13 Tools That You Need as a Blogger

13-tools-you-need-as-a-bloggerHave you ever thought of becoming a blogger? If the answer is yes then this post is for you. This post will also be good for you if are a beginning blogger as well. I’ve been blogging for nearly 3 years here at The Butler Journal. I’ve learned quite a lot during this time frame. I want to share with you 13 tools that you need as a blogger.

Domain & Hosting

If you are serious about becoming a blogger you should purchase your own hosting and domain. Don’t get me wrong, there are some decent free options out there for setting up a blog, but the things that you can do with them is limited. By having your own domain and hosting you’re able to create your site any way that you want to. You also don’t have to worry about your URL looking like www.blogname.blogspot.com. If you plan to eventually monetize your site it would definitely need to be self-hosted.

I use Bluehost for my hosting. I haven’t had any problems with them in nearly 3 years of service. They have a great deal for new bloggers right now. Hosting is starting out at $3.95 per month if you purchase a yearly plan with them. A domain also comes with that deal.

WordPress

WordPress s a blogging platform that a lot of us bloggers use. After you get your hosting and domain taken care of you should add the WordPress software to your blog. WordPress is very easy to use. It has hundreds of themes for you to choose from. The themes are user-friendly.

Grammarly

Grammarly is a program that you can download to your computer that helps with grammar. I’ve been using Grammarly for a few months and I love it. It helps you with spelling, punctuation placement, and other grammar issues. There is a free version and a pro version. I currently use the free version, but will probably upgrade once I pay off another couple of my debts.

PicMonkey

This is the 1st of three sites that I use to help design pictures. PicMonkey allows you to edit and touch up photos as well as make collages. They have a lot of options such as adding overlays or frames to your pictures.

Share As Image

Share As Image is the second site that I use to help design pictures. I don’t use it as much as I used to, but it’s still good to know about.

Canva

I had been hearing about Canva, at least, a year before I started using it. In September, I finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Can I tell you something? I wish I would have started using it sooner. It is my favorite site to edit pictures with right now. Canva already has predetermined design templates available.  They have templates for Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest posts just to name a few. You also can see any previous design that you created as well as any picture that you uploaded to their site. Both are features that PicMonkey and Share As Image don’t have.



Morguefile

Morguefile is a website that has free images that you can use. There are hundreds to choose from. The images range in the type and quality. You can use them on your site without having to publish where you got the image from.

Social Media

If you plan on growing your blog you should have some kind of social media. I have a Twitter account, Pinterest account, and a Facebook page. You may or may not need all three in the beginning. I would choose one that I was familiar with and start promoting with it.

Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a site that allows you to schedule and post stuff to your social media feeds. This site has been a lifesaver! Hootsuite has allowed me to schedule posts anytime during the day or night without having to physically do it each time.  I usually set my weekly tweets up every Sunday. One of my followers asked me a couple months ago when do I sleep. I asked her what she meant. She then proceeded to say that I’m always tweeting after 3 or 4 in the morning. That proves that Hootsuite is doing its job.

Email List

Every blogger needs to eventually start collecting e-mails. Doing that can eventually  be huge for you. You can create a newsletter for your most engaged readers. Your readers could turn into potential customers depending on what you plan to do with your blog. Aweber and Mailchimp are two of the top e-mail marketing tools out there.

SumoMe

SumoMe is a tool that can help grow your website. They have a fantastic WordPress plugin. SumoMe helps you grow your e-mail list by offering several tools that are designed to help you collect emails.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a tool that shows you your website statistics. It shows you the type of traffic that you have coming to your site. It also shows you the most popular sections amongst other things. Google analytics also has a plugin. It is a MUST HAVE!

Share plugin

WordPress offers several share plugins. Have you ever been on a website and saw tabs on a post that allows you to share it on Twitter or Facebook? That website had a share plugin. There are many of them around. Some work better than others. They are very important to have on your blog. If someone really likes one of your articles you want them to share it with their friends and followers. Share plugins allow that to happen. Having the opportunity to have your posts shared equals more readers.

You just finished reading 13 tools that you need as a blogger. These all should help you to create the best website possible.

Are you a blogger? Do you use any of these tools? Are there any other tools that new bloggers should use?

