I get a lot of questions about the latest tools I’m using to run my business as an online small business and what I would recommend to run their business. Most of these tools are free or I’ve upgraded to their cheapest paid version.
Not only do I love to test new and different online and offline tools, supplies and programs, but I want to share them with you as a resource. The following are tools I am currently using or have used when starting my business. I only recommend tools that I think would help you simplify your business, while juggling everything.
Some of the following links are affiliates. If you happen to buy after clicking my link, I may receive a small commission, but no additional cost to you.
As much as I love tech, I don’t go anywhere without my paper planner. I’ve been using the Arc by staples notebook system because of it’s simplified layout, customization and affordability. Besides the planner, I love the fact that if I need more in my planner, I simply change the size of the rings, instead of buying an entirely new planner. This has saved me so much money and stress.
If a specific set up isn’t working for me, it only take a minute to rearrange as needed. Staples also comes out with more accessories all the time, like different covers, more ring colors, more folders etc.
Coffitivity is an ambiance and music tool.
For a long time, I worked from a coffee shop as a Barista and freelance writer. These days, I tend to work from home, so Coffitivity is the perfect tool to create a similar ambiance while it plays background cafe’ sounds. It can be synced up with your music and adjust the volume of the ambiance sounds separately from your music volume. Research agrees that a tiny bit of background noise can increase creativity. If you love the coffee shop vibe, check them out.
Free & Paid versions
Dropbox is a cloud program to backup all your digital files.
Need a place to backup all those files, photos and videos to free up space on your computer? I send everything to Dropbox to keep my computer files as minimal and simplified as possible and know I have a specific file in more than one place. You can never have too many backups of your important files. With a computer filing system that works for you, you’ll be able to find anything you need, quickly.
Free, Basic, Plus and Business options.
Evernote is a tool to help you capture all your ideas, so you don’t forget a thing.
If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know how much I adore Evernote. I mainly use it as a “brain dump” to organize ideas, research, blog outlines and drafts, templates, and keep all my systems and process checklists in one place.
I love how you can use it from any device and access Evernote from anywhere. The free version is great, but the paid version has some additional features that help make life easier too, like more file space and tons of extra features. It also has great Chrome desktop web clipper for Chrome to make research easy to save and refer to.
As of May 2017, I’m a Certified Evernote Consultant. If you have a free account and want to upgrade to a paid account, OR you are new to Evernote and want to try out the free version, please use my personal link here.
Free/Basic, Premium and Business packages.
Gmail is Google’s email tool.
Gmail is easy to use, free, and I’ve used it for as long as I can remember. I love how I can import emails from my other email addresses, to have in one place, instead of jumping back and forth.
Free and paid Business versions.
As the name suggests, it’s Google’s digital calendar tool.
I love my paper planner, but I also need a digital calendar to help me make sure I don’t overlap any tasks or appointments. With Google Calendar, you can have multiple calendars (one account or sync with other accounts), different colors, share your calendar and can turn them on and off as needed. Syncs across all gadgets.
Drive is Google’s version of MS Office.
I love drive for collaborations and clients. It’s easy to share files, can see edit updates and comments. Organizing these folders is easy and you can color-code them.
First, I’ll write with pen and paper, then make my notes “pretty” in Google docs, etc. then, I copy/paste into WordPress. I love the spreadsheet for finances because I can have one per project and if I have multiple spreadsheets for one project, I simply add a new tab from the main sheet, so it’s all together. I’m visual so I also love how easy it is to turn finance forecasts into a chart that I can understand.
Hootsuite is a Social Media Management Dashboard
I use the Free version of Hootsuite on my desktop & Android to manage multiple accounts social media accounts from one place. Since I don’t focus on too many social media platforms, this is perfect for me right now. The paid version lets you add more platforms to post to.
Free or Pro versions are all you need starting out. They also have Team, Business and Enterprise packages.
Mailerlite is an email marketing software.
This is my new favorite email program. They recently added Automation as part of their free version and I couldn’t resist. The Automation looks like a flow chart and overall works the way I visually learn and see how systems are set up.
The web forms (email signup forms) can be vertical, horizontal, a simple button, a landing page or a pop-up. Gotta love options for every situation. I tend to use the landing page and vertical forms the most.
Are you like me – visual, love lists and Kanban boards? Then Trello is for you. It lets you see the big picture of your projects and easily break them down into each stepping stone.
I’ve been obsessed with post-its for my physical Kanban board and wanted to cut back on paper so I applied the same systems on Trello. For example, blog posts. I can have a running list of ideas for a couple of months, then as I begin my blog process, I can drag that idea into the next step of the process: Idea -> In Que – > SEO -> Research – > Outline -> Draft – > Edit/Proof -> Schedule or Publish.
This helps me make sure I don’t have too much going on at one time and is just as satisfying dragging the “card” to it’s next step as it is crossing off a task in my paper planner.
Free, Gold and Business Class versions
WordPress is a blog and website publishing platform.
I’ve used the self-hosted .org version of WordPress for over 6 years between all my blogs and websites. I don’t do any programming. Instead, I look through the many free themes WordPress and other sites offer that would be closest to my needs. From there, I use plugins and tweak the hex numbers for consistent branding across my site.
This platform can be a little technical when learning a new theme, but it’s still one of the fastest and easiest ways to put together a nice website on a budget. As my business grows, I’ll hire a WordPress site designer with technical improvements.
Zoom is a video conferencing and web conferencing program.
I’ve recently been using Zoom a lot more lately for video meetings with clients and strategy sessions. It’s a lot more reliable than Skype, I can schedule meetings, and the meetings can be synced up to Google Calendar. With the Free version, there is a 40-minute time limit, but this helps keep you on track and only discuss the main points during a meeting.
If you need more time, a PRO version is enough as a Solopreneur. If you have a team, I recommend upgrading to the Business plan.
I’ve watched many webinars of Entrepreneurs who use the Zoom webinar version and can see myself upgrading to it soon as well, after doing more research and talking with their customer service.
Zoom is available on Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.
Free, Pro, Business and Enterprise packages
Next Step -> Which of these tools do you use and love? Share your experience in the comments! What other tools do you love for the early phases of building your business?