I'm a busy gal - who isn't? I lean hard on technology to organize myself so that I can run a blog in the limited time I have. You see, I only have a couple of scheduled childcare days each week, and these chubby fingers make a move on all the tasty food I'm trying to shoot, when they aren't busy closing my laptop for me with a thundering "NO!". It's good, actually, he keeps me in line.
With planning, shopping, creating a recipe, photography, photo editing, writing and promoting a blog post (not to mention time-sucking daily administrative tasks such as managing expenses, emails and invoices) running a successful, income-generating blog can easily be a full time job for a duo or even a team. But in my world, it's just me.
If I didn't have this arsenal of apps and other technology tools to facilitate my workflow, you would eventually find me muttering, crazy-eyed and ratty-haired, under a mountain of notebooks, receipts, food magazines and to-do lists.
I know I'm not alone - many bloggers have other things going on, whether it's freelance clients (uh huh, I've got those, too!), a houseful of ankle biters, or a day job - so I want to share my collection of best apps for bloggers - the time- and mental health-saving tools that I love and use constantly. Here they are, in no particular order.
1. CoSchedule - I've been using this app for a few months and am totally hooked. Once you've installed their plugin on WordPress, a box appears at the bottom of each blog post with a "Social Queue". In this space, you can create and schedule a slew of social media posts, all in one spot, in the same breath as writing the post. It prompts you to create several social posts - one for the day of publishing, one in 3 days, one in 7 days, one in a month, etc. - this keeps your content appearing in social feeds, and boosts traffic and engagement - especially from Twitter. Their blog offers great insight into why this matters.
The other side of CoSchedule is a web dashboard which features a drag-and-drop calendar (it syncs to your blog!) where you can view and manage everything for the month. You can rearrange your blog and social posts to be nicely spread out, easily plan and schedule for weeks or even months in advance, and quickly notice any publishing gaps.
This app has fast become indispensable to me as someone who relies on concentrated chunks of time to get all my work done.
2. Viralwoot - Pin scheduling web app! Amazing. And free (for the basic services I use). You download a "Pin Scheduler" button for your toolbar, and click to pin later. From there, you can pin the images from your post to lots of different boards and schedule them to go live on different days. A huge amount of my traffic comes from Pinterest, and although most of it is from other people pinning my recipes (thank you so much, your pins are so supportive!), not me pinning them myself, I still want to pin when people are actually online and not flood my followers' feeds by pinning all at once in that chunk of time I have.
3. Tweetdeck - Without this, I would not be able to function on Twitter. It is a dashboard that allows me to organize my entire Twitter life into rearrangeable side-by-side columns. I categorize the people I follow into private lists (i.e. friends, food blogs, food companies, food magazines, vancouverites, etc.) so that I can break the feed down into manageable chunks. I have a column with "@ mentions", a column with a search for "foodess" so I can see who links to foodess.com (but doesn't tag me), and columns for whatever hashtags I'm interested in - each in its own neatly organized vertical feed, visible to me all at once.
When I'm running a contest, my twitter feed gets flooded with @ mentions and I can easily miss non-contest tweets directed to me - so I add another column with mentions excluding the contest keywords, so that I don't miss anything.
So customizable, so useful.
4. Latergramme - This is a tool that allows me to edit, caption and upload my Instagram photos - but schedule them to post later. Great for me, in my work schedule, because I often do a bunch at one time and want to spread them out over a few days, or else (as with Viralwoot), I just want to post when my followers are online.
The web dashboard has awesome analytics to inform you of the best times to post, the best hashtags to use, your most popular photos, etc.
Note that it doesn't actually post for you later, it just sends you a push notification. But that works just fine for me!
5. Buffer - Another great tool for your bookmarks bar. When clicked, a box will pop up and it'll grab whatever page you're on, shorten the link, let you add a picture, and post to any or all of your social profiles, now, a specific time later, or on at scheduled times each day (you can customize your publishing schedule so that it goes at 9 am, 1 pm and 3 pm, Monday to Friday, for example).
It also provides helpful analytics - how many clicks, retweets, favourites and mentions on each of your Buffer posts. This can help you to see what kinds of posts and what publishing times work best for you.
Your Buffer account and your Coschedule account can be synched. Everything comes together!
