6 of the Best WordPress Themes to Help You Build a Website You'll Love

6 of the best WordPress themes to help you build a site you'll love!

Continuing on with our WordPress 101 series...

Today I’m sharing six of my favorite Wordpress themes for small business owners and bloggers. Not only are these themes BEAUTIFUL, but they are easy to work with, flexible, and will help you build a site that will convert your website visitors into customers. As a business owner, that’s the most important reason to have a website or blog -- right?!

Last year, I started working exclusively with the Divi theme for my Wordpress clients. Divi is a premium Wordpress theme that I love to work with for a few reasons:

  1. Divi makes it easy for non-coders to build or maintain/update a gorgeous website. Divi Has a drag-and-drop interface, which appeals to lots of people who want to DIY their website, but don’t feel confident enough to get into custom coding and may be intimidated by Wordpress. If you're more used to a drag-and-drop platform like Squarespace or Wix, then Divi's interface will be super familiar to you!

  2. Hundreds of options for customization. Unlike some more basic Wordpress themes, with a premium theme such as Divi, you have a huge amount of flexibility in your design. The vast majority of these settings can be adjusted easily without needing to know how to code...which is highly unusual for most Wordpress themes I’ve worked with! This is one of the reasons it is a “premium” theme, and in my view 100% worth the investment!

  3. Includes code modules. If you are more of an advanced user or even a developer, you will appreciate the code module! If you want to quickly drop in a code snippet to a template page or one-off page, you can use the code module to do this super easily, without needing to modify your theme or child theme files directly. I use these a lot to drop in opt-in forms, or to add chat boxes on live webinar watch pages. Any time I need to drop in a code snippet, these come in super handy!

  4. Support is awesome (really, really awesome). Because this is a popular premium theme, the support from the company that built Divi (Elegant Themes) is really good. There is also huge community of developers and designers working on Divi, so if you ever have questions or need help -- it is easy to find the answers quickly.

I could go on and on about why I love Divi, and why it is now my go-to Wordpress theme...but let's get to it!

Divi for WordPress - My favorite Premium WordPress theme!

Why should I use a paid premium theme, when there are FREE WordPress themes available?

If you are new to Wordpress or just need a refresher, you may be wondering why you need to use a theme at all, let alone a paid premium theme. For all the articles you see out there showing off the "best" free Wordpress themes, is it really worth it to buy a theme??

Truly -- it is worth considering investing a bit of money and upgrading from a free Wordpress theme if you are serious about creating a professional, attractive, and easy-to-use website. If you are just a hobbyist or writing a blog for fun, this may be less important for you. BUT, if you are serious about making money with your blog or finding clients using your website or presenting a professional image, then use a premium paid theme! You will appreciate the flexibility as your business grows and you think of new things you want to do with your site.

Side note: I recently wrote a post on how to decide if Wordpress is the right platform for you. I definitely recommend checking that out if you are still on the fence about whether you should use Wordpress at all! There is a lot to think about when making this important decision for your business or blog.

As you may already know, a theme builds on top of Wordpress’s functionality to make it MUCH easier to design an attractive and user-friendly website. Wordpress’s free, out-of-the-box themes that get installed automatically when you set up a new Wordpress installation are fine, but they are super generic, and you don’t get a lot of flexibility to customize them easily.

If I’m truly being honest, I would not recommend using one of the free themes that come built-in with Wordpress.

Installing a theme gives you a head start on creating a beautiful, functional website. It means you won’t have to custom code every little thing you want to do with your website, and you’ll get a lot of design elements included out of the box that make navigating and viewing your site a more pleasant experience for your website visitors.

There are literally thousands of themes out there (both paid and free) for you to choose from. It can be overwhelming to decide which Wordpress theme to choose!

Personally, I highly recommend investing in a premium theme such as Divi, so that you will have a support community available, and so that you will get the benefit of a theme that is constantly being updated and supported by a community of developers.

There is nothing worse than spending a bunch of time installing and customizing a theme, only to have it not work in 3 months because the developer is not updating their theme and testing it with each new release of WordPress! Don’t let that happen to you … it is frustrating and a waste of your valuable time.

Now -- if you’re already investing in a premium theme, then WHY am I also suggesting using a child theme on top of that??

