillaPod Tripod for my DSLR camera – This tripod is super flexible and great for setting up your DSLR just about anywhere. The JOBY brand is pricy, but it’s worth every penny.
Manfrotto Compact Tripod – This is my absolute favorite DSLR tripod. It has a ball head for quick release. It’s extremely light and portable, and the price has dropped over the years, since it was released some time ago.
SunPak Tripod – I started with a SunPak tripod on a tight budget.
Manfrotto Phone Tripod – This tripod is the perfect size for phones, and I also use a manfrotto phone holder to screw on top. This tripod can be used for small cameras, too.
Whew….that seems like a lot, but I actually use all of these items! I bought them over time, starting with what I really needed and I slowly incorporated more tools. You can check out the links to all of the items via Amazon. If you have any questions, drop me a line, and check back on this list for any updates.