There are a gazillion options out there for online business tools. It’s enough to make any sane person’s head spin.
When I’m surfing through Facebook groups, I always see people ask:
What’s the best tool to do X, Y, and Z?
I see loads of helpful answers. But, honestly…it’s difficult to provide a specific example when there’s no specifics about what you need for your business (cuz everyone’s business is different).
So, when you’re looking for the best tools to use, keep these tips in mind:
- Figure out what works for you and your needs. You don’t need to have the same tools as everyone else. You need to have the perfect tool that works for you and your business.
- Make use of the free trial period. Many of the online software programs allow for 7-30 day trials. Definitely take advantage of those to test drive the program to see if it the program is the right fit.
- Speaking of seeing whether it works or not, don’t be afraid to give a program the boot if it isn’t working for you. There are far too many options out there to stick with something that’s not working for you. Make sure to periodically evaluate both the price to see if it still fits within your budget and whether or not you still need it. Recently, I cancelled my subscription of Death to the Stockphoto because I wasn’t using it as much as I had hoped. So, I saved $15 per month of expenses! #winning
- Limit what you use. You don’t need every tool in the toolshed to start your business. If you’re just beginning, start with the basics tools (website + content) and then slowly add on as you grow and your needs change.
- Customer service! I don’t know about you, but sometimes this can be a make or break for me. I love tools that provide excellent customer service and are able to answer my questions in a timely manner. You won’t need customer service for all tools, but for the ones that you pay for and have a lot of moving parts — you’ll definitely need that.
When I’m choosing whether to go with a specific tool, I totally take my time and gather intel. Yup, I use a good ‘ol fashioned chart to compare my needs and wants with the different tools out there. Check out the image below. I wanted to switch from Aweber to either ConvertKit or Active Campaign (which I decided to go with!).
It’s super duper important to outline what you want in a tool, so I listed my wants under the column labeled Item. Then I used two columns to compare Convert Kit and Active Campaign against what I wanted.
34 Online Business Tools to Rock Your Business at Home + on the RoadCheck out these 34 business tools to rock your business at home + while on the road! Click To Tweet
When I started my business, I was super duper clear on the type of business I wanted to build. I wanted it to be:
- A micro-business: A small business that I run with the help of a part-time virtual assistant.
- A location-independent business: A business that I can operate from my laptop from anywhere in the world.
Keeping those two points in mind, these are the fabulous tools that allow me to make an income doing what I love AND from anywhere in the world (and right now, I’m roaming the Northwest in our van!).
I’ve broken these tools down for ya into different sections. Enjoy!
Your website is a billboard that lets the world know who you are, what you’re about, and what you have to offer. It’s a marketing tool for your business. Here are my top tools to create a rockin’ website.
- WordPress (Free). WordPress is a super duper easy tool to use to create beautiful websites. There are loads of themes that allow you to create a website that fits your style. (And, tons of support like these yearly Word Camps! I’m a geek..I know.) I use about a dozen or so plugins which I’ll cover in an upcoming post!
- BlueHost* ($5.95/month). Blue host is the hosting platform that I’ve used for the past 5+ years to keep my website up and online. BlueHost is affordable and easy to use.
If you’re building an online business (which I’m assuming you are since you’re reading this post), then content is the cornerstone of serving your customers and bringing awareness to your business. So, let’s check out those content creation tools, shall we?!
- Apple Pages (or Microsoft Word for the PC peeps) ($19.99 one time). I use Apple Pages almost every day for EVERYTHING in my business. Well…maybe not everything. But, a whole lotta stuff. I use Apple Pages for writing drafts for my killer blog posts to creating kick-butt worksheets for a training, blog post, or course to whipping up some productivity and planning pages to creating the worksheet thumbnails like in the picture below. The possibilities are endless, my friend!
- Keynote (or PowerPoint for the PC peeps) ($9.99 one time). Anytime I need to create a presentation and want to add graphics, images, and a few words to explain what Im’ talking about, I use Keynote. I also use Keynote to design my Video Thumbnails for Vimeo and YouTube! You can use it for images as well as workbooks, too! Oh..and what’s more is that you can actually record your screen/video right in Keynote or PowerPoint. Didn’t know that? Check out the video tutorial right here.
- PDFescape (Free). Use PDFescape if you want to create PDFs that allow your audience to type their responses into the worksheet. If you need a tutorial on how to do just that, I’ve got you covered right here. This is a great option especially for your course students that allows them the option of typing or writing their responses.
Email is important if you want to build engagement and serve your readers, market your products, and stay in communication. So, here are some tools that I use to make all of that easy peasy.
- Active Campaign ($9+ per month). So…I just switched to Active Campaign from Aweber and I couldn’t be happier. Why? Because I wanted more control with automation of my emails as well as easier reports to see what’s working and what’s not. I think I’m going to stay with this option for the long run. Yeehaw!!! What’s more is that I get a contact preview so I know who my audience is and what they’re interested in! Before switching to ActiveCampaign, I compared it with ConvertKit..but loved the price point and the look and feel of ActiveCampaign. Below, is a photo of one of the visual automations!