Why do I need a child theme AND a parent theme?

It will make your life infinitely easier! 

Designing and building a website or blog that is both attractive AND easy-to-use goes a lot faster if you also select and install a child theme. Especially if you are NOT a coder, you will quickly realize with Wordpress how important this is to get a head start on design.

(Truthfully, even if you do know your way around HTML and CSS, it saves a ton of time to have a head start by using a theme you love! I often use child themes on top of Divi, even though I know I’ll further customize them with my own code. This approach saves me a ton of time and I get a huge head start on a gorgeous design!)

Like I said earlier, the Divi theme is awesome and all, but unless you are a developer or feel comfortable coding HTML, CSS, PHP, and JavaScript … it may be difficult to make all the customizations to your site that you want.

If you don’t want to spend big bucks on hiring a developer or designer, consider using a child theme on top of Divi that you love the look, feel, and style of … in order to save yourself time and money. A child theme will give you the basic building blocks, then you have freedom to adjust little things like color, font, and photos quickly and easily.

Even if you end up spending $300 - $400 as an initial investment on your themes, you will be left with a website that is GORGEOUS, that you LOVE, and that is build on a rock-solid platform. $300 - $400 for a beautiful, easy-to-use website is far less than you will pay to hire a web designer and developer to build something for you from scratch. You could easily pay someone upwards of $3,000 - $5,000 (or more) to build something like this for you.

Purchasing a premium theme is a worthy investment that will grow with your business.

If you plan to use Divi for your Wordpress premium theme, below are six of my favorite Divi child themes for you to check out. Most of these themes are in the $50 - $90 range, so definitely FAR more affordable than hiring a developer or wasting tons of time trying to fool around with the code yourself!

Remember -- if you want to use one of these child themes I recommend below, you must first purchase and install Divi from Elegant Themes. Once you have Divi installed, you can use any one of these child themes, or the hundreds of other Divi child themes out there. 

Flourish child theme for Divi WordPress

I love the Flourish Divi child theme for small business owners, bloggers, and creative entrepreneurs. It has large photo elements throughout the theme that span the entire width of the browser window. This is a really popular design element right now, and I love that this theme makes use of it for its page templates.

Flourish also includes an opt-in form right under the banner image … great if you are trying to build your email list! I

Flourish is one of the more “basic” child themes on my list of favorites, but it is also one of the most affordable -- with licenses starting at only $50.

Theme #2 - Freshness (by Creative Child Themes)

Freshness child theme for Divi WordPress

If you’re looking for a one-page design for your website with multiple sections to scroll through, then Freshness is a great Divi child theme to consider. It is a super-simple theme with one-page styling. It's perfect for freelancers or small businesses who want a streamlined, sleek website and have limited, static information on their site (or for those just looking for a landing page).

The company that built the Freshness theme (Creative Child Themes) also offers theme setup services, which is awesome if you don't want to spend the time setting up your new website yourself, or if you just need a little bit of help. Something to consider for all you non-techies out there!

Freshness is also a great value, at just $47 for a license.

Theme #3 - Divi Ultimate

Divi Ultimate child theme for Divi WordPress

What I love about Divi Ultimate is that it includes 20 unique concepts within the child theme for you to choose from, depending on what type of blog or business you are building your site for. So whether you have a brick and mortar shop, a restaurant, are a freelancer, run a design agency or consulting business, sell an app, or just need a basic landing page … they have really well-designed options that are specific to tons of different niches.

You get all 20 concepts when you purchase their one child theme!

Divi Ultimate also includes some really beautiful blog page designs, so if blogging is part of your business model then definitely check them out.

This is one of the more pricey Divi child themes on my favorites list, clocking in at $89 for a one-year license, or $245 for a lifetime license … so definitely a bit more of an investment. I would consider choosing this theme if you own multiple businesses, are a designer looking for a good starter platform to use, or if you just want a lot of options to choose from and have a bit more money to invest in your site.

Theme #4 - Favo (by Mark Hendriksen)

Favo child theme for Divi WordPress

Favo is designed for small businesses, and is a great theme to consider if you want your website to include some fun animations, scrolling effects, and punchy hover effects “out of the box”. It’s super eye-catching!

