Since I always get asked about the resources and products I use (and recommend) for different aspects of running my blog and business. I decided to put together this compilation with all my absolute favorites apps, programs, classes and companies that I've used (and currently use) to grow my blog and lettering business.
I separated them into categories so you can navigate them easily (scroll down or use the sub-menu), if there's anything that you wish I cover more, just let me know!
Business blog post
Blogging & business basics
You know all those people that are always talking about how you had to start your subscription list yesterday? Yeah, I didn't take it seriously either, and I am paying the price. So do yourself a favor and start NOW! it took me a while to realize that THEY were right!! So don't be like me and start your email list now!
2The Complete Guide to Email Marketing by ConvertKit
With so many parts and pieces, plans, and strategies, it's hard to know where to start and what really matters most. That's when this handy guide comes SO handy! The guys at ConvertKit created this guide with best practices, advice, and some advanced strategies that are compiled into this FREE Ebook, download it now!
This is one of the best hosting companies, while I might be biased because I am enjoying having my blog with them after so many issues while being with the competition, I can attest that their customer service is amazing! they provide super-fast load times, great security and so much value. With unlimited bandwidth, free daily backups, and a one-click WordPress install wizard, Siteground makes setting up and running your website or blog super easy! Use my link and save 60%!
While Bluehost is not the best hosting company, I think it's the best option to get started because of the budget-friendly plans. I started with one of their plans, and later, once my blog was making money and bringing on considerable traffic is when I switched from them. I still use them for staring websites.Use my link to try them up!
If you ever wondered how to use the power of Gmail and all the Google Suite products (hello spreadsheets) and keep your custom domain, this is for you! Even after my last server erased ALL my email, I switched to Google Suite and never looked back! I am one happy customer, and you can be one too! Try it for FREE for 14 days here.
The best thing about this plugin is that it lets you organize your affiliate links, you can either cloak them or not (make them pretty and small). This feature is particularly awesome to keep Amazon links organized, but also stay on top of their Terms because they do not allow you to cloak their links. You also have analytics on how many people clicking on them. Get it right here.
This is definitely one of the must-have plugins when you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, is the best way to track traffic on your links and make them shorter and prettier by using your own URL (cloak links) for Social sharing. I have the paid version because of how easy it is to use the extra features and the fact that I can change the links in my dashboard if they need to be updated, saving me so much time (because I would have to go post by post updating links) Get it here.
For the longest time I had left Pinterest on the back-burner, even though most of the traffic to my blog comes from Pinterest, I had no strategy to keep it growing. I would pin only when I had time (aka almost never) But now I use Tailwind (insert angels-from- heaven sound) for all of my Pins and it’s crazy how much traffic it brings in. One of my favorite features for Instagram is the hashtag finder, sometimes when I post a picture, I drew blanks on to what hashtags I should use, so this tool comes to the rescue. And lastly, Tailwind is actually an official partner of Pinterest and IG, so even though your content is scheduled, Pinterest’s algorithm doesn't affect negatively, but the contrary it favors content coming in from Tailwind, and ranking those pins higher in search results. Get 30 FREE pins here.
Is one of the most used online data backup services in the industry. The app provides data-backup protection, file-sharing capabilities, and device syncing so you can access your files and photos from your Phone & Laptop. You can integrate your Dropbox account with 100,000 third-party apps, making it an extremely versatile app. I use it to back up most of my work files as well as move things from my phone to my iMac when I'm not close enough to use AirDrop. Start a FREE account here.
I only recently discover Notion and it has been such a game-changer! I used to organize everything in a combination of Asana, Trello, and Evernote. But now I have everything from my business management, to my blog calendar and keyword research neatly organized in Notion and my list-making inner self could not be any happier! I could not recommend it enough! Start your FREE account here.
This one of my favorite apps around! It is a spelling and grammar app that checks your spelling as you write. Many of you know that I am a self-taught English speaker and that I actually started blogging as a way to improve. Well, things would have been so much easier for me if I had this little tool when I first started blogging! I am better now, but I am still learning when it comes to grammar, and this is one of the best tools to polish and learn. Bloggers, writers, entrepreneurs and anyone who ever types on a screen can benefit from this. You may fancy yourself a spelling and grammar pro but will be surprised at what this app can catch! Even my husband that is a writing pro loves this app, Get it right here!
