Blogging can be a great way to earn some extra money – or it could be your main source of income as a writer! There are so many options with blogging. But what’s the best way to blog as a writer?
The best way to blog as a writer is to build a reliable, efficient system. Create a system that relies on organic, natural growth so that you don’t have to sacrifice your creative writing time to blog. An efficient system will also prevent you from spinning out your figurative wheels that lead to burnout.
As someone who’s got multiple blogs, let me share the best tools with you – so that you could have as many (or few) blogs as you want to. And you’ll be able to balance all of your priorities without becoming bogged down with blogging. Which means you can do even more writing.
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Blogging and building websites is a competitive world – but the payoff can be great if you can get the traffic. It’s the getting the traffic that’s the trick! The best way to skip a lot of the frustration and headache of figuring things out yourself (which can take years) is to invest in a blogging course.
Having blogged since 2013, I’ve learned a lot on my own. I’ve also taken a lot of courses – many of which weren’t worth the investment. So let me tell you this – if blogging is your goal and you don’t have a ton of experience, get a blogging course to start with.
But don’t get just any ole’ blogging course. Get the one that’ll actually help you. The blogging course I use and recommend is Income School’s Project 24 (click here to check them out
Their 60-step blogging course will walk you through the entire process of setting up your blog, figuring out which posts to write, and how to do search engine optimization that’ll help you get seen – so that your blog actually makes money.
Quick aside – here’s a cool interview I did with Project 24’s Anna about my results at the one-year mark with their program. I tell you exactly what kind of traffic and income I’m making – and how much I love how little hamster-wheeling I have to do. I included KimberlyCStarr.com data in the overall information, so don’t be fooled by the homesteading channel label.
Once your blog is going and growing, they’ve got other courses included in their membership. These additional courses will walk you through all the next steps you need to take – and will inspire you with all the ways you can monetize your blog and online business.
Seriously – check out Income School’s Project 24 – I’d love to see you in there!
As you’re building your blog, you’re going to need a good website host. The host is like the program where you’ll be keeping all of your world-building notes – so you want it to be decently secure. However, when you’re first starting out you also don’t want to be paying premium prices for a small program (especially if you can use a free one that does just as well).
So where should you host your blog? There are a lot of great options out there.
- Bluehost – I’ve used them before and they’re a great place to start your blogging journey. Bluehost has some of the best prices, especially if you’re new and every dollar matters. I agree with the Income School guys – Bluehost is a great place to start with hosting. Go check them out here.
- Siteground – I’ve used them before and they’re quite good.
- Amazon’s AWS – AWS is a great option if you want to get the best quality host but you don’t want to go broke maintaining it. The downside is that you’ll have to build a lot of it yourself. There are some great pieces of software that can help you do it, though.
- Big Scoots – I just recently moved to Big Scoots at a friend’s recomendation. So far, it’s on par with self-hosting on AWS – but with a whole lot less stress. And did I mention it’s just as cheap, if not a better bargain?
So as you’re getting a hosting company, check out the prices – and weigh your priorities as you decide. There’s a lot of great options.
Oh, and just in case you’re wondering about a good place to get domain names – I use and recommend Name.com.
Once you’ve got your blogging space via your host, it’s time to install WordPress and pick a theme. The theme is like the foundation and walls (or plot and character outlines) of your world-building.
There are thousands of WordPress theme options out there! Having paid for and tried so many of them, here is what I’ve found in regards to themes.
- When you’re first starting out, use WordPress’s 20-whatever-year-it-is theme. It’s included and it’s free and it’s secure. It won’t look super fancy, but it’ll be solid. And with the new Gutenberg setup, you can really customize it a lot more than you could in years past.
- GeneratePress is a great option, too. It’s what I use when I need something different than the generic WordPress look. I get the vanilla, free version. It’s pretty powerful just by itself.
- Trellis by Mediavine is another solid option. It’s better for sites that are earning money – or are associated with Mediavine’s network.
- Fancy themes look fancy – but they generally slow down your site. Slow sites affect your traffic and overall user experience.
- Genesis-framework themes are pretty awesome – and they pair with a child theme so that you can customize them. However, it’s crazy easy to accidentally throttle the site speed with tweaking things. It’s better to keep things basic at the beginning – so save these themes for later.
- Free themes are tempting – but many of them are so buggy that using them is a huge security risk to your blog.
- Don’t spend a ton of time on customizing themes – focus on your content!
