Ah yes, the ol’ resources and tools page.
What you’ll find here is everything I use to build my online business. This isn’t a cheap attempt at some affiliate sales of stuff I could care less about. These are all tools that I personally love and use daily. I never review or recommend products that I haven’t used myself.
These are all listed in no particular order. I’ve organized them into numbered categories to try to simplify the viewing experience.
- Web Design
- Graphic Design
- Infographic Design
- Video Editing
- Stock photos
- Landing Pages
- Content Curation and Research
- Email Marketing
- Contest Management
- Social Media
I’m always discovering new tools as I grow my business. As I do, I’ll share them here with all of you lovely folks.
(1) Web Design
Web design is my bread and butter. It’s my largest source of my business’ revenue. As such I take great care to only use the best of the best.
Weebly is the best online-based website builder around. Period. There will be some that disagree with me, but no other site builder comes close to the ease and simplicity of Weebly. A simple drag-and-drop interface, easy customization options, a robust third-party app marketplace, and all-in-one hosting and email integration are just of the reasons you should consider using Weebly for your own web design needs.Visit Weebly Read my full review
Webfire Themes is a third-party creator of Weebly themes. Their beautiful, high quality, and feature-rich themes are why I rank them #1 in this list. While the customization options can sometimes be a little daunting, the tech support is exceptional. Their unique WIDG feature is unlike anything else out there right now.Visit Webfire Themes Read my full review
Another third-party Weebly theme creator, Luminous Themes makes up for their lack of theme options with stunning, feature-packed, and highly customizable themes. If you need to dig into the HTML coding, they’ve labeled it so well that it’s nearly impossible to get lost. They also have unique page styles that I haven’t found anywhere else.Visit Luminous Themes Read my full review
Baamboo Studio is my final resource for third-party Weebly themes. A wide selection of themes, beautifully designed, and regularly updated, you simply can’t go wrong with Baamboo Studio. Always working on new features and products, these guys aren’t going away anytime soon.Visit Baamboo Studio Read my full review
You all know WordPress, the most popular website-building platform in the world. The sheer versatility, customization, and flexibility make this a solid option for small businesses to Huffington Post. While I use Weebly to build most of my client’s websites, my entire blog is hosted on WordPress.Visit WordPress
And to build a WordPress site, you need a good hosting provider. Bluehost is what I use. While I can’t say I’m an expert in all of the different hosting options out there, Bluehost has very competitive pricing, easy one-click WordPress installation, and excellent custom support. I highly recommend them.Visit Bluehost
Woohoo Theme by Bdia
One of the best feature of WordPress is the sheer amount of amazing themes you can find. I was looking for a magazine-style theme, and Woohoo by Bdia fit the bill perfectly.Visit Woohoo by Bdia
The other great thing about WordPress is all of the different plugins you can use to truly make your site your own marketing powerhouse. When it comes to social media sharing buttons, Social Warfare knocks it out of the park. Beauty, functionality and customization all come at an affordable price as well.Visit Social Warfare
(2) Graphic Design
If you really want your website designs and blog posts to stand out, you need to have some high quality and compelling images. These tools helped make me look like a professional graphic designer. (I’m definitely not)
Canva will help you make any online image you’ll ever need. Social media posts, profile headers, ebook covers, newsletters, business cards, and posters barely scratch the surface of your options here. While most of the material is free, Canva also offers some premium customization images that will take your images to the next level.Visit Canva
Flat, clean, vector icons are one of the current trends in design. Gone are the days of the cheesy stock photo. Flaticon is the best place to find an endless amount of beautiful icons to spruce up your designs. You can purchase licenses for use, or download icons for free and simply give credit to the original creator.Visit Flaticon
You know what it is. Nothing beats Photoshop when it comes to editing photos. Now that we’re in the “Netflix era”, everything is subscription based, including Photoshop. At $8/month, it’s worth the investment. There are other options if you require a bit more, but the basic Photoshop works just fine for me.Visit Adobe
(3) Infographic Design
Infographics are one of the most popular forms of internet content, just behind cat GIFs and Crying Jordan memes. People have short attention spans these days, so if you can trade in a 1,000 word blog post for a pretty little graphic, people are more likely to pay attention.
Making custom infographics used to solely be the job of expert graphic designers. But, like many online industries, online tools have made it easily accessible to the average Pat. Piktochart is the one I like to use for my basic infographic needs. Anything more complex and I will hire an expert graphic designer.Visit Piktochart
(4) Video Editing
Making beautiful custom videos used to cost thousands of dollars and require an entire team. Not anymore! Video marketing should be a part of your overall marketing strategy, and they’re going to have to be pretty damn good to gain any traction.
Camtasia is a powerful, easy to use video editor. I use it to create, edit, and beautify my custom videos for upload to YouTube. Reviews, tutorials, and even custom sales videos are a breeze to make using this tool. It’s not cheap, but it is well worth the investment.Visit Camtasia
Powtoon is an online-based video editor that allows you to create awesome animated videos. Choose from a huge variety of templates and add custom images, graphics, music and voiceovers to make an eye-catching video that will “wow” your viewers. It’s incredibly well made, and most definitely worth your time.Visit Powtoon
(5) Stock Photos and Videos
Unfortunately, stock photos are still a necessary evil. I, for one, will not miss them when they are one day destroyed forever. For now, we at least have some much better options for high quality and FREE stock photos.