Favo also has a great looking navigation bar, that has support for a secondary navigation above your main, primary navigation bar. This is great if you want to include your social media links or contact info right at the top of your page.

If you have a bigger, multi-page site and need drop-down navigations, Favo is a great option because their drop-down styling is organized and attractive.

This is a very affordable Divi child theme as well, at just $75 for an unlimited license.

Theme #5 - Focus (by Mark Hendriksen)

Focus child theme for Divi WordPress

If opt-ins and email list building is a big part of your business, then Focus is a great theme to consider because they have a beautiful opt-in page template. This is great for advertising ebooks, webinars/workshops, digital downloads, etc.

Another unique element of this theme is that it includes background video! If you do a lot of video and want to showcase it on your website, this theme makes it easy to do that in a really beautiful way.

This is another fairly affordable child theme, at just $75.

Theme #6 - Addison (by A Girl and Her Mac)

Addison child theme for Divi WordPress

I love supporting my fellow female developers, which is just one of the reasons I love this theme! There is a ton available with this child theme, and is definitely one of the more advanced options on my list of favorites & recommendations.

This theme would be great for freelancers, consultants, and small business owners alike. It has a gallery template included, so if you’re a product business or photographer, this could be a great theme to show off your work.

A lot of my clients use the Bloom plugin to create opt-ins on their websites, and if you plan to do that...this theme includes some built-in styling for Bloom popups and opt-ins (Bloom is a separate paid plugin, that needs to be purchased separately).

The Addison Divi Child Theme is $80 for an unlimited license.

I hope this list gives you plenty of inspiration for your new Wordpress website! Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or want to share first-hand experience with one of these themes.

Thanks for reading!

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3 Helpful Email Sequences To Send Your Subscribers Now (That Aren't Sales Emails)

Three helpful email sequences to send to your subscribers now (that aren't sales emails). Add value to your subscribers lives by sharing content that is helpful and educational BEFORE you ask them to buy something from you. This helps build trust with your audience and establishes you as an expert in your niche!

I’ve written before about how to use email marketing as part of a successful sales strategy for your business. But what other types of email sequences can you send to your list, other than a series of sales emails? I’ve got three great ideas (with examples!) for you today.

Before we get into it -- remember that your email list is one of your business’s most valuable assets. I have seen first-hand how much higher sales numbers can be for an active, engaged group of email subscribers. In fact, for a recent sales campaign I ran for one of my businesses, nearly 70% of our sales came from our email list ALONE -- isn't that amazing?!

If you’re not already using email marketing for your small business or blog, it is easier than you think to get started. Check out this blog post if you need help choosing an email marketing platform to start with!

To be successful with selling products or services through email marketing, you have to do more than just sell, sell, sell to your email subscribers. If your audience feels like the only thing you are ever doing is pitching to them, they will tune you out. People want to know what’s in it for them, and what you can do to improve their lives … not just what you have to sell them.

That is why it is important to send your email list things OTHER than just sales emails and pitches. If you’re struggling to come up with what to send your list that actually adds value, these three types of email sequences can be great options.

I am a BIG fan of putting together a few automated email sequences that you can write once, and use again and again to interact with your email subscribers. Not only does this save YOU time, but it provides a really positive experience for your email subscribers. It means they are hearing valuable from you on a regular basis, on autopilot.

Side note -- if you need help actually putting these emails into your email marketing platform, I put together a couple short videos to help you get started on both ConvertKit and Mailchimp’s platforms. Hope that helps!

Alright -- let’s get to it. Here are three ideas for what you can send to your list (other than sales emails):

Idea #1 - Opt-In Sequences

You may already have a customized email that your subscribers receive when they first opt-in to your list. Maybe this includes a free download or coupon that you use to incentivize email signups. Hopefully it includes a little introductory information about your business, and perhaps a little background about who you are, and what your new subscriber can hope to hear from you in the future.

After someone receives that initial email, sending a series of automated follow-up emails (a.k.a. an opt-in sequence) can help keep that new subscriber engaged and excited about your business. 

