Epic Blogging Hacks!

It has been just about a year since I started working on building EPB.  Saying that out loud is bittersweet.  I feel like it was just yesterday that I was considering blogging and then at the same time it feels like it has been years.  Blogging has been such a blessing, a challenge and a ridiculous amount of fun!  I’ve had the great pleasure of working with folks and helping them with their personal finances.  I’ve met some incredible people whom I now consider friends, even though we’ve only met online.  And I have learned a ton! 

There have been so many times this past year where I’ve learned something new and thought, “wow, I wish I would have known this months ago!”. At times I’ve felt like I was two steps behind.  To be honest, I feel like that’s all part of the process.  Recently, I’ve compared building EPB to achieving our financial goals.  It has taken a lot of hard work, some serious sacrifice and I literally learn something new every day.  And I’m not finished yet!  

I’ve had a lot of folks reach out recently asking how I started EPB and looking for some tips to start their own blog.  So here it is!! Here is a rundown of how I got started and some of the EPIC apps and tools I use frequently. I’ll post all of the tools in a summary below so don’t worry about jotting them down.

I started blogging all because of Pinterest.  After reading various blog posts that I found on the social media site and I stumbled upon a post by someone talking about their experience with blogging and what they loved about it.  I was inspired!  At first, I second guessed myself, telling myself that I’m an accountant, not a writer.  Then I remembered part of Gary Vaynerchuk’s book, Crush It, where he says something along the lines of… you can talk about something as boring as accounting and if you’re passionate enough about someone will pay attention. 

You see, I’d been researching side hustles for months at this point.  Doing due diligence to start up one of those monthly box subscription companies or something else folks might want to buy.  Then I read an income report by one of my favorite personal finance bloggers.  She was (and still is) raking it in by doing something she loved.  I went back and forth with self-doubt and struggling with forking up the cash to start a website.  I remember nervously telling Dallas that I wanted to start a blog.  I was nervous because I thought he’d say I was nuts.  Instead, he supported me and like always, pushed me to go for it! 

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It’s pretty clear that I am passionate about personal finance.  We’ve turned our financial life around in a way that has changed us forever.  I joke that we drank the Kool-aide and want others to as well but I really am passionate about helping people handle their money.  I love me some numbers because of my background in accounting but once we started on our personal finance journey, I knew that I had found a new passion.  Are you catching on to my first tip?!  If you’re interested in starting a blog, I suggest you pick a topic that you are 1,000% passionate about.  Why passion?! Cause this stuff can be hard and time-consuming, if the topic isn’t something you enjoy and are passionate about, you won’t stick with it and people won’t be as interested in it.

Once you identify your topic, it’s time to come up with a name!  I started brainstorming and writing down possible names every time I thought of one.  Your site name could be related to your topic, could be your name, it could honestly be anything!  A few words of caution, make sure you do a good search to make sure your name isn’t already taken.  You want to be sure there isn’t already a business named the same thing and that the domain is available.  A few other tips… Make sure your name easy to remember and spell.  The last thing you want is for folks to type the wrong thing or associate the business name with something else and miss your site altogether.  Come up with something catchy, unique and fun and something you won’t mind having around for a while.  Naming your business really can be a lot of fun and way for you to express your personality.  Be sure you buy a .com, your site will be perceived as more legitimate if it’s a .com. 

Now that you have your topic and your name, it’s time to buy your domain.  I use Bluehost for my web hosting and I have not been disappointed yet.  Bluehost is affordable, the plans range from $3.95 to $5.95 a month and it is so easy to use.  With a one-click WordPress install, 24/7 support, FREE site builders, and a 30-day money back guarantee they make is so simple.  Right now their Prime plan is on sale for $5.95 a month or $72 a year.  Click here to snag that deal while you can! 

Once you’re ready to start creating pages, blog posts and other content be sure to use Grammarly.  Remember, I said I’m an accountant, not a writer.  Grammarly is FREE and it checks your content for grammatical errors.  A wise friend once told me that you don’t want your great content marred by silly grammatical errors. I now use Grammarly every time I make any edits to my site, post a blog post or send an email.  Since it’s free, it’s a no-brainer!  Click here to sign up for your FREE Grammarly account. 

