This resource guide is broken down into sections to highlight items I use in my business. Yes, there are other options in each category but these are my top choices after much experimentation and testing (lots and lots of testing).
FYI: Some of the below links are affiliate links, meaning I may make a commission if you become a customer. But I’m a diehard fan of everything listed, and I’m not here to make a quick buck. Feel free to use the links included here or not!
This is the email marketing software of my dreams. I started my business using a free Mailchimp plan, but started paying for it early on to get access to automation.
I’ll just say this (and let you read about how switching has impacted my business here): if you’re paying for Mailchimp or Aweber, switch to ConvertKit now. It’ll be easier to switch now before your list and number of opt-ins grow even more.
Price: Plans start at $29/month.
HOSTING AND DOMAINS
There’s a long story behind this one, but the TL;DR is that when I most needed my site up and running in my early days of business, it crashed. For several days. (Cue the dramatic music.)
I never wanted to deal with a painful site outage again, especially not when my audience and traffic grows in numbers every day. WPEngine makes me feel incredibly secure, as well as ready to handle any surge of traffic that comes up way.
Price: Plans start at $29/month.
This was a no brainer for me. I had already worked with Elsie Escobar on strategizing for the Get Paid Podcast, and since she’s a full-time employee there, it was all the stamp of approval I needed. I love that it’s easy to use and the stats are very clear.
Price: Plans start at $5/month. I pay $30 per month to get access to the advanced stats and for an extra 200mb of storage. Those long episodes take up a lot of space!
I haven’t bothered with setting up a fancy membership site for my video courses. Instead I host my videos on Wistia and embed them on a password protected page on my site. I get data about who watched what videos, how long they watched, and where the drop-off point was so I can get a sense of participants’ true engagement in the course materials.
Price: You can host up to 25 videos for free, and then plans start at $25/month.
Good prices for domains (mine were all around $10 or $11), simple interface to use, and they’re not GoDaddy. ‘Nuff said.
Price: $10-$15 per domain name.
ORGANIZING YOUR BUSINESS
Back that ass(et) up! Dropbox holds all my giant Facebook ad images and makes sharing session recordings and podcast-related files a breeze.
Price: Free, or $99 per year. I pay to have 1TB of space because of how big my files tend to be, but you can certainly start with a free plan and see if that’s enough space for you.
I seriously don’t know how I operated without a scheduling tool before I signed up for Acuity. Wait, I DO know – I remember the painful back and forth of trying to schedule calls with people over email, and having to wait to hear back from someone before proposing meeting times to someone else.
I also remember feeling nervous about using a scheduling tool. “Will [established business owner that I wanted to impress] think I’m too big for my britches? Who am I to send people a link to my schedule?”
But that’s RIDIC. Acuity makes it SO easy for people to book paid or free time with me, so I probably would have seemed like a freakin’ professional instead if I’d had set it up sooner.
My favorite thing about Acuity? It’s hard to choose, but I think the fact that people can see my schedule before paying me for my time, but can’t actually complete the booking without paying, is their best feature. (Sometimes people need help FAST, and I don’t have to deal with refunding someone’s money because I’m booked up for a few weeks.)
Price: The plans that have all the awesome features that are worth paying for start at $10 per month.
There are lots of ways to communicate with your team members: email, Facebook, text message, and plenty of chat apps. I was SO hesitant to switch from email over to Slack, but thank god my VA convinced me to. (Check out the podcast episode where I interview Gwen and the actual convo we had where she very gently put her foot down with me.)
I know it’s weird, but I actually missed Slack during my maternity leave.
Price: Free or $8 per month if you want a lot of extras. I don’t know anyone who pays for slack unless they have a BIG team.
My business BFF Val Geisler is my go-to lady on all things systems. Here’s what she says:
Asana is, hands down, the best project management tool that is completely FREE (there is a paid version but I have yet to meet anyone who uses it). You can quickly see what tasks you need to accomplish each day and share projects with other people. They even have a rad iPhone app so you can take a glance on the go (because we’re always on the go).
We all have different learning and organization styles (yes, the piles on your desk count as an organization style) and so for every style there is a project management tool out there. I’ve been through them all and the absolute all around best is Asana.
You don’t NEED a pretty podcast player for your site, but I’d say that the look and feel of Pat Flynn’s podcast plugin is well worth the cost.
Upload your audio or video to their site, decide if you want all those pesky “ums” taken out, and click Order. Getting transcripts for my videos could not be any easier or faster. (I’ve never waited more than a few hours to get my project back, even the longer ones.)
Price: You pay $1 per minute, or a little more if you want time-stamping or the inclusion of all those “ums.”
I see Fizzle as an amazing combination of tool and coaching. I signed up in early 2015 with one specific goal: to learn how to start a podcast. I never intended to stay long; I wanted to get my just-in-time learning done and then peace out.