Here are some ideas of what you can send your subscribers as an opt-in sequence:

  • A short email course that educates your audience about some topic that is super-relevant to your business (this makes an awesome lead-magnet or opt-in incentive for your list!)
  • A series of emails that tells your story, and how you got started with your business
  • A series of educational emails that get your subscribers up-to-speed on something they need to know relevant to your niche

Whatever you decide to send your audience, make sure your opt-in sequence does these four things:

  1. Introduces your business to your new subscriber
  2. Introduces YOU to your new subscriber
  3. Provides lots of free value to the new subscriber, so they have some reason to open your emails and continue to engage
  4. Asks for feedback, input, or an introduction from your new subscriber. (This can be as simple as saying, “Please hit reply and introduce yourself!”)
   ConvertKit  makes it super easy to set up automated sequences in their platform. Here is a short opt-in sequence I sent to new subscribers, educating them on how to come up with digital product ideas that would help their audience.

ConvertKit makes it super easy to set up automated sequences in their platform. Here is a short opt-in sequence I sent to new subscribers, educating them on how to come up with digital product ideas that would help their audience.

Idea #2 - Nurture Sequence

After someone has been on your email list for a while, it's a great idea to send them through an automated “nurture” sequence. A lot of email marketing platforms (including my favorite -- ConvertKit), let you set up timers to automatically deliver a nurture sequence after a certain period of time.

I recommend sending a nurture sequence several times per year. One thing I am trying for 2018 is using a different theme for each quarter, and having a different nurture sequence around each theme. You can do whatever makes sense for your business -- keep it interesting and relevant to your niche and what your audience likes!

A nurture sequence is meant to keep your audience engaged with your business, deliver value to them so they remain excited about what you’re sharing, and keep them used to opening your emails and hearing from you (always a good thing).

What I love about building nurture sequences, is that it is so easy to reuse your existing content to create them! If you have a really comprehensive blog post you’ve written, a webinar or workshop you’ve hosted, or some other awesome and super-educational content … that can be converted into a nurture sequence. Simply split the content up into 3-5 logical chunks, edit to make sure they make sense in an email format, then upload into your email marketing platform of choice.

This doesn't have to be complicated -- use what you already have on hand, and go from there.

Remember -- make sure you are delivering lots of FREE value in your nurture sequence. And remember, you do NOT have to pitch a paid offer in the nurture sequence! The point of a nurture sequence is to continue to “warm” your email subscribers and build trust, rapport, and engagement with them. 

Idea #3 - Customer follow-up sequence

This is one of my favorite types of email sequences, and often one of the most under-used options. A little background before we continue…

The sales funnel process I teach has five stages:

The 5 stages of a successful funnel -- attract, engage/educate, build interest + desire, take action/convert, and refer/retain. More on YourFirstShop.co!
  1. Attract

  2. Engage & educate

  3. Build interest & desire

  4. Take action & convert

  5. Retain & refer

The follow-up sequence fits perfectly into stage #5 of this sales funnel process -- retain and refer.

Now, when someone buys from you, the first thing you probably do is CELEBRATE! After all, you made a sale … someone actually trusted you enough and believed in your product enough to hand over their hard-earned cash. That is awesome!

But the sales process doesn’t stop there.

A happy customer is so, so valuable to your business. If your customers love your product and have a good experience with it, they are all the more likely to re-buy from you in the future, and also much more likely to refer you to their friends and family.

That is GOLD to you as a business owner, and something you should take full advantage of!

Set up customer follow-up sequences helps you accomplish a few things:

  1. Make sure your customer is happy with their purchase (and if not -- give you a chance to make it right or fix whatever they aren’t happy about)
  2. Ask for feedback on your product (so you can continue to improve!)
  3. If they are happy with the product, make it easy for them to refer your business/product/you to their friends and family
  4. Let them know about other related products they might be interested in purchasing from you

Don’t just let a new customer sit there after they make a purchase. Set up a customer follow-up sequence to engage with each and every customer after they buy from you!

Finally, before you go ... I put together a guide that lays out exactly what to send in each of these email sequences (plus an example sales sequence). If you'd like to download that guide, enter your email address below and I'll send it to you right away!

Are you using automated email sequences in your business? Do you plan to implement any of these new sequences to keep your audience engaged and excited about your business? Let me know in the comments -- and thanks for reading!

