What I Use & Recommend
I wanted to create this page to let people know what tools use to run my site, and who has helped influence me through their writing, podcasts, and teaching. I’ll be adding resources and content as needed, and PLEASE let me know if you have any questions about any of the people, products, or services listed below.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and I will earn a commission if you purchase through those links (at no extra cost to you). These are all products, services, and books that I have experience with. I am recommending because they are helpful and are companies & people that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products. Please do not spend money unless you feel it’s for something you really need and will help you reach your goals.
Building Your Site
WordPress has become the popular blogging and content management software on the planet. Whether you use the free version at WordPress.com, or are ready to dive in to self-hosting with WordPress.org, it’s the right choice. It’s a powerful blogging engine that gives you a great design, powerful tools for getting your content out to the world. Signing up for a free one is easy enough, but let me know if you have any questions!
If you are ready to move in to self-hosting, good for you! First things first, you’ll need to get your domain name and a hosting package. I used Host Gator, and mainly because they offer such easy installation of wordpress software, and host all the files on your web server. It may not sound like a big deal, but it will save you time and frustration over doing the installation and file hosting yourself. I use the “Hatchling plan” and if you’re a 1-site blogger like me, it’s perfect. If you’re interested, check out their site here.
I’ve also heard great things about the people at OutstandingSetup.com. In fact, I was very close to going with OS, but at the time I launched they were not accepting new clients. But now they are, so great for you! If the thought of domain registration, web hosting, coded framework, theme selection, and backup is overwhelming or issues you simply don’t want to worry yourself with, this is the service to use. OutstandingSetup will take care of every aspect of your website, including all those time-consuming tasks I just mentioned. They also provide world-class support. OS is more expensive than other providers, but as you can see they provide so much more. Single-site clients pay $19/month to leave it up to the pros and just focus on your writing. Check out OS here.
This is another aspect of the blog setup that you can really spend hours and hours on. My site is run on the Genesis Framework by StudioPress, which is the best I found. Basically, even though WordPress is the best blogging tool on the web, Genesis is like dropping a new hemi engine in to a classic muscle car. Genesis optimizes the back-end framework of your site to become more recognizable to search engines, google, and keep the site running smoothly. The other great reason I chose Genesis is because it includes lifetime updates and tweaks. Studiopress isn’t going to try and squeeze money out of you later for a big update. Once you’re in, you’re family. Learn more about the Genesis Framework by StudioPress.
There are thousands of themes available for your site, and you should give thoughtful consideration to the one that best serves your needs. For me, I went with the Eleven40 theme by StudioPress (which runs on Genesis). Of course, it makes since that I would use a StudioPress theme, for many of the same reasons listed above. But I chose Eleven40 for it’s clean, spacious look, and because it’s mobile-responsive. The site automatically detects if you’re reading on a mobile device or tablet, and adjusts. I know I read several pages a day on my phone, I always appreciate a site that is easy to read and doesn’t require a lot of re-sizing. Plus, Kissmetrics released an infographic on how mobile web browsing is up 1000% in just 2 years. Update: I now also use the StudioPress Minimum theme for 2 other sites I help run, and Epik for my business.
I use all of these and consider them essential. They’re also free, or exist on donations. The easiest way to find and install them is to search from the plugin menu of your WordPress dashboard. *Note: These plugins only work on self-hosted blogs
- Pretty Link: URL customizer & tracking.
- Askimet: Comment spam blocker.
- All-in-One SEO Pack: Allows you to customize your site’s SEO terms that are fed to search engines.
- Disqus: The best commenting system out there. Allows you to track your comments across multiple sites.
- Flare: The floating share bar on my posts
- Editorial Calendar: Keeps you on track with your post schedule
After researching online courses for about a week, I decided to get started with Corbett’s program. How to Start a Blog That Matters has been very well reviewed and recommended by several other writers whose opinion I trust, not to mention the reputation of Corbett himself. He’s built multiple successful websites, from ThinkTraffic.net, ExpertEnough.com, and of course CorbettBarr.com. Be on the lookout for reports on how the course is going and my thoughts on it. If you’re interested in finding out more NOW, check it out!