Is the entrepreneur's best friend! It makes keeping track of expenses, invoicing clients, and keeping track of your time and tax documents super easy. When you start a business or start making money with your blog, you need to keep track of so many things in order to pay taxes correctly (and keep your sanity) So I could not recommend FreshBooks more, even if you are just starting out. Try it for FREE here.
Let me tell you a horror story, the very first month I switched to WordPress from Blogger. I really had no idea what I was doing (so I probably installed every plugin I ran into to my blog), and it took about 2 days for my blog to be infected with Malware!! I had no idea what to do, I had no idea websites could be hacked like that, over a silly plugin! But luckily for me, I ran into Sucuri, I let them handle the business, clean my site, and hired them to monitor and backup my blog. After all the time that took me to rank again on Google (I was blacklisted because of the malware, and I lost ALL my traffic!) I would say that this was the best invested money for my blog. They now have this handy how to clean a hacked WordPress site guide too, so check it out right HERE.
No matter in you are on Mac or PC, MacPaw has a cleaning product for you! I Installed the Clean my Mac probably a month or two after I upgraded to a 27″ iMac, because it started to run so much slower, and after one run I could not be happier! It gives you reminders that you have to “clean” every two weeks or so and makes my Mac run so much faster than before! Just imagine, on the first run it cleared about 2G of stuff, and I had hardly used it! Ps. if you use a lot of pictures it can also delete all the unwanted duplicates. Download Clean my MAC or Clean my PC for FREE. You are welcome! ;)
Branding and graphic resources
One of the many great things about Creative Market is that they host so many independent designer's shops, so the possibilities to find something of your taste are very big. They have a super wide variety of premade logos and social media kits to help your blog or Business start with a professional look! Also, you can get 6 Free goods each Monday, and 2 extras that you can unlock if you spend $15+ on their website, score! Check it out here!
Offers a contest model to request a logo or any Design work you need, you give them a design brief so the designers can have a better idea of what you are looking for, select a plan and launch your contest, this is an economical way to get a high-quality logo or work with designers to make a header or packaging. I always recommend to check the designer's past work, and portfolio just in case, so you know that you are not getting a cookie-cutter logo. Check how it works here.
It is a super affordable way to create a blog header or logo when you are just starting, it's super intuitive and you will get high-resolution files (even vectors) depending on the option you purchase. It's way cheaper than paying someone to make you a pre-designed logo, and you get to change things for yourself instead of waiting for revisions. The best thing is that you can test it for free and pay for the files once you are happy with the way it looks! Test it here. (PS. Even though the name has “Joy” in it, it's not my company hehe)
Is an online design tool that has everything you need to make your ideas come to life. They offer great photo editing, collage making, graphic design tools at very affordable prices (especially compared with Adobe Photoshop) Theirs website is very easy to even for those that are not tech-savvy or even particularly artistically inclined. Start a FREE trial here.
Is incredibly easy to use web-based program, and a reliable online design tool perfect for anyone that doesn't have Photoshop or is not very familiar with it. The drag-and-drop functionality makes designing eye-catching designs simple and quick. There are thousands of templates and layouts available, and I highly recommend BluChic Canva templates if you are looking for quick social media images -> Get them here!
Blog themes & page builder
As a web designer in my past life, coding pages has never been an issue, but GOSH! it takes for.e.ver! So when I discovered Elementor I could not help but do the happy dance over and over again (Pretty much every time I need to make a custom-designed page). Elementor is easy to use drag and drop page builder (plugin) that will help you to create any layout you can imagine fast and easy. No coding skills required! Is a game changer! You can build landing pages, sale pages, product pages, so so much! I actually created my whole studio website and my other blog Barefoot Detour with it, and it saves me SO much time! I am so in love with it, and I've been building custom pages (like this one) in this blog with it also! Get your copy here.
The one products that I love the most from them are the Landing Page templates, they offer one with Tripwire and that has singlehanded helped me tremendously to increase my passive income. But their most famous products are blog themes, unlike others, you will not need Genesis to run them. So it's less expensive and full of great features.
