TOOLS I USE & RECOMMEND

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Occasionally I mention tools I use and/or recommend in my posts here and there, but this page includes an easy-to-access list. I hope it’s helpful!

Tools I use and recommend for blogging and making money online.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you choose to make a purchase. I am very grateful for your support of this site in this way. Thank you.

What I Use to Build & Run My Sites

Bluehost – If you want a solid blog or website, you’ll need hosting. Bluehost is a reputable hosting company I’ve used for 10+ years. Don’t worry, I explain how to get started in my post How to Start a Blog (In 15 Minutes or Less). Use the same steps to start a regular website (not a blog) too.

HostGator – I have also used HostGator for hosting and can recommend them as well. I wrote about them in my post A Cheaper Way to Start a Blog.

Synthesis – This is the hosting I switched to after growing out of Bluehost (above).

Codeable – When I need help with WordPress, this is the first place I look for a developer.

Namecheap.com – I register all my domains here.

E-junkie – If you have written an e-book or produced some other digital product you want to make available to your readers, E-junkie makes it easy to sell online. It integrates easily with PayPal.

WishList Member & MemberPress – These are WordPress plugins that allow you to create a paid-for membership site. I have used WishList Member to run the Useletter® Archives. However, I have since bought and experimented with MemberPress and I would recommend it over WishList Member. I find it easier to use.

Shopify – If you have a tangible product you’d like to sell, Shopify is the service I would try first. It is an out-of-the-box solution to ecommerce. They do offer a free trial. (Please note, Shopify is not a service I have used personally, however, if I do delve into tangible products, it will be my first choice.)
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Email Marketing

In 2013, I cut back on blogging in order to focus on email marketing.

Mad Mimi – This is the email service provider I use to send the Useletter® and I highly recommend them. Their customer service is exceptional and Mad Mimi easy to use. If you have a question about anything, simply Live Chat or email them and they are happy to help. (They have a free account for those just getting started.)

OptinMonster – The service I switched to from LeadPages (see below), mainly because it’s much cheaper. It doesn’t have the functionality that LeadPages does, but in the end, I think I can get 80% of what I need done with this one. Update: I stopped using OptinMonster at the end of 2016, not because I was dissatisfied with the service, but because I no longer needed it.

LeadPages – A tool I used for a year and enjoyed! It makes setting up email landing pages, sales pages and email signup forms easy as pie. The videos on this page are great to watch to understand how it works. What’s nice is that really, you don’t even need a website to sell stuff.
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Creating Content

Ulysses – This distraction-free writing tool is simpler than Scrivener (below) and of the two, has become my first choice. It’s for Mac only.

Scrivener (choose Mac or Windows) – This is writing software that makes blog posts, books, ebooks or other writing projects a lovely experience. If you’re a Windows user, you can download a free trial copy for a test run here.

Learn Scrivener Fast. Scrivener’s capabilities are a.mazing. It helps you organize, be productive, keep track of research, compile books, ebooks, documents and tons more. As such, learning about all its functionality can be intimidating. The tutorials built into Scrivener are a good start, but then I bought Learn Scrivener Fast and WOW. I learned a whole lot more.
Screencast-O-Matic – I use this to make my screencasts (videos of my computer screen for tutorials). I opted for the Pro version which eliminates their watermark, among other things.
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Social Media

Buffer – I use Buffer to schedule my posts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.

IFTTT – I use IFTTT to create “recipes” to automate tasks between two apps. For example, I’ve connected my Google Calendar to my Facebook Page which makes it a breeze to set up recurring posts to Facebook via my calendar.

Videos

ScreenFlow – This is a lovely application for sreencasting and video editing on a Mac.
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Reading

Pocket – Whenever I want to read something, but I don’t have time at the moment, I save it to Pocket where I can read it later. I wrote about it here.

Feedly – I read a lot of blogs mostly by way of RSS. I use Feedly as my one-stop feed reader.
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My Income Streams

My post How to Make Money Blogging explains how bloggers make money online. Below are the main ways I personally make money.

My Knowtbook – This is a unique digital product which is ever-changing and filled with notes as I take them.

Tell Your Time – Tell Your Time is my ebook which has brought in steady income since I launched it in October 2010. I explain why I opted to self-publish in my series Why I Turned Down a Book Deal. If you’re interested in writing your own ebook, check out my series How to Write an Ebook.

