I have been in the blogging world either here at The Rescued Letters or as a ghostwriter and blog manager since 2013. And I am often asked for recommendations on tools and products that I use to keep it all running. Spoiler alert: there are a lot of them.
I’ve compiled a list of my favorite tools, links, and resources for bloggers here in the hopes that someone might find them useful. If that’s you, then enjoy! There are a ton of resources out there available for bloggers (case in point: check out my Pinterest boards), but I have only listed those that I consistently use and/or have personally paid for here. I’ll update this page regularly as I find new things.
This page contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you click on and/or purchase from one of the product links. Affiliate links help to “keep the lights on” at The Rescued Letters and I only recommend products that I personally use or are from companies that I know and trust. I really appreciate your support in this way. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
*updated August 2017
WordPress is the only platform I have ever worked with, and I think most bloggers would agree that it is the best option. It’s important to note, however, that there are actually two WordPress platforms:
- WordPress.com is a free-ish, hosted blogging platform (great way to learn, but it’s really just like a giant Facebook for bloggers)
- WordPress.org is a paid for, self-hosted blogging platform (be in control of your own content, design things the way you want them, sell your own stuff, rule the world)
If you are working with a self-hosted platform, you’ll need a hosting service. I use Hostgator here, and so far I have been pleased. Worth a mention: Bluehost is another option that comes highly recommended in blogging circles, although I have not worked with them.
Blog Design & Themes
Everything you see here at The Rescued Letters has been designed by me and is maintained by me. I didn’t hire a web developer to create my site and I don’t pay a web dude or gal to keep it running. I consider myself pretty tech-savvy, but I’m not an expert. I do, however, enjoy learning new things and I don’t mind getting my hands dirty when it comes to web development.
If that’s you, then you won’t need a web developer either. You’ll just need a solid parent theme framework and a child theme that you love. Here’s what I use:
- Genesis Framework: this serves as my “parent theme” and Genesis is the industry standard.
- Pretty Darn Cute Designs: The Pretty Chic theme from Pretty Darn Cute Designs serves as my “child theme” and I couldn’t be happier with it.
If you’re working with a Pretty Darn Cute design, you’ll have to also purchase the Genesis Framework. I was able to get my site up and running within 48 hours with the theme setup instructions received with my Pretty Darn Cute Design. If doing it on your own makes you squeamish, PDCD offers a 24-hour theme setup service as well.
Smart People to Hire So You Can Get Back to Being Awesome
Angela at A. Bouma Writing & Design – I met Angela while interning with Kathi Lipp. I worked directly for her doing graphic design for Kathi. I’m still working for her, actually, but that’s not why I’m recommending her. To put it mildly, Angela is the bomb. There really isn’t anything she can’t do. Graphic design, web design, writing, content production…she does it all and she does it exceedingly well. She’s also one of the coolest people I know, so there’s that.
Lauren at The Cocoa Creative – Lauren is a blogger and speaker with hands-on experience in the marketing and publishing industry so…she gets it. She’s also a dear friend of mine so I can guarantee that she’s the nicest of persons! But that’s not the only reason why I recommend her; she is smart, driven, and super creative. Lauren can help you with strategic marketing, consulting and editing, web design, and graphic design.
Gretchen Louise – I met Gretchen in an online tutorial for WordPress. She gave me some tips to edit my functions.php files all by myself. If you don’t want to know what a functions file is, just call Gretchen. She’s a WordPress ninja who can tackle all your technical needs. Plugin optimization, blog migration, maximizing your email list? Gretchen can help.
Graphic Design & Photo Sources
Canva – where I create all of my graphics. I use Canva for Work because I also manage graphics for other clients and it’s pretty awesome, but the free version of Canva works just fine for individuals.
ColorPick Eyedropper extension on chrome – extremely helpful tool for chrome users to find the right HTML color code for your graphic.
Coolors.co – super fun tool for generating color palettes
Creative Market – platform for design products made by independent designers from around the world and my go-to source for any design materials (fonts, icons, illustrations, etc). Subscribe to their list below and receive 6 free design resources delivered every week.
Pixabay – free stock photos, vectors, and illustrations
Unsplash – more free stock photos
Email Service Providers
Mailchimp – the email service provider I currently use. Free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month.
Constant Contact – another email service provider I work with for a client. Great for businesses. Not so great for bloggers.
Social Media Management
Hootsuite – schedule all of your social media posts for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (sort of – you’ll still have to manually publish Insta posts from your mobile device) from one place. Hootsuite supports a few other social media platforms but I’m not on them.
