Click on the area you need tools for. Note: A few links are marked with ** . They are affiliate links, which means that should you purchase from them, I’ll get a small affiliate fee (at no extra cost to you).
Domain Name & Hosting
This is what you need to set up your own website. The ‘URL’ or address of your site is called the domain. The server space where the files are actually stored is the Hosting.
- Most Hosts providers charge for hosting by the year, even if rates are quoted per month.
- Most providers include a FREE domain name (for 1 year) with their yearly hosting plans.
- Ideally select a hosting option that includes SSL, email ids and support/space for backups.
- You can change your hosting or easily upgrade to a different plan later. Most Hosts provide support to help you with migration. Else you can get someone from Fiverr.com to do it for you.
Siteground ** (Paid) : Reliable WordPress hosting, without the pricey tag. It’s the best value for money in terms of WordPress Hosting. Way better uptime, website speed and other statistics than BlueHost or GoDaddy. PLUS even their basic ‘StartUp’ plan that starts at $4/pm INCLUDES regular site backups AND SSL security cert out of the box!
WPEngine ** (Paid) WPEngine has a rock solid reputation of being Best WordPress hosting in the market today. If you’re comfortable with the price, don’t even think twice, just go for it. [Click here to save 20% off your first payment]
These are the service providers that actually store your email list (ie subscriber list) and let you send emails to them regularly.
- You still have to create your freebie separately (like an eBook via Canva) AND create the pop-up/optin which actually captures people’s emails (using Bloom / PopUpAlly / Sumo Me or similar tools).
- I recommend using double optin and verify that the email marketing service you use conforms to international anti-spam laws (to the best of my knowledge, the 3 I’ve listed below conform). Many countries have their own set of rules. So look them up!
MailChimp (Free + Paid): The most popular one for newbies or those who are just getting started in business because it is FREE up to 2000 subscribers AND has a ton of great tutorials on just about everything! And now the free version also includes automated emails.
MailerLite ** (Free + Paid): MailerLite has a much more user friendly interface, their email templates are so much classier and polished AND their free version (up to 1000 subscribers) includes automation so you can easily set up an email sequence for new subscribers – making it the best way to get started with funnels. Catch: they’re still pretty new and pretty glitchy!
ConvertKit ** (Paid): When you’re ready to UpLevel and need more detailed segmentation, automation, stats etc than MailerLite can provide, I’d recommend moving to ConvertKit. It’s currently the best in the market when it comes to ease of use, functionality and reliability.
There are many other players in the market – GetResponse, Infusionsoft and others. You could go about exploring – but honestly, between these 4, they’ve got you covered. When you hit the few hundred thousand subscriber level – that’s when you can go look up Infusionsoft.
You can ask clients to directly transfer to your bank account, or you can set up a merchant account with your bank; but what most people find convenient is to set up an account with PayPal or Stripe to accept payments, especially international ones.
Paypal works with most currencies and countries, though in each country it is governed by local rules and may slightly different rates and options. But it’s free to open an account and makes it really easy for clients to pay you – with their paypal account or via credit card. Yes, they charge a percentage of each sale/money received through them – but that’s just the cost of doing business. Once you create an account, create a “button” for the amount you want, and add the link to your website! It’s that simple!
Stripe is the other popular online payment system in use. It works in fewer countries and currencies than Paypal does.
There are many other payment options available, but these two are the most popular.
How do you let clients book sessions with you or coordinate calls and meetings across timezones?
AcuityScheduling ** (Paid+Free) is my personal favorite and what I use. Even the free version lets you set up different appointment types, set your availability, send out reminders etc – which is quite sufficient when you’re starting off. The paid version has much more flexibility and lets you set up custom reminder messages (including SMS), accept payments directly, set up coupons or discounts etc. It also works seamlessly, even across time zones.
Calendly (Paid+Free) Many people rave about it, but I’ve tried it and didn’t quite like it. Something about the interface and lesser customization. If you find Acuity doesn’t fit well for you (highly unlikely!) go check out Calendly.
Video Conferencing / International Calls / Recording Calls or Screen
I simply LOVE Zoom.us for this. The quality is way better than Skype or Hangouts and they have ALL the options you can ask for from a video conferencing solution – including audio+video recording, having multiple guests (limited to 40 min) and even a special feature changing the background behind you. All this on the FREE version. Paid version includes longer calls and webinar support.
Other options you can try out include Skype, Vine, Google Hangouts, Whatsapp or even FB messenger. But hey…. none of them come close to Zoom.
If you need a free website, real quick go for Strinkingly.com or WordPress.com FREE options. These are hosted on the Strinkingly.com or WordPress.com domain respectively, and lack much of the functionality of a full website. But hey – you can actually set one up in under 30 min, and they’re free!
