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It’s been almost two years since I uploaded my first YouTube video on my channel, and I’ve come a long way since then. We can all be thankful that I don’t still upload low-lit, unplanned hair tutorials!
On the other side, I haven’t been blogging for very long and only recently switched from Squarespace to WordPress.
Regardless, both have been incredible challenges that have taught me a lot. So if you’re starting out with either Youtube or blogging (or maybe both, you over-achiever, you!), hopefully these resources will be helpful to you.
I plan to update this post as time goes on, so make sure to bookmark it and check back often! I also decided to include some things that I don’t own, but would totally buy if I could!
Bluehost* — When switching my site out of Squarespace, I knew I was going to encounter a lot of problems as an amateur. Regardless, I still wanted a good amount of control over my site. I ultimately chose Bluehost* because of three reasons: it was extremely compatible with WordPress, it was very affordable (+ you get a free domain), and a lot of people were using it. The third point is important because it not only indicates it’s good but also means there are plenty of tutorials on the web to help you navigate it. And every time I have run into problems with my site, I have hopped right on Bluehost’s* live chat and had a response within an hour. By comparison, Squarespace “released” my domain from my control without actually releasing it, and it took them three days to respond and get it back to me. So even though I haven’t been using Bluehost* for very long, I am already a fan because of their customer service and the fact that there are no secrets — everything you need is right there and in your control.
WordPress — Just like with web hosting, I did a lot of research on what website to use. I had been using Squarespace for about a year when I decided to switch. Knowing I wanted more control over my site, WordPress was the obvious answer across the board. Everyone recommended it. And similarly to Bluehost, there is no end to the amount of tutorials and support online to help you through any issues you’re having with your site. Seriously, Google and WordPress were lifesavers for me throughout the process. Why do I sound 80 years old for saying that?
Theme — The funny thing about WordPress themes is that you can get basic ones for free, or pay $60+ for premium one. I wanted something nicer than the basic options, but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money for it (amateur bloggers are on a budget!). Ultimately I ended up finding some great ones on Etsy. I loved the idea of getting a theme here because I was supporting the actual creator of the theme, they were totally unique and amazing, and the costs were closer to $15-30. I ended up purchasing from sweethellodesigns, and Ximena, the creator, was extremely helpful with all my annoying questions!
Canva — This photo-editing website is my go-to for creating any blog graphic where you see texts, overlays, etc. They have amazing fonts, pictures, and templates and make it so easy to create professional-looking graphics. And I really love how it saves every template I create, so it’s extremely easy to just swap out the pictures and change the text. They have paid features, but that doesn’t mean their free features are limited, and you can still do so much without having to pay a dime.
Picmonkey — This has been my go-to photo-editing site for as long as I can remember (think over-edited Facebook profile pictures back in the day). I use Picmonkey to edit blog photos, create text overlays in videos, and create all of my YouTube thumbnails. It’s honestly like Photoshop for people who aren’t skilled enough to use Photoshop. It’s extremely user-friendly and for only $5 a month, I have access to all of their awesome features.
VSCO — VSCO is one of the best-rated photo-editing apps out there because they have the best filters in the game. If you’ve ever wanted an awesome Instagram theme (or wondered how I got mine), this is the easiest way to get it. They have free and premium filters, all of which are to die for. While this app may not have everything you need, I can pretty much guarantee you its filters will be able to make your photos look 10x more professional.
UNUM — This is another app that is an immense help if you’re trying to create a cohesive Instagram theme. This app is super simple but very effective. It basically allows you to upload your photos and see how they will look together on an Instagram feed. You can move them around as much as you want until you find the perfect look.
Marketing & Productivity
Hootsuite — I first learned how to use Hootsuite during an internship, and ever since I have loved it to plan out and schedule all of my social media content. The site allows you to prepare Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram content ahead of time, and either posts it for you or reminds you to do it at your chosen times. This is great because not only do you no longer need to sit at your computer 24/7 (even though, let’s be honest, I do that anyway), but it allows you to engage with your followers at times that work best for them. Even the ones who aren’t in the same time zone as you.
Sumo — Do you see those little social media icons that follow you around as you scroll up and down the page? Those are because of Sumo! The icons were the primary reason I got Sumo for my site (I mean, they’re pretty handy and I even use them), but they have so many other awesome features that I haven’t even begun to try yet, all aimed to help grow traffic on your website.
