We’re talking blogging today so if you’re not into that kind of stuff you’re just going to want to scroll past this one.
So whenever I’m at a conference or really just anytime I am with other bloggers (or online creatives as the hipsters are now calling it/themselves), there is always a lot of talk around tools. No, not the weirdos with ridiculous pick-up lines at the bar but online tools aimed at making your time spent on the interwebs more efficient and effective. I’ve been blogging for five years (geez… has it really been that long) and while I am no expert, I have found some favorites. That being said, I’ve kissed a lot of frogs to find these so I figured it was worth sharing some of the services and tools I use to save time, promote content and even make a little extra cash.
* BlogStomp – This is my OG favorite. When I first started sharing outfit posts, I noticed that the images too FOREVER to load. We all know that waiting is a pain in the ass and causes most people to move along with the quickness. Since I wanted people to stick around and see the content, I knew I had to figure out a solution. After some searching and talking to a photographer friend, I discovered BlogStomp.
This is a paid desktop application (but there is a free trial to test it out) that resizes, sharpens and allows you to rename photos all at once. You can also add borders, create photo collages (great if you want to do a side-by-side with two vertical photos) and watermarks. I’m firmly against the whole watermark thing but there was a time when that was the thing to do. This tool was designed with photographers in mind, so I can understand the importance of the feature. I think there is also the capability to stomp an album and automatically post it to Facebook but I’ve never used it. By far the most beneficial feature though is the ability to resize. The images are stomped out in a smaller file size making them load much faster on your site without losing any of the photo quality.
* Death to Stock Photos – Okay so I didn’t find this on my own, the tip came from White Oak Creative but it was too good not to share.
So you’re working on a really thoughtful introspective post and want a simple image to go along with it but you don’t have time to finagle some swoon-worthy flat lay on pristine white sheets. Or you’re putting together a solid sale round-up post and want to include an awesomely hipster image of coffee alongside your keyboard but it’s raining, you don’t want to go down a Pinterest rabbit hole and you just want to get the post up. Death to Stock Photos is your saving grace.
This free service will send you a pack of stylized stock photos every month that you’re free to use wherever. You can add graphics to them, post them straight to Instagram, create an event invite, whatever you need the photos for, they are yours to use. As someone who regularly uses stock photos in my 9-to-5, I know how cheesy, staged and ridiculous stock photos can look. These are nothing like that. Granted, you may get a pack you’re not interested in but no harm, no foul.
Each month, I go through the images and pick out the ones I could see myself using or needing in the future. I have a folder on Dropbox where I save them and can reference them when the time comes. Case in point, the photo above is one of theirs. Not too shabby right?
* CoSchedule – This may be my favorite of the bunch. I’ve only recently begun using CoSchedule and it has changed my blogging game.
This is another paid service that helps you plan and schedule your social media AND blog content in one place. It’s kind of like Hootsuite on steroids. The calendar is simply a dream come true. In one frame you can see your scheduled blog content as well as all of your social posts. There is a WordPress plug-in that ties into your blog posts and allows you to schedule multiple social posts in the same place and at the same time as you’re creating content. So before you hit publish on your post, you can schedule multiple Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+ posts. Currently, you cannot schedule Instagram posts but I got an email saying the feature is coming this year. Or at least the feature that sends the post to your phone all ready to go at the right time.
I love it because I can look ahead and schedule additional social shares for a post when I’m working on it. It’s allowed me to think about other opportunities to share a post without having to return to it or try to remember later on. The calendar shows everything in one place as well so you can plug in holes as needed. Notice that a day where you’re light on twitter posts, you can add in a few – maybe it’s a link to a favorite pair of shoes or quick sale reminder. But it can also pull in old blog content,plus you can have them select the best time to post, so you can get more eyes on those posts you worked hard on, plus you can have them select the best time to post.
The interface is very user-friendly and their customer support is awesome. I’m a big fan and have even started using it for some of my social media clients at work. I could go on and on about the features but you can explore everything by heading over here. Seriously, it’s worth it.