Once you’re ready to get serious – get your own domain and set up a self hosted WordPress site.
WordPress.org (Free via your Hosting): This is the actual WordPress platform on which most self hosted sites are built today (“self hosted” meaning hosted by YOU on a Host like GoDaddy / WPEngine as opposed to hosted by WordPress). It is MY favorite way to make websites. Most Hosts today have a one-click WordPress install. So it’s quick and easy. [btw, we love helping budding entrepreneurs establish a strong web presence through clean, elegant, high converting websites. Check out our website packages here]
Divi / Elegant themes ** (Paid): I love Divi. I’ve seen it evolve over the years and I think it’s the cleanest, easiest WP theme/builder in the market today. We create ALL our client sites with Divi! It gives us the full range of optimization while at the same time, making it super-easy for clients to update/change content later on. When you buy Divi from Elegant themes you ALSO get their FULL bundle ie ALL their themes and ALL their plugins – including Bloom (the most configurable Optin builder) & Monarch (Social Media Sharing at its best). It’s a great deal!!!
- If you know you’re going to be in business a while, buy their lifetime option! If you buy the one-year plan, you stop getting Divi updates after a year, and that will make it difficult to update/migrate your website.
- If you don’t have the budget for Divi right now, but want a quick way to create similar layouts is to use the SiteOrigin PageBuilder Plugin. It let’s you do the job, but with fewer customizations and is less user friendly than Divi. My first business site was built using this. Take a peak here: http://taekniMedia.com As you can see, it’s still pretty sweet 😉
- And yes, if you’d like someone to create a WordPress+Divi based site for you, check out some of the websites we’ve made and our website packages here.
I do NOT recommend Wix, Shopify, Strikingly and the host of other website builders for your final site. Or even custom coded sites. I’ve been tracking websites and web design for almost a decade. I’ve seen them come and go. And at the end of it all, I’ve found that a self hosted WordPress site gives you the best return on your investment! If you use the Divi builder with WordPress it’s pretty much drag and drop.
Prefer to DIY your site? Don’t make the mistake 90% new entrepreneurs do. Get your website right – the first time. Grab this free guide now.
MUST HAVE WordPress Plugins
(To install these, go to your WordPress Dashboad -> Plugins -> New. Type out the name in the search bar on the top right. Then once you find it, click to install)
Akismet (Paid for business use): No one like spam, right? And you definitely don’t want spammy comments on your blog posts! Akismet is the best anti-spam filter available.
Yoast SEO: (FREE + Paid? ) SEO is BIG right? You’ve got to make sure search engines actually show your site when people search for relevant terms. The Yoast SEO plugin gives you an easy to see SEO score for all your pages and blog posts WITH suggestions on how to improve them for SEO!
Want to learn how SEO works and what YOU can do to improve SEO for your site as a business owner – in the non-geeky way? Here’s a quick guide to get you started.
All-in-One WP Security & Firewall (Free + Paid) Like the name says, this plugin keeps your site safe. It has 3 different levels of configuration to cater from the novice to the seasoned techie. Along with security, it also lets you schedule backups. This is the one I recommend.
WordFence (Free + Paid) Another popular security plugin. Choose either of these two and you should be fine.
Google Analytics by MonsterInsights Hey, as a business owner, you’ve got to know your numbers. This free plugin by MonsterInsights links to your Google Analytics accounts to give you details stats about your website, directly on your WordPress dashboard.
Want to create a quiz? Check out Qzzr and the Thrive Theme Quiz Builder (this was earlier called the Viral Quiz Builder) . Qzzr has a great free option which lets you set up an unlimited number of quizzes, but they retain the Qzzr branding. Paid plans start at $299/year and are primarily targeted at large brands/firms.
Thrive Theme Quiz Builder is targeted at the solo-preneur or small business owner who’s DIY-ing. It has all the high end features you could wish for, including multiple quiz path, great reports, A/B testing etc. At $33 for a single site embed, it’s worth it.
Want to sell eBooks or other info products from your site? If it’s a full course, I recommend using teachable.com or something similar. If it’s just eBooks, Audios etc, use the Easy Digital Download Plugin for WordPress (free). Another popular alternative is Gumroad (paid).
WordPress Maintenance and Fixes
WP caught a bug? Would you rather hand off the monthly maintenance to someone else? Here’s the awesome (and affordable!) people/agencies to help you out.
Maria @ Fiverr : Quick, efficient WP fixes! Tell her I said Hi and you get extra special loving care! Nope – am not an affiliate. Her work is good. And her rates are among the best that I’ve seen for the work she does!