- If you want an even faster theme that’s super easy to use (and almost impossible to break), use Acabado. It’s built by the Income School guys – and it’s pretty awesome. It’s not super customizable (unless you know how to code), but it’s a great option to get you started. And if you invest in the Project 24 course, you get a free license to use Acabado (as long as your membership is active). Acabado also has a single-year or lifetime licensing option if you’d prefer that route.
Overall, the two themes I generally recommend to beginners are the generic WordPress theme (WordPress releases one for every year, so get whatever the current version is) and the free version of GeneratePress.
Once you’ve gotten a bunch of content written and you’ve got more experience, then you can try different themes – or code your own.
Once you’re more experienced and your blog is making at least $200 per month, then Trellis is my current go-to recommendation for bloggers.
Plugins are cool because they can add functionality to any theme (provided they’re compatible). However, having too many plugins can be a big problem. Adding extra code on your site can slow things down. Adding a plugin that hasn’t been updated is a security risk – especially if there are any known bugs that can be hacked.
So after having run far-too-many plugins on my sites in the past, I now have a “less is more” mentality for plugins. I regularly evaluate my plugins – and if they aren’t being used or enhance my user’s experience? Then I delete them. It’s kind of harsh, but plugin minimalism is kind of nice. So is not getting hacked.
The plugins that I use and recommend include:
- ShortPixel – it’s great for resizing and compressing images! This helps speed up your site. Currently, I’m not using ShortPixel only because I’m using Ezoic’s speed accelerator – and the two don’t play nicely. Instead, I optimize my images with Squoosh.app before uploading them.
- Mediavine plugins – Create. This plugin handles recipe cards. They are still part of my plugin infrastructure thanks to old, popular posts (especially some recipes) that I can’t bring myself to delete because they don’t exist anywhere else on the interwebz. So, until I find something better, I keep this.
- Link Whisper – this plugin makes it easier to find, create, and expand links across a website. That way, I can make a reader’s experience that much more awesome. Uplevel your blogging linking strategy with Link Whisper – use my link to let them know I sent you.
Three plugins – and that’s it. My sites on Ezoic do use their plugin, though. It helps streamline things there.
ShortPixel will only have a fee if you need to upload a ton of images at once. Otherwise, it’s free. And Grow’s got both a free and a premium yearly paid option – so pick whichever is right for your situation. Link Whisper does have a yearly licensing fee, but you can pick it for 1, 3, or 10 websites.
Images and Pictures for Your Blog
When it comes to pictures and images for your blog, I’ve got a few recommendations.
First, take as many of your own, original pictures as you can. They’ll be a better help for your audience – even if they aren’t amazing pictures. And you can use whatever camera you’ve got.
I use my smartphone’s built-in camera – for reals. And I’ve almost always got my phone with me, so I can always grab a picture.
When I’m feeling fancy, I try taking pictures with our DSLR, but I’m still learning how to use it – so I don’t usually end up using those pictures. As I get better, I’ll use that camera more often. But for now, it’s still mostly a fun hobby.
Second, if you’re going to use other people’s images, then only use images you’ve properly licensed. There are too many horror stories about people using a free image they found on Google – and then they get sued for copyright infringement. Don’t do it.
If you can’t find a perfect photo for your article, license one from a reputable stock photo supplier. I use and recommend Deposit Photos (click here to check out their prices). On occasion, you can snag a steal of a deal to Deposit Photos (and tons of other cool blogging and business tools) on AppSumo (click here to see their current deals).
Third, learn to edit your photos. It’s not as hard as it looks. And it’s totally okay to start with a web-based software option like Canva or PicMonkey. One day I’ll learn the fancier stuff. For now, I need quick, easy, and manageable – and Canva, PicMonkey, and Snapseed (a Google mobile picture app that’s free) fit the bill.
Email List Provider
Ready to add email marketing to your blogging toolkit? That’s awesome. There are a ton of options out there! And these days, there are more and more awesome options.
I’ve tried and used many of them – with varying degrees of success and ease of use. The email provider I currently use and recommend is SendinBlue. It was recommended to me by the Income School guys – and so far it’s been great. I especially love that it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!
Ready to add YouTube to the mix? It’s exciting, isn’t it? Thankfully, YouTube doesn’t have to be a big production. It’s okay to start small – just use what you’ve got on hand.
- Camera – I use my smartphone. One day I’ll upgrade to something fancier. Today isn’t that day. I use a Google Pixel 3a – just in case you were wondering.
