The Tools You Need to Succeed as a Digital Entrepreneur
I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years now. I started off as a hobby blogger on Blogger (I only just made the transfer to WordPress at the beginning of 2017), and along with creating DIY tutorials, I’ve DIYed my way through my online presence and digital business. I’ve binged business and personal development books, bought online courses, worked with life coaches and business coaches, gone to conferences, created my first online course, redesigned my website, hosted influencer events, worked with social media clients, and event hosted my own podcast for a time. All while being mom to four kiddos and going through divorce. And I’m sure I’ve missed a few things in there.
Throughout that time I’ve amassed a wealth of knowledge (often learned the circuitous way), and I want to help YOU skip some of the roundabouting and get straight to my most valued resources that have helped me grow in leaps and bounds. Below are my top resources to help you in your own journey as a digital entrepreneur.
Before digging into my recommended resources, an important disclosure:
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I will make a commission if you choose to purchase any of these products or services via these links. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I have experience with all of the companies and products I’m recommending below, and urge you to only purchase them if you feel they will genuinely help you achieve your goals.
Digital Entrepreneur Resources
Website Design & Management
Like I mentioned above, I originally began blogging on Blogger. I learned enough CSS to tweak it so it looked a little less like a Blogger blog, but as I began writing for other websites and looking under the hood on WordPress, I fell in love with it. Especially with the numerous plugins and the increased ability to optimize SEO. If you’re not already on WordPress and are thinking of transferring your blog, I highly recommend working with a developer who has experience in doing so. I had nearly 400 blog posts to move, and although I probably could have figured out how to do it myself, I didn’t want to risk losing my content––or my traffic!
Learn More About WordPress
When I moved my blog content over to WordPress, it took me awhile to finally work on really polishing up the design (solopreneur working on a budget aka also my own web designer here). I angsted over figuring out how to install a new theme on a live site. I even tried the uber popular Divi, but ultimately hated it. I puttered around looking for a simple yet appealing theme, and finally stumbled across Bluchic. As with any internet trail, it’s a little hard to remember exactly how I found them, but I think it was from scoping out the theme behind another blog I really loved the look of.
Bluchic’s own website is not only gorgeous, but they also offer a ton of resources for digital entrepreneurs in addition to their WordPress theme shop. (I also purchased their Canva branding templates for reworking my logo for Maker Mama and my other website, Dog Friendly San Antonio).
I use their Maggie WordPress theme for this site, and they had great resources to guide you through installing and setting it all up yourself.
Learn More About Bluchic
Google is my second highest source for traffic to my website (Pinterest is my #1 source by a landslide), and SEO is an important component to achieving high organic traffic. With that in mind, there are lots of free ways to research keyword terms for your site, but SEMrush is my favorite tool by far. Not only can I easily search for keywords and determine the plausibility for ranking, but I can find detailed reporting on what my site (or client sites) are already ranking for, analyze competitors’ keyword rankings, and host of other features not easily found the free way. You get what you pay for, right? I’m able to consistently optimize older blog posts for both myself and clients to expand organic reach, all using SEMrush. Another bonus? SEMrush has an entire Academy of courses included in your membership to help you learn the ins and outs of SEO and content marketing (I’m slowly but surely making my way through them).
Learn More About SEMrush
Yoast SEO Premium Plugin
Along with SEMrush, I also use the Yoast SEO Premium plugin here on Maker Mama to make the most of my SEO efforts. There is a free version of the plugin, which is a great starting point. Yoast analyzes your content to determine whether you’re using your keyword enough in your content, and gives you suggestions for improving it. It also allows you to designate your meta description for Google (also Facebook and Twitter with the premium version), and gives you feedback on the readability of your post (I’m a big run-on sentence writer). With the premium version, you can enter up to 5 keywords (and/or synonyms) you’d like your post or page to rank for, and designate a different featured photo for social, among other features.
Learn More About Yoast SEO Premium Plugin
CMP – Coming Soon & Maintenance Plugin by NiteoThemes
If you need to do maintenance, or are preparing a new website, I highly recommend using this free WordPress plugin. The CMP plugin allows you to usually “shut off” your website and replace it with a customizable coming soon or maintenance landing page. I used the coming soon feature when I was working on launching my other website, Dog Friendly San Antonio, and I was able to collect email addresses and direct visitors to my social channels instead of losing their interest. I used a slightly different tactic when I was updated the design of this site (check out my recommendation below for that one).
