You’ve heard the saying….
Invest money to make money….
Easier said than done when you’re making nothing or not as much as you want to right?
And it’s so hard to stay away from buying that one other course that looks so attractive…
Or thinking that your business is doomed because you don’t have the budget for ads or that fancy tool..
Here’s the thing…
No, you don’t need to spend money on ads to grow your list. Sure, it’s faster but there are plenty of other ways.
No, you don’t need Leadpages or Deadline funnel or fancy tools if you’re not ready for them.
There are alternatives that work the same way and get the same results as the fancy tools.
So what should you invest in when you start your blog and online business?
I always try to keep costs to a minimum. This is especially important when you start out because you won’t be making money as yet.
I usually have a set of thought processes that I stick by before investing in a tool or info product:
- It has to be aligned with my focus for the next quarter to six months
- I choose one-time fee tools vs recurring fees especially if the features and functions are competitive
- I should be able to get a return on in investment in the first 6 months from investing in it
- The values and way the person runs his or her business is aligned with mine. You may admire certain entrepreneurs but not necessarily agree with their values or practices. If you buy into the products and teachings of someone whose values you don’t relate to, you risk being miserable and misaligned with your ‘why’. This is why I’m careful about who I invest in.
- If the price is sure to increase in a couple of months
That said, I do believe everyone should invest in basic tools as well as ebooks and courses.
The type of course and books you invest in, especially at the very beginning, shape your attitudes and perspectives about online business and blogging.
The type of tools you invest in influence your business growth too.
In this post I share some of my favorite tools and books as well as a few of my own info products.
But none of these courses or tools are expensive.
I don’t believe you need to invest in a premium course or tool to get a good blogging education or see business growth.
Several of these have played a huge role in shaping the way I write and how I run my blog and business. I hope you’ll find them helpful.
#1 Thrive Landing Pages ($67 for 1 license)
Landing pages help grow your brand in various ways.
The difference between a landing page and an opt-in form?
Landing pages convert so much better than an opt-in form because they have no distractions and each page has a singular focus.
I bought Thrive Landing Pages when my business was at a stage where I needed to add several sales pages as well as webinar pages.
Thrive has over 150 templates with an easy to use drag and drop editor.
Here’s a snapshot of the pages I’ve created using Thrive.
Trip Wire/One Time offer Page
Thank You Page
There are plenty of features to play around with.
#2 Bluchic Landing Pages ($67 for 1 license)
I’ve never come across a Thrive alternative that I was compelled to share till now.
The Bluchic landing page templates have all the right elements.
It’s a one-time fee.
It’s well designed and has an easy-to-use drag and drop builder.
But what I love the most is that it has the most essential templates that grow with your business just like Thrive does.
If you’re planning on getting your first product out soon or in the coming months, it has a sales page and trip wire offer template.
Planning to do your first webinar? It has a webinar registration page template as well as thank you pages.
Need to grow your list? They have opt-in templates.
These are perfect for business owners who want to create well designed and high-converting landing pages, but can’t afford pricey programs like Leadpages.
A tool doesn’t define your success. It’s how you use a tool that matters.A tool doesn’t define your success. It’s how you use a tool that mattersClick To Tweet
The team also has detailed set-up instructions. I’ve interacted with Kathie one of the founders a couple of times and she has always been prompt with her replies. The logos and colors can be swapped out and customized but the templates are a tad bit feminine though and might not be for everyone.
#3 Convertplus ($49 for 1 license)
The infobar and exit-intent pop-up I use are from Convertplus (previously Convertplug).
I was sold on this new plugin not only because of how affordable it was but when it started converting waaaayyy better than my previous exit intent pop-up.
Two exit intent pop-ups with the same copy and opt-in incentive can have drastically different conversion rates. Huge discovery for me which I explain more at in this post.
I’m a Convertkit fan girl. I started using Convertkit even before I earned a single dollar from my site.
I had a vision of what how I wanted to treat my list and the role it played in my larger content marketing strategy.
Convertkit was easy to use and helped bring that vision to life.
I talk more about how exacly email can help grow your business and brand in this post.
#5 Smart Mockups ($49)
I’m often asked how I make my cover mock-ups for content upgrades and lead magnets.
Smart Mockups is the tool I use to do this.
All you need is your image and with a click, you can have it rendered in a wide variety of mockups from T-Shirts, books to banners.
This works when you need to create mock-ups for your sales pages too.
#6 Social Warfare ($29/yr)
Imagine your readers and subscribers being able to share out the right social images customized for each social media platform.
