There comes a time in your business where using the free tools and services no longer cut it. You have to step it up a little by investing in your online business. That’s what makes it a business.
But, it can be a minefield out there and everyone has an opinion on what tools and services to use. Before you decide, it is essential that you choose what is best for your specific online business needs and goals.
Here are a few useful tools and services that help keep our business running efficiently and smoothly. Some of these are free (yay!) and others involve an investment, most of them a small one.
I try to keep it as simple and real as I can. There is nothing worse than overwhelming yourself with too many tools, services and gadgets.
(Please note some of the links below may be affiliate links. This means I receive a small commission which helps cover the costs of them!)
1. Windows Live Writer
I could not live without Windows Live Writer. This saves me many headaches trying to get my content written when I can barely get internet access. And if you live in Australia like me, it also saves me huge data costs by doing it all offline.
I write and edit all my blog posts in Windows Live Writer and then post it to the blog when finished. It also makes me far more efficient with my time as I’m not distracted by Facebook Land.
Websynthesis is the web hosting platform we use. Our site previously had continual hosting issues, i.e. crashing and slow to load, since it was born, until we moved to Websynthesis. Not a single problem since. #BLISS
It is probably a web hosting solution for more advanced and robust sites as it is a premium product. i.e. expensive. Our tech guru guy, Chris Richardson recommended it and set it up for us.
For less advanced users try Siteground
Creation, productivity and communication tools
Ontraport is the system we use for managing and sending out emails to our subscribers. I’ve not even delved into most of what it can do, but it’s very robust and powerful and makes your email communication much stronger with your subscribers.
You can do in-depth tagging and targeted emails, which makes your communication much better. PLUS, they have the ability to create pretty awesome landing pages, optin pages and sales pages. It’s effortless to do it once you learn.
NOTE: This is really only for advanced users. It is expensive and you do need a strategic plan and a large subscriber base to make it worth it.
Until then, I’d definitely stick with Mailchimp.
4. Last Pass
I’ve just started using LastPass as a way to store all my passwords and login information. It’s proving to be very useful.
Momentum is a killer Chrome extension that helps me stay focused on my key tasks for the day as well as allowing me to create a simple to do list that I can check off once complete.
It’s simple, elegant, and has inspirational photos and quotes to motivate me. And it’s free! No other app or site has been as good at keeping me focused and organized.
I wrote about it in this post: 9 step plan to getting shit done.
I’ve just started playing with Trello, but so far I love the simplicity of organizing my thoughts, ideas, and to-do lists. I love the simple drag and drop features among the visual boards.
7. Google Docs
Google docs is great for sharing files and collaborating on documents with others. The only annoying thing is you can’t access them if you are offline. I usually only upload them once they are finished and ready to be shared and viewed.
8. Drop Box
Another file sharing place, Dropbox is great for any large files or images we have to share and can’t make it through email.
It’s also helped me to plan out the framework for my upcoming 30 Day Money Cleanse and keep on top of the all the tasks that need to be done. It brings so much flow and direction into the business.
Like Ontraport though, it is really slow to load.
Jing is the free software I use to grab quick screenshots or to create quick how-to videos for anyone on our team. The free version stops the video recording at five minutes which can be annoying. But, you can upgrade.
Skype is what we use for our international business calls and interviews. It’s free from Skype-to-Skype accounts and there’s also a chat feature.
But we have to be careful as calls, especially video calls, seriously chews up our data – we don’t have unlimited data plans in Australia #KillMeKnow
Box is the web based software/app we use with our accountant. I take photos of any business related receipts and then upload them directly into the appropriate file in box. It’s such a quick and efficient way of staying on top of the bookwork
Xero is an online accounting subscription based software. I get free access to it via my accountant. I create all my invoices in Xero – it’s super easy to do.
14. Kikki K Stationery
Kikki K is my secret obsession. It’s best I don’t walk in there much, especially when they have 20% off sales like last week. Over $100 later I walk out with beautiful stationery and organizing tools. But, it does help my scattered brain stay focused and better organized.
I use their receipts folder to hold all my monthly business receipts. There’s even space to record all my spending habits. I also use their budget book to track my daily expenses.
Social Media tools
An essential tool for helping us schedule our Instagram posts is Latergram
It allows you to schedule photos and videos to your account as well as engage with hashtags and repost other people’s photos. It’s very easy to use. It does not publish your photos to Instagram, but it will send you a notification to your phone that it’s ready to publish. You just then hit a couple of buttons and it’s done.
16. Tailwind app
It has great in built analytics and monitoring systems, and recently they introduced a scheduling tool which we use a lot to post our Pins for when most of our followers are online in the US.
For $10 per month you can add one account, get basic website insights and 400 scheduled pins per month.
You can read more on 8 ways we use Tailwind to improve our Pinterest marketing
Hootsuite is a social media scheduling tool. We only really use it for Twitter. Again, very helpful for our digital lifestyle. We only use the free version, but there is a premium version as well.
As this is a post about tools and services that enhance our online business, we will not mention our internet service providers, Optus. As they are crap!
They continually cost us hundreds in lost productivity as we travel around Australia and get this, we’re now going to an important Travel Summit at The White House next week as one of the top travel bloggers with NO PHONES. Craig hasn’t had a working phone for 6 weeks!!
There’s more to this story we’ll write about later.
Lightroom has been the best photo editing software that we have used so far. Easy to understand and use and enhances your photos.
Picmonkey is a super easy photo editing online software to use. We don’t use it to edit images, but to create text overlays and collages for our Pinterest images. It’s so easy to use and can make your pinnable images pop.
We have the Royale version and for only $5 a month, totally worth it. Pinterest is the number one referrer of traffic to our website, so it’s an essential tool. If you want to drive traffic to your site from Pinterest, don’t hesitate to make the same investment.
Canva is another tool to help you create amazing graphics for your blog posts and social media. Canva has a lot of great functions and can help you start designing like a pro. You can create more than images – we use it to create PDF files like our media kit.
They have lots of great tutorials to help you. BUT, I detest using Canva. It is not good to use if your internet is slow, it chews up the data and is super buggy. I use less of it now because of these reasons and prefer to use PicMonkey for ease and the less frequent use of expletives. Time is precious and a lot of it seems to get wasted when I use Canva!
Photoshop Elements 12 is on my computer, so I use this whenever I need to. Photoshop is a pain to use, because I don’t have the right brain for it. Otherwise I think it would rock the house.
One of these days, I will learn to use it properly. For now it works well for basic photo editing.
22. Canon 700D
We recently shared a post here on our camera lenses and camera. We have used Canon for ever and love our Canon 700D. The quality of our photos drastically improved when we got it and better lenses. We now have our eyes on a Canon 5D Mark II – the professional (and of course expensive one).
I like my Asus. It was the computer most recommended to us by other travel bloggers and the salesman told us it was by far the best model out there. He said this even though other computers were more expensive, so I felt he was legit.
It’s been pretty awesome so far and does all I need. I’m still getting my head around Windows 8 and there are a few things I don’t like but on the whole, it’s a winner.
24. Macbook Air
I’m not an Apple fan and have resisted joining the cult. I’m happy with my PC system and android devices. Craig uses his Macbook Air and wishes he knew how to use it better so he could become more of a raving fan.
He does like how lightweight and fast it is and how they don’t give off any heat.
25. Seagate slimline external hard drives.
We have two external hard drives for our computers and they fill quite quickly with all our photos. We chose SeaGate because they were slim, had high GB, and were on special!!
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What are some tools you use for your digital online business?