If you’re ready to start your blog today check out my step by step guide here. I go into detail and show you just how easy it is to create.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please ready my disclaimer and disclosure policy here.

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5 Uses For Your Tax Refund

 

5 uses for your tax refundWhat’s going on folks? It’s that time of the year. It’s tax season. Are you ready? I’ve had times where I received big refunds before. I’ve also owed money. Everybody’s situation is different. Many people in the country choose not to get a refund. If you plan on receiving one, then this post is for you. Below are five good uses for your tax refund.

Pay off debt

If you get a large enough refund back, you can pay off some debt. For some, this refund comes right on time. You can apply the money to any of your debts including credit cards or student loans. One year, I was able to pay off a personal loan a few months early because of the tax refund that I received. Every extra payment helps you eliminate the debt. Even if you don’t want to use all of the money to pay off debt, you should at leats use a couple hundred off it for that.

Save

The second thing that you can do with your tax refund is to save it. Everyone should have some savings. Things happen that are out of our control from time to time. You need an emergency fund. If you don’t have one, use the money from your tax refund to help you fund it. If you already have an emergency fund, you can cushion your savings or checking account. You can also save for other things such as a new vehicle, a new house or birthday gifts for your family.

Invest

Another thing you can do with your tax refund is to invest it. If I received a large refund, this would be something that I’d consider doing. You could take some of the money and invest in bonds or mutual funds. Depending on how much you get back you can take it up a notch. You could invest in stocks or small real estate. Investing is a way for you to continue to grow your money. If you’re interested in learning more about investing, check out Investopedia. They have a lot of useful information on that site. They even have a free stock simulator that you can sign up for.

Plan a vacation

If you’ve been reading this site for a while, you know that I love to travel. It is my anti-drug. Everyone needs a vacation from time to time. Another use for your tax refund is to book a vacation. Your vacation does not have to be expensive either. There are numerous websites to help you book your trips such as Priceline, Hotwire or Orbitz. On those sites, you can compare airfare and hotels. If hotels aren’t your thing, you can use a website like Airbnb. Depending on where you’re going, a room on Airbnb could be cheaper than a hotel room. You can even get a $35 off of your first booking with Airbnb. Check here for more details.

Fix something

The final way that you can use your tax refund money is to fix something. Things get old and break every once in awhile. You can use the extra money on your house or car maintenance or repairs. For example, if you know the AC in your vehicle doesn’t work, use these funds to fix it. It’s better to take car of that now than to wait until it is scorching outside.

Those are just a few things that you can do with your tax return refund. I can’t tell you how to spend your money, but I hope that you take some of these ideas to head. The worst thing that you can do is get that refund and splurge it without nothing to show.

What are some other things you could use your tax refund on?

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5 Ways You Can Improve Your Credit Score

5 ways you can improve your credit scoreA few years ago my credit score flat out sucked. I was in the low 500’s, and I couldn’t qualify for a $500 personal loan. I was shocked. I didn’t know it was that bad. That day I took a look in the mirror and decided to get serious about getting my credit right. By August 2015. My credit score had risen by 168 points. I was able to do that without paying for help. You can do the same thing as well. Today, I want to share with you with you five ways that you can improve your credit score.

Pay your bills on time

The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you pay your bills on time. Your payment history is 35% of your credit score. That’s a little more than a third. When I was younger, I paid my credit cards and student loans late. That’s one of the main reasons that my credit score was so bad.  As soon as I started making payments on time, it began to rise. Yours will do the same. If you’re horrible at remembering your payment due dates put them in Google calendar or use a program like Mint. Mint sends out emails when you are close to a due date. Having late payments on your credit report can put a huge dent in your credit score. You don’t want to wonder can late payments be removed from credit report.

Stop using your credit cards

If you’re serious about getting your credit score, you should stop using your credit cards for a while. Your credit utilization is 30 percent of your credit score. Credit utilization is the ratio of your credit card balances to their credit limits. As one point my credit utilization ratio was at 99%. That was horrible. I’m currently at 30% and will be lower than that by the time you’re reading this. If you still want to use credit cards, make sure that you pay the balance off each month.