With all the different sizes, it can be confusing.
Social Warfare makes this easy for you.
It allows you to pre-set the image for the individual social media platforms so that a wrong image is never shared out. Click-to-tweets are also easy to set-up with a simple click with the plugin.
And we could all use more social proof with social share counts. The beauty is being able to control when the share counts are shown. Embarrassed with a posts’s share count number, you don’t have to display it.
Content and Writing
#7 The One Hour Content Plan ($2.99 on Amazon)
My Amazon Best Selling book has sold almost 3000 copies since it launched just 2 months back and I’m amazed by the response and results I’ve received.
This book is a result of my exploration of what type of content works.
A smart blogger is one that doesn’t attempt to put out content for the sake of traffic but content that sells products and services and grows his/her business.From several of my exchanges with you guys, the threads I picked up came down to these 3:
- Not knowing what to write
- Not knowing how to use content to promote your product or service
- Not being able to create a tight-knit connection with your blog’s purpose, your audience, and content
I started the year with a solid 6+ months of content ideas fleshed out. And it’s been such a time-saving placeholder.
This book puts together the very process that helps me with content planning. It’s a totally different ball game when you sit down to write and actually know what you’re going to write about.
While you can download all those headline templates and fill-in-the-blank guides, you ultimately have to create your own system of generating content ideas.
This is exactly what The One Hour Content Plan helps you with.
#8 CREATE Planner
A good, robust editorial calendar keeps you consistent.
It helps you see at a glance how your content is progressing to meet the needs for the weeks ahead.
It helps you plan ahead and gives you flexibility. It will show you if your content is building up to promote your launches and events successfully.
You don’t just see the signposts but the entire roadmap.
It ensures that you know exactly why you’re creating a piece of content…that every piece of content either fits in with your goals for the month or quarter…
It keeps the numbers that matter front center.
I tested at least eight different editorial planners hoping to find the right one. Something that would merge goal planning and content planning…
something that would serve as an editorial planner but also remind me of key blog tasks on a quarterly basis…something that would give me space to write rather than stinge on pages…
But nothing met what I wanted.
As a blogger I knew the stats I had to track but I was disappointed that the planners I found were focused on surface level social stats such as followers and shares.
Whatever happened to subject line opens and clicks…subscriber counts and opt-in incentive conversion rates…?
Aren’t these numbers more important than tracking followers?
Aren’t these the numbers that matter?
This was why and how the CREATE Planner came about. It’s 246 pages with a guide section and plenty of whitespace for your thoughts and scribbles.
#9 Blog to Win Business: How to Enchant Readers and Woo Customers
#10 How to Write Seductive Web Copy: An Easy Guide to Picking Up More Customers
Writing for the web is very different from writing a term paper or approval paper at work. My writing was very stiff when I started blogging.
It took lots of practice before being able to write in this way and I still have a lot to learn and refine.
But I’m thankful to have been exposed to the work of some really good writers when I was in the early stages of mulling over the idea of starting a blog.
I learned how to write for the web by studying their posts and following their techniques.
One of them is Henneke Duistermaat from Enchanting Marketing. Henneke has written for some of the best blogs like Smart Blogger, Copy Blogger and Crazy Egg. Her writing is powerful and pulls you along till the very end.
The only 2 writing books I have invested in are hers and they are a steal at less than $5 each on Amazon.
Click below to check out the books on Amazon
- Blog to Win Business: How to Enchant Readers and Woo Customers
- How to Write Seductive Web Copy: An Easy Guide to Picking Up More Customers
#11 The Blog Startup
I’m often asked: What did I focus on when I started?
There are a series of steps you can take to make your blog a sticky audience attractor and position you as the authority.
But is there only a fixed way of doing something…a fixed set of steps that many gurus will like you to believe?
Honestly there isn’t.
Every solopreneur who has built a business around their blog will have their own combination of steps that have worked for them.
They may have intentionally or unintentionally chosen those steps.
For instance, I realize now, almost 2 years after launching my blog that a lot of what I focused on and talk about in posts are branding concepts.
Focusing on what my brand was and what types of problems I wanted to solve and be known for played a huge role in my growth.
That together with being intentional with email and content.
The Blog Startup lays out what I focused on and what worked for me.
