One of the questions I get asked most often is “how do I that?”
“How do I make a graphic for my blog post?”
“How do I find a domain name for my website?”
“How do I choose an email service provider?”
“How do I get an LLC?”
“How do I actually get paid for these great ideas and products I have?"
“That thing you have for your business…how do I do THAT?”
It’s all about finding the right tools, my friend. Tools and systems are super important in your business because the quicker you figure out the tech-y, logistics pieces of your business, the quicker you’ll be able to go about doing the things you love: teaching, growing, coaching, writing, serving, making, creating, and changing the world.
So let’s talk tools. In this article, I’m sharing a list of all the tools I use to run my business + descriptions of the 30 best business tools.
Don’t frantically search Google for payment servicers and how to make social media graphics….just start here. It’s the perfect resource list to help you start your business or upgrade your current biz flow, and I even have a l’il checklist available for you in the resource library. Let’s make the unknown a little more known, shall we?
Why are tools important?
First things first, the task of finding the right tools is absolutely necessary if you want to launch and run a business and also retain your sanity. Just like systems, tools streamline your most common business tasks and make things run smoothly, plus if you’re just starting out, they help you take care of those confusing logistical pieces so you can actually start making money.
What’s the difference between tools and systems?
A business system basically takes complicated stuff and turns it into a simple series of steps. For example, if you write blog posts for your business, you might develop of series of steps that you go through in your writing and publishing process and have a place for all your digital files. Tools are the things you use to make the system run. For example, in your blog writing system, you may need a variety of tools: Evernote to house your drafts, a checklist to make sure you follow all the steps, a virtual assistant to proofread, Photoshop to create graphics, etc.
If you’re wondering, “do these tools still work if I don’t have an online micro business like yours, Amy?” the answer is yes. If you have a brick-and-mortar business or a large business, you may need additional tools, but this list is for everyone.
Tools for Getting Started:
Coach Training Programs: iPEC
If you sell services or do any 1:1 work with clients (coaching, consulting, teaching, etc) getting your coaching certification is sooooo important to building powerful partnerships with, and experiences for, your people. iPEC is the Harvard of coaching schools, and it’s where I teach. I highly, highly recommend.
Business Training Programs: B-School
If you want a broad overview of basic business concepts in a killer community, B-School is the bomb. The founder, Marie Forleo breaks down big business concepts in a fun way, and this online course is a great investment if you feel at all insecure in your biz skills.
Selling Handmade Products: Etsy
Easy to set up. Easy to learn. Easy to make money.
Web Hosting: NameCheap
There are tons of options out there for web hosting, but NameCheap is both easy and inexpensive, plus they offer WhoIs Guard, a service that protects your personal information during the site setup process.
I can’t say enough positive things about Squarespace. I am not at all tech-y, and I’ve built this website entirely on my own. Squarespace makes SEO simple and the page building process non intimidating, plus it’s one of the least expensive, most functional options out there.
Start-up Coaching: me, duh.
Look. Launching a business can be lonely and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want someone to hold your hand and show you the ropes, I’m here.
Mindset: Essentialism and The Firestarter Sessions
There are two things you need to successfully launch your impactful biz: clarity of vision and clarity of focus. These books will help you find both.
Tools For Getting Paid:
This reliable, old school payment processor sends invoices and takes a small percentage of your payments. It plays well with Squarespace and Gumroad and has lots of great business features.
Want to sell online courses chock full of your brilliance? Teachable is the bee’s knees.
Want to sell info products, like digital downloads, ebooks, etc? Gumroad is your new best friend. Plus, it’s one of the easiest-to-use tools on this list.
Extremely similar to PayPal but with a slightly steeper learning curve.
This is an all-in-one accounting app that can both send invoices and keep track of your biz expenses and cash flow.
This is a great and comprehensive accounting tool for many types of small businesses, and it has the ability to export your data so you can bring it to a bookkeeper...or you can even hire theirs!
This is a tiny piece of plastic (in the shape of a square) that you plug into your phone or iPad, at which point it magically becomes a secure payment processor. It’s perfect for taking credit card payments on the go. Think craft shows, food trucks, workshops.
If you freelance, this time tracker is your new BFF. It keeps track of your time, lets you categorize things by project, and easily share your time log with with your clients.
Tools for Getting Organized
This is the perfect software system for coaches, consultants, and anyone who does ongoing 1:1 work with clients. It onboards your clients, lets you send invoices, and lets your clients schedule at their convenience and keep an electronic record of your client contracts.
If you just need help with scheduling, Calendly is a great choice to schedule meetings because you have a unique link that allows people to book you during your available times.
My entire life is housed in my Google calendar. I use it as both a daily schedule for all of my meetings and commitments, but also as a to-do list. For me, the color coding feature singlehandedly keeps me organized.
