There are dozens of things you need as a blogger: web host, theme, plugins, email manager, social media accounts . . . This post isn’t about all that stuff. The blogger’s toolkit I’m going to discuss here contains the physical stuff you need. From the laptop to the pen, this post will make sure you are fully kitted out for a career in blogging.
What You’ll Find in My Professional Blogger’s Toolkit
The most important component of my blogger’s toolkit is my laptop. You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your computer, so choosing the right one is massively important. It’s also the largest single purchase you’re likely to make, so getting it wrong could be expensive in more ways than one.
Before buying my laptop, I went to every store I could reasonably get to. I needed to get my hands on the machines: the tech specs alone were not enough for me. Imagine shelling out a couple thousand bucks on a machine with top specs only to find the build quality is poor. No, I had to get my grubby mitts on the goods.
Some of the tangible factors I looked out for when choosing my machine were:
- Quality and feel of the keyboard and touchpad.
- Size and quality of the screen.
- Size and weight.
- Build quality.
Of course, the tech specs are important too. Here’s what I look for:
- CPU: The 2.7GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 processor is the best I could afford.
- RAM: At least 4GB. 8GB would be nice.
- Battery life: At least 8 hours. 10 would be nice.
- Storage: At least 128GB of flash storage.
- Display: At least HD 1080. 2560 x 1600 would be nice.
- Graphics: I do a lot of photo and video editing so a good graphics chip is important.
After handling a number of machines, I opted for a 13-inch MacBook Pro with Retina Display and 256GB of storage, and, oh boy, does that thing sing! The most impressive piece of hardware I’ve ever owned.
Wireless Keyboard and Mouse
I do around 80% of my blog writing and research at my desk. The other 20% is done at the kitchen table, in bed, on my lap in front of the TV, in coffee shops or on the bus. Because I spend so much time at my desk, I need it to be optimized for maximum productivity. That means, even though the keyboard and touchpad on the MacBook Pro are first-rate, I need a full-size keyboard and mouse at my desk. I write anything from 1,000 to 5,000 words a day across my blog portfolio, so the quality of the keyboard is very important to me. If you post a short post every couple of days, you may not need a separate keyboard, but for me it’s vital.
Again, it was important for me to get my hands on the goods, so off I went to the computer store. I used to own an original IBM Model M keyboard. A beautiful keyboard with an unmistakable feel and sound. Sadly, it was stolen while I was at college. A wireless keyboard and mouse are my preferred options these days. I don’t like too much clutter on my desk and the cables just bug the hell out of me. I use a Logitech K350 keyboard and Logitech Marathon M705 mouse. Both have excellent build quality, decent battery life, and great feel. Perfect for those marathon writing sessions.
Also on my desk is a 28-inch monitor. The screen on MacBook Pro is excellent (truly excellent), but 13 inches is rather small to be staring at for hour after hour. I shot myself in the foot a little by going for the MacBook Pro. I had to buy a monitor that was just as good as the MacBook screen. Imagine going from the stunningly sharp images of the MacBook screen to a standard HD monitor. Oh, the humanity! The Samsung U28E590D 28-inch monitor is a 4KHD monitor, and while not quite as sharp as the MacBook, it’s very easy on the eyes.
Let’s face it: blogging is a very sedentary occupation. Whole days can pass when I haven’t seen the light of day. Once I’m immersed in writing a post, I get into a zone and go for hours without stopping (tantric blogging anyone?). A comfy, ergonomic chair is essential for my comfort and health. If I worked for a company in an office, they’d supply a good quality desk chair (and health insurance), so why should it be different just because I work at home? I park my ass on an Alera Elusion swivel chair. It boasts a multifunction mechanism allowing back angle adjustment relative to seat, adjustable tilt and forward tilt so I can adjust it just the way I like it. It has a cool, breathable mesh back which prevents me overheating when the pressure mounts, and a contoured seat cushion with waterfall edge to help relieve pressure on the legs.