Pay down debt

I don’t care what anyone says, but debt is the enemy. I don’t want it, that’s why I’m working hard to eliminate it. Paying down your debt (credit cards and revolving credit) will help your score rise. Do what you have to do to lower it. If you don’t make enough, don’t worry about it. The next tip will help you.

Make extra money to pay the debt

Find a way to make extra money so that you can apply it to the debt. Interest is not a game. That’s part of the reason my student loan debt is where it’s at now. I pretty much ignored them and made the very minimum payments to them. I don’t want that to happen to you. Adding extra money to your debt will make them a thing of the past sooner than later. Below are a few ways for you to make extra money:

Sell items on eBay

Design logos

Sell something on Etsy

Create a course

Drive for Uber

Get a part time job

Become a freelancer

Do yard work for people

Be Smart

The final way to improve your credit score is to be smart about the situation. Check your credit score a few times each year. I like using Credit Sesame. It shows me my score. It gives me a credit and debt analysis. Did I mention that it’s free to sign up for? You can do so right here. Credit Sesame gives you tips on how to help you raise your credit.

Another way to be smart is to watch how you’re using your credit card. As I stated early, try to pay it off each month if that’s feasible for you. By doing that you won’t accrue any more debt.

As you’ve just read, those are five ways that you can improve your credit score. It took some time for the score to raise, but it did. I know that you can do the same thing. You just have to be serious about it and have some discipline.

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January 2017 Debt Update





January 2017 Debt UpdateHello, everyone. I hope 2017 has been good to you so far. It’s been alright for me so far. In today’s post, I will be sharing my January 2017 debt update.

 

My total debt went from $66,495.50 to $65,826.26. It went down by $669.24. That’s my second highest drop ever! This is a great way to start the year. Below are the details.

The Numbers

Loan 2 – Down from $5769 to $5750

Chase – Down from $1720 to $1200

Navient – Down from $24,150.20 to $24,023.35

Nelnet – Down from $34,856.30 to $34,852.91

The side hustling has been helping me lower my debt. I’m focusing on eliminating the lowest debt that I have right now, which is the Chase card. I’m still looking for more ways to generate more income. I have a few things up my sleeve that I will be sharing with you in a few months.

Previous Debt Updates

January 2015 (The Beginning)

October 2016

November 2016

December 2016

If you’re paying off debt, how is it coming for you?

 

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January 2017 Round Up

Hello, everyone. Just in case you’re new here, the last Friday of every month I do a round up post. I feature five blog posts from around the web that I enjoyed. In this round up, I have ten articles to read. December was so hectic with Cuba and Christmas that I didn’t have the time to do one for that month. I hope you enjoy January’s!

Sandy from Yes I Am Cheap has a post on Adulting.TV giving us 4 Reasons Every Adult Needs at Least One Crappy Job

Chonce from My Debt Epiphany shares with us how she and her husband Paid Off $14,354.81 in 2016.

Amanda from AmandaBella.com shows us How to Go on a Date With Your Budget.

James from Creative Scale shares with us his 2016 Review: My Inception as a Freelance Graphic Designer.

Michelle from The Shop My Closet Project tells us why it’a Time for Some Real Talk About 2017

Rachel from Young Adult Money gives us 10 Tools that Help You Budget

Kim from Work Hard Travel Well shares with us her 2016 Travel Goals and Hacks.

The Debt Free Guys have a mega post featuring 65 Blog Posts to Solve Any Money Problem Now!

Tonya from My Fab Finance gives us 3 Ways to Increase Your Compensation Without Talking to Your Boss.

Tia from Financially Fit and Fabulous tells us The 5 Biggest Myths about Investing.



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Why SEO Off-Site Analytics is Important?

Why seo off-site analytics is analyticsWhen taking a look at the Google Guidelines enlisting the 9 main criteria when it comes to what attributes have the biggest role in defining the rankings, there is one point which is lesser discussed and that’s the off-site and off page analytics. The reason for that is simple: it’s just not that clear to understand how it pairs up with marketing and search engine optimization. Let’s get to see this time, what we can find on off –site analysis.

What does off-page mean?