Google Docs and Drive
Google Docs and Google Drive are a bit like the Microsoft Office Suite meets the Cloud….it lets you create, keep, and categorize all the things: documents, surveys, spreadsheets, presentations, photos, whatever. It’s my digital home because it automatically saves things, so I don’t have to worry about losing my stuff or constantly backing up my data.
As I’ve discussed here on the blog before, my Evernote is comical at this point with the sheer number of lists I keep to keep life running smoothly. It’s basically a place to jot down any digital information you need and keep track of it in little e-notebooks or e-stacks. Plus, the tagging and search feature makes finding your notes simple.
This is a really pretty, really customizable project management app that functions as a virtual pin board. It’s similar to Asana in its ability to keep up with tons of information, and it has great integrations for teams that remind me of a Slack chat. What makes Trello different is that it’s a visual tool. Tasks are housed in a virtual pin board setting, and you can drag and drop things to create a repeating workflow or to do list. It works really well with systems or repeating tasks that you do on a weekly or monthly basis.
Okay. I don’t care how many tech-y tools I have, I still crave a good, old-fashioned paper planner to keep track of not only my business tasks and to-dos, but my life in general. As a planner junkie who regularly tests alllll the planners, the products from InkWell Press continue to be my favorite, both for sheer productivity and for the way they get to the heart of what’s under productivity: your WHY. Plus all, the options are incredibly customizable depending on your personal planning style. Highly, highly recommend.
Tools for Getting Pretty
This is one of my MVP business tools, and I use it to make all of my graphics…from blog headers, to social media graphics, to downloadable worksheets and slide decks for my e-courses, this free-to-cheap graphic design site comes with layouts and templates for everything from wedding invitations to magazine layouts to email headers. It’s the easiest, cheapest way to make your online world pretty if you’re not an expert in graphic design.
This is a great site for free, lovely, royalty-free stock photos.
Another great site for lovely, royalty-free stock photos, but much more expensive. The photos tend to be higher quality, more diverse, and more inclusive of diverse people, so the occasional splurge is worth it.
This site compresses your photos for free so your website loads faster.
Ever wanted your PDFs to be smaller so you can send them through email? This site gives you that option for free.
I like to make all my worksheets and workbooks fillable so that you guys can complete them without having to print them out. This site is the easiest way to do that, and it’s free.
Tools for Getting Clients and Customers
This class by Melyssa Griffin transformed the way I use Pinterest by teaching me simple SEO tricks and tools to get my content in front of my people. It’s easy and great.
Instagram with Intention
This class by Hillary Rushford won’t teach you how to build 100K followers overnight, but it will teach you how to understand your brand story and communicate effectively on Instagram. There are also great pointers on building relationships and engagement in an online community.
Okay, let’s talk email service providers for a moment. An email service provider is basically a digital place that houses your email subscribers and lets you communicate with them. (BTW, you should totally join my newsletter here. It very inspiring, if I do say so myself, and you’ll get instant access to all kinds of resources) If you want to nurture your clients and customers, you have to communicate with them regularly. Just like any relationship, it takes communication to build the connection and grow, and email is a great way to do this.
There are tons of ESPs (email service providers) out there, like Mailchimp, Ontraport, MadMimi, etc. Convert is my favorite because it’s inexpensive, easy to use, pretty, and gives you tons of ways to track and understand your customers’ behaviors so you can draw them in and communicate with them effectively. Plus, if you build your email list by using content upgrades, like in this article for example, Convertkit probably has the simply process for doing this.
This is another great tool for building your email list when you have specific promotions in mind, like a webinar, workshop, class, etc. While you can make your own DIY lead pages on your website, the Leadpages software has much better analytics tools so you can be strategic with your marketing.
Tools for Getting Growth
When you register your website with Google Analytics, it gives you SO much info about the people who visit your website. You can find out what pages they are exploring and what type of content they like best so you can make more amazing stuff for them. Plus, if you’re trying to grow your traffic, Google Analytics lets you know how many people are visiting your site and how they get there. That way, you’re able to build on what’s working and toss out what’s not.
Google Keyword Planner
If you have a blog, and you want to drive lots of traffic to your site, you’ll want to get your SEO tight and right. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it basically means: How optimized is your content for people typing stuff into Google? Ideally, you’ll have phrases or words on your website that match what your people are typing into Google so that Google knows to show your website or blog posts in the search results. A great way to figure out what your customers are searching for is to type your ideas into the Google Keyword Planner and see what pops up. Plus, it’s free!
If you use Pinterest for your business, Tailwind is the bomb. It schedules all your pins at optimized times so you can connect with your peeps when they’re actually online. The pro version is a bit expensive, but the features are amazing, and it’s one of the easiest social media schedulers I’ve ever encountered.
Planoly is a bit like Tailwind, but for Instagram. Basically, it helps you plan your Instagram editorial calendar in advance so that the process is easier and more organized.