Start collecting email subscribers as soon as possible.  I use the WordPress plugin called Sumo and LOVE it.  They have a feature to auto email my new subscribers, they show conversion statistics so that I know how well I’m grabbing new subscribers and Sumo can integrate with email providers for easy use when emailing folks your content.  When I first started I used a different plugin to collect email addresses and quickly switched to Sumo.  A decision I am glad I made. 

Social Media

Social media can be a fun and important way to promote your blog.  You might even make some new friends and network with folks in your same niche.  I read early on to pick one social media outlet and master it.  That is definitely a rule I’ve followed.  I focused mainly on Instagram but still set up accounts with Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.  You definitely want to post your content to each social media outlet but find one that you really enjoy and live there for a while.  Once you’ve built one up, branch out and start working on another one.  Tackling one at a time is a great way to keep yourself from going too crazy. 

About six months ago I learned how incredibly important Pinterest is for bloggers.  Pinterest can be an interesting beast to master, I never knew how important post images and descriptions were.  This was definitely an area I fell short in the beginning.  I found a FREE Pinterest course, Pinterest for Bloggers, that opened my eyes to the beauty that is Pinterest.  The creator, McKinzie, created a no non-sense course to help you understand what to post to Pinterest and how.  Click here to take the course that upped my Pinterest game substantially! 

It’s important when posting to social media and your blog that you use free images or your own images.  If you use someone else’s image be sure to credit the image and link back to the source.  Otherwise, you can get into some pretty hot water due to copyright laws.  I use an app and website called Pixabay for all of my images.  Any image you can think of, they have it!  Professional and high-quality images that will make your content pop!  I also use Unsplash.  Another site with tons of free images that you do not have to credit back to the photographer. 

To create blog post cover images and social media images, I use apps called Over, Text2Pic and CanvaCanva and Over has been LIFE CHANGING!!!  I love Over for my Instagram posts and Canva for my Pinterest posts.  They are ridiculously easy to use, create excellent images and are FREE!!! I found Canva and Over in the last few months and I wish I would have known about them both months ago.  They are gems.

Something else that has been life changing is scheduling content to post to social media. Enter Later and Buffer! You can use both of these on your computer or via an app on your phone. I’m still getting the hang of them but I think they’ll be a tool I use more frequently in the future.  While both can be used to post to the main social media sites, Later app is excellent for scheduling posts to Instagram and I love Buffer for Facebook and Twitter.

And Tailwind, oh, Tailwind.  This app is unbelievable for scheduling to Pinterest.  If you take the Pinterest course above you’ll learn why frequent posting to Pinterest is so important and Tailwind makes that so much easier!  The stats they provide are awesome too!  I seriously nerd out checking up on the success of my Pinterest account. Tailwind costs $15 a month for the basic version but you can give it a try for 30 days for free to see if you like it!  Click here to take advantage of the 30-day free trial! 

Affiliate Marketing

I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make money on my site.  My first affiliate sales happened in September and I am thrilled because I am offering products or services I personally use and they are helping other people!  I mean, I’m not saying I won’t come up with a course or product in the future (stay tuned!) but affiliate marketing is a great way to at least offset the cost of your site by talking about products you use already or would have talked about anyway. 

Before you start talking about affiliates on your site, install the plugin called PrettyLinks I cannot stress enough how EPIC this plugin is.  It converts your affiliate link from an ugly link with a lot of random characters to a nicely formatted, trustworthy link that folks will want to click on.  Below is an example.

Before PrettyLink: https://prettylinks.com?aff=Eatpraybudget

After PrettyLink: http://www.eatpraybudget.com/prettylinks

As you can see, the new link looks cleaner and gives your reader confidence before they click.   PrettyLink also has incredible stats so that you know how often your affiliate links are clicked and it makes it easy for you to change a link on your site in one location versus everywhere you post it.  Seriously, click here and grab PrettyLink BEFORE you do anything with affiliate marketing.  I regret not having this a lot earlier on. 

