I can't believe it but I've been blogging for over 6 years now. It has become my passion and my full time income source. Six years ago I was a first-time mom, at home all day alone with her baby, and stressed out from being on only one income and also feeling lost because I felt like I didn't have anything that was mine.
Long story short, I started this blog just for a creative outlet and it ended up becoming the most fun "work" (if you can call it that) that I've ever accomplished, and continue to do so.
If you like to write, or not even write but just share your thoughts, passion, advice, WHATEVER...I highly encourage you to start a blog!
This blog post is simply a place where I keep my updated blogging resources for all of my readers who send me emails and messages asking for this very info.
In this post:
- How I make my graphics
- My most successful traffic resources
- My domain
- My blog host
- The theme I use
- Child theme + other graphics
- How I make money from blogging
- My tech guy
How I make my graphics
It is so easy to create graphics, you don't need any expensive program. It's mostly just time consuming because I make several different sizes for each social media platform, as well as for my blog post.
I simply use PicMonkey to make ALL of my graphics. I pay for the $4.99 member option so that I can also use all of my own fonts that are on my laptop, as well as all of the extra design options that PicMonkey offers.
I do have a DSR camera, the Canon EOS Rebel, but honestly I take most of my pictures with my iPhone. I use the Color Story app to lighten my photos, I use the Retouch app to remove objects (like a plug outlet in the background if it's distracting) and I love using the WordSwag app to create images with quotes.
My most successful traffic resources
Pinterest is by far my main source of traffic.
The way to be successful on Pinterest comes down to these 3 things:
- Images vertical, pretty, and easy to read
- Pinning content (beyond your own) that your readers like
- GROUP BOARDS
Group boards are life for bloggers. You need to repin your content daily to group boards. The secret to finding good group boards are to go to the accounts of bloggers in your niche who are doing well and see what group boards they are pinning to. If the board is accepting contributors, ask to join!
I have two group boards:
- Sacred Self-Care - this is a group board for anyone pinning content about self-care, personal growth, spirituality, and mindset.
- Best of Mommyland - this is a general group board for all pins written by and for moms.
Both boards have over 7,000 followers and I'm accepting contributors.
My domain is www.piganddac.com. Your domain is like the address of a house. To get it, you just need to purchase a domain from a hosting site. You can choose to either buy your domain through your web host when you buy your blog's web hosting (explained next) or you can buy it separately. I have mine separately since I was on Blogspot and not WordPress first, and in some cases you have to buy it separately if your web host doesn't offer it.
- hostgator.com - this is where I host my domain. I pay around $15 a year for it and usually they have a sale where you get a discounted price for the first year. I've always loved Hostgator and their customer service and I've never had any issues with them.
Tip: I always purchase the privacy protection for the domain. It's usually only a few more dollars and this protects your name and home address from being seen if someone looks up your domain on the WHOIS site. Instead it will show your domain host's information instead. I find this worth the extra few dollars.
My Blog Host
A web host is where your website will be hosted. It's kind of like renting space. So imagine your domain being your house address, and your web hosting being the lot that your house is on.
For this blog, I use Blue Host. I feel like they are the Target of Blogland. They've been around for years, they are always within reach if you need to talk to someone, and they will refund what you haven't used if you want to switch to another host. Just very trustworthy, basically.
They also have a one-click install for WordPress (this saves SO much time) and you can get your domain for free. I have a post here showing you specifically how to set up a blog up on WordPress with Bluehost if you need.
The theme I use
After you've purchased your domain and web hosting, installed WordPress and all that jazz...it's time for the fun to start!
The "theme framework" of your WordPress blog is going to be like the foundation and bones of your house. The better the foundation, the smoother everything will run and the easier it will be to integrate plugins smoothly. Studiopress is where you can find lots of themes, and the Genesis is their top theme.
- Genesis - it's really the best theme framework you can choose (it's the one I chose too). The reason I purchased my framework rather than using a standard free one is because Genesis, for example, is coded well, allows me to easily customize, has amazing SEO capabilities, better site speed, and 24/7 tech support. When using a free theme, you risk having all of your customizations wiped out when they update and you have to deal more often with things going wonky on you, as well as risking poor coding and not as much compatibility with plugins. I would highly recommend making the investment.
Read here about why Genesis is really the best choice for a self-hosted WordPress blog.
