This post is the by-product of a discussion I had a few nights ago when printing out some receipts for fonts that I had bought, you see I like to make sure I keep a record of what I spend on my blog as well as what I earn - for future tax purposes. Papasaurus enquired if I really needed those fonts, the answer was yes, of course I needed them, they are many shades of strokable pretty and if they help me make my blog or images on my blog look nicer then that's important, to me, personally.
And hence this post, because I personally believe that re-investing in your blog is a good thing. How much one invests is a very personal thing, some bloggers who earn no money from blogging, others make a decent profit. Here's my thinking - make £100 - re-invest £10. Simple. Now I don't mean that as soon as you make £100 you should rush round with £10 wondering what to buy, just earmark in a 'blog fund', be that a separate bank account, PayPal or a big floral piggy bank.
Now by re-invest how? Here's my personal suggestions:
A decent theme for your blog
Let's not even think about it's design, the way it looks, think about what your theme does. If your blogging needs can be sated with a standard free theme then good show, but if you find yourself thinking 'I'd really like one of those fancy sliders' or 'those split sidebars look a bit nifty' or 'I wish my homepage could be laid out to show latest post from each category' then consider a premium theme, and by that I mean paying for one. A lot of premium themes offer kick ass inbuilt SEO and layout options without the faff of having to install half a dozen plugins. I've bought and tried many themes over the past couple of years and by far the easiest and nicest themes I've found have been been: Genesis themes from StudioPress - a country mile ahead of others in terms of the support and potential to customize and create something special, The Theme Foundry for style and Elmastudio for slick looking reasonably priced themes.
Blog design people. bloggggg desssssign
Whether you have an idea of how you'd like your blog to look or are clueless and just want someone to make it look pretty for you a blog designer can help. There are thousands of blogs in the UK alone and an eye-catching design can help your blog stand out. It tells companies and people who may be interested in working with you that you take pride in how your space on the internet looks - and a blogger who is investing in their blog is far less likely to be 'trying out blogging to see how it goes' and more likely to be serious about sticking around. Blog designers range from bloggers who do blog design as a little sideline to people who's job is designing blogs. I asked around and have added a good list of people offering blog design services at the bottom of this post (oh you are more than welcome, what? a hobnob? oh go on then).
DIY blog design
Don't have the budget to pay someone to work their magic ? Turn to sites like Etsy. Type in 'social media icons' and you'll find dozens and dozens of sets for around the £3 mark. Know that you want an image of a vintage kitten in your header? Then type in 'vintage kitten clipart' and boom, there you go, buy the clipart for less than a fiver, add some text and you my dear have a new look. Just to give you an idea of why I love Etsy SO much, here are some illustrations you could buy and use - and they all cost under £5 each. Click on an image and the Etsy page will open up in a new tab / window for you to see:
[gallery type="square" ids="25088,25089,25085,25086,25090,25091,25092,25093,25094"]
The only downside of buying clipart and using it like this? There's nothing stopping someone else doing exactly the same, it'll never be 'just yours' - but with the addition of a nice font it's a flipping good compromise to getting your whole blog design done. Tip: You can use a colour picker on any image editing program, from free Windows Paint to fancy PhotoShop to select colours from your header image to incorporate into your blog - so your headings and links and even background colour could all tie in and match nicely.
Photo editing software
Images are becoming more and more important than ever before in blogging and I think this year is going to see a steep rise in the quality of blog photography. To give your photos the slickest possible finish consider editing software. There's such a difference price wise in photo editing software and sites, here's what I have used in the past / use now:
Past: PickMonkey Royale - cheap, decent photo editing. I wrote a post about this over on Love All Blogs' Better Photos Project last week along with some examples of the same photo, edited different ways, you can read it here if you fancy.
Now: Adobe Photoshop. I took the plunge last March and got Adobe Photoshop and now I couldn't manage without it. I also use a couple of RadLab plugins for it (one shown above), which in total cost me around £120, but again, I wouldn't be without them now as they offer real time visual editing. If you already have Photoshop you can download a free 14 day trial of RadLab here.
I know, I know, typophiles are like uber font loving maniacs but never underestimate the power of a good font. There's free WordPress WP Googlefonts plugin - which can change your body and heading fonts which is a good place to start - you can pick one of hundreds of Google Web Fonts to use on your blog - check out all the Google webfonts here. Another option for blog fonts is Typekit, which is what I use for fonts on here and a few other blogs as it happens - you pick a plan and pay once a year for it, for most personal blogs it's the $24.99 a year plan that suits which is about £15.
Be it a day out that you intend to write about, ingredients for a recipe post, a fancy plate to add a touch of wowsers styling to a recipe photo or simply some flowers to take a series of photos of, you can spend a little a get some great use-able content from it.
And as promised - people who offer blog design services... All At SeaMummy Daddy and Me makes ThreeLittle Green ShedxomisseTea Party BeautyCallia WebViolet PosyFree Spirit DesignsGeek FairyDesign a Beautiful BlogLaura HussonTiger Lilly Quinn does custom blog headers
Do you re-invest in your blog? If so I'd love to hear how.