Affiliate Marketing – As an affiliate marketer, I get paid a commission for promoting products and services. Nearly all of the products and services I share are ones I have bought & used myself.  (For more about affiliate marketing, read What is Affiliate Marketing?) Here are some affiliate networks I work with

  • Ultimate Bundles – This program is an excellent one to be part of. I explained it in depth here.
  • ShareASale – I promote the Genesis WordPress Theme (the best theme I’ve used so far) as well as other programs like Minted (beautiful stationary, planners, calendars, business cards) and Food Blogger Pro.
  • Commission Junction – There are many affiliate programs available through CJ. I’ve promoted MOO cards (classy & creative business cards), DiscountMags (for deals on business magazines) and more.
  • Escalate – Are you a deal blogger? These are good places to sign up for affiliate opportunities. For me, the income comes from referrals.

Swagbucks – This feeds my book addiction mostly. You don’t need a blog to earn with Swagbucks. Check out my posts on the subject here, here and here.

Amazon – I sell my ebook via Amazon but I’m also a part of their “Associates” (i.e. affiliate) program which pays a commission on books and any other Amazon products people purchase via my links. My Living Books List is another place I utilize Amazon.

AdSense -While I’m not using display ads currently, I have made decent money with AdSense in the past. Google has made setting up ads on your site quite easy. Just sign up, create your ad(s) and stick the code in your sidebar (or wherever you want it to show up) and you’re done.

Coaching & Consulting – My queue is closed at this time, but this has been a good income earner as well.
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Keeping Track of Money

Before I made money online, these are the things I wish I had done first.

Capital One 360 Checking – As a sole proprietor, this is what I use for banking. We’ve also used it for personal banking as well. They usually have a signup bonus that is quite generous (click the link).

Budget (choose Mac or Windows) – We use the envelope system for budgeting and this is the best solution we’ve found to keep track of our envelopes.

Wave Apps – This free online accounting software is very user friendly. I started using it in 2017 and is an alternative to Budget mentioned above.

CPA on Fire – We hired Josh Bauerle in 2016 to help with our taxes once they got to be a bit more complicated than we could handle on our own.

TurboTax – We file our own taxes online. There’s a free version for basic tax forms. We pay the upgraded version to include my business income. Update: We no longer file our own taxes (see CPA on Fire above).

PayPal – I use Merchant Services for invoicing clients.
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Ebooks

The Bootstrap VA – This ebook lays out the steps to becoming a virtual assistant. It is very well done and extremely useful. I wrote about it more in my post How to Become a Virtual Assistant.

31 Days to Build a Better Blog – A workbook that walks you through improving your blog. How can you go wrong with Darren Rowse?
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Website and Blog Design

Genesis Theme Framework – I used free WordPress themes for many years. In 2011 I bought Genesis and have been extremely happy with it. Here’s a video tutorial about it. Absolutely recommended.

Elegant Themes – This is another collection of WordPress themes I’ve bought. The designs are very nicely done.

Five J’s Design – If you’re looking for a blog or website design, look no futher than Joy at Five J’s Design. She’s experienced, works fast, is extremely intelligent and is reasonably priced.

Gimp – Free image-editing software similar to Photoshop. It’s an excellent choice if you want something a little more robust than online editors like PicMonkey or Canva. I do most of my design work in Gimp. (If you need help getting started, I recommend these helpful Gimp tutorials.)
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Web Browsers

Google Chrome – In my opinion, Google Chrome is the best browser available for free. It’s fast and easy to use. I would rank Safari second (it works on both Mac & PC), Firefox third and Internet Explorer? Well, if you’re using IE, let’s just say I highly recommend you switch to another browser as fast as you can. Oh I do not like IE.
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Mobile Apps I Like

I use an iPhone. Other than the usual apps, these are some I find especially handy.

Brain.fm – This app helps me focus and stay productive.

Calendars (by Readdle) – The best app I’ve found yet that integrates seamlessly with Google Calendar. Update: I no longer use this app. Instead I use the Inbox by Gmail app (for iOS or for Android).

Voxer – It’s like texting, but talking instead. I can leave a message and the other member(s) of the chat can pick up the message when they have time. My mastermind group uses it every day and it’s the quickest way to communicate with my assistant.

Scannable – Integrates with Evernote and allows me to scan documents and send them to Evernote.

Drafts – It takes a bit of time to hook things up, but once you do, it’s a lovely one-stop app that allows you to record bits of information and then send it to wherever you need it to go, like Evernote, email, text, etc.

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