Child theme + other graphics
Your child theme is going to be your blog's curb appeal. It's the face of your blog and what makes it pretty and visually appealing. You also need a child theme to go over your Genesis framework. And if you find a good, customizable child theme, you can keep changing things up rather than buying new child themes whenever you want a change.
Here are some of my favorite sites to shop child themes and just other cool design elements to add to my blog.
- restored316designs.com - clean, feminine designs. I have the Flourish Theme on this site currently, although it's now retired (that's how long I've been using it!). What I love about any theme from Restored is that I can customize it in so many different ways, from colors to making the front page into a landing page, and it's ecommerce capable. This is the only child theme I've had because it's so customizable that I haven't felt the need to get a different theme.
- Hello You Designs - I am also obsessed with the themes on this site! My self-care blog, jessicadimas.com, is currently using the Hello Darling theme and I love it. I feel like Jennifer's themes look very custom without having to pay the thousands of dollars it costs for a custom theme. She's also very helpful and emailed me back quickly when I had questions setting up my theme.
- creativemarket.com - one of my favorite resources to buy fonts and graphics. You can buy fonts, watercolor graphics, photos and photo packs, graphic designs, logos, etc. Also every week, they share 6 free goods. I love buying graphics and fonts here to create images for my blog posts and also workbooks, ebooks, and printables, etc for my audience. Definitely bookmark this site.
- angiemakes.com - I also love this site because she has really beautiful designs and graphics.
How I make money from blogging
I've been blogging for 6 years and didn't start making money until the 5th year. It's not that it takes that long to make money, it's just that I didn't really figure it out until that point, haha!
The truth is that bloggers make money in all kinds of ways. There's affiliate marketing, products, ads, and sponsored posts. I make money from the first three, and I've also done sponsored work in the past but I don't really enjoy it (kind of hate it with a passion) so I stopped.
The best kind of affiliate marketing is recommending other companies or products that you are using. I have a homeschooling friend that will promote homeschooling products she uses. I have a green blogging friend that promotes clean products. In this blog post, several of the links are affiliate links to products/services that I use.
Amazon recently cut their percentage down for what they pay out to their affiliates, but I still make money from them every month as well. My friend Carolina is an Amazon genius and wrote this book. I highly recommend it if you're interested in making money that way. Everyone shops with Amazon, so it's definitely an easy way to make extra money off your blog every month.
This is my favorite way to make money. If you're already writing a blog, you might as well write a guide or ebook! This is my shop. I love writing guides about the topics I blog about.
I keep it very simple; I either write my guide in Pages or Word and then convert it to PDF. Pick a platform to sell it on (I use Gumroad, but other options are SendOwl or DPD) upload it, and start selling.
Create an authentic sales page, keep it short and let them know what they're getting, and don't underprice yourself. And then share share share every day.
There are lots of companies that will place ads on your site. Mediavine is the best for blogs with under 100k pageviews a month and AdThrive is the best for blogs with over 100k pageviews a month.
Sponsored posts are the way a lot of my blogging friends make a part time to even full time income. You sign up for a program that brings bloggers and brands together and then look through what brands are accepting applications. Apply for the ones you want and hope you get them.
A lot of bloggers also go straight to brands themselves and usually they make much more money this way.
Remember you are offering your time, talent, audience, and effort; don't underprice yourself.
My tech guy
I am not a techy person and I never will be. I can manage my way around WordPress and make my graphics and whatnot, but there are times when I need help ASAP.
I met Grayson through another blogger on Facebook. He was always helping in a mutual blogging group we were in. He's quick to respond and he doesn't charge an arm and a leg. I think of him as my blogging husband, even though him nor my real husband know that.
So if you ever need a tech guy, go to his site iMark Interactive.
So that's pretty much the basics of what I know about blogging and all of my current resources. I keep this blog post updated every 6 months or sooner if I have something new to add.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below!
Jessica Dimas is the creator of the Successful Blogger’s Ultimate Tool Kit. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram for more daily inspiration.
Chelsea @ Life With My Littles
These are awesome tips! You definitely covered everything I could think of! This is such a great resource for bloggers making the switch, and people should definitely trust you because you helped me out when I switched, too! Thanks for sharing!
Thank you Chelsea! I'm so glad you made the switch over too, your blog looks amazing. It's so crazy all the extra touches we can add now and the SEO is unreal.
Great tips! I am still so happy I made the switch, even though I'm not using WP to it's full potential yet. Once I have more time I'll dig deeper with all the capabilities, but just knowing I have full ownership of my blog gives me peace of mind.