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5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing Self-Hosted Wordpress For Your New Website or Blog

Think you might want to self-host your website on Wordpress? Ask yourself these 5 important questions before making your decision!

If you’re reading this article, chances are you are in the market for a new website for your blog or business. Maybe you’ve never had a website before, and you’re starting completely from scratch. Or, maybe you have a website or a blog now, but you aren’t happy with it...and want to try something new. Whatever the case, this is one of the most important decisions you will make for your blog or business -- so it’s important to get it right from the start!

Choosing the wrong platform for your website can mean wasted money, wasted time, and lost customers. No one wants that!

Still, as a small business owner myself, I understand that your marketing budget is not huge. You don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on building your new website, and you certainly can’t afford to bring a web developer on staff to maintain your website once its launched.

That is why so many small business owners end up with their website hosted on one of two platforms -- either Wordpress or Squarespace. (There are other web platforms out there and all have their own pros and cons...However, Squarespace and self-hosted Wordpress are the two platforms I am most familiar with, and I have built many websites for my clients on these platforms...so that's what we're covering today.)

Many website owners dismiss one or the other of these platforms out of the gate based on anecdotal things they’ve heard online, or from others who have used the platforms. Since this is such an important decision you’ll make for your business, I think it’s important for you to really weigh your options, and choose the platform that is right for YOU and your blog or business. Not what you've heard worked (or didn't work) for someone else.

Let’s talk about five things you should consider BEFORE selecting self-hosted Wordpress for building your business website or blog.

(PS -- we are talking about self-hosted Wordpress sites in this article, not sites built on Wordpress.com)

I created a short quiz to help you think through whether self-hosted Wordpress is right for your blog or business. Sign up below if you'd like me to send you the quiz!

Consideration #1 - What is your budget?

Plenty of folks who are considering building their new website on Wordpress do so because it is “the cheapest” option. Yes -- it is 100% free to download the Wordpress framework, and you can get hosting plans for as little as $10 - $15 per year. That is pretty cheap for a business website!

However, hosting is not the only cost for you to consider. When it comes down to it, you will spend just as much -- if not more -- properly setting up and hosting a Wordpress site as you would signing up for an all-in-one platform such as Squarespace.

Because Wordpress is self-hosted, you are going to have to purchase most of these things as add-ons, whereas with something like Squarespace … it is an all-in-one platform, and you pay a flat monthly or annual fee for this all to be taken care of for you.

Here are the costs you will likely need to budget for when setting up a self-hosted Wordpress website:

  • Registering your domain (“www.yoursite.com”) -- Typically this is an annual fee, and often will be free for the first year when you purchase certain hosting plans
  • Hosting your website (you pay for storage on a server somewhere...this is where all your website files will live) -- You’ll purchase this through a company like Bluehost, GoDaddy, Siteground, etc. You’ll pay a monthly or yearly fee, starting as low as $3 or less per month depending on your needs. Shop around!
  • Security monitoring -- You have a lot of options here. I set up most of my clients on Sucuri, and often also use SiteLock for their websites. Sucuri’s starter plans will set you back around $10 per month
  • Firewall -- You can choose a plan with Sucuri or SiteLock that includes a web application firewall, which I recommend and include standard in all my client contracts. If you roll security monitoring AND firewall AND malware removal all into one security plan with SiteLock or Sucuri, you’ll pay around $20 per month.
  • Wordpress theme -- Most likely, you will want to purchase a theme for your Wordpress site so that you can style it how you’d like. Most of the better themes out there are paid, and often built on top of popular Wordpress theme frameworks, such as my favorite -- Divi. A framework like Divi will cost you about $250 for lifetime use (a one-time fee), and you can optionally purchase a child theme on top of that if you want out-of-the-box styling that is done for you.

As you can see, the costs quickly add up! When all is said and done, choosing Wordpress because you want to save money is NOT a good reason to go with that platform. Self-hosted Wordpress sites are at least as expensive to set up and maintain as all-in-one platforms such as Squarespace (if not more).

Make sure you are aware of these potential costs up-front, and please don’t cut corners on things like security or robust hosting with a reputable hosting company :-)

Consideration #2 - How will you handle security?