Again a good place to get random WP fixes, regular updates etc
Creating Optins, Pop-Ups, Landing Pages etc (for WordPress)
My favorite is Bloom (Paid). I love ALL the customization it offers! But you can’t buy it standalone. It comes only with the full Elegant Themes bundle **.
If don’t have the bundle, here are a few other options.
PopUp Ally: (Free+Paid) Lets you create some pretty awesome optins. The free version itself has a bunch of options. Not the most user friendly though, especially for beginners.
SumoMe: (Free+Paid) This is not just ONE plugin, it’s a combo pack of tools geared at Internet Marketing – from email signups, social media shares, and much more. Free version has limited features – paid plans are awesome.
Note that most email marketing services also have their own options to create popups or embedded plugins – but are often, er ugly. Mailerlite is probably the only exception among the services I mentioned – and lets you create neat looking landing pages.
E-Course Hosting & Delivery
The $0 Cost solution: Host your videos on Youtube.com and mark them private. Then send students the links via your email marketing solution (like Mailchimp) OR embed the videos & sheets on password protected WordPress page. Quick, effective, simple – if you don’t need/want the whole infra hassle of sending out student logins, tracking progress etc. But it does mean that anyone who has the link can watch your course videos, without you knowing it.
Teachable.com (Free + Paid): They provide the entire infra for you to host your courses. You can set up your own ‘online school’ and list your own courses. It will handle all the hoopla around creating student accounts and granting access. When you ‘create a course’ it will let you upload videos, audios and other files – and even set up quizzes/tests. Best option if you don’t want to grapple with infra hassles – especially for beginners because Teachable.com has a free option where you don’t have to pay up front – instead you pay a 10% of any sales. I love that because there’s really no point setting up hundreds and thousands of $$$ on video hosting and plugins etc even BEFORE you make your first sale!
Thinkific (Free + Paid): Platform ‘similar’ to Teachable, but I prefer Teachable’s interface and features – way more user friendly and customizable. However there are those who swear by Thinkific. Go check them out and see which one works best for you.
Udemy (Free + Paid) Udemy used to be a great platform to host your courses – especially because they do a ton of marketing. However of late, the quality of courses has gone down AND they keep promoting massive discounts. Instead of a hosting platform, I’d recommend you look at it as a ‘marketing platform’. Post your free courses etc there and look at it as lead generation for your higher end programs
- If you have the itch to look for more comprehensive platforms that can do “everything” for you – host your site, create your landing pages, host your podcast, membership site, course etc – check out Rainmaker and New Kajabi. However they do come with a heftier price tag.
CREATING VISUAL CONTENT/GRAPHICS
Canva (Free+Paid) You don’t need to be a creative genius to create those photos/graphics/images-with-text to go with your blog posts or social media content. Canva is an easy drag and drop tool. What I love most about it is that you can use it for almost ANYTHING – to create eBooks or pdfs for your freebies, Social Media Graphics, all kinds of headers, pamphlets, logos or any other visual element you need for your business. AND it has great ready to use templates! Yep – what’s not to love!
Start off with the free version and upgrade to paid once you’ve got the hang of things and want to use templates, or work with a team.
PicMonkey (Free+Paid) For editing your photos, adding/removing backgrounds, fun special effects. Have a great set of tutorials.
WordSwag (Free) Want to add text to your photos real quick? The WordSwag app lets you do just that. Available on both Android and Apple.
Adobe Spark (Free) This is relatively newer, and is evolving fast. But if you’re the visual type and love all things Adobe, Adobe Spark may be the best way for you to create social media graphics, animated presentations and videos.
Microsoft Paint (Free if you have Windows!): Great for basic things like cropping or resizing images. Also basic layering of text / shapes.
Getting Photos/ Images / Graphics: There are tons of places you can get good stock photos from, but here are my favorites:
- Pixabay.com (free)
- http://pexels.com (free)
- https://unsplash.com/ (free)
- http://www.hautechocolate.ca/ (paid)
- http://creativemarket.com (free+paid)
Make sure you check out the licensing before you use them AND keep a record of any downloads!
Lastpass (Free+Paid) When you start an online business – you’ll have to create a TON of passwords for all kinds of services. How do you keep track of all of them? (NO – PLEASE DON’T USE THE SAME PASSWORD FOR EVERYTHING!!!) Lastpass generates passwords for you and saves them securely. When you visit the website the next time – it’ll automatically populate the login and password for you! Caution : SAVE your Lastpass password safely somewhere. If you lose it – there’s pretty much no way to recover your account (they do have a few recovery steps – but it just didn’t work for me!!! I ended up losing a ton of passwords!!). Also make sure to export your LastPass data and save it somewhere SAFE. I learnt this the hard way.
