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My Blogging Story Part 5 | Programs & Tools I use for my blog

by | Feb 15, 2018 | My Blogging Story Series

Programs & Tools I use for my blog

RECAP OF MY STORY TO THIS POINT

August 2017 was my one year anniversary of having my blog and I started to reflect how far I had come within those quick 12 months. Once I started to map what I wanted to remind myself of how and where I started, I began to write it all out on paper.

Initially, my goal was to document this for myself, a journal type of entry. A place that I could personally visit and take note of the outcome from an idea that came to me during one of my many sleepless nights. Turning those negative “poor me” sleepless nights and into something more, something great.

After I started to write out what I had learnt, I took it a step further and realised maybe this may help a person out there who may also have a similar idea. Taking something you are passionate about and turn it into more.

Regardless if your idea is a blog, a YouTube channel, starting a side business, know that YOU CAN do it. It may seem hard even a little deflating at other times but eventually, you’ll get more of the good things happen after you put in work and you will forget the bad. This is the exact stage I am exactly at in my blogging career and mindset.

 

PREVIOUS TOPIC

A quick recap of my previous post: I mapped out the equipment I use for my blog, some money saving tips on what I purchased as well as some items I could’ve skipped on or purchased way later, of course, this is all in hindsight, Equipment I use to blog.

As I mentioned before I originally used my iPhone to take my photos, but as time went on and around the same time I started to upgrade some of my technology I began experimenting with different tools and programs.

Speaking for myself, the trait of remaining teachable I consider important, it feeds my soul. Everyone has something they know and can teach me. Whether it’s a new skill, fact or give me advice, each conversation we have I walk away with something new.

Hopefully, there are plenty of you who may feel comfortable enough to contribute to this post. I can say with certainty that at least one person may read what you have to share and walk away with that ‘hmm I didn’t know that’, myself included.

The best way I learn

Since I always learn best with items in reverse, I make notes including “if Section A has null or a 0 then that means to you need to click on options and then do x,y,z.” Trust me it’s been a lifesaver many many times because let’s be honest sometimes for some unexpected reason technology can go a little off the mark. Someone added an extra letter or number somewhere and that has now stuffed up your report and your boss needs it now.

When it comes to learning stuff I always have to start at the hardest and work my way back, I never go the easy route. Everyone learns differently and something that might make complete sense to Person A may be completely different to Person B.

For myself I am a visual person, you show me how to do something and I can repeat it, very likely adding a bunch of questions in between, but then I can repeat the steps. When it comes to reading a manual to learn how to do something, the information doesn’t absorb into my brain the same way unless I am doing a straight follow along with the manual and whats on the computer screen. I always have to take my own notes, you bet that includes the ‘click ok’ then click ‘finalise’ etc etc.

Trust me, do not feel silly if this is what works for you, I have had past colleagues disregard their notes for mine all the time. Or I become the designated note taker since anyone can follow along with my instructions, it’s a gift and a burden at the same time. You know, sometimes you just want to be the slacker in a training course but it’s not part of my being.

 

Programs & Tools I use for my blog

Since the main focal point of my blog is pictures I needed to be able to edit my pictures and it wasn’t something I was familiar with. To be completely honest any pictures that I’ve ever taken I have never edited them at all. It’s not because they didn’t need editing, it was only because I didn’t know how and thought, whichever way the photo was taken is the way it should stay.

Before I go any further, a lot of what I may be saying will overlap with my previous post in this series, since we are talking photos. Just FYI in case, you feel like you are reading the same post again.

When the time came to learn photo editing I started at the very very beginning. Mind you I still don’t know much about how to edit the correct pixel or the correct saturation and exposure levels (if those aren’t the right combinations then it shows how little I know!) but I feel like I can get a picture to a decent form.

Part of my beginning blog posts I cringe so much at the picture quality. As much as I want to re-edit them and upload a better version, I don’t because I like to see where I started from and can measure my progress. So I find that by keeping those posts the way they are, help inspire me to keep improving.

What I use to edit my photos

Windows Fotor

When I first started to edit my photos to bring up the brightness, add my watermark etc, I used the Fotor editor that came with my Windows subscription/laptop. From memory, I think I may have paid like $15 for some type of upgrade. I quickly outgrew that, or so I thought…I was expecting to be able to create something truly magical just by using my iPhone pictures and the real basic, auto function on Fotor.

