If you’ve been blogging for a while and have decided to step up your blogging game in order to take your blog to the next level, chances are it’s time for you to make a few blog investments. Blog investments are things that you pay money towards in order to improve your blog. The key word here is investments, because putting the money out for these things can help increase your chances of having your blog found, building a following, and earning money with your blog.
Especially if you plan to use your blog for any kind of business, be it for a full-time job or just a little money earned on the side, you’ll need to make some blog investments. As the old adage goes, you have to spend money to make money, and it turns out it’s quite true. The following blog investments will not only help make your blog a more legitimate source of income, but will at the very least, improve your life as far as your ease of usability is concerned.
The Most Necessary Blog Investments
Some blog investments are as little as a few dollars, some could be quite as large as a few hundred dollars, and you’ll have to decide which ones are important for you to make now and which ones you may be able to put off until you have more income coming in to cover it. I’ll start with the investments that I feel are really most necessary to having
A Domain Name
Perhaps the most important thing you can invest in for your blog is a domain name. This is your statement to the web of what your site is-and that’s important. You’ll want to go ahead and buy yourself a domain early in the process of blogging, so that when you finally get around to it you don’t find that someone else has bought the domain that goes with your blog name, and then you have to re-brand. That’s not super fun unless you’re craving a new start.
Plus, let’s face it, www. mysocalledchaos .com looks much better than what I started with on Blogger, though I was very lucky to be able to buy my domain when I finally got around to growing into a real blogger. I went from agofish.blogger to mysocalledchaos.blogger to my actual domain-and the subdomains of basic blogging sites (yourname.blogger, yourname.wordpress, yourname.squarespace, etc.) don’t necessarily scream “I’m a professional blogger!” If you’re hoping to turn your passion into a profit, you want everything about it to tell the world, and potential partners, that you are a professional.
Another thing I’d urge you to consider is your web hosting. Sure, you can sign up for free hosting through Blogger or WordPress (or a few other sites), but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best thing for you-especially if you want to actually turn your blog into a business venture of some kind. There’s a lot you can’t do with your basic free platforms, and while I sincerely loved working on Blogger, moving to self-hosted WordPress was the best move I could have ever made.
Being on self-hosted wordpress gives me easily ten times the editing options, easily installed plugins (that I use for nearly everything-it’s amazing what kind of plugins are out there to save you effort, time, and money when you are on self-hosted WordPress) and I’m loving it so much so far. I personally did not care for Squarespace as much, but lots of bloggers have chosen to go that route instead and many are happy with it as well.
A Good Computer
While you could technically get by with an old junky computer, or a tablet, it’s not going to be the best option for you. You’re going to want something that allows you to create blog posts without it crashing out on you ever few seconds. I’d recommend investing in a computer with some good RAM (Random Access Memory-it affects how many things you can have open at once) so that you can utilize all the programs you may need to use without the computer slowing beyond use.
Other equipment you may want to consider when investing in a new computer:
- A Wireless Mouse – I don’t know why it took me so long to buckle down and order a wireless mouse, but it’s totally changed the way I do things when I’m at home working on my laptop. Also, I just ordered a simple Amazon Basics Wireless Mouse and it was under $12. Such a small investment and it sped up my whole process by a surprising amount.
- A Big Monitor (or Two) – At work, I have three monitors, and it is the most amazing thing ever. At home, I have a tiny 13″ screen on my laptop, and I find myself not even wanting to bother with any editing, designing, or even the basic blogging-it’s just too small. Logically, I know I wont be able to afford three nice monitors at home, but I can invest in at least one good size monitor and that’s one of my next investments.
- Backup Drives – Another imporant aspect of hardware you should have are backup drives. I always recommend that you back up your blog and then store it off of your hard drive. Computers crash, can be damaged in natural disasters (or by spilling your coffee), or can be stolen. Having an external drive for backup is much safer than just leaving everything on your hard drive all the time. I also recommend having some kind of online backup software too-because to be completely honest-if something is important absolutely back it up twice.