Same here. I wish I hadn't held off for so long because there's just SO MUCH MORE I can do now. I didn't even realize how much more until I got over here. You jumping ship over at Blogger inspired me to do the same 😉
Hooray! Such great info and tips. Someday I'll be brave enough to do this :p
Thanks Courtney, and yes, you have to one day! You won't regret it 🙂
Jennifer | The Deliberate Mom
Fabulous tips Jessica!
I'm delighted I made the switch last year. It was the best decision I ever made - although there is quite the learning curve, isn't there.
I love Servously and I'm glad you're enjoying their services too. Shauna is the BESTEST!
Thanks for sharing.
Yes, I feel the same way! Best decision and I only regret I didn't make it sooner. Shauna is definitely the BESTEST! I'm so, so happy you referred me to her. Another great decision.
These are some great tips, Jess! I haven't even thought of a few of them! Thank you 🙂 XO
Thank you for these tips. I really want to switch over to WordPress soon!
You should, Ida!!
Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers? I'm planning to start my own blog soon but I'm a little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option? There are so many options out there that I'm totally confused .. Any tips? Thank you!
Would love to have maybe a post about what all this bloggy terminology means? Just an idea.
That's a great idea and I will definitely do that, I'm going to update this post and will include better explanations behind all of this blog terminology. Thank you for the suggestion!
Thanks for all this great infomation! This is really going to help me. I'm learning as I go. I will be checking out more info on here.
No problem Fiona, I'm glad you found it helpful! xo
Great info! I like how you use the house analogy to explain the different aspects of starting a blog.
Thank you! I'm glad you found it helpful!
Great article! Thank you for the information. My only concern is that if I do take the leap and switch to self hosted, does all my previous content disappear, especially if I want to change my name?
No it doesn't! When I switched to self hosted from Blogger, the only thing I lost were a portion of my comments, which sucked really bad but that doesn't happen to most people. And you can have traffic redirected from your old domain name if you're changing to a different one. I've also done that and it's all just redirected. I would pay an extra fee to my host to transfer/redirect it all for me.
I see you can purchase the domain thru WordPress. Can you do everything thru WordPress or do you have to get a different host? Sorry this is confusing
Hi, I just read all your blogging-related posts and I find them very helpful! I just have 1 question: Lets say that I buy Bluehost hosting and get my domain as an extra with their package. Later on I decide to switch to another hosting service. What happens to my domain?
I am so excited that I found your post! I have been trying to get my blog up and running since February! I had a friend say she would host it on her server...great right...no fees...she'll help...WRONG! As I was developing it the way I wanted, putting in plug ins, etc...it crashed...and took down her personal and business sites! YIKES!! She said she would fix it...hasn't happened yet...I need a good host where I have control and it won't break everyone else. Your post HUGELY helped me! Now I have to get my domain off her server once I get set up with BlueHost (since I'm just starting out). I look forward to keeping in touch!
Hi Teresa, so glad you found my post too and that it could be of some help! Oh gosh, yeah that sounds like an annoying mess. I really do like to have all of my hosting separate from anyone else (a friend and I shared our hosting for a few months and my site kept crashing all of us, it was just a pain). And the bigger your blog gets, the more you're definitely want that control. Good luck!
Thank you for your blog post! I am seriously considering making the switch! I'm just afraid of loosing all of my content and traffic! Is this easily avoidable?
It's very easily avoidable, I switched over from Blogger and didn't lose anything except a lot of my comments BUT...that had to do with my comment system and not the transfer. I had some weird commenting system installed and I forgot the name of it...I haven't seen anyone use it for a long time and it was known for losing comments like that. Anyway, definitely make the switch, it's so worth it. And they easily redirect traffic to your new domain so you won't lose any traffic.
Thanks for this post!
I'm looking at starting a blog and currently evaluating hosting.
I've actually heard a lot of negative reviews about BlueHost lately, including those outlined on Webhostinggeeks.com here: https://webhostinggeeks.com/user-reviews/bluehost/?page=7.
Can you respond? I'd love to hear more about your experience with customer support, as your assertion that Bluehost is stellar with customer support contradicts several other perspectives I've seen in recent posts and comments.
Thank you so much!
The thing about hosting is that if you look deep enough, you will find every single one of them has complaints. Hosting is a touchy subject with bloggers because in our ideal world, our blogs would never crash or have issues, but since they do and we're usually in a panic-induced freak out over it, it's easy for the hosting company to piss us off in a number of ways. I've recently updated this post to remove a certain hosting company that I recommended because I was using them but then had too many mishaps with. The customer service was truly horrible and I was never able to speak to anyone on a higher tier.