- Phone Stabilization – If you don’t have a tripod or you want to talk, walk, and film at the same time, you’ll want a gimbal. I use and recommend the DJ Osmo Mobile 3. It’s got some upgraded features over the 2 that I really like. Before I got my gimbal, I tried to frame things to use a stationary tripod that I got for $30 off of Amazon.
- Sound – I use and recommend a Tascam DR10-L. While you can buy it on Amazon, there’s been way too many reviews saying that people were shipped a knock-off. So go ahead and get it from B&H instead – I did. Before I got my Tascam, though, I just didn’t worry too much about sound – though I did try to stick to shooting videos indoors from pretty close to the smartphone.
- Lighting – I usually shoot outside where there’s plenty of light. The trick is framing things so that I’m not washed out by the sun – or blinded by it. But for inside shots, I do have a cheap, $30 ring light and tripod getup from Amazon.
- Editing Software – Being (what feels like) one of the few bloggers who doesn’t have a Mac means I can’t use Final Cut. But that’s okay – I really like DaVinci Resolve. And it’s free.
Then, as your YouTube channel grows (and so does your ad income), you can expand your tools. That’s my current path – and goals. One day, I’ll upgrade my DSLR to a mirror-less camera that can double as my YouTube camera. Until then, however, I’ll stick with my smartphone. It really works quite well.
Want to see my YouTube channels? Click here to check out my personal YouTube channel or click here to check out Backyard Homestead HQ on YouTube. It’s not about writing – but it’s still a lot of fun. Plus, gardening gives me a lot of great brainstorming and creative thinking time. Be sure to subscribe to both channels while you’re there!
Monetizing with Ads
Adding ads to your site is a big step – it’s the first step towards monetizing. Just don’t let it be the last step! Even so, there are different ad networks you can apply to join. However, many of the best ones do have some sort of minimum requirements (usually related to traffic) that make them harder to get to.
- AdSense is probably where you’ll start – it’s where I started. And since it’s what YouTube uses, you’ll want to apply anyway.
- Ezoic is a great next step for ads. It’s what I currently use for all of my sites. I’ve been very happy with Ezoic thus far – and they give you a lot of extra perks if you’re a member of Project 24. Just another reason to join the Income School bandwagon!
- Mediavine and Adthrive are premium-level ad networks. They require multiple tens or hundreds of thousands of sessions each month before they’ll accept you. I’ve heard great things about both of these companies.
Monetizing with ads can be an amazing step – and they don’t have to be intrusive or annoying to your users. So make sure you go with a reputable company – and that you have an account rep who will help you enhance user experience while also optimizing your ad revenue.
I’ve been really happy with Ezoic so far. They’ve been prompt in helping me deal with issues and have helped me earn a good chunk of change – without imposing any traffic requirements on me. So if you’re just starting out, I definitely recommend Ezoic.
It’s tempting to want to outsource your writing! When you’re first starting out, though, I’d caution you against hiring someone else to write your articles. Start by writing them all yourself – it’ll help you learn what to do. And if you’ve got the 60 steps to follow? It’s honestly pretty easy to do.
Once you’re more established, then I hear a lot of amazing things about Upwork.com and PassionPosts.com – a Project 24 alumni who has a whole team of writers that follows the Income School methodology. I’ve gotten a couple of articles from them, and they’re solid. As with any writing service, though, I did go through those articles and make a few edits. After all, they don’t have all of my stories – so (at a minimum), I always add in some fun stories for my readers.
Recently, I just started mentoring and working with a paid inter/writer. Hiring directly isn’t as expensive as a service, but it also requires a lot more patience and mentoring. Which is fine – the gal I’m working with is an amazing person with great potential as a writer. We’re still in the beginning stages, so I’ll let you know how it goes.
A quick side note about the stories I write. That’s all done by me – there is no outsourcing there during the writing process. I do get help and feedback from alpha and beta readers, but that’s not blog writing.
In any case, if you can’t hire a writer, don’t stress. Do it yourself – and know that you’re in good company. I do almost all of my own blog writing, too.
Further Monetization with Info Products, Courses, and Beyond
Once you’ve built a solid foundation and have reliable traffic, then you can start thinking about expanding your monetization efforts. I really like what the Income School guys recommend, though, about waiting until your traffic is at 30,000 or more monthly views before you stress about building anything. Until then, focus on creating and providing amazing content.
Once you’re at that point, though, you’ll have enough data, emails, and knowledge to understand what it is your audience wants. Then, you can use that (and the Income School Guy’s Monetization Course) to make your info products, courses, memberships, or whatever else floats your homesteading monetization boat.