Google Analytics — If you have a website, you need Google Analytics. Sorry to sound so demanding, but it’s true! It gives you much more detailed information on who is visiting your site, where they are from, what pages they visit, what types of content they like, and basically everything that doesn’t allow you to stalk them. You can even see when people are on your site and watch what pages they visit as it’s happening. Not that I do that or anything…
Google Docs — I love Google Docs, and not just because I’m too lazy to update my computer’s Microsoft applications. I use it to keep track of post and video schedules, content ideas, social media numbers, income and expenses… basically everything. I love it because you’re able to access it from anywhere you can access your email, and I feel much better knowing that it’s saved on the web if anything ever happens to my computer (which is bound to happen eventually, if not for all the chip crumbs in the keyboard then for something else).
Nikon D5300* — This is the camera I have used since I first started creating videos in 2015. I remember buying this one because it seemed easy to use and didn’t have as many daunting buttons and dials. Two years later, I still think it’s a great, basic DSLR for beginners who are daunted by the prospect of a professional camera. It has a flip-out screen and a lot of other basic features that are great for videos, and it takes amazing pictures (even better since I switched out the lens). The only drawback is that it does not have video auto-focus, but I’ve learned to work with it and it hasn’t bothered me too much!
Canon EOS 70D* — If you’ve ever wondered what camera every Youtuber uses, it’s this. The big pro of this camera is the video auto-focus, which allows you to move around while filming and never be blurry. If that aspect is important to you, then this camera is definitely the way to go. I have never used this camera so I can’t personally speak on its behalf, but the fact that is so widely used in the Youtube community tells you a lot!
Tamron Lens* — After using the standard lens that came with my camera for about a year, I started begging for a new one for Christmas. This Tamron one* is the lens I ended up getting, and it significantly increased the picture quality of both video and photos. This lens allowed for a much wider angle and further zoom, so it gives me much more control. This is a great all-around lens that prevents you from having to switch between a bunch of different ones for different reasons, and I absolutely love it!
Sony A5100* — As I’ve lamented countless times on my Youtube channel, I desperately want a vlogging camera. A large DSLR camera is too bulky to carry around from day-to-day, but the video and sound quality of an iPhone is severely lacking in comparison. So I’ve been researching for a long time for the perfect one to buy! I am between this Sony one* and the Canon one below. I like the look of the Sony one* better, and it has a much better picture, autofocus, and price. However, the sound quality is noticeably worse in this one compared to the Canon.
Canon Powershot G7x Mark ii* — This Canon is the go-to for vloggers on Youtube, probably because it is an all-around great, compact camera. I personally find the video quality better in the Sony A5100, but the sound quality is significantly better on the Canon*. The price of the Canon is also slightly higher, but I have also seen quite a few complaints about it breaking easily. Ultimately, there is no clear winner between these two cameras and I still haven’t made a decision (which is probably good because I can’t afford one)!
Camera Microphone* — The most common microphone for DSLR cameras is the Rode mic*, and I’m sure that one is great. But the Takstar mic* I use is a great alternative if you’re on a budget. This microphone is simple to use and the battery life lasts for ages. And while the sound is not over-the-top stellar, I’ve always been impressed with the quality for the price I paid. I’ve never had an issue with it shutting off on me mid-filming, just make sure you have it plugged into your camera and the “on” switch flipped, otherwise you’ll have no sound. Not that I’ve made that mistake before…
USB Microphone* — USB microphones are great if you film a lot of voiceovers or plan to make podcasts (like I wish I was!). This is something I splurged on a bit because I found lower-cost USB mics were often pretty badly rated. Regardless of what you pay, you definitely need something that has better quality than your computer microphone. Sound quality is often forgotten when making videos, but it is such an important component that can make or break it (does anyone remember that show?! Oh man, I miss it).
Tripod* — When it comes to tripods, this one is a pretty simple one. But let’s be real, no one wants a complicated tripod that just can’t make up its mind about whether or not it wants to be in a relationship with us. Alright, not that kind of complicated, but you know what I mean. There are probably much “cooler” tripods out there, but this one is easy to use and hasn’t steered me wrong. The only thing I wish is that it was a little more compact, but for the price and ease of use, I can’t really complain!
Camera Remote* — If you’re a blogger who walks a lonely road… you need a camera remote. This little tool is extremely handy for those of us who do not have a professional photographer who follows us around to take extremely artsy outfit photos every day. Sure, you can use a camera timer, but this is so much easier!
Let me know in the comments if you have any great recommendations that I should try for blogging or videos!