Sometimes, to make money, you’ll have to spend money first.
Blogging is an amazing thing in that you can start a blog for free or really cheap (if you want a custom domain, for example).
However, if one of your blogging goals is to monetize it and start making big cash, then you’ll soon find yourself having to invest.
So, for those of you who’re serious about making serious money from blogging, I have a list of tools for you that are worth investing on. You may not need them all from day-1, but you will want them eventually. I will point out which ones you will need from day-1 and which ones you can wait on until you’re standing on more of a solid ground with your blog.
FYI, Some of these are affiliate links, as in, I’ll earn a little commission if you purchase using my affiliate link(s), at no additional cost to you and paid for by the companies entirely. The Side Blogger is a labor of love and I spend hours every week to present to you the best content possible; if you want to support my efforts, making a purchase using my affiliate link(s) is a great way to do so, and I will be grateful 🙂
1. A Custom Domain
There are free blogging platforms that offer free domains, only, you end up with ugly extensions such as blogname.wordpress.com or blogname.blogspot.com or blogname.wix.com and what not…
You’ll lose any credibility even before people decide to give you a chance.
So, investing in a custom domain is a must, and it is one of the first investments you’d want to make.
There are two options for custom domain names that I recommend:
- I suggest all serious bloggers start their blog on a self-hosted WordPress platform, and my favorite WordPress hosting platform is SiteGround [affiliate]. You can also buy your domain from SiteGround at the same time you purchase hosting from them (more on hosting in the next section.)
- If you own multiple domains and want to keep them all in one place (plus add an extra layer f security), I suggest NameCheap [affiliate]. I like NameCheap a lot because:
- They offer domains for relatively cheaper than some other companies. Most domains are less than 10 bucks for a whole year.
- They offer free WHOISGUARD privacy while some companies make you pay for domain privacy; it’s important because if your domain isn’t private, you may get bombarded with promotional emails from people and companies you do not recognize nor gave them permission to email you (or worse, call you!)
- NameCheap has a really clean interface and UX, making it easy to do things like change nameservers or add/remove records even for total newbies.
- Their customer service is awesome!
2. SiteGround Hosting Company for Your Self-hosted WordPress Blogging Platform
If you’ve been around TSB for some time, you know that I am against any and all platform that is not a self-hosted WordPress platform for serious bloggers wanting to make money off of blogging. Self-hosted WordPress is the only platform capable of handling all the features and functionalities you may need to monetize your blog and create multiple income streams.
Self-hosted means you will need to sign up with a hosting company whose server you can use to host your WordPress blog. And my recommended hosting company is SiteGround [affiliate] (you can also get your domain from them as well, as I mentioned in the previous section).
I recommend them for various reasons, some of which are:
- They have several data centers across the globe, making even their shared hosting packages pretty fast compared to other hosting companies with comparable pricing. In layman’s terms, you’ll have a faster website with SiteGround.
- They have various security features in place making your WordPress blog more secure out of the box than other hosting companies.
- They use the latest PHP version which makes them even more secure and fast.
- They offer unlimited email addresses.
- They offer free SSL.
- They offer free daily backups with all of their packages. With their GrowBig and higher plans, you also get the ability to create backups on demand and restore to a previous version on demand.
- You get site staging capabilities with GrowBig and higher plans.
- You have the option to use Cloudflare CDN for free which can further improve your site’s security and speed.
These are just a few of a very long list of reasons why I love SiteGround [affiliate] and use it to host this very blog. If you’re just starting out or wanting to move to a different hosting company, SiteGround is the one to go with!
I even have a tutorial to connect your NameCheap domain with your SiteGround hosting account, if you need some help.
Oh, and by the way, a self-hosted WordPress platform is also one of the very first things you’d want to invest in.
Also, consider signing up for their GrowBig or higher plans as they have the best features available. A GrowBig plan with SiteGround for first-time customers start at $5.95 per month if paid for a full year.
3. ConvertKit for Email List Building
A successful blog needs an email list. Your subscribers are our #1 fans. You need them!
Your subscribers trust you; the fact that they have willingly given you their email address means that they want to hear more from you, they want to see what else you have to offer, and then, when the time comes, they will be the ones to invest in you too.
I recommend ConvertKit [affiliate] because it’s a platform that was designed for bloggers in mind. ConvertKit makes it easy to offer multiple freebies, keeping each signup separate under one big list of subscribers. Whether you want to send a newsletter to your entire list, or to only a certain demographic based on their sign-up behavior, ConvertKit makes it easy to do pretty much anything!
There are free options available, but when it comes to email marketing, you really get what you pay for. There may be some difference in opinion, but for me, I think investing in a good email marketing platform like ConvertKit from day-1 should be your priority as a serious blogger aiming to make money from their blog.
A ConvertKit subscription begins at $29 per month, and if you sign up with my affiliate link above, you’ll be able to enjoy a whole month of trial account for free, instead of the customary 2-weeks.
If you need some help building your email list with ConvertKit, I have a free course where I have laid out how a beginner blogger should start to build and grow one. Sign up for the course below!
So, these three resources I’ve listed above should be your priority. If you invest in anything as a beginner blogger, start with these three. The tools I’m about to list below are also important, but they’re not your priority from day-1. You can take your time and invest in them as your blog grows.
Now then, let’s look at the rest of the premium tools that you will want at some point in your blogging journey, based on your budget and how fast you’re growing your blog.
