Here’s a list of every tool, app, resource and piece of equipment that I personally use on this site (or on one of my other blogs) and recommend. The list is a mixture of free and paid resources.
Disclosure: I have used affiliate links to some of the resources on this page. This means I might earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase. This is at no extra cost to you. I genuinely use these resources on a regular basis. I haven’t included anything on here that I do not personally use or recommend. Learn more.
My website is hosted with Linode. I’ve found their system very reliable with practically zero downtime to date. However, their service is designed for those with a web development background. If you’ve never poked around a server before and you do not know your database from your elbow, you might be better of using a different service aimed at non-developers, like Bluehost. (I’ve never used Bluehost before, but they’re highly recommended by several Podcasters I listen to).
I buy all of my domains from 123-reg, mostly out of habit. I’ve used them for years and years. I like their control panel and I know my way around their settings. On the odd occasion I’ve needed support, I’ve found them very responsive and helpful.
This website is powered by WordPress.org, I have used WordPress for around eight or nine years and cannot recommend it enough.
I use the StudioPress Genesis framework for WordPress. I started using the framework about three years ago and I’ve never looked back.
My current theme is a heavily modified version of the Swank Genesis theme from Pretty Darn Cute Design. I own a couple of themes from PDCD and recommend them highly. I have also purchased feminine Genesis themes (for other projects) from Restored 319. I recommend their themes too.
I use Sharaholic for the social sharing buttons on this site. I believe Sharaholic works on any website, WordPress, Blogger, etc. The plugin is jam-packed full of features (which you can switch on and off.) After testing several plugins from the repository over the last few years, I’ve now settled on Sharaholic and haven’t looked back. It’s lovely to use.
Yoast SEO falls into the “WordPress plugins I cannot live without” category. I worked in SEO full-time for a number of years before going freelance, this is my plugin of choice for SEO.
Pre-Publish Post Checklist is a godsend of a plugin. I create a checklist of jobs to do before publishing (for example, did you check for typos? Did you add a pinworthy graphic?) I do not publish my post until all tasks are checked off.
I cannot fault Ninja Forms. I use it to create contact forms on a number of WordPress websites.
RELATED: A few tools I use to help with blog writing:
I personally use SkimLinks to monetise my blogs. I think it is an amazing tool – especially for beginners. You add the tool to your site and it “skims” your content, swapping “normal” links with “affiliate” links. Confused by affiliate marketing? My advice is to forget everything, install SkimLinks and start from there.
RewardStyle and ShopStyle Collective are two other tools I use. Both cater to fashion, beauty, interiors and lifestyle bloggers primarily. RewardStyle are very selective, they only accept a handful of established bloggers. ShopStyle Collective accept all bloggers instantly. They pay per click and per sale. Both sites let you make funky widgets for your blog posts and sidebars. Both have tools for monetizing Pinterest and Instagram.
I’m also a member of Affiliate Window, Linkshare, CJ by Conversant, ShareASale, Webgains and Amazon Associates They’re all affiliate networks. There are waaayyyy more out there too. Just simply pick and choose what is right for your blog!
I’ll be adding more guides about affiliate marketing and these platforms to the site soon.
Photo editing software / Apps
I use Adobe PhotoShop CC 2015 for designing, editing photographs etc. I use the “Individuals Photography” plan, which costs me around £8 to £9 per month (around $12 to $13 USD). UPDATE: As of July 2016, I switched to Affinity Photo. I find it very similar, I can still edit PDFs, but crucially, it’s much cheaper. Plus it won Apple Mac App of the Year 2015.
Sometimes, I’ll fire up PicMonkey to make collages. If you’re a blogger with no PhotoShop experience and want to make an image collage, head straight for PicMonkey. It’s free (with premium features too).
Canva! I ADORE Canva. It is one of my favourite tools for designing blog post graphics, social media headers and for making free downloads (amongst a billion other things). It is an online image editing tool preloaded with layouts, graphics and stock photos… You can use plenty in the tool for free, or pay just $1 to use one of their stock images. Pretty decent. They’re constantly innovating.
For my iPhone, I love the “Color Story” app by A Beautiful Mess. I’m really impressed by the app’s filters, they’re designed to make photos look fresh and bright. This is the only image editing app built by and for bloggers. It’s free to download, but you can expand the app by purchasing more filters & effects (which I have!)
I use Buffer to manage all of my social media accounts. I love adding my statuses/links/pictures to the queue, and letting them post intermittently throughout the day. Buffer is free for up to three accounts (e.g. Twitter, Facebook & Google+). It can also post to Pinterest automatically too (but that’s a paid option). UPDATE: They added Instagram scheduling too!
I use Latergram to manage my Instagram account. Before, I’d email myself hashtags and captions, and then copy them into Instagram manually. It was a little laborious. Latergram simplifies the whole process, letting you schedule posts DIRECTLY from your computer. When it’s time to post, you’ll get a notification on your phone asking you to hit publish (fully automated posting is against Instagram’s Terms of Service). Then, all the information will be there, ready for you. Easy peasy!
I have collated the following list of photographers who offer stock images for free or freemium (i.e. they offer free packs of images, but you have to pay to download extra). Most services are geared up for bloggers and creatives. I regularly download and use photos from the following sources:
I really rate CreativeMarket.com for graphic design elements, scene creators, mock ups and fonts. The site is a marketplace for independent designers. I regularly buy from there. Sign up to Creative Market’s email newsletter and you’ll get six (yes six) free downloads every week – everything from logos to background patterns and beyond. If you’re a blogger, this site should be in your bookmarks.
Pixeden also offers a mixture of free and paid graphics, themes, fonts, textures and mockups. Another one of my favourites.
I use a Blue Microphones Snowball Ice for the audio on my videos.
I use Screencast-O-Matic for recording video tutorials. I use their inbuilt editing suite too. I highly recommend for screencasting.
Asana is my tool of choice for planning freelance work and collaborating with clients. You create workspaces, projects and tasks. Your blog could be a workspace. You might set up a project called “automate social media” and include tasks such as “read this tutorial for connecting WordPress & Facebook“, “sign up to Buffer,” etc. It’s free (for up to 15 users).
You can assign each task it’s own deadline. You can assign tasks for today, upcoming or later. Doing this lets you hide the stuff you don’t need to see yet, it stops you getting overwhelmed. Any time a new idea pops into your head, just put it into Asana.
BONUS: Go into the Asana settings and add the “Celebration” hack. It’ll make a rainbow unicorn shoot across your screen every time you complete a new task. Love it.
More recently, I’ve favoured Plan as a calendar and for scheduling tasks. (It syncs with Google Calendar). After years of trying to find a calendar solution that works for me, I can stop looking. It’s totally free and beautifully designed. It’s like the developer KNEW what I needed & created it for me. Highly recommended.
Evernote is an online notebook that syncs between desktop, mobile & tablet. Quite frankly, it’s so much more than that, my description doesn’t do it justice. Use it for all things blogging: organise notes and ideas, draft future blog posts, save tutorials for later, keep worksheets, list new title ideas…and so on….
Sometimes, you just need to write a list and cross things out when they’re done. I use this Emma Bridgewater notepad (right) for those kinds of days.