- Gmail – part of Google Apps ($4.19/month). Oh, how I love Gmail! Where would I be without you?! Email done easy. I also use google calendar and docs! Their lovely calendar syncs with my Apple Calendar and iPhone. And, their easy to use Google Docs and Spreadsheets allow me to create documents such as my monthly expense and revenue spreadsheet!
- Canned Responses (Free). You know how sometimes you get the same types of emails over and over again and you end up typing the same information over and over again? Perhaps, your fingers are too tired to type the words or you go searching through your sent email to copy and paste your response. Well, Canned Responses allows you to pre-write content that you can essentially use to fill in and email.
- Boomerang for Gmail (Free for up to 10 scheduled emails). There are a few different ways to use Boomerang for Gmail, and I don’t think I’m using it to its full potential. But, I love using it to schedule emails to be sent out at a later time. Usually, I do this for my E-Course Action Plan clients where I’ll send them a check-in email a week later to see how their course is coming along. I create the email using Canned Responses and then schedule it to send a week later with Boomerang.
- ScheduleOnce ($5.00/month). I use ScheduleOnce to schedule strategy calls and client sessions. It’s so much easier to use a program that handles the calendar event, booking, and reminder emails that to depend on myself! 🙂
Woohoo. I love graphics. There are so many tools and resources out there who are like me and don’t have a knack (or loads of time) for design. Here are some of my faves.
- Canva (Free) .Canva has been my one-stop shop for all things graphics. I use it to create blog post images, Social Media images, video thumbnails, sidebar images…I mean the list goes on and on. I love Canva because it allows you to save your graphics as well as use their templates. This tool is where it’s at for pretty much every graphic you’ll need for your business.
- PicMonkey (Free). PicMonkey is another photo editing tool. I used to use this all of the time! But, I’ve since moved over to Canva. However, I still use PicMonkey for a few quick things such as making circle images for testimonials, sales page buttons, and any time I want to create a transparent background for an image.
- Stocksy ($10.00+ per photo). I use Stocksy for most of my images for my blog posts (like the one above). The photography is beautiful and because they cost $10 per photo, you’re probably guaranteed not to have a similar image as everyone else and their mama on the internet.
- Unsplash (Free). Unsplash is a free photography site that I also use from time to time. Great photos! And, a great place to find photos for your Social Media posts!
- Skitch (for Apple) (Free). Skitch is a screenshot tool. I mainly use it for my workbook thumbnails and taking screenshots of websites. It’s small, but useful.
Don’t you just love to hate Social Media. Ha. There are so many options out there from Facebook to Twitter to Periscope to Instagram. For me, I’ve decided to concentrate on the platforms that my audience uses the most AND with really becoming great at 1-2 of them. I don’t feel the need to be everywhere! Also, I make sure to control my time with Social Media so that I’m productive and so that it doesn’t control me.
- Facebook (Free). Facebook is the main platform that I use because the majority of my readers and ideal clients hang out there. I love interacting with people on my Facebook page (are we connected over there yet?) and engaging with people in groups. It’s one of the 22 ways that I engage with my audience!
- Twitter (Free). Yes, I’m on Twitter. It’s a great tool to keep on top of what’s going on and to interact with readers and people you’d love to get to know.
- Facebook Ads (varies). Facebook Ads are where it’s at. I use FB Ads to promote my opt-in offer as well as my webinars and workshops. It’s such a useful tool to help build your email list. If you’re wanting to create an ad, but don’t know where to start, check out the Facebook Ads for launching course by Farideh. It’s hands down my most favorite! I absolutely LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this training, and I use it every time I create a new ad.
- Kill News Feed (Free). You know how when you go to Facebook to check out what’s going on in one of your Facebook groups and then you somehow get sucked into the Facebook vortex? The next thing you know you’re scrolling through your timeline looking at baby photos and videos of cats gone wild. Well…Kill News Feed is a Chrome extension that helps you stay productive by blocking your access to your newsfeed timeline! It’s made me super productive and kept me away from that Facebook vortex. See, no timeline access….
Don’t you just love videos! Videos are a great tool to use to market your business, provide tutorials for your readers, and host your training videos for your courses. Here’s what I use to make my videos.
- YouTube (Free). This is kinda a no duh, Jennifer, tool. 🙂 I use YouTube for all of my videos for my blog. YouTube is great for videos that you’ll use for marketing your business and sharing your content with the world. After all, it’s one of the top (if not the top) search engine!
- Vimeo ($16.00/month). Vimeo is similar to YouTube, but mainly for professional videos (I think that’s a fair summary.) I use Vimeo to house all of my videos for my courses and training programs such as How to Create Kick-Butt Freebies That Grow Your Email List (you can see how I use Vimeo below to deliver and protect my training content). It’s great because there are a lot of privacy blocks that you can add. Curious about Vimeo? Check out how to use Vimeo to protect your video content here.