Adobe Photoshop

Now it’s time to talk about one of the greatest beasts I’ve ever battled, Photoshop. Photoshop and I have a love/hate relationship.  If I could go back in time, I would be saying, “Soph, what are you doing?! Photoshop is something you really need to learn and be familiar with, you have never used Photoshop before and using Adobe for work related PDF does not count!” After a few YouTube videos, I thought I was ready to conquer the Photoshop beast…..little did I know what I was about to walk into a lion’s den with a plastic spork!

There are SO many things you can do in Photoshop, customisable features, so many effects and transformations of anything and everything. After a year of using it, I only know how to do some of the most basic things. This is definitely a skill I really want to expand my knowledge on because it’d be a very useful skill to have, it’s just going to be a very slow process. And that is totally ok! As I say very often, remaining teachable is something I pride myself on.

PicMonkey

PicMonkey was a free online photo editor that also offers options to a two paid versions that unlock additional features depending on which service you chose.

When I initially wrote this draft post, PicMonkey was free but has recently changed to be a paid service. It used to offer so many things but I haven’t found a replacement that is free if you know of one please let me know in the comments section below. There are some things I really find easy to use in PicMonkey and have decided to pay for the Premium subscription, which is about $105AUD a year.

https://www.picmonkey.com/

Automated Services to schedule my post

Buffer to schedule my posts

When I was doing research on what I should do for as a startup blogger I came across people discussing a social media manager that you can pre-schedule posts to your social media platforms on your company/blog’s behalf.

There is an auto publication option from WordPress but I don’t like the layout of it. So I subscribed to Buffer and prefer the layout on how it displays on my social media pages using this method.

Is this a necessity as a starting blogger? No, it’s more of a convenience. After trying it over time I wouldn’t recommend this for a beginner blogger, I would recommend going for the free plan instead. Unless you are a high posting blogger and can schedule lots of your content in advance, then I can see the value in it.

Knowing what I know now I can easily justify adding an extra half hour or so to share my post on social media and save the annual costs of Buffer.

I do want to note their customer service is amazing, I had a few problems and they took care of it and were very apologetic so if customer service is on your ‘must have’ list then Buffer gets a big gold tick of approval from me.

Cancelling my Buffer account

After using it for a year I really loved Buffer, particularly for the way it posts my Instagram, it gives that neat spaced look if you like to split up your description to your hashtags. None of all that text in one giant paragraph that is not very pretty to look at. The downside of Buffer is it’s a little pricey so it really depends on your budget and time. BUT!! They do offer a free version that I definitely recommend going with before you make the commitment to paying for the full service.

A few weeks ago Facebook made some changes, making it difficult to use the auto-post part, so I decided to cancel my service. Now I use the free version and it’s been working out well for me. The free account limits some of its function but it’s a good place to start for free at the very least.

If you have a high posting blog Buffer offers a great variety of different options so you can pre-schedule stuff but at this moment it’s not for me. If my blog evolves to that later in the future then I’d definitely go back to Buffer.

Tailwind – Pinterest

Tailwind is something I literally signed up for last month and am still finding my way around it. Before I share how it has helped my blog, I will explain what it actually is or at least the best of my ability.

Pinterest isn’t what we define as our traditional social media site, it’s a search engine, similar to Google but with images. Many times I’ve looked up and found some delicious recipes, visited that gourmet chef’s (people who make cooking look easy) website and followed them for future posts. Where Pinterest plays it’s role is by helping to drive traffic towards that awesome chef’s website for me to revisit and repin their other masterpieces.

When making Pinterest pins it’s important to make them pop and want people to notice it and see, that not only are you awesome at making that family passed down chicken soup recipe but you have some other great recipes they may be interested in.

How has Tailwind helped my blog?

It has helped with traffic towards my blog for others who are interested in similar type of content, discovering some incredible bloggers and blog support groups.

Whenever we pin something on our own boards we help that pin spread around to others who may also be interested in that post.

The way Tailwind works are based on being part of Tribes and pining one another’s pins to help one another spread your content around. You are able to schedule pins to be pinned on your board at all different times of day, even when you are sleeping and for days in advanced.

The only thing I don’t like about Tailwind is their app, maybe it has a child lock on it and that’s why I can’t work out how it works, but I really struggle so I have to do it through my laptop. 