Basically it means all the actions related to your business site which takes place outside of your own URL, they don’t directly involve any actions on your site. What are the other sites where these off page actions take place? Let’s see some examples to this:

  • Review sites: a business ought to have their reviews handled. This is very important in terms of rankings, also locally.
  • Directories: the worthy pages enlisting important companies according to their field of expertise
  • Blogs

Off page data basically means what others talk or write about you how they rank your service, what opinions they have and where they write this down. Longer time ago, there was no easy way to look for the proper data that’s being discussed about one’s website but today, the methods are so good, that they are able to detect and measure this.

How to ensure your off-page performance will be positive?

  • Using Local or geo-targeting methods, when and where applicable: when it’s about a smaller company or walk-in based customer handling, then optimization experts can greatly help to set the whole site for it to join the Local SEO ranked.
  • Working on increasing the traffic rates: these can do very good for rankings
  • Provide help with reviews – enabling more positive reviews to flow in and handling negative reviews to lessen their negative effects.
  • Using advanced link building methods to connect a client’s business with high profile sites, making sure the company is listed in quality directories. This is the bread and butter of real good optimization experts who can handle it with relative ease.
  • Making sure the website is compatible to use both with mobile devices and desktop
  • Trying to help in building authority on a specific content
  • Using schema (data) markup for the review pages
  • Using social media management and marketing which is great for brand building then for attention calling campaigns.

These are all very important off-page factors which will together help your website have a good reputation. Having a good reputation is essential for any business when talking about both website and business quality. That’s also the reason why it’s so important to tend to off page factors. Negative reviews, especially unseen or uncared for have the capacity to cause a huge damage in terms of reputation.

Get in touch with an accomplished Charlotte SEO service today, to make sure your content is optimized and if they give you the chance to learn from along the way, then it’s all the better.



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How I Made Over $11,000 Side Hustling in 2016

2016 was a banner year for me in so many ways. I put a lot of hard work into my side hustling. The year started pretty slow, but I ended it with a bang. In September, I discussed how I made over $1000 in side hustle income in August. I’ve been making over $1000 each month ever since.  I calculated my numbers at the beginning of January. In 2016, I made over $11,000 in side hustle income. Damn, that was pretty good for someone that made a fraction of that in 2015.  Below, I want to tell you how I did it.

Found More Clients

My freelance income was huge in 2016. I started off the year with only one client. Now I have four of them. My numbers will continue to grow as long as I add more clients. More clients will bring in more money. I’m at the point in my freelance career where I can pick and choose who I want to work for.  I’ve been lucky to find the majority of my clients through networking and through other bloggers.

Sold More Items

Another way that I increased my side hustle income is by selling more items on eBay. For a while, the majority of the things that I was selling was shoes, sports items, and coffee mugs. I started selling different items such as board games and magazines.

Promoted the Blog More

I promoted TBJ more, and that helped me reach more people. Some of these people purchased shirts or provided sponsored posts.  This wouldn’t have happened if I never started my blog. I’ve been blogging for nearly four years, and it has been life changing. I went from not knowing anything about websites to now having a legitimate side hustle. If you’re on the fence about whether you should start a website or not, do it. It can be life changing for you as well. If you are looking to make the jump and start your website, you should check out Bluehost. Bluehost has been my hosting provider since I started TBJ. It usually costs $7.99 per month to start your website with them, but they are running a promo right now. You can get your hosting and a domain starting at $3.95 when you click on this link. That’s a heck of a deal. It’s a small investment that could pay off big for you. I also have a step by step guide that will help you set it up.



Provide Value

In 2016, I started making sure that I provided value in all my posts. I got more in depth when I explained things. I’m actually in the process of editing some of my older ones. I also stopped writing about things that my readers don’t care about. As a result, 2016 was the best year as far as readership goes.

Below is a breakdown of how much I made in my side hustle income last year:

Freelance Writing – $7505.99

eBay – $1498.65

Sponsored Posts – $1364.32

Affiliates – $435.04

Other (shirts, eBook, Offer up, etc.) – $241.38

The total that I made in 2016 was $11,045.38. I am happy with that amount. That’s not bad for someone who didn’t start taking blogging seriously until 2014. I look at this number, and I know that there is room for growth. The way I envision things for this year, I should at least double this amount. I just need to continue to work hard and stick to some type of schedule. That’s exactly what I plan to do.

How was your side hustle income in 2016? What side hustling plans do you have in 2017?

This post contains affiliate links. Feel free to view my disclosure here.
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