Learn More About CMP Plugin
If you’re technically savvy, then setting up a staging site to make changes to your website design could be a good option for you. I’m not going to get into the how-to’s of doing so, but I will point you to WP Stagecoach, which offers an affordable way to create a staging site. The gist of this process is to create an offline duplicate of your site, make changes there, and then push them to your live site. One of the downsides, though, is that you can’t create any new content on your live site, or else it will be overwritten when you take your staging site live. I ended up creating a staging site just to play around with what I wanted my site to look like using my new Bluchic theme, and then edited the live page after I was well acclimated with all the changes I needed to make. My way was a very roundabout way, which I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, but it’s an option. If you have the resources, I’m all about delegating work that’s not in your everyday skillset.
Learn More About Stagecoach
If you’re hosting your own website––which I highly recommend that you do––then you’ll need a hosting company to provide the storage (or server) for your website to be viewable online. I’m not going to getting into all of the how-tos and whys on this area, but I currently use Siteground for my own web hosting, and they offer some great introductory rates (starting at $3.95/month) to help you get your site off the ground.
Learn More About Siteground
Content Creation & Curation
When it comes to content creation, I don’t use many notable resources when it comes to my writing or coming up with new project ideas. The main tool I probably use when it comes to writing is Google Drive. I love being able to have all of my files and documents accessible from anywhere, and I use Google Docs in place of Microsoft Word when I’m writing. Here are a few of my resource recommendations to help you in supporting content creation:
Although I’ve used Adobe products in the past for creating graphics, etc., I’ve found that Canva serves just about all of my needs when it comes to creating visual content. Whether it’s social media graphics, ads, logos, you name it, Canva is a great low-cost service to help you in creating visual content. You can use the free version, but if you are creating regular graphic content, I highly recommend a paid account. I also have a video demonstrating how to use Canva to create and easily resize graphics.
Learn More About Canva
I launched my first online course, Phone Photography Primary, recently and hosted both the sales page and the course itself all on Teachable. I’ve taken courses through the Teachable platform before, and I found it really easy to set my own up on it. Two of my personal online gurus, Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income, and Melyssa Griffin both use and recommend it, and I do, too!
Learn More About Teachable
If you’ve been reading blogs for a while like I have, you probably remember good ‘ole Google Reader, which is no longer. I still love to read blogs, and Feedly helps me to follow the feeds of my favorite blogs and sites all in one place. I keep categories for blogging, business, finance, parenting, and other topics relevant to finding content for clients. In addition to sites like Pinterest, Feedly is a great source for finding curated content to share on my social channels–and for staying in the know in general. I’m signed up for a Feedly Pro account, which gives me better search capabilities for finding the content I”m looking for.
Learn More About Feedly
Working with influencer agencies is the first way I began working with sponsors, and it’s still a great way to do so. I’ve personally done some of my favorite campaigns through Collectively, working with brands like Athleta and HP. And the Collectively team is always super friendly and wonderful to work with.
Learn More About Collectively
My Favorite Stock Photography Sources
Whether you’re creating digital content for yourself or for a brand you’re managing, not-stocky stock photography can be a necessity––and a godsend. I personally use stock photography for much of my Facebook Live video covers, as well as for some blog graphics. I do use it for Instagram images for my other brand, Dog Friendly San Antonio, and for other brands and clients that I manage. I prefer to use free stock photo sites, and all of the ones I recommend below are cost-free (be sure to read any copyright info before using stock photography). Check out my video guide for a visual peek at these resources.
This is my go-to stock photography site. I love both the interface of the site itself, and the quality of imagery available. And I can create public and private collections to easily search for and save my favorite photos (I do this for all of my clients). It’s also a great way to collaborate with clients on the types of images they prefer for their brand.
Learn More About Unsplash
If Unsplash isn’t turning up the type of imagery I’m looking for, then Pexels is my next go-to for finding stock photography. It functions much like Unsplash does, although I don’t usually go to this one first. It also allows me to create photo collections, which I love. Sometimes I find similar photos on Pexels, but oftentimes I find additional photos here, too.
Learn More About Pexels
My Favorite Photography Apps
Instead of listing out all of my favorite photo-taking and editing apps, I’m going to point you to my Phone Photography App Guide in my freebie library. I list out all of my favorite apps––and update it regularly––in a downloadable pdf for easy access. I also share regular phone photography tips over on my Facebook page, where I have a library of over 30 videos sharing my favorite apps, photo tips, as well as social media tips.