Chris Guillebeau, who blogs at The Art of Non-Conformity, has several fantastic guides that have helped my writing. The first I bought was Art+Money: Yes, it’s possible! and found it to be wonderfully well-researched, full of actionable steps, and different ways to interact. There is a 70 page pdf, and 8 interviews with successful artists, writers, and creatives who are able to make a sustainable income while concentrating on their art. Highly recommend!
Jeff Goins has put together a great, free course for new bloggers and those want to take their online presence to the next level. In straightforward, easy to understand style, Jeff delivers the content and answers the big questions about blogging, i.e. finding your focus, seo, web hosting, and several more lessons. Another valuable part is the actionable items and assignments that really helped me figure what I wanted to write about, and how to make it known.
I have been using Evernote on and off for a couple years now, intensively since January. It is the single most useful tool I’ve used for organizing and remembering online activity, notes, and ideas. I use the Evernote web clipper to send pages directly to my account, which syncs easily between web, desktop, and iPhone.
I’m a pretty new Buffer user, but so far I love the service. It makes your Twitter usage much more efficient and valuable. Buffer allows you to schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts at important times throughout the day. I don’t want to sit on twitter all day, but I also don’t want to only send tweets out 5 at a time in the morning and at night.
With Buffer, your problems are solved! Use the Chrome extension to grab web pages and convert them to tweets.
This service has been great for me, it’s like having a jump drive with you no matter where you are. Travel docs? Got ’em. Pictures from your trip? No problem. Important legal and tax docs in case your computer crashes? No worries. The sync capabilities between online, desktop, and iPhone just seal the deal. For a much better description of the greatness of Dropbox (and also a good comparison to Evernote), check out this post.
If you are the kind of person that always wants to be in on the next cool app, consider WorkFlowy for your list-making, note-taking, project management, and brainstorming. The layout and flow has a clean, undisturbed look that will allow you to focus on what you actually want to be working on. You can also use it to collaborate with others.
This is a wonderful tool for simply grabbing an article or web clip that you want to read later, but don’t want to add the entire site to your RSS reader. Pocket provides a clean, easy to read layout, and also can link up with your smartphone. All your future reading items in place, ready when you’re waiting at the DMV.
- Jeff Goins, Writer
- Michael Hyatt, Intentional Leadership
- Pat Flynn, Smart Passive Income
- Chris Guillebeau, The Art of Non-Conformity
- Leo Babauta, Zen Habits
- Corbett Barr
- Think Traffic
- Copy Blogger
- Pro Blogger
- Seth Godin’s Blog
- The Minimalists
- The $100 Startup, by Chris Guillebeau
- Re-Work, by Jason Fried
- Tribes, by Seth Godin
- Linchpin, by Seth Godin
- The Power of Less, by Leo Babauta
- You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins
- Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
- A Whole New Mind, by Dan Pink
- Back of the Napkin, by Dan Roam
- Reality Check, by Guy Kawasaki
- ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income, by Darren Rowse
- The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
E-Books, Manifestos, & PDFs
- Bootstrapper’s Bible
- 279 Days to an Overnight Success
- The Writer’s Manifesto
- How to be Creative
- The Personal MBA
- Art of the Start
- Smart Passive Income
- Expert Enough
- Coral Ridge Presbyterian
- Internet Marketing for Smart People
- This is Your Life
So that’s it for now, I will be updating this site as more great content comes along and changes my life. Mostly, this page is for you, because I know what has helped me, I just want to share what has helped inspire me. It’s also a great way to thank the people, products, and services which have been so helpful and provided us with ways to create an online platform. Again, please feel free to ask me about any of the resources listed, I would be happy to talk with you about them.
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