- ScreenFlow (or Camtasia for the PC peeps) ($99.99 one time). ScreenFlow is a tool that allows you to record your screen. I use ScreenFlow to create tutorial videos and trainings for my courses. Not only does ScreenFlow allow you to record your screen, it’s also a great video editing tool! (If you want a cheaper option for recording your screen, check out Screencast-o-Matic, which I love as well.)
- Google Hangout (Free). I love using Google Hangouts to work with people who’ve signed up for the E-Course Action Plan. It gives me the opportunity to chat with them face to face AND share my screen with them so that we can work together to create their course outline. I also use Google Hangouts to check in with my accountability partner!!
- Logitech C920 HD Camera ($78.99 one time). This is a web cam that you can either attach to your computer or tripod. The video quality is excellent. It’s portable and easy to use. Such a great little HD web camera! I take it with me on all of my travels – who knows when I may want to whip up a wonderful video!
Webinars are a fabulous way to serve your audience with some great content as well as build your email list. Webinars help spotlight you as an expert and allows for interaction with your audience. Here are some tools to help you create a webinar that wows.
- LeadPages (Starting at $17.00/month). LeadPages is a great tool to use for beautiful and easy to design landing pages. I mainly use them for my webinar registration and thank you pages. But, of course you can use LeadPages for so much more than that!! LeadPages provides you with templates that make it super duper easy peasy to create landing pages for your opt-in offers, products, and webinars.
- Google Hangouts on Air (Free). I’ve been running my last few webinars using Google Hangouts on Air. I love it because it’s free, but because it also allows you to do video and share your screen. I essentially embed a hangout onto my website and then share that website link with my webinar participants. (Side Note: I used to use Zoom for my webinars. I don’t use it anymore, but I still love it as a webinar option as well as a tool for my office hours for my courses!)
Where would our businesses be without products? Creating and selling products is how you can serve your audience well and make money to support yourself. Here are some tools to help you do just that.
- Gumroad (Sales Commission per purchase). I’m currently using Gumroad to sell all of digital products. It’s a fabulous tool (and not too difficult to set up) to help you sell and deliver your products.
- iBloom Sales Page Secrets ($37.00 one time). This is a training created by the iBloom ladies on how to create a sales page for your products. Seriously, I literally print out their worksheet for each of my products and use it to build out my sales page. No more pulling my hair out and wondering if I’m making a connection with my reader. This training and worksheet makes it easy peasy!
- My Own Product Planner. I created a fill-in-the-blank tool to help me brainstorm, plan, and create all of my products. Like the Sales Page worksheet above, I always use this to plan out my upcoming products. It’s such a lifesaver and allows me to create the perfect product without pulling my hair out.
- PayPal.(Sales commission per purchase). I’m sure if you’ve been around the interwebs enough, you’ve heard of PayPal. It allows you to create sales buttons for your websites and take payments for your customers. I use PayPal for all of my coaching clients as well as a way to take payment for my online courses.
Planning is so key to having a business. I’ve even realized how super duper important it is while I’m on the road. If I don’t plan, nothing gets done! Here’s a run down of what I use to keep the planning and organization engine running.
- Gratitude Jar (Free). I use a mason jar to collect a record of all of the good things that happen in my business. If I get a new client, make more money, get invited to a podcast, whatever positive thing happens, I record on a sheet of paper and add to my gratitude jar. I do two things with this. One, whenever I’m feeling down I turn to this to see all of the good things that have happened so far. And two, I refer back to it at the end of the year to reflect on all of the good that has happened.
- Apple Calendar (Free). I would lose my mind if I didn’t have my calendar. I use my Apple Calendar, which syncs with my Google Calendar so that I can keep track of everything I need to do. I’d be lost without it. Here’s a screenshot of my weekly calendar!! If you need a wee bit of help in the time management department, check out how to create your ideal weekly schedule here.
- iBloom Planner ($30.00 – $50.00). This is hands down the best planner I’ve ever used. It totally inspires and helps me take action to build a business and live a life that I love. I’d be lost without it!
- Evernote (Free). When I first started using Evernote, I wondered why I took so long to start using it. As someone who works from the road often, it was important for me to go paperless. Evernote came to the rescue. I use Evernote to track all of my notes including random ideas that pop into my head to notes from trainings and webinars that I attend. It’s such a great tool because it allows me to search for notes and prevents me from having massive amounts of post-it notes splattered all over my work area.
Bonus Tools (because I forgot to add it to the main list..ha):
35. Verizon Wireless Jetpack. Internet is super important, especially when you’re out on the road. So, I use the Verizon Wireless Jetpack for Internet on the go. Most of the times I can make do with the hotel internet or Starbucks, but occasionally I’m in a place where I can’t get Internet access – the Jetpack comes to the rescue. I pre-pay for Internet access whenever I need it. Such a handy tool, especially when traveling.
In the Comments Below: What tools are you currently using to grow and run your business? Spill the beans below in the comment section. And, if you know someone who could use this post, feel free to share with the buttons below! I’d appreciate it very much.