4. Elementor Pro Page Builder Plugin
Your blog’s looks and feels are important. Think of it this way: let’s say there are two shops that sell the exact same things. However, one of the shops is well-kept and tastefully decorated, while the other is just a room full of stuff. Even though they’re selling the same things, you’ll still want to go back to the first shop that is tastefully decorated because you simply feel better just being there, as opposed to the other shop where you feel stuffy and can’t wait to get the hell away from.
Your blog is similar. Even if you have valuable, quality content, without proper presentation and tasteful aesthetics, you’ll have a harder time getting repeat readers.
Elementor [affiliate] page builder if one of the best page builders out there for WordPress. While it also offers a free version which is pretty damn good just by itself, the premium, Pro version offers some features and functionalities that can eventually reduce the amount of external, third-party plugins you have to use. You can start off with the free version, but I strongly suggest signing up for the Pro version as soon as you’re able.
Elementor Pro starts at $49 per year, in case you’re ready!
5. Canva for Creating Blog Graphics
Blog graphics are inevitable. You need them no matter what kind of blog you’re running. You need them to increase a post’s aesthetics and not make it look boring with just words, you need graphics for promoting in social media and Pinterest.
Canva is by far and large one of the best online graphic design tools you have available to you. I have Adobe CC, and yet, whenever I’m creating blog graphics, it’s not Photoshop I open up, but Canva!
The ease of creating something beautiful with a drag and drop platform is what makes it so powerful yet simple at the same time.
And while the free version of Canva is pretty good in and of itself, the Canva Pro [affiliate] version comes with some features that make investing in it totally worth it.
My favorite Pro feature is access to over 2 million premium stock photos for completely free.
You see, the internet is over-saturated with free stock photos, and so, graphics that use these free photos often do not perform or convert as well as premium photos. But paid stock photos aren’t exactly cheap; and depending on how many graphics you need to create daily, the price can easily pile up and get way over your blogging budget.
With a Canva Pro membership for only $13 per month or $10 per month when paid annually, you get access to these premium stock photos for free. That in and of itself increases the likelihood of your content getting more shares and clicks.
6. WP Rocket to Speed Up Your Blog with Powerful Caching and Performance Enhancing Features
Website speed is a big factor when it comes to user experience and user retention. It also plays a part in search engine ranking. For example, if you have a slow website, chances are that Google won’t look at you too favorably. So, make sure you have a well-performing, secure, fast-loading website. WP Rocket [affiliate] is by far the best performance-enhancing plugins for WordPress I have ever used, and I have used quite a few.
If you do not have the budget for WP Rocket right from the beginning ($49 per year), you can use plugins like W3 Total Cache WP Super Cache, WP Fastest Cache, or even SiteGrounds native SG Optimizer.
In any case, I have used each of these myself, and have come to the conclusion that WP Rocket is indeed the very best performance-enhancing plugin out there that does way more than just caching your site.
I have a tutorial for improving your website speed with WP Rocket and SiteGround hosting features, in case you’re interested.
7. Optimole Plugin for Image Optimization
Optimole Image Optimization plugin for WordPress is yet another plugin that’s worth every penny! Images are one of the biggest culprits for slowing down a website. With Optimole’s premium plan ($9 per month), you can not only optimize images, but Optimole also serves images with CDN (Content Delivery Network) which makes your site load even faster.
While I’ve found Optimole to be by far the best image optimization plugin, if you’re not quite ready to make the monthly investment, you can opt for something like Smush — a free image optimization plugin — until you can afford Optimole.
8. TailWind for Pinterest Scheduling
The reason TailWind is in #8 is that I have found that beginner bloggers who have little content, do better with manual pinning. I personally did not use TailWind for a long time because it wasn’t necessary. Manual pinning brought me enough traffic and I was happy with how things were going.
However, as my blog grew, manual pinning started to get tougher on me. So, finally, I had to give in to using a scheduler.
So far I have been pretty happy with TailWind [affiliate] and some of its features are also very helpful for bloggers who have a lot of content.
Depending on your finances, you can opt for a monthly payment of $15, which allows you to schedule up to 400 Pins a month, or, you can pay the annual membership fee of $119, and enjoy unlimited Pinning as well as 4 months completely free. The annual payment option is definitely worth it if Pinterest is one of your primary traffic driving sources.
9. Deadline Funnel for Creating Urgency when Selling
It is well known that creating a sense of urgency and scarcity results in more sales. If you’re not using this method of selling, you’re leaving money on the table.
The idea is simple. You offer something for a discounted price, but you make it so that the discount only lasts for a very short amount of time, from just 15 minutes to maybe a day or two at most.
Creating this system would have been a pain and required a lot of technical know-how and coding, but now with Deadline Funnel [affiliate], it is super simple! Deadline Funnel takes care of all the technicalities for you, making the front end smooth and super easy to use. For $37 a month, it’s definitely worth investing in, especially if you sell your own products and implement selling with email marketing.
10. Grammarly for Proofreading
I know I know. Grammarly isn’t anywhere near perfect and it often doesn’t catch the little mistakes. BUT! That’s where Grammarly [affiliate] premium is great! It will catch some of the little things that your free plan did not before, and while it still doesn’t catch everything, I have found the Grammarly premium plan to be worth the money.
Not a priority, but worth looking into once you start making money from your blog. Either that, or if you want to go an extra step further, you can always hire a professional proofreader for your blog!
That’s it. There are a lot of other premium tools that a blogger can benefit from, depending on the blogger’s specific needs; but I believe these 10 are some of the ones you can start with and no matter what niche you’re in and whatever your blogging strategies are, you will benefit from having these premium services.
Is there a premium tool/service you swear by but do not see in this list? Let me know in the comments!
And once again, if you want to learn how to build and grow an email list even if you’re a brand new blogger, sign up for my free email course below!