Tailwind – scheduling app for Pinterest and Instagram. I have an account with Tailwind, but I’m not an expert with it. Yet.
Canva Print Services – Canva is launching a print service and I can personally testify that their work is professional and well-done. I recently used them to print a set of scripture cards to go with my Ready Bible study and I could not be more pleased with the finished product.
Moo Business Cards – they really are the best.
Airtable – cloud-based data management spreadsheet platform on steroids. If you like excel, you’re gonna love Airtable. I manage my content database here, in addition to lots of other bits of information.
Evernote – note-taking and information storage platform that is definitely on steroids. To be honest, Evernote overwhelms me. It has a ton of features that I don’t use. Yes, I know I’m probably missing out. A lot of bloggers I know love it, though, so give it a whirl.
Trello – project-management platform for people with too many things on their to-do list. Oh, Trello, how I love thee. I use Trello to manage my social media planning calendars, my editorial calendars, and my overall project task lists. It also functions well for teams and collaborative work efforts.
Workflowy – minimalistic list-making platform at its best. You might be surprised to know that I wrote the entire first draft of my Ready study in Workflowy. It’s an interactive bullet-list maker with zero distractions, so it’s simple and easy to use.
Google Keep – digital post-it note platform. I am ALWAYS making notes in my google keep. Every blog post, devotion, or idea I have starts here. It also helps me remember my husband’s jean size and hashtags I like to use on Instagram.
Google Calendar – um, this is a calendar. When my husband and I kept failing to communicate with each other on important dates and upcoming events, I hacked into his google calendar and changed the settings so we could both see each other’s stuff. Life-changer.
Leuchtturm 1917 Bullet Journal – I am a half-hearted bullet journaler. I love the creativity of it all, but I’m not always invested in it. I lean pretty heavily on tech resources, but I still like the feel of good old-fashion pen and paper. I like this A4 size journal because I’ve always had an obnoxiously large paper calendar and because I can easily store letter-sized papers in it.
Backup & Online Storage
Dropbox – online file hosting service for those of us with too many files. It’s super-easy and intuitive to use, especially for this PC user.
Google Drive – cloud storage and file backup for those of us who need tons of digital space.
Seagate Backup Plus External Hard Drive – USB-powered backup support for your computer. Last week, my computer crashed. Want to know how thankful I was that I had my Seagate hard drive???
Training & Continuing Education
Amy Lynn Andrews – Amy teaches people how to blog. I have been following her for years and she really knows her stuff. She’s also authentic, down-to-earth, and quite charming. At the very least, sign up for her free Useletter and receive weekly tips via email. When you are ready for the next step, invest in her Knowtbook below.
The Knowtbook – Imagine if someone sorted through all the information on the web about running a blog so you wouldn’t have to. Then they put only the best of that information in a super-simple bullet-list that you could refer to it whenever you needed. (Remember Workflowy from above? It’s formatted in that.) Then also imagine that they regularly keep it updated for you, because nothing changes faster than online stuff. And then imagine that you could purchase all of that for only $24. You can and it’s Amy Lynn Andrews’ Knowtbook. If there was one thing I wish I had invested in sooner when I started blogging, it’s Amy’s Knowtbook.
She Speaks Conference – I attended this conference in 2016 and it was a game-changer for me. I received practical tools and training for moving forward and Biblical teaching and encouragement for the road ahead. Most importantly, I met a network of amazingly brilliant bloggers who are out there making a difference for God’s kingdom. You can read a little about my experience at the conference here, but if you ever have the opportunity to go, I highly recommend it.
Communicator Academy – courses, coaching, podcasts, and conferences for authors and speakers from Kathi and Roger Lipp. I met Kathi Lipp at the She Speaks Conference and in the spirit of full disclosure, I intern for her now. Because she’s awesome. She hosts a fantastic podcast with Michelle Cushatt and offers a host of other resources and tools on the CA website.
ProBlogger Podcast – current and helpful tips on the business of blogging. And he has an Australian accent. What’s not to love?
My Pinterest Boards – this is where I stash relevant and helpful articles and information on blogging. Because I’m a tad OCD, my blogging boards are pretty well-organized so you should be able to easily find the specific type of resource you are looking for.
Okay, hustlers, that’s all for now. If there’s a question you have or a resource you love but isn’t listed here, post it in the comments for future readers to see.
It’s a big, bright, beautiful world on the web. Good luck out there!