Brand Blog Investments
Since we’ve discussed (what I deem to be) the most important blogging investments, let’s move on to some different items you may want to consider investing in; items like your brand. If you want to stand out in the blogging community and be approachable by companies and potential sponsors, you’ll want to invest in items to brand your blog. Your brand should go along with your blog name, and the domain you purchased.
Important elements of your brand include:
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times, but your blog design is so so so important. I’ve already written about some of the most important blog design basics to think about, but investing in a good design is really your best idea. If you took my advice from above and went with self-hosted WordPress, wordpress themes are AMAZING. Themes can be totally interractive and beautiful, and you can even customize most of them to fit how you want them to be.
A Branded Logo
You may want to start by thinking about a logo for your brand. A logo could be as simple as your blog name in a specific font, or it could be an image/design that reflects your blog and your branding. This is great for putting on the blog as your header, or putting anywhere else where you want recognition of the brand relation-like your social media sites or your watermark on photos.
Logos can cost anywhere from a small amount of money to a large amount of money, but having one designed for you that fits your style, design, and brand is important. There are lots of designers out there, and you can find a lot of options for custom logo design on Etsy as well.
Fonts are a great way to differentiate yourself from everyone else, and I recommend tying this in with your branding as well. If you like the fonts that came with the blog design you purchased, but they weren’t included for your use with the blog design, I’d recommend purchasing the matching font (you can email the designer if it’s not clear up front what font it is) so that you can use it for any of your own editing. Especially if you are making graphics for sharing (i.e. for creating Pinterest-worthy images) and want them to match your branding.
Visual Content Investments
The visual elements of your blog are some of the most notable elements, and thus you’ll want to focus on making them really stand out professionally. You’ll want good images to incorporate with your well-written content (I’m assuming you already have that) and you’ll need to really invest in some good equipment to pull it off. Yes, you don’t need nice equipment to take photos, but it sure helps your images stand out against the rest.
A Nice Camera
I could probably put a nice camera up at the top in the necessary blog investments, but I decided against it and put it down here. Yes, you can take some fairly decent images with simple cameras or camera phones these days, so you can get by without it if you have to. However, I’d still highly recommend investing in a good DSLR if you plan to have a nice visual element on your blog. You can really tell the difference in images. Yes, I do occasionally still use my phone to snap a good Instagram photo (which occasionally gets shared to the blog as well) but for my really great posts I always try to use my Canon T3i if possible. It’s an older model now, but it is still a good little camera. One day I think I’ll update to the Canon EOS 70D though
If you look at the example above, you’ll see that while you can still take a fairly pretty photo with a camera phone, the one taken by the DSLR just comes out so much more stunning and vibrant. You get a level of quality with a DSLR than you do with a regular point and shoot or mobile camera.
Other nice photography supplies I would recommend investing in with your camera include:
- A 50mm Lens – Often called a “fast 50” this lens takes the most gorgeous photos. It’s by far my favorite lens I own, and while they can run you a good $300 plus, I snagged one for only about $99 when I got my camera a few years ago. It’s simpler, butthe photos still turn out wonderfully.
- Lights – If you want to be able to take good photos inside, you’ll definitely want to invest in some lights. Your flash just wont cut it I’m afraid, but I picked up a couple of soft box lights for only like $75 and they’ve been WONDERFUL. They help so much. A good light box would work wonders for any products you want to shoot too.
- Backdrops – Photo backdrops can be a great thing to have on hand too. If you have a little money you can purchase some fantastic and unique photo backdrop options on Etsy or pick up a cool photo studio backdrop from Amazon instead.
- Photo Props – That’s right, having lovely props in any stylized photos you take can seriously be a good investment. I picked up some silk flowers at the craft store, and some other little things like pearls and fake diamonds for not very much-and they look nice in product shots as a little table decor here and there.