Another similar type of place you may have heard of is BoardBooster, but I haven’t tried it or know much about comparing the two services.  

If you’d like to know more you can check out my Tailwind affiliate link. There is a free trial you can sign up for and it doesn’t require a credit card! If you are looking to up your Pinterest game definitely worth checking it out.

They also have recently started to expand their services to include Instagram, I haven’t looked into it and am not familiar with it.

Video Editing Software

Windows Movie Maker

When I started to make videos to share on YouTube I used the free Windows Movie Maker that was preloaded on my laptop. This worked well but I found there were some features that I really wanted but it didn’t have. The biggest example was the zoom in feature if you have seen some of my videos I like to zoom right into certain parts of my video so you can see the product up close and personal. With Windows Movie Maker I was able to do more of a pan in option but it wasn’t enough and didn’t always work the way I envisioned.

I was 75% happy with it, found it very easy to use and a great starter video editor for some basic editing. A fantastic user-friendly program that taught me how to cut out parts that I didn’t want to use, change the speed to slow motion or a faster speed, add music/voiceover etc.

However, I wanted to zoom in as close as possible for some product shots, I wanted more out of it.

 

iPhone/iPad using iMovie

Following up after a good research session, I realised that some of the features that I wanted but weren’t available on Windows Movie Maker were actually available on my iPhone/iPad iMovie. The entire time I’ve had an Apple product I had never once opened iMovie!

Since I don’t have an Apple computer, I believe iMovie is a default program that comes already pre-installed, so it’s possible if you have a Mac you may be able to do some awesome editing just from using what you have. For me, I was trying to do some of the editings on my phone and it was too small to be able to really pinpoint what I could change and the possibilities, so I mainly used it for zooming in and out.

I know of many YouTubers that use iMovie exclusively for their video editing and most of us probably wouldn’t even notice it, so if you have it try that on for size before you spend big bucks on a video editing program.

Try to keep in mind, go with what you have available first and use it as often as you can to get that practice, you’ll only get better and master a skill that may come useful later.

 

Err, that wasn’t one of my best ideas

I began to use my iPhone/iPad to edit my videos but soon after I was running into walls of not being able to customise other parts of my videos the way I wanted.

So the “genius” part of me thought I’d edit my videos using both methods combined, Windows Movie Maker and iMovie. If you ever wonder, “what the heck did I learn from that Soph girl’, make it this – don’t combine programs like that. It will end in tears and they will most likely be yours, trust me I have been there many times. Everything just fell apart on me.

I’d use the iMovie on my iPhone first edit the parts of the video, doing the zoom in parts and what not. After that, I’d have to export it to my computer with iTunes (which is my sworn arch nemesis) then use Windows Movie Maker to add the subtitles and the finishing touches. My next step would be uploading it to YouTube. I found that this was a very extensive and time-consuming process I was losing quality and above all, so much time.

 

My rant about finding a good video editor

As you can imagine I was pretty frustrated and began looking for a video editor, something that was all in one. My must have list wasn’t too much to ask for, I wanted something that was easy to use, not crazy expensive, and something that can be my Windows Movie Maker and iMovie all in one.

Some of the options were very expensive and when watching tutorials it looked very complex so those were out the window. Photoshop took me to school on that lesson, don’t skip the line and go all the way to the front of the line, build up and learn works best for me!

Feeling pretty defeated I got to the point that I thought my only solution was to buy a Mac computer if I wanted to do YouTube videos. Which was out of the question, that wasn’t something I really wanted to do. it’s silly thinking I needed to buy a new computer just to go and spend even more money on buying an expensive software. Pretty sad that I thought that was my only option, I’m going to blame it on over-researching everything!

Eventually, I came across Movavi and checked out some of the tutorials, it looked fairly easy to use, most importantly it was affordable AND available for Windows and Mac.

So I purchased the Suite and Photo Editor bundle and I started to test it out. I’ll admit I regretted purchasing it because I was so stuck in my ways from the other two editors I was using before and just wanted to give up.

After I had a big whinge to my husband with my frustration, he is always my voice of reason. He told me, just take some time and set aside a day to devote towards learning how to use the program. Whenever I have overcomplicated an outcome in my mind he is always there to listen to me and then point out the obvious solution, I’m pretty lucky like that.