Bluehost is not without fault. I have yet to find any web hosting company that isn't without fault (except the one I'm with now but I've only been with them since May). I personally feel safe recommending them to small bloggers because they offer money back for time not used if you do decide to stop using them, and from my own experience their customer service is excellent. I once sent an email with a question and then received a call back, which impressed me. I also have several close blogging friends, who when we chat about web hosts, say they love them and have never had a problem.
So really, my advice to any new blogger would be to read the fine print, see if you can get your money back if you do decide to switch to another host, and get a feel for them yourself. If they don't give you your money back, pay the higher month-to-month fee so you can see if their service is good or not. If your blog is growing and you're seeing higher numbers, I have heard that it's best not to be with Bluehost or any host like Bluehost because you're sharing servers and therefore your traffic will be capped.
Thanks so much for your quick reply! I really appreciate it.
Your point is well taken- definitely nothing flawless out there, but I agree these could be good options for a starter blog.
Thanks so much for taking time to reply!!
Starting a blog is so overwhelming - the more research I do the more confused I get, hehe.
But your blog definitely makes it a bit easier. 🙂 Thanks for this article.
Don't worry though, it seems overwhelming but it's really not. It's domain, hosting, setup...start blogging. Everything you need to know can be googled or asked. Just the other day I set up a new blog and when I had questions, I got on the chat support with my host and they helped. It's really not that bad, I promise! 🙂
Thanks for the inspiration!!
I have a query that I haven't found an answer to anywhere that I'm hoping you wouldn't mind shedding some light on.
Once one has decided on a Name for a blog and registered it as a Domain, what is the legal (tax) side to this. I'm guessing I should Register my (domain) name as a Business Name as well?
Hi Deb, thanks for your question! Well, I guess I would ask you if you are planning on making your blog into a business? You don't need to register your domain name as a business name, but if you're planning on creating an LLC or something, then yeah I would think you should do that.
For me so far, there hasn't been too much legal stuff concerning my blog. I did start making an income in the last year so I will see what that looks like next tax season. There are a lot of pins on Pinterest about this type of stuff, so definitely search that on Pinterest and see if anything answers your specific question.
Love your blog. I have just started my own and would love your input about it. Mostly layout and how I can get more traffic. Check out imgonnariskit.com I do have a Facebook page and Instagram account for it. Again, I would love your input and help.
Hi Sarah! Took a look at your blog and I love how clean it looks! I would get some photos up on there for the previews since they really help draw readers in. And I would add a subscribe button up high in your sidebar and maybe a photo of yourself in the sidebar as well. I noticed that you have started making free printables so if you want to grow your email list you could offer printables to readers if they subscribe, etc. That's really helped me grow my list 🙂 Hope those tips helped some! My blog has always been a constant work in progress, tweaking things here and there, etc.
This is awesome. It's great to get an in-depth view of what it takes to blog from someone who has been doing it successfully for over seven years. I think you've managed to cover all bases here, from the basics such as which host and theme you use to the critical aspects of successful blogging like getting traffic and how to make money. It's great to be able to check that I'm on the right track from this awesome post, so thanks very much!
Hey Jessica, stopping by to say thank you SO much for the shout out! We really appreciate it anytime someone takes the time to write about us.
Since you're clearly an excellent resource for a lot of folks new to blogging, I wanted to make sure you and everyone knows that there's no reason to switch away from Mediavine to anyone else once you reach 100K sessions or pageviews a month. That's an arbitrary threshold set by our competitors (just like our joining threshold is 25K sessions a month), but our technology was built for scale. We have hundreds of sites above 100K (nearly 4,000 sites in all), and the largest gets roughly 30-50 million pageviews a month.
The main reason I mention this is that every time you move advertising companies, it resets your domain's history with the advertisers. If there's a good reason to do it (say, going from AdSense to Mediavine, where you can make as much as 8-10 times more), then it's worth doing.
There's no proof that any of our competitors perform significantly better at 100K, and in fact, we've had quite a few bloggers at that level leave and come back because they found that they *didn't* make more, and suddenly had higher page load times. (We're the only company to lazy load ads, which has minimal site load time impact.)
Most folks don't know about the reset that can happen when you move around, so I wanted to mention it. It's an important thing to factor into your ad strategy.
Thank you again for taking the time to mention us!