The Maggie theme is one of my favorite themes from Bluchic, it's super clean and it features a ton of useful areas, they also include plugging for testimonials, portfolio, and widgets designed to guide your readers to your sales funnels, shop for all their themes right here.
Starting a business
Shopify is by far the most robust e-commerce platform I've experienced, and I've pretty much tried all of them! After a lot of testing and multiple headaches with other platforms, I set up my current physical shop with them, never been happier! Start a 14-day FREE trial here.
It allows you to sell digital goods online. It connects with the payment provider so you get paid and it automatically delivers the files to the buyers once payment has completed. It also has an integrated affiliate interface, so you can pay people to help you promote. Sign up here.
Do you want to start your business at a low cost just to test the waters? Etsy is the best way to start and see if your product sells. It's easy because you just need pictures of your products, descriptions, a header, and a profile image. Easy right? Get your first 40 Etsy listings for free.
EDD is a FREE plugin that allows you to sell digital goods using WordPress, it's like Woocommerce but specially tailored to Digital Goods, this is the plugin I use to power my studio website. I absolutely love Easy Digital Download! The Free version allows you so much, but if you need extra features they offer paid extensions, my favorite ones (and the ones I currently use) are:
- Fraud monitor: Fraud is a very real threat to e-commerce stores and can be extremely costly to store owners. A single fraudulent transaction could easily cost you $150 or more. If you aren’t already proactively working against it, you should be. Fraud Monitor is an extension that adds robust monitoring to your Easy Digital Downloads store and works for you to automatically detect possibly fraudulent purchases, allowing you to rest easy and focus on growing your business instead of fighting fraud.
- Stripe add-on: This add-on was the first paid one I purchased because I wanted to offer my Studio clients the option to accept credit cards directly on my site through my Stripe.com account. That way my clients enter their credit card details during the checkout process and never leave my site, resulting in a better experience for the user, and more successful conversions.
- PayPal Pro add-on: This two-in-one gateway add-on allows you to accept payment through PayPal Payments Pro and PayPal Express Checkout. Easy Digital Download does come with a free standard version of PayPal getaway, but this Pro version allows for the client to not be redirected to PayPal, and pay while on your website instead, that way you can have a faster checkout and better conversions. When checking out with PayPal Express, the user experience is very similar to PayPal's standard, except it is more secure.
One thing I love about Skillshare is that you have access to so many classes (from business to lettering and calligraphy) all for a flat monthly fee, BUT if you are just starting committing to that monthly payment can be hard, so the guys from Skillshare are offering all of the HowJoyful readers a special A FREE PREMIUM TRIAL. So clean your agenda and get lost of coffee (or tea if you are like me) sign up for an account with this link first to claim the promotion (otherwise you will only have one free month), and start learning! Get a FREE premium trial here.
Creative Live is a wonderful and popular learning website, the one thing that makes Creative Live like no other is that on top of offering on-demand classes, you get to enjoy the free recording of all classes, they do this almost like a webinar. You RSVP to the event and watch it live for FREE!!! yes, I said free! Then if you want to watch a replay you can purchase it. How wonderful is that! But the best part is that they have such a wonderful teacher and a wide variety of subjects, from business to Lettering and everything in between. View all available business classes here.
Save money while shopping
Ebates is probably one of the oldest rebate websites, and I love using it when I shop for supplies for my business. But the only downside is that you have to log into their website and navigate search for the stores and links to get the rebate. Well, not anymore when you have Honey & Wikibuy installed in your browser, you can automatically activate it when you are checking out without having to go to their website and search for the link. Ebates and Honey is a wonderful mix! Get $10 to get you started here.
This little gadget has saved me so much money just by reminding me to activate Ebates and by automatically searching for coupons for me, I have it on all my computers, ps. If you have Amazon Prime, it can let you add items to a watchlist for price drops and notifies you when the prices change!! whaaatt? (I know, you are welcome!) Get $5 to get you started here.