Dry-Erase Board and Pens
Sticking with my office setup, I have a large dry-erase board on the wall off to one side of my desk. I just need to swivel in my chair to scrawl a note. I find this so useful, I’d have all the walls in my office covered in dry-erase surface if I was allowed! I write up my posting schedule for the month ahead, make a note of any updates I need to make and quickly jot down any scraps of ideas before they float away, never to be recovered. Sure, you can make a note on a post-it or even a spreadsheet, but a dry-erase board has the advantage of always being in your face making it impossible to forget those important tasks.
I’d recommend getting the biggest you can afford or fit on your office wall. You’ll soon fill it up. You’d think one dry erase board was pretty much like the next. Wrong! The best dry erase boards have porcelain surfaces making them impervious to the pen and almost impossible to damage with normal use. They also come with a hefty price tag. Choose one with a magnetic surface and get a few jazzy magnets so you can pin important documents too. The one I use is the Master of Boards dry-erase magnetic whiteboard – 44″ x 32″.
Just as important as the board is the pens you use to write on it. In my opinion, there are none better than the Staedtler Lumocolor whiteboard marker 351. Bright colors, long-lasting, firm tip, nice smell! I love ’em!
As a keen photographer, a camera is a must-have item every time I leave the house. Sure, my cell phone has a decent camera but I need something more than that. I don’t carry my incomparable Nikon D810 DSLR around with me everywhere I go. Somewhere between the iPhone and the Nikon sits my Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS100 Camera.
This beautiful camera has a great 10x (25-250mm) LEICA DC Lens, 4K Ultra HD video recording, and a 20-megapixel sensor. It also has a lens-mounted control ring bringing DSLR-like exposure control to a compact point-and-shoot camera body for when I feel like getting a little more creative.
As I said earlier, I don’t do all of my work at my desk. I occasionally like to get out to a coffee shop, bar, or park and pass a few hours leisurely writing my next post. There are a few things I always take with me when I’m working away from my desk, and of course, my laptop is one of them. After spending all that cash on the MacBook Pro, I want a quality Laptop bag to protect it. For me, it has to be a backpack. A single shoulder strap just won’t cut it. I need full-range of motion for my arms for taking photos, jumping on and off the bus, and drinking coffee. The bag I use is the Incase ICON Backpack. Not only is this bag super-comfortable, it also has enough room for my laptop, notebooks, Kindle, a bottle of water, and a packed lunch without being ridiculously large. It’s also smart enough for formal meetings with clients.
I always carry a couple of Fisher Space Pens when I’m out and about. I buy these little beauties the same way other people buy those horrible clear plastic ball-point pens. There’s always one in my pocket and usually, one or two floating around my laptop bag. Not only are they great writers (apparently they write in zero gravity, though I’ve never tried), they are also incredibly beautiful. The perfect combination of form and function. I just love the feel of them in my hand.
You ever here the ‘joke’ about how the US spent millions developing the space pen while the Russians used a pencil? What guff. Imagine the carnage a splinter of graphite would cause floating around a spaceship.
I carry two types of notebook around with me. A Moleskin Classic Notebook in my laptop bag, and a tiny Maleden All Weather Notebook in my pocket wherever I go. I love sitting in a coffee shop, turning off the laptop and doodling some blog ideas or a piece of flash fiction in my Moleskine. It makes me feel all arty! Also, I find I’m able to generate a different type of idea with pen and paper. I don’t know why I just find the process of putting pen to paper very stimulating.
The tiny notebooks are great for jotting scraps of ideas on the go and because they are all-weather (and my Fisher Space pen can write in all conditions), I can write whatever the weather.
I just hate losing ideas, don’t you? I even keep a tiny notebook and torch next to my bed (yes, I take this stuff seriously!). I get some of my best ideas in bed and if I didn’t write them down, they’d be gone by morning.
You know, it was these very tiny notebooks that gave me the idea to write this post. There I was, sitting at the bus stop waiting for the number 12 jotting an idea about SEO when I thought, “I’m a really clever guy for carrying this notebook around. Other people could benefit from carrying a little notebook like me.” The rest, as they say, is history.