You’ve probably seen a ton of bloggers talk about the course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing.  The course is $195 and I wasn’t ready to invest in it until we became debt free.  It was literally the first purchase I cash flowed after we paid off our debt.  This is one scenario where I beat myself up for being crazy intense about paying off debt.  I should have invested that $195 months ago!!! Like before I launched the blog even.  I’m only halfway finished with the course and have learned so much!  The creator, Michelle made over a million dollars on her blog last year and affiliate marketing is her prime source of income.  To say she knows her stuff is an understatement.  This course is time consuming but is packed with a plethora of information and is absolutely worth every penny!! I can’t get the last year back but if I could do it over again, taking this course earlier would be one major change.  Click here to take the same course I’m taking right now and learn how to monetize your blog without being spammy or weird plugging random products. 

I use Commission Junction and Shareasale to find affiliates to talk about here on EPB.  Companies partner with these two in order to offer their affiliate programs to bloggers and other online businesses.  They are FREE to sign up with and easy to navigate.  If you’re a food blogger and want to talk about a certain product, check on Commission Junction or Shareasale and see if they have an affiliate program.  You’d be shocked with the companies that do!  You can also google it or check the company’s main website. Some companies host their affiliate programs internally. 

Other Tips

To be honest, I truly love this and am having a blast blogging.  If I help even one person gain their version of financial freedom, my job here is done.  And if I can encourage someone reading this who is thinking about blogging but is nervous or scared, I would be thrilled.  Blogging can turn into a great outlet, a side hustle or even help you quit that full-time job you hate.  The sky is the limit and you truly get out of it what you put into it!  Yes, it’s hard work.  Harder than I thought it would be but I’m loving it and have no plans of slowing down anytime soon!

I’ve been asked a lot if someone should start a blog related to X topic because it seems like the market is saturated with other bloggers.  My answer?  There are thousands of personal finance bloggers but only one me.  Only I can deliver content in my own way and the readers that appreciate my content and delivery will follow organically. Do NOT, I repeat, do not compare yourself to others or try to deliver content the way they do!  You will come off as awkward and forced and people won’t like it.  Be you.  Unapologetically.  It’s more fun that way anyway.

Don’t be afraid of “the competition”.  This isn’t car sales.  There are plenty of folks out there that will enjoy your work and other bloggers in your niche will likely support you.  I mean, I had a major fangirl moment the last few months when a big-time blogger, and honestly someone I look up to, published not one but two of my guest blog posts.  Not to mention the incredible blogger friends I made via social media who have cheered me on, taught me tricks and are genuinely awesome folks.  Network with people, cheer them on too.  I promise it’ll be worth it.   

Oh my goodness, I threw a lot of information at you!! I am definitely still learning and a major work in progress but this is what I’ve learned so far.  Below are the quick links and a short description of what I’ve talked about here.  If you’re new to blogging or thinking about getting started and have questions, feel free to reach out to me via email.  I’d love to answer any questions and help in any way!

Blue Host – Web hosting service – Cost: Ranges from $3.95 – $5.95 per month

Grammarly – Grammar checking service – Cost: FREE!

Pinterest for Bloggers – Learn how to master Pinterest with this course: Cost: FREE!

Pixabay – Site and social media images – Cost: FREE!

Unspalsh- Site and social media images – Cost: FREE!

Over – Image editor/creator – Cost: FREE!

Text2Pic – Image editer/creater – Cost: FREE!

Canva – Image editer/creater – Cost: FREE!

Later App – Social Media Scheduler – Cost: FREE!

Buffer App – Social Media Scheduler – Cost: FREE!

Tailwind – Pinterest Scheduler – Cost: 30-day Free Trial, then $15 per month

Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing – Affiliate Marketing Course – Cost: $195

Shareasale – Affiliate Marketing Site – Cost: FREE!

Commission Junction – Affiliate Marketing Site – Cost: FREE!

Until next time, spend safely! 

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4 thoughts on “Epic Blogging Hacks!

    • Great question!! GoDaddy is another hosting service like BlueHost… I’m not sure how they vary because I’ve only used BlueHost. When you buy with WordPress, you’ll buy a site that is http://www.sitename.wordpress.com. The .wordpress.com part can sometimes come across as less legitimate or trusted. It’s best to go straight with a http://www.sitename.com and cut out the wordpress in the URL. Bluehost has a wordpress plugin so you get both when you go that route. I hope that helps!

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