6. Feedly - This is where I come to read, organize and share from all of my favourite blogs. Because being a blogger is hugely about community, reading and sharing other people's work is really important. But beyond that, I just love to see what my favourite bloggers are creating, and spend lots of time admiring others' photography. (I really recommend it as a way to improve your own!)
I use Feedly almost exclusively on my iPhone - it's really clean and organized, and you can just swipe from post to post with the option to click through and read whole articles. I don't know how it's possible, but with this app, I actually manage stay on top of new posts from about 75 blogs I follow by consuming small amounts whenever I have a few minutes (waiting in the car, standing in line, etc.).
And... it connects to Buffer, so I can continue sharing in an organized way. See how I keep things neat and tidy?
7. Google Drive - This one might seem like an obvious choice, but are you really using it to its full potential? First of all, I have the app on my phone and installed on my mac, rather than just using the web version. I save every important file there. When you've download the application, your Google Drive syncs to your computer and shows up as a folder - so you don't have to go to drive.google.com and manually upload.
I save my photos directly to Google Drive, in versions edited for web as well as unedited copies (in case someone requests a print-res or different size image). This way they aren't taking up hard drive space, I can access them anywhere, and I won't have a crisis on my hands if my laptop croaks.
While I'm drafting a recipe, I have my laptop or iPhone open on the counter and I edit it right in a google doc. It saves as you type, so you never have to fear losing your hard work. And again, you can access it anywhere.
For accounting, I save every invoice to a Google Drive folder, starting in a NOT PAID folder. Every time I get a cheque/wire, I change the document name to include the date deposited and move it to the PAID folder. Then when tax season rolls around I can match every deposit date to a specific invoice. Easy, super-fast, accessible and free way to manage buzz-killing accounting issues.
8. Trippeo - This is my brilliant husband's latest start-up and I realize that may make me sound biased, but I honestly don't know how I ever lived without it. Actually, I do. I had freezer bags filled with crumpled receipts stuffed in a drawer somewhere, with a bottle box of wine ready and five days blocked off on my calendar for when I actually needed to go through them at tax time.
Anyone with an income-generating blog will want to keep track of every dollar they spend creating content so that they can claim them as business expenses. As a food blogger, I incur expenses all. the. time. Groceries! Props! Photography equipment! Kitchen gear! Software subscriptions! Cookbooks and magazines!
Trippeo is a super-fast, easy (and free!) expense management app that lets you to snap a picture of a receipt the minute it's handed to you, and then throw it to the wind. You enter the vendor name (it autofills as you type, based on your location), choose a category (it takes a smart stab at it on its own), and that's it. With a few clicks on the web dashboard, you've created an expense report for yourself - all neat and organized and practically effortless. Tax season = totally nailed.
You even have the option to connect your business credit or bank card, and then it goes one step further to automatically import expenses the minute the transaction takes place.
(It has other great features to geared specifically toward business travel expense management - booking flights/hotels, syncing with events on your Google calendar, automatically creating trip expense reports for you, etc. - but I personally only need the basic tools).
Never again will I put receipt in a Ziploc, drunk email my accountant, or navigate a goddamn Excel spreadsheet.
9. Wunderlist - If this app ever disappears, my life is over. I used to use the "notes" app that is standard to iPhone, but it's just not designed for lists. Wunderlist is smartly designed and very user-friendly. A simple tap to add an item, another tap to check it off and have it disappear.
I have a dozen lists going at any given time - one for recipe ideas, one for work to do, one for home/family to do, a list for every store I shop at (which is SO MUCH MORE ORGANIZED than having one massive disorganized shopping list), etc.
With my tasks and errands broken up into manageable chunks, I'm able to quickly reference what I need to do today, or pop out on quick shopping runs rather than trying to accomplish five stores in one day (with a toddler - 'nuff said).
And it's always at my fingertips - I'm never scrambling for scraps of paper. When I think of things I need, I put them in right away. No more relying on my feeble brain!
Plus, you can invite collaborators, and email or print your lists as needed.
So there you have it, the best apps for bloggers: My collection of indispensable tools to organize, plan, manage expenses for, and schedule my blog and social network. Did you find it helpful? What apps do you find useful that aren't on the list?