Ahalogy – Ahalogy is my Pinterest spirit guide. I’ve having been using Ahalogy for a few years now and it has significantly upped my Pinterest game. Like CoSchedule, it selects the best time to share your Pinterest content but unlike CoSchedule (or Hootsuite or any other service), it’s all about Pinterest.
When you pick an image to pin, it allows you to select the board and then suggests keywords you could/should use to get more eyes on your pin. Once you’ve nailed it all down, it selects the best time to share it while also sharing it on their internal network where other users can pin your content.
Ahalogy is exceptionally great for food bloggers but I’ve seen great success with it. They’ve also recently launched a sponsored content service and the experiences I’ve had working with them have all been extremely positive. The brand briefs are thorough, the team is great to deal with and they pay quickly. Even better (what’s better than that), the posts I’ve done with them have ended up being promoted by the brands on Pinterest which drove a lot of new traffic to my site.
BUSINESS + WEBSITE
* 17 Hats – What CoSchedule has done for organizing my content, 17 hats has done for organizing the business side of things.
This is another paid tool that allows you to manage clients, projects, bookkeeping and invoicing all in one place. It has allowed me to become so much more organized with sponsored content as well as plan out my editorial calendar more thoughtfully. When I get a new opportunity, I add the contact to 17 hats and then create a project. In the project area you can have all the documentation, notes, to-do’s and emails (yes it pulls in emails) in one place. No more digging through emails to find the brief for a project or the specific social details.
It also allows you to create questionnaires to get all the necessary details (images, social handles, specific wording for promos) for a post which is really great when working with smaller and local companies. In addition, you can create contracts and invoices that can be sent directly to the client through 17hats. Once the client signs the contract, it is saved in your project. You can also request payment through 17hats without having to sign up for a Square or a card reader through your bank.
Again, this one has a lot of features that I could wax poetic about but I’ll let you explore on your own.
* Envato ThemeForest – So I recently redesigned this site on my own after being disappointed with my last few website development experiences. It’s probably just as much my fault but I’ve tried to convey to the developer exactly what I wanted and each time I ended up feeling a little let down with the results. Rather than spend more money on something I wasn’t sure would work, I decided to try the development game myself.
I’m one of those people who loves trying to figure things out. It can lead me down a time-sucking rabbit hole from time-to-time but I like the puzzle solving aspect of trying new things. When I went to find a theme that I could customize on my own, I went to Envato Themeforest. There are literally hundreds of themes to choose from and most cost less than $75.
I spent a lot of time searching. No really, a lot. I’m talking days on days searching for the perfect theme. I ended up buying two or three before finding the best one but once I did, I was able to customize it to fit my needs. That being said, I spent a lot of time searching for specific plugins and watching videos learning how to change specific pieces but it was worth it. I ended up spending WAY less to create a site I was proud to launch. Yes, there are definitely more things I would like to change but at least now I know I can do it on my own.
Oh and beyond just the themes, the site has tons of plug-ins to search for if you reach a dead end on the free side of things. I recently purchased an event plug-in that I’m hoping to incorporate here to allow more local stores, companies and charities share their events without a lot of tedious work on my end.
Elembee Creative Code Club has tons of information, tutorials and step-by-step how to’s on coding and website customization. I joined the club when I was coding my site and used creator Lisa Butler’s tips on more than one occasion. She makes it easy to understand and more importantly, easy to implement.
Blogging for Keeps is a site by Blair Starkey and Jess Keys, both bloggers based in Chicago. I love both of their blogs but I think they really excel in providing tips and tools in a style that’s easy to relate to and understand. Their newsletters are great and the site is CHOCK FULL of information aimed at both newbies and old school bloggers alike. If you’re looking for help in a certain area, definitely check it out.
So there you have it. I’m probably forgetting something on this list so I’ll do my best to update if there’s something I can’t live without that I think you should know about. When I was building my site, I hunted down a lot of plugins by inspecting the code of other blogs and websites so I could see whether they were using something available to the masses or if it was something custom.
On my site, it’s all built with themes and plug-ins that are readily available so if you see something that you’d like to know about – drop me a note in the comments and I’ll share the info and link!