Evernote (Free+Paid) : Have notes all over the place – post its, small scraps of paper, .txt files on your computer, excel sheets and a ton of other places? Want to have it all in one place? Want to be able to access it all from your computer, smart phone or tablet? Want to be able to share it with others on your team, or just friends? Sign up for Evernote. Have all your notes in ONE place. Find them easily when you need them
EverNote WebClipper : Want to save snippets, or whole pages, from the Internet? Add the EverNote WebClipper extension to your browser.
Trello (Free+Paid): Tired of post-its all over your wall? Want an easy way to coordinate big projects? Use Trello. Easiest project management system (yes, fancy words) for those who love post-its; or a just a good tracker. What I love most about it is that you can add images, comments, discussions everything into the card for that topic. And then move the card from one list to another, as it gets done. Oh, and their free version has just about everything a small business needs. Upgrading to their paid version gets you team work, app integrations and other extras.
Other popular project management tools include Asana and Basecamp. Which one is best suited for you really depends on how you plan to use it and what features you need. If you’re looking for quick, easy to use, basic organization, just stick to Trello’s free plan.
IFTTT (Free) : Ever wish there was a way to connect Mailchimp to your Google Calendar? Or your FB to your twitter account? IFTTT enables you connect all kinds of apps in easy ‘recipes’. Even things like setting up so that Facebook ‘automatically’ sends out birthday wishes to your friends!
Zapier (Free+Paid): Zapier is similar to IFTTT in that it lets you connect apps – except that it is focused on business use – specifically businesses and online marketers.
Note: if you want to use GMAIL to check and send from your own domain account for example firstname.lastname@example.org, go to GMAIL->Settings->Accounts and Import .
Rapportive (Free) Gmail Tool. Got mail from someone – but can’t quite place how you know them? Rapportive integrates LinkedIn into gmail so you can see everything about that contact (who they are, how you know them, their photo, past emails) in your gmail Inbox as a sidebar.
Streak (Free) Gmail Tool. A complete CRM built into your Gmail. How do you track all the interaction you’ve had with a potential client? How do you remember to follow up after 2 weeks? Do you really want to type out that same email 100 times? Use Streak. Everything about your cients – in one place. When you’re sending them an email/get one from them, just click to add them to a Streak box, or schedule a reminder for later. Really simple. Here’s how to get started
Boomerang (Free) Gmail Tool. Allows you to schedule messages to be sent or returned at a later date. Allows you to add notes/dates/meetings from emails directly to your Google Calendar. I couldn’t live without this!!!! It’s crucial to my sanity!
MUST HAVE CHROME EXTENSIONS
Momentum (Free) Chrome extension. My daily dose of inspiration. Shows you a gorgeous scenery every single day with an inspirational quote. Oh, and it also lets you keep track of your most important tasks for the day.
OneTab (Free) Chrome extension. Opened up too many tabs as you were browsing? Want to keep/save them all to come back to later? OneTab collates the links and saves them all into One Tab, so you can look them up later.
Google URL Shortener (Free) Chrome extension. Want to share the link to your site/or anything else… but it’s too long? Just get Google URL shortner extension for Chrome.
Loom ** (Free+Paid) Chrome extension: For when you want to share quick screenshots, or videos with people and discuss.
Full Page Screen Capture (Free) Chrome extension to take a screenshot of entire web pages.
Lastpass, EvernoteClipper, Snagit are already discussed in the Productivity section.
Want to check what time it is somewhere else in the world? If you want to compare a multiple timezones use http://worldtimebuddy.com
Want to record your screen AND you AND some text AND….? If you just want to record your screen, or yourself talking, use Zoom.us. You can create a free account. If you want to edit the video, or audio, or add captions, text and graphics, you’ll need to use a tool like Camtasia.
Want to add fillable sections to your pdf? Use https://www.pdfescape.com
How to share (audio, video, pdf etc) files with clients? Sign up for Dropbox (free + paid), Google Drive (make sure you’re not setting them to ‘public’ but only sharing with the specific people you want to).
Where to save/host your videos? Don’t save them on your regular host – it’ll eat up too much space. Instead upload them to Youtube.com (free), Vimeo.com (free + paid) or Wistia.com (free + paid). While YouTube is free, Vimeo and Wistia both have very limited free uploads. Vimeo pricing starts at $5/per month and Wistia at$100/per month. But both of them offer customization, privacy and detailed reports way beyond what YouTube does. Make sure to set the correct ‘sharing/visibility permissions – do you want your video to be visible to all, to just a few who have the link, or just you?
Want to learn about Copy? Copy Blogger is a great resource to learn copywriting for marketing. They have a pretty extensive FREE course. Check it out here http://my.copyblogger.com/free-membership/