A peak of what’s inside:
- The 2P (+1) strategy to help you hit your first 1K blogging
- Choose from 2 launch plans and know exactly what you need to have prepared before promoting your blog
- How to know from Day 1 if the niche you’ve picked will make you money
- Promotion and traffic techniques to drive eyeballs when your blog is brand new
- Pinterest 101 strategies to prep your blog for the huge traffic potential from Pinterest
- 3 Opt-in Freebie Templates so that you have a polished designer looking Opt-in freebie in as easy as 1-2-3
- 30+ page workbook with worksheets and checklists to to take action and implement what you learn immediately
50+ Affiliate Programs in 7 niches to get your idea tank filled with monetization options
#12 How To Blog For Profit: Without Selling Your Soul ($13.59 on Amazon)
This is another book that I picked up very early in my blogging journey.
This book is filled with practical advice and it gives you a view of the possibilities behind blogging and what you can achieve with it.
If you are just starting out or feel like you’ve lost your way with blogging, this book will give you a fresh dose of inspiration.
It’s written by Ruth Soukup who runs Elite Blog Academy (EBA). If you can’t afford the price tag of EBA yet, this book is a good starting point to wet your toes.
This course is by Michelle who blogs at Making Sense of Cents and has got affiliate marketing down to a science. She has transformed her blog in 4 years from $672 to over $50,000 per month in just affiliate income.
The students of the course have been seeing some amazing results. My own affiliate income more than doubled just by implementing a couple of things in the course after finishing it this month.
You can read my interview with Michelle to find out more about her and her course.
- The basics of affiliate marketing and an introduction to what it is
- Why all bloggers should be earning affiliate income
- The exact steps she took to earn over $400,000 from a single blog post
- How to pick the correct affiliate products to promote
- How to increase your conversion rate
- How to build trust and not lose followers
- How to correctly disclose affiliate links
- The many different strategies to use to promote products that you are an affiliate for
#14 Traffic Transformation Guide
This ebook by Lena from What Mommy Does was also one of my very first blogging investments.
It goes through 21 strategies you can implement to get traffic to your blog.
What I love is that she tells you what tasks to stop doing so that you don’t waste your time on stuff that doesn’t bring any returns.
I usually try to invest only in 1 course per subject matter.
But Pinterest is one area where I’m constantly looking for new resources to learn from.
I haven’t seen an area of blogging that has more conflicting information than Pinterest.
Everyone has their own take on it.
Delete vs keep pins…
Group boards work or don’t…
Board covers vs no covers…
I bet you’ve heard something different from someone.
It can be frustrating because you don’t quite know who to follow but it’s also great because you can pick up something from each of them.
#15 Pinning Perfect ($210)
My Pinterest education started with Pinning Perfect. The course is run by Melissa Culbertson from Blog Clarity and Anna Luther from My Life and Kids.
The course gives you a solid foundation to get your blog Pinterest ready. But what is great about this course is that these ladies work closely with the Pinterest team so they are able to dispel myths about what’s true and what isn’t.
The course also goes in-depth into using data pin descriptions and why they are important for your pins.
What’s in the course:
- 8 Units
- Video Walk through
- Limited time Bonuses:
#16 Pinteresting Strategies ($32)
This is controversial to say the least and I don’t have hard data to prove this yet.
On days where I’ve pinned manually without using a scheduler, my traffic and in turn my subscribers for the day are a lot higher.
I came across this ebook which also advocates manual pinning. I haven’t implemented all of the teachings in the ebook but just the group board strategy which I implemented resulted in more daily clicks.
#17 Pinterest to Profits ($197)
What I love about this course is the extensive group boards spreadsheet which is absolute gold. She also has a specific lesson on the type of pin graphics that perform better in the feed.
This is a good start- to- end course as it helps even someone absolutely new to Pinterest get their account set-up and ready for Pinterest Traffic. Her video tutorials of Tailwind and Boardbooster are very detailed and easy to follow through.
Mckinzie is constantly updating the course and has recently added a promoted pin module as well as using affiliate marketing with Pinterest.
Invest in yourself to turn your blog into a business
You can get any information for free these days.
That said, it’s still wise to invest in eBooks and courses because it’s more than just information you are paying for.
You’re paying for the experience of the person and their unique perspective.An info product is a cumulation of the creator's experience and unique perspectiveClick To Tweet
Judge a course and eBook for what it’s worth.
Not everything with a big price tag is necessarily better.
Do you enjoy the free content that the creator puts out?
Do you get value from it? Do you resonate with them?
If your answer is a ‘yes’, then their offer is something you should consider, especially if their course or eBook will move the needle for you with where you’re at with your blog & business and if it’s within your budget.
What eBooks and courses do you think I should check out? What have you taken and enjoyed?