- A Photo Editor – Personally, I use Photoshop and Lightroom the most in editing my photos, and I signed up for the Creative Cloud membership where I pay a small fee each a month for access to it all-so I didn’t just buy the software outright and never have to upgrade. They have cheaper pricing for students and teachers. If you’re not ready to go all out with a heavy hitter like Photoshop, you can get memberships to services like PicMonkey which a lot of bloggers use, and I’ve dabbled with a few times. It has a lot of functionality for a web based editor. If you need an editor on your phone, I’d recommend VSCO or A Color Story, both available in the app store.
- Stock Photos – Another thing to consider for your visual elements are stock photos. No, I don’t mean the cheesy blonde girl holding a sandwich and smiling at you with teeth so white she could bring a ship in from harbor (unless that’s your thing, then no judgement lol) but there are quite a lot of good looking stock photos out there that you can use when you don’t have the ability to take a photo for a certain post you’re working on. I use Canva quite a bit, since you can get an image for $1 on there and edit yourself, or add elements they offer for editing as well right through their site. I’ve also heard amazing things about memberships to something called The Styled Stock Library (read Anne’s review for more information) and am considering trying it out. There are so many other stock places out there though-you can get memberships to ShutterStock, Ghetty Images, Pixabay, Death to the Stock Photo, etc.
Blogger Organization Investments
One of the most crucial things I can recommend to any blogger is to get organized-and that’s coming from someone who is one of the most unorganized people ever. In fact, getting organized is hard enough as it is for me, but staying organized is far less easy. But, to be a good blogger and maintain your proper commitments, you need to be organized-and the only thing that keeps me afloat with that are some organization investments I’ve made for my blog.
An Editorial Calendar
I know I’ve mentioned CoSchedule to you a million times, but I just can’t not here. It’s easily one of the best investments I’ve ever made, and even though I see the price tag for my renewal in a few months and cringe a little, I know I can’t live without it. It’s an editorial calendar that also does social media automation from it-and I almost exclusively work from my calendar dashboard. I haven’t found anything that at all competes with CoSchedule, but if you know of something, let me know in the comments-I’d love to be informed.
Social Media Automation
Another important thing to consider is social media automation. We spend so much time drafting and creating awesome posts it’s hard to find the time to promote and share on all of the social media channels we need to. Luckily, with CoSchedule, I can schedule the majority of my social media right from my post as I’m editing it-for any date, time, etc. It’s wonderful! I can also schedule social media from the actual Editorail Calendar dashboard I mentioned above, and see a break down of everything I have scheduled.
Aside from having the Calendar, a good planner is nice to have on hand too. Whether you use an actual Blog Planner or just a regular planner (I’m loving my Happy Planner this year) you’ve purchased for the year, writing stuff down is a fantastic way to stay organized. Write down your due dates, make yourself a to-do list for each day and check things off as you get them done (you can even use these adorable checklist box stickers to deck it out), keep a running tracker of your blog goals, etc. It’s nice to have a physical copy of everything as well as any you have virtually.
Promotional Blog Investments
Advertising is such a great investment for your blog (or any business related venture) and you should always plan to set aside part of your budget for it. Some of the most common places to advertise your blog would be google, social media (you can pay to have your posts seen more on most social media sites-such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest-and Facebook is one you definitely need to consider paying to promote posts on more often on), and other blogs. I love advertising through other bloggers, and I love offering advertising on my blog as well.
In fact, this Summer I’m having a BOGO sale on advertising and all ads are buy one month, get one month free! So purchase any ad between now and September and you’ll get a free month added to your plan as well! Buy two months, get two months free! It’s a sweet deal so reserve your ad today! (This only counts for sidebar and in-post banner ads, and not for consultations or other services.)
A Virtual Assistant
Another thing to consider investing in to help you stay organized and on top of all your promoting is a Virtual Assistant. This is especially useful if you’re promoting your posts via Facebook Groups, and hiring mine was one of the best decisions I made. Yes, I now pay out a bit more (though mine is less expensive than some I’ve seen) but I no longer have to spend tedious hours doing all of the threads I’ve promoted in. I still do some myself, like Pinterest and comment threads, but she takes care of a lot of the other stuff for me. It’s such a time saver!
