I assume you are here to get the scoop on what goes into making Hey There, Home work and keeps this blogger semi sane in the world of blogging.
When I started my blog in the summer of 2013 it was pure hobby. I needed a way to fill my time and get back in touch with my creative self after becoming a stay at home mom. I quickly learned the ropes and have tried sooooo many different strategies, plugins, read countless articles, eBooks, and whatever else I could get my blog brain to absorb.
** My blog was started under the name TinySidekick. I rebranded in October of 2015 to Hey There, Home.
About a year into this journey, I started making enough money to consider this a very part time job and I’m still working toward the big dream of earning a full time income all around my real full time job of being a mom.
This page contains some affiliate links for your convenience. I’ve only listed the things I’ve tried or used personally and would recommend. Click here to read my full disclosure.
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I started my blog on Blogger. Blogger is great if you have a personal blog that you use to keep family and friends in the loop, but if you have hopes of growing your audience beyond that do yourself a favor and start with a self-hosted WordPress blog.
- Bluehost: I used Bluehost when I switched over from blogger. What I love about Bluehost is that you can literally call for help 24 hours a day and you get someone to help you. As a new blogger this was so important to me. I broke my entire site a few times and they were able to get it back up and running in minutes. It is also super affordable at less than 5 bucks a month, which is super important when you are just starting out and not generating income yet. At about 100K monthly pageviews I switched to…
- RFE Hosting: This is a smaller hosting company and I had no problems with RFE. They don’t have a number you can call, but they are pretty good about replying when you submit a ticket. I think I paid about $15 a month for my plan. When I hit about 250K monthly pageviews I switched again to…
- Synthesis by Copyblogger: Synthesis is premium hosting and it does come at a price, but I was at the point where I was having huge spikes in my pageviews and I didn’t want to risk my site overloading or shutting down on those occasions. My site has never been faster or more secure and it is able to handle the traffic on those fun occasions when a post goes viral.
- StudioPress: When I switched to a self hosted WordPress blog, I purchased the Genesis framework and a child theme through StudioPress. My first theme was MagazinePro and was really user friendly. I was able to make most customizations myself.
- AngieMakes: I now run my blog on the Jasmine child theme by AngieMakes. It does not run on the Genesis framework, which I miss on occasion, but I absolutely love how easy it is to customize my theme and be able to sell products from my own site.
- Etsy: Another great resource for themes or just something as simple as a logo, social media buttons, or images.
- MailChimp: Until very recently I used MailChimp to communicate with my subscribers. I liked how easy it was to create a nice looking and branded email to send out and really grew my audience with their autoresponder service (only available for paid plans.) The thing I loved most about MailChimp was that it was free up the to 3K subscribers. Perfect for just starting out. I will say that MailChimp is not the easiest thing to figure out. This eBook, An Inbox of Opportunity, is super-duper helpful.
- I also wrote this post on how to offer your readers a daily or weekly email option.
- Convertkit: I recently moved my list over to Convertkit. It costs slightly more, but it has the amazing function to tag your subscribers in a way that you are only sending the most relevant information to them. You can even set up triggers so that if a reader clicks a link in your email (showing interest in something) you can have them automatically tagged so that you can then target them with more information on the subject. So far I absolutely love it and is is ridiculously easy to figure out. I also love that you can easily create sign up forms and see the analytics of each form right in your dashboard so you know what is working for you!
- Optin Monster: I use Optin Monster to create professional looking opt-in forms on my site. The pop-ups you see and the forms in my sidebar and header are done with Optin Monster and I love that it is easy to create a form, run A/B tests, and see the stats of each form and how well it is performing. Optin Monster integrates with Convertkit so my subscribers are automatically added to my list withe a certain tag based on what form they signed up with.
- Pop Up Ally: A free version of a really great pop up that really helped me grow my list was Pop-UP Ally by Nathlie Lussier. It was easy to set up with her instructions and I love that you could set it to pop up at a certain time and another upon exit intent. It is not as customizeable (although the paid version is) but it is a great free option.
- Board Booster: This is by far the best Pinterest scheduling tool that I’ve tried and it has saved me so much time! It enables you to pin a post once and then have it repin repeatedly according to a schedule you set up. Gain access to my Board Booster video tutorials here.
- Because I don’t have a lot of traction on Twitter, I set my FB posts to automatically post to twitter so that I am at least somewhat active on Twitter.
- Instagram Scheduling: I haven’t yet found a perfect scheduling tool for Instagram, but HootSuite will allow you to draft your posts and then send you a notification when it is time to post it to Instagram. Your post is already set up and you can post with just a few taps from your phone.
Once bitten by the blogging bug it can be hard to find enough time to grow your business especially if you have other full time commitments like kids, family, or another job. My biggest piece of advice is to be okay with slow growth…you will get there if you bite off a little bit at a time. My second piece of advice is to use your time wisely. Being super organized and only spending my time on tasks that will grow my business has enabled me to do what I love (be a mom, a wife, AND a blogger) and earn more than $3k a month.
- The Blog Planner: When I first started to take this whole thing seriously I created a blog planner to keep everything organized. After talking with some of my blog buds I soon realized that many bloggers struggle with creating a system to maximize their time, so I now offer The Blog Planner to other bloggers along with an eGuide that details the exact system I use to organize my blog and promote both new and old content. You can read more about it here.
- Go Daddy Book Keeping: Once you start making money you need to be super on top of it. I tried many different free apps to categorize money coming in and out, but each free option fell flat. Now I use Go Daddy Book Keeping and it is amazing, easy to use, and works with both my bank account and PayPal. In the dashboard you can see at a glance your income (cash in hand) vs. your expenses and it even gives you an estimate of how much you need to set aside for taxes. Each transaction can be categorized, and you can send invoices with the option to pay via PayPal, which I love.