I mentioned this above, but if you decide to go with self-hosted Wordpress for your business website or blog, then you will want to have a plan for how you will secure your site, and what you will do should your site ever get hacked.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of people out there who do NOT properly secure their self-hosted Wordpress site (or take backups--yikes!), and have to spend a lot of money to fix their sites in the case of a security breach. Keep in mind, website hackers don’t just target big websites. Even if you have a teeny tiny site or a low-traffic blog, you could still be a target.

If the thought of managing this yourself, or paying someone to manage it for you, is intimidating -- then you may want to consider using an all-in-one platform such as Squarespace instead of Wordpress.

If you choose to self-host your site on Wordpress, have a plan for how you will handle security. Hiring a developer to help you set this up correctly at the start will save you lots of potential headaches down the road. It is worth the investment up-front to get this right, and give yourself peace of mind that your brand new website or blog is secure and safe.

Consideration #3 - How tech savvy are you?

As you may have noticed by now, choosing to self-host through Wordpress means you are going to be learning a little bit about web hosting! If you are fairly tech savvy, or willing to be patient and learn, then this may be no biggie for you.

However, if you are intimidated by the thought of this -- then you may want to consider choosing an all-in-one website platform, or hiring a developer to set up your self-hosted Wordpress site for you.

If you are moderately tech savvy, you can 100% handle setting up a self-hosted Wordpress site! Google and YouTube are going to be your best friends :-)

#4 - How much flexibility do you really need?

The number one benefit of choosing self-hosted Wordpress and building your website on the Wordpress platform is flexibility. If you have a complex website with complicated requirements, then Wordpress may be the perfect platform for your needs.

But, if you have a fairly straightforward website, with mostly static data and a blog you update a few times per month … then your needs are much more simple. Even if you're doing basic e-commerce, an all-in-one platform like Squarespace could work for you!

This consideration is much more subjective, but still important to think through carefully. Many business owners and bloggers will cite the need for flexibility as the reason they went with Wordpress, only to discover that it is a very complex technology, that is difficult to learn and manage. For many, it ends up being much more than you need.

If you have complex requirements for your site -- then this flexibility Wordpress offers is definitely a big plus!

You will be able to do much more with Wordpress than you’ll be able to do with an all-in-one platform. However, most people do not have requirements that are as complicated as they think. Even all-in-one platforms such as Squarespace can be customized and have plugins available...so be sure you carefully consider this before making your choice.

Don’t use a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

Consideration #5 - What are you going to be using your website for?

This definitely goes hand-in-hand with what we just talked about -- but it is so, so important that I am mentioning it again. 

Often when I work with clients who have hired me to build their websites, they have not thought carefully about what they’ll use their website for...

  • Are you trying to attract new business?
  • Are you trying to better serve your existing customers?
  • Are you hoping to break into a new market?
  • Is building your email list important?
  • Will you sell something on your site?
  • Do you need to be able to blog or share regular content updates (news, projects, events…)?

Make sure you think through exactly what you want to be able to do with your website. At the end of the day, your use case should drive which platform you choose to build your site on.

The other considerations I talked about -- budget, security, tech-savviness, flexibility -- those are all levers you can pull to fit your needs. But at the end of the day -- your use case is your use case. What you want and need to do with your site should not change based on your budget -- your budget should change to accommodate your use case!

Carefully consider what you want to do with your site before choosing which platform you’ll build it on.

In general, simpler websites or straightforward blogs do better on all-in-one sites like Squarespace. That being said, there are new features added to the Squarespace platform every day that make it possible to run robust ecommerce sites, high-traffic membership sites, and other complex use cases on their platform.

I hope this article helped you think outside the box when it comes to choosing the right website platform for your new website. When it comes to building a new website or blog, it is important to choose a platform that will serve the needs of your business long-term.

Want to grab the self-hosted Wordpress quiz to help you decide if you should build your website or blog on the Wordpress platform? Sign up below and I'll email it to you!

Let me know in the comments -- do you use Wordpress to host your site? Why did you choose that platform? What do you love (or not love!) about the platform? I’d love to hear!

Thanks for reading -- stay tuned for more in the Wordpress 101 series! Be sure to subscribe below or follow me on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook.

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