In my mind, I felt as if I was wasting time learning how to use a new program that I could be blogging instead. I felt so intimated by my lack of editing knowledge and I started to second guess doing videos for my blog.

 

Movavi

Eventually, after many tears (yes, all from me) I decided to take my hubby’s suggestion and give Movavi a proper try. I began to edit an old video testing out the different options and working out which buttons do what etc. After a few tries and starting over I decided I could give it a try with a new video I wanted to work on. A few blunders, many “undo last action” and an entire day I was able to produce a 5 minutes video only using Movavi.

Finally, I felt accomplished something huge! After that, I started to get a little faster and more confident.

Movavi’s software costs about $80AUD as a one off fee, it gets updated and you have the option to upgrade to the next level which adds even more features. Late last year I updated to from Version 16 to Version 17. It does cost about the same to upgrade between the two but by no means do you have to upgrade or even do it annually, if that is how they release the newer versions.

This is available for both Windows and Apple computers, so it’s a great affordable option to upgrade from the default editor that comes with your computer without breaking the bank.

For anyone who wants to step up their video editing skills but not ready to spend that huge editing software cost then I recommend Movavi.

 

https://www.movavi.com/

 

Movavi Photo Editor

As mentioned above I purchased the Movavi photo editor but I haven’t used it as yet so I can’t review it. The idea of purchasing this was because I wanted to cancel my Adobe membership and replace it with this, but I’ve been downloading stock images that need either Illustrator or Photoshop, so I keep Photoshop until I get the time to go and research more about what I can do with my stock photo and the different types I have.

Plus when I bought the Movavi Video Editor to purchase the photo editor was only like $30 or $40 more (I can’t recall exactly).

Providers to help Build your email list

MailChimp

Now this one is something I’m still getting the hang of and need to work out how to make the best use of it.

The reason I bring this up is, MailChimp is something that is part of my default signup/newsletter part of my blog. So basically what this means is whenever someone signs up for notifications of a new blog post or if I send a newsletter out to anyone subscribed, it goes through MailChimp. I sign into the website, create a newsletter template and send out that campaign.

There is a lot of options that can be done, but I need to invest some time to learn how it works. I don’t know if there is another program that does the same thing as MailChimp but it’s seems to be a very popular one on many website subscriptions.

Adding a section on your site for readers to subscribe to your blog is a good idea. That way you can send any special announcements, a monthly/weekly newsletter etc you have a mailing list at the ready.

https://mailchimp.com/

 

MailerLite

This is a brand new email subscription I have literally signed up for like a week ago, so I can’t comment on it yet. I’ve had someone who is way more experienced than I am in the blogging world, recommended MailerLite in place of MailChimp. I will let you guys know how it goes after using it for some time.

You can sign up for a free account with you have less than 1,000 subscribers and seems to be fairly affordable to add as you grow your subscription service. Because I know I will, you’re going to be great!

There is also another good one that comes highly recommended and that’s ConvertKit but it does cost and I’m not at the stage that I can justify paying just yet. One day I will be ready to have that option but I may love MailerLite and won’t have to worry about changing elsewhere and just grow that way.

https://www.mailerlite.com/

Just Start!

My number one advice to someone who is thinking of starting a blog or anything similar is: just go for it and use what you have. You don’t need to spend a bunch of money to gather all this equipment or get the best of x product before you start.

You have been bitten by the creativity bug, don’t let the chance pass you by. If you are waiting for something, in the meantime start writing, begin preparing everything you feel like you need. Have backups of everything. Think you may want to wait to write that blog post until you have saved up for a camera to take decent pictures, start typing it out your blog post on a word document so when you’re ready to go you are that one step closer.

Want to do videos? Start practising multiple times a day recording yourself so you can feel comfortable. Start by trying to edit a photo, a video – just start. Don’t be scared and give in to those negative thoughts that creep up saying you can’t, you’ll fail therefore you must not try. Tell that voice to shut up, you don’t have time for him/her you’re too busy creating.

I want to hear from you!

Do you have any suggestions or any type of advice to offer other bloggers about programs to check out? I’m really interested in finding out what others use and how they use it.

I’ll be updating a version of this post as time goes on, I have a few new programs that I am planning to try and will share my experiences with you.

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