I take my blog photos with a Nikon D3100 and the DX55mm lens that came with it. My photography is something I’m constantly working on and reading about. One thing has helped me a lot is a product photography class that I took online at Craftsy.
- Lighting: Most of my blogging takes place around my kid’s schedule which means that some projects have to be done at night when there is no natural light available. These lights that I purchased on Amazon have been a life saver!
- PicMonkey: I love PicMonkey! It is my go to tool for adding text and a watermark to my blog images as well as creating collages with my photos. I also love it for editing my photos. My steps typically include cropping, resizing, adjusting the exposure, and sharpening the image.
- Stock Images: Sometimes it is easier to purchase a stock photo for a post rather than try to create one yourself. I love this site where it is super affordable and the selection of images is huge!
- Carbonite: I use Carbonite to automatically back up all of the files on my computer as well as my external hard drive. It is easy to set up and I love that a small green dot is added to each file that has been backed up so I know.
- Site design and maintenance: There comes a time when a customization or a problem with my site is simply over my head. I used to spend hours trying to figure things out on my own, only to make more problems. I finally gave in and hired someone and not only was it done much faster, but it was done right. I get that letting someone into your site can be scary, so if you are looking for a recommendation I would recommend Miranda at PennyWebs.
- Add Featured Image to RSS Feed: When I first switched over to wordpress I was going nuts when there was no image showing up in my RSS feed! That means no image on your bloglovin or feedly feed. And no image in your emails (if you have it set up to go automatically, which I do.) Whhhaaaaat! We are in an image driven society so an image is a must. I searched high and low and messed with my code to the point that I even broke my site. Then I stumbled on this plugin and it made getting that image in my RSS so easy. This one I can’t live without 🙂
- Comment Reply: This plugin automatically sends your reply to the person who commented which is great because the chances of them coming back just to see your reply is close to none. My only problem with it is that they can’t then reply to the email and have it send back to you. I’m on the hunt for one that does, but for now this is the best I can find.
- Jquery Pin Button for Images: I like this one for the hover pin it button that you see on my site.
- Genesis Simple Share Buttons: Unfortunately I can’t use this plugin anymore because my site doesn’t run on Genesis, but if your’s does this is the best social media share plugin there is! It doesn’t slow down your site and they look nice and clean.
- Share-a-holic: Since I can’t use the plugin above, I use this one for social shares. I like that the buttons are still clean looking.
- What Would Seth Godin Do: This is a great little plugin if you are wanting to add a call to action at the top of each post.
- Optimize Database After Deleting Revisions: It is important to keep your site fast. This is an easy way to get rid of all the old versions of posts that weigh down your site.
- Rel No Follow Check Box: It is really important that any affiliate link or sponsored link has a nofollow tag. This plugin allows you to check a box when adding a link if you want it to be a nofollow link.
- Woo Sidebars: This plugin allows you to have different things in your sidebar on different pages of your site. I set mine up to have blogging related things on the sidebar of blogging related pages, on craft related pages I have links to other craft related projects, and on home decor pages I have links to other home decor posts. This has also enabled me to sell ad space that is targeted to specific audiences.
- Yoast SEO: Gives you a quick snapshot of how you are doing with your key words and allows you to upload a specific image to use when someone adds your link to facebook.
One of my favorite things about blogging is tapping into the strategies that other bloggers are using to succeed. So many of them have written eBooks and resources that have really helped me.
- Building a Framework: If you are just starting out or if you’ve been at it awhile there is something to learn from Abby and her husband, Donnie of Just a Girl and Her Blog. I own the master package and the videos are really well done and full of great advice!
- Affiliate Marketing for Bloggers: Information on this subject can be hard to find. Thankfully my friend Tasha of Designer Trapped in a Lawyer’s Body is sharing her tips for success (over $1500 a month in affiliate sales) with us in this eBook. I own the advanced package and love the extras like the already made sheets to keep me organized and access the the FB group.
- An Inbox of Opportunity: If you use Mailchimp you’ve got to own this eBook by Kirsten of Sweet Tea and Saving Grace. Mailchimp can be difficult to figure out, but she will walk you through each step to get you set up to communicate with your subscribers effectively and make your emails look pretty and branded.
- Bloggers and Brands: When it came time to put my neck out there and start pitching to brands this book saved me. It walks you though ever step from finding out who the right contact person is, sending your pitch, and creating a proposal to sell yourself and create a professional relationship. Because of this book I’ve been able to work with companies to remodel our kid’s bathroom, earn income through sponsored content, and provide private advertising on my site. (Bonus: It is now available for 1/2 of what I paid for it on the kindle edition!)
- Kaye Putnam.com: Kaye is the awesome brand strategist that really helped me dig deep when rebranding to come up with a design and focus that is uniquely me.
Another way to get insight into strategies that successful bloggers are using is to take a course offered by them. These are a few of the courses that I took and would recommend.
- Elite Blog Academy: I was fortunate to take this course the first time it was offered and let me tell you it was a game changer for me! After completing the first 1/2 of the course I was able to double my traffic using the strategies that I learned. The course only opens up a couple times per year, but you can go here to get on the waiting list and you will be sent notifications about future course offerings.
- Rock Your Blog Bundle: This was one of the first courses I took and it was great in terms of looking at my blog like a business. Bonnie had some great strategies to promote content, create various revenue streams, and reuse old content! (no longer available)
I hope you found something new here that will help you reach your blogging goals!
And of course I’d love to know if there is a tool or resource you love, so be sure to tell me about it in the comments below!