This one is also a browser plugin, and just like Honey it can let you know if the site you are currently shopping at has any discount coupons. If you have an Amazon Prime account, it can make sure if you have the best offer and give you options as well. I love that it can compare how much you can save if you get an item a day or two later or shop with another seller, sometimes those extra $2-5 you are saving are well worth it (if you are not in a rush, of course). Start saving here.
I absolutely love Amazon Prime, I mostly shop for my business (supplies, books, tech stuff, etc.) and the two-day shipping (or sometimes 1-day depending on the item) is amazing! I live in the mountains, so going shopping for that “one thing” I usually forget is a pain! And don't get me started on the gas to drive down! So Amazon Prime is always my savior! With your membership, you also get to watch thousands of shows & movies in their App, as well and a ton of free books and magazines on Kindle (they also have a Kindle app for your phone). If you use my link to try it for FREE, I will get a small commission that supports my blog (the price to you will be the same) Start your 30-Day Free trial here.
Monetize your blog
Is an online business community with courses run by Paul Scrivens (Scrivs) and his lifetime membership has been by far the absolutely best investment I've done for my blog and now business. Dare to Conquer (formerly Billionaire Blog Club) is so much more than a bunch of courses in pretty much everything you need to run a successful business, there's also the Slack community that to me has been invaluable. With the help of the many courses under the umbrella of the 100K climb course, I was able to up my blog income a wooping 300% in just a few months. If you plan to monetize your blog and transform it into a business, I 10000% recommend you start with DTC. Read more about it here.
ShareASale is one of the most popular affiliate marketplaces among bloggers. Once you are a member, you can join the affiliate programs of thousands of brands. They have Brands for pretty much every niche and it's super easy to keep track of your earnings and best-performing Brands in their Dashboard. They also have a handy tool to build collections of products that you can then add to your blog as well. Apply to become a member here.
Just like ShareASale, and MaxBounty, they host many brands you can apply to (in a ton of different areas) and get paid when your readers purchase their products or services using your affiliate links. Their referral program is also very good, you will get $30 for everyone you refer who gets approved. Apply to their marketplace here.
Monetize with products
Creating courses is a wonderful way to increase revenue, but to be able to offer digital downloads and also a membership in the same platform is what Podia does best! Whether you need all of them or are starting with only one, being able to keep adding to your business is such a great Check more right here.
A great way to further into a topic you are covering in your blog AND make a good profit is to make an online class, this is something I am working on, and after a super long research, Teachable was the best option I could find, not only is super simple and requires no coding knowledge, it's also super simple to add an affiliate program to your course, so other bloggers can help you spread the word! Check out this 7 steps to launch your own profitable course webinar to get you started. Sign up right here.
Interested in self-publishing a hard copy of your E-Book? Blurb has definitely the best tools to sell your books on Amazon and other platforms directly or to make larger production runs. I've printed my pregnancy journals with them, and I am so happy with the quality! Start publishing here.
Zazzle allows you to upload your artwork and turn them into products that people can purchase, what I love the most about Zazzle is that in addition to adding your artwork, you can also create templates so the people in their website can customize their items. You can see examples of this in my Zazzle store: HowJoyful. There I have uploaded regular pieces but also allowed for some to have custom text, and those are my bestsellers. So you could sell pretty much any items with your blog's logo or different artwork. Open an FREE store here.
Minted is one of my favorite places for luxury printing, they offer so many lovely designs for business cards (or “blog cards”) and personal stationery! I first tested their printing with some personal stationery and Conner's birthday invitations, and I was (and still am) super impressed with the quality of their products and also their packaging! The paper thickness is just amazing (no flimsy cheap paper there), and the foil selection they offer is awesome! Plus, they support independent designers showcasing their creations and letting them get a commission when you buy their designs. Check out their foiled business cards here.
Zazzle is my favorite place to get cards because of their quality and price. I actually have a tutorial for painting the edges of business cards and I used Zazzle to print them, you can check it out here, and subscribe to their newsletter for announcements on their sales, I bought mine with an extra 75% discount making it hard to pass, so I always wait for the sales and restock my cards. Check out their business cards here.
A compilation of everything that is in my toolbox & why I love them
A list of all the gear, tools and gadgets I use to make videos and take pictures
A list of all the tools I use to run both my blog and lettering business