After all, I figured I wouldn’t have the time or energy to participate much in their famous forums. Didn’t I have enough “support” via free Facebook groups?
Turns out that a LOT happened in my business after I joined Fizzle. You can read the whole story here, or just take my word for it and GO SIGN UP!
Price: $35 per month (but less as you refer your friends – AMAZING).
Let me put it this way: when you’re connecting tons of the tools on this list to each other using Zapier, you’re creating things out of thin air. New tasks in Asana, email sequences that get triggered when someone enrolls in your course . . . it feels like magic! And you save a SHIT TON of time because it’s automated.
Use Zapier to level up your systems game and feel like a pro in the process. Trust me: your to-do list will be cut in half once you take a few minutes to set up your “zaps.”
Price: Some zaps are free, some are paid. And there’s a limit to the number of free zaps you can have before being asked to pay. So…. it’s free until you have to pay. I go back and forth between paying and not, depending on what’s going on in my business!
I used to use Google Forms for everything, but Val (see above) turned me on to Typeforms, especially when asking for feedback and testimonials. MY MIND WAS BLOWN! Typeform makes some gorgeous looking forms, and the user experience is absolutely delightful. Getting people to take the time to complete a survey is tough, so reward them with one created in Typeform.
Plus it’s got everything I need available on their free plans, so it’s a no-brainer. Bye-bye Google Forms!
Price: Free for a Basic Account. $35/month for Pro.
Having a password manager is the only way you can run your business both safely and productively. I’ve worked with teams who have every password in one giant Google doc, and I was given access, even though nobody really knew me!
Don’t be that girl/guy. Use one of these two:
I’m a UX junkie, which means I’ll gladly pay a little extra for a superior user experience. The one tool that embodies that for me is 1Password. It’s an absolute pleasure to use, and now I’m completely dependent on it. Good thing they’ve got a great mobile version as well!
I personally have struggled a lot with LastPass, so finding 1Password was one of my favorite days on the Internet.
However, lots of people use LastPass . . . including both VAs I’ve worked with. And sometimes you gotta get out of the way of the people who work with you, which is why I’m including it on this list. (Val swears by it, so it must be that I’m not willing to put in the time to figure LastPass out!)
Price: Free if you don’t intend to share entire folders of passwords. $12 per year to easily share folders with your team and contractors (aka: worth it).
TRACKING IMPORTANT DATA
Another great tool from Google, and completely free! This is the tool I use to tell me what content on my site engages my audience the most, which traffic sources send me the highest quality visitors, and what I need to straight-up stop wasting my time on.
Price: Free! Here are instructions on how to set up Google Analytics if you have a WordPress site.
Hands down my favorite tool for tracking accurate conversion rates, A/B or split testing, and heat maps. The user interface is brilliant and it makes me feel ridiculously pro.
Price: Plans start at $69/month. In my opinion, the investment really makes sense if you’ll be able to use it for you own business and for your clients. (You get 2 sub-accounts with the $69/month plan.)
The theme for my WordPress site completely screwed me in the beginning of my business. First, it took me AGES to launch my website because I couldn’t find a theme that I liked. I finally settled on a free one, but I still hated the way it looked. (Take a peek here.)
I knew that crappy, unprofessional design was holding me back from landing clients. I wanted to charge premium prices without many (or any) testimonials on my site. What was I thinking?
Once I invested less than $100 on a StudioPress theme and installed it on my site, I started getting more traffic and more inquiries about my services. It was like night and day, I swear. I wish I had just started with my StudioPress theme from the very beginning.
Price: Most themes are $99.
GETTING PAID & BUDGETING
I use Gumroad to sell and deliver my digital products. They couldn’t make it easier to start selling your thing: from uploading my ebooks to reading the reports, everything is absolutely delightful about their user experience.
I might not use Gumroad for something with a higher price point because the commission is slightly higher than what you’d pay with PayPal or Stripe, but for digital products, the outstanding UX and customer experience makes it well worth it.
Price: Free if you’re using it for free products. Selling fees are a processing fee of 5% + $0.25 on every sale you make.
In 2015 I made a little over $80K in my business. But I barely paid myself anything, at least not until the last quarter of the year. What changed? I started using YNAB, a.k.a. You Need a Budget budgeting software, to manage my finances. I could go on and on about YNAB (like I did here, in case you want more info), but I’ll just say this: if you’re serious about making good money, don’t run your business without this software.
Price: $5/month or $50/year.
PROGRAMS & BOOKS
I could probably have a 7 page document of programs, books, and courses that are impactful including why, what I love about each, and so much more. For the sake of simplicity, here are my top ones that have really made a difference.
Courses and Programs:
- Erika Lyremark’s Lyremark Business Design
- Becca Tracey’s Hey Nice Package
- Denise Duffield-Thomas’s Lucky Bitch Money Bootcamp
- Anne Samoilov’s Fearless Launching