Educational Blog Investments
Another great thing you can do is get properly educated on blogging so you know what you’re doing and feel more confident in it as well. There are lots of free resources out there, including my Better Your Blog Series, but you can also invest in some well put-together blogging education materials as well.
Taking a blogging course from another blogger can really help you learn from someone who’s been there. Some of these bloggers offer periodic free webinars so you can see their teaching style and what they have to offer, and decide if it’s worth it to sign up for a more costly paid course. While I’ve sat in on a few webinars, the only paid course I’ve taken was the Grow Your Instagram Course from Anna Scanlon (I really liked it, and would recommend it to anyone wanting to improve their Instagram.) I have also heard good things about the courses that Melissa Griffin offers, and if you do a little searching, so many bloggers are offering courses now as well.
Another great way you can learn is by investing in some blogging-related books to read. There are tons of published books available, and even a lot of eBooks available from other bloggers out there that you can keep an eye out for as you browse your favorite blogs.
Other Blog Investments
You need good photos of yourself for your blog. I know, you may be thinking you don’t really need to post a photo of yourself-but unless you blog completely anonymously, you should have a quality photo showing your face in your About page and on your sidebar. This helps your readers connect with the person behind the blog, and a nice photo makes your blog look more professional.
This may seem a bit silly if you’ve already invested in a nice camera for your blog, and maybe it’s unnecessary if you’re a wizard with the self-timer and/or remote setting, but if you need photos taken of yourself you’re going to want a photographer’s eye. Especialy for your main head shots that I mentioned above-have an actual photographer take the shots for you. Also, a photographer is especially important if you’re a fashion blogger and are taking regular photos of your outfits and styles. Yes, you can have a friend or significant other take the photos, but unless they’re really skilled with a camera it wont turn out as good as a professional doing it.
All of the photos in the example above were taken with a nice DSLR, but the ones on the left were taken by my non-photographer friend (and then edited by me) and the one on the right was taken by my professional photographer friend Valor, of Valor Photography. The first example shows that a friend can do a fairly decent job, but it’s still not on the same level as the professional who has a trained eye for composition. The latter example is more often what you get when you just have someone who’s not trained in photography do it for you.
To be completely honest, I have yet to attend a blogging conference… It’s a matter of money + time + introvert tendencies that has kept me from going to some (even though there have been a few held right here in Salt Lake City a few times-and I just noticed that the Build Your Blog Conference will be here next February too… Hmmm…). I’ve also kind of regretted not going… I see so many other bloggers making such great connections and doing wonderful networking at these things, and then even though I had anxiety at the thought of going, I get a powerful case of FOMO. The truth is, networking is key in building your blog into something more, and conferences are one of the best ways to do that.
Especially if you’ll be attending blog conferences you’ll want to have business cards handy to hand out to other bloggers and potential sponsors. Even if you don’t have any conferences planned, having a few business cards for your blog in your every day purse can be very useful as well. I can’t tell you how many times someone has introduced me and said “Oh Angie has an awesome blog!” and I’ve had to be like “Oh yeah its My So-Called Chaos…” and the better option would have been to hand them the business card. I’ve probably missed out on a few followers and sponsorship options just because I didn’t have any business cards with me… They’re still packed away somewhere after I moved, and I should get to finding them.
You can order some pretty inexpensive business cards from various sites, but I personally only use (and recommend) MOO for business cards. They’re high-quality and thick, and they look really nice and classy when you give them out. Plus, they come in other sizes (like square so you can use your Instagram photos for them) and you can use one of their designs or upload your own.
This one is pretty optional, but if you’ll be taking photos of yourself for your blog, or attending blog conferences and networking, you’re going to want some clothing that make you look fashionable and presentable. You’ll want to show your own style, but also keep up with current trends. Keep it classy. 🙂