Stock photos41 Places to Find Seriously Amazing Free Stock Photos
Stock videos11 Awesome Places to Find Affordable Stock Videos
If you’re going to get serious about your online business, you need to learn about search engine optimization. Fortunately, there are a lot of great tools that make it easier than ever to become an SEO expert.
If my set of online tools were visualized as a physical tool box, SECockpit would be my my prized Swiss army knife. (the creator of SECockpit is SwissMadeMarketing, pun absolutely intended) SECockpit allows me to do advanced keyword research, analyze my competitors, and monitor my posts rankings in search engines. Sure there are many tools that do this type of thing, for cheaper even, but this one is the most comprehensive I’ve found. Well worth the extra cost.Visit SECockpit Read my full review (coming soon)
Ever wish there was way you could constantly monitor the entire internet for any mention of your name? Well, you can now, thanks to Mention. This tool is legitimately incredible. Any mention on the internet of my personal or brand name gets instantly emailed to me. This allows me to monitor my brand presence, find linking opportunities, and put out any fires of potentially angry customers ranting about me online. (fortunately that last one hasn’t happened yet)Visit Mention
Moz Open Site Explorer
A free, simple tool that gives your site an SEO checkup. I mainly use it to stay on top of my inbound links and domain authority.Visit Open Site Explorer
This is a classic that everyone needs to have. (and learn to use) Keep track of how your site is performing with your visitors. Important stats like views, bounce rate, average time spent on site, and how many additional clicks visitors make are just some of the metrics you should be staying on top of.Visit Google Analytics
One of the most crucial aspects of your site’s search engine optimization is how quickly your pages load. If it takes too long, people won’t stick around to wait. This free tool from Google will scan your site and tell you if it’s fast enough and, if not, how you can speed it up.Visit Pagespeed Insights
(7) Landing Pages
Sometimes you just need to create a simple one-pager that will attract visitors and push them to a call to action. This is when you need a good landing page.
There are many different online landing page creators, and while I can’t say I’ve tried many others, Leadpages meets all of my needs. A drag-and-drop interface (similar to Weebly’s) makes it super easier to make beautiful landing pages that will bring in more customers.Visit Leadpages
(8) Content Curation and Research
Finding trending topics and inspiration to write new content is half the battle with blogging. Tools that allow you to stay on top of trends, viral content, and industry news are a must-have for any online business owner.
I simply have not found anything that comes close to what Buzzsumo offers. In a few clicks, I can easily find out what the world is talking about online. I can look at the large overall picture of the world wide web, or narrow it down to my niche. This helps me determine what type of content is really resonating with my target audience, and then create content to meet those needs.Visit Buzzsumo
(9) Email Marketing
No, email is not dead. Not yet, anyway. With the constant stream of mindless info we receive every day, email has enjoyed a resurgence in popularity, as it has become a more intimate way to engage with your audience. Everyone and their mom has their own newsletter. (don’t forget to subscribe to mine, duh)
There are a stupid amount of email marketing tools that help you manage your newsletters, but none have the simplicity and beauty of Goodbits. Creating a compelling and eye-catching email newsletter has never been easier.Visit Goodbits
While Mailchimp has a full suite of email marketing tools, I use it to simply manage my subscriber base. Nothing more. It is great for that, though.Visit Mailchimp
(10) Contest Management
Sometimes, you just need to throw your followers a bone. Reward your loyal readers with some sweet swag, and it’ll keep them coming back for more. Feel free to take a look at my contests.
Gleam is an amazing tool for organizing contests. Collect visitors’ emails, have them subscribe to all of your social media channels, and promote viral photo contests to raise awareness and spread your brand like wildfire. The possibilities are endless.Visit Gleam
(11) Social Media
I don’t really need to say anything about social media, do I? You already know how important it is for building an online business.
With your busy schedule as a business owner, you don’t have time to be on social media all day. Buffer helps you schedule your social media posts and “buffer” them throughout the week. It supports most of the major social networks, and it’s very affordable.Visit Buffer
Crowdfire helps me but hurts me at the same time. It helps me find potential new audiences on Twitter and Instagram, but also feeds my ego by letting me know when someone unfollows me. HOW DARE TH-… Sorry, got distracted. Anyways, it’s a good way to manage your following and find new people to engage with.Visit Crowdfire
Bitly is a simple link-shortener that also allows you to track your links. Simply copy and paste your link into Bit.ly, and you’re good to go.Visit Bit.ly
It’s all about the money, baby. Finding the right tools to manage your budgets, process payments, and automate your customer subscriptions will save you hours of time every week.
Freshbooks is my favorite invoice management tool. A simple way to automate my invoices, payment processing (when combined with Stripe) and manage my budgets. It has a great reporting tool that gives me a quick overview of my revenue, profits, and loss. Fantastic customer support, an affordable price, and the fact they are located in my backyard makes Freshbooks a win in my books.Visit Freshbooks Read my full review
If you’re going to accept payments online, you’re going to need a payment processor. And if you’re going to have a subscription-based product, you’d better make that Stripe. Stripe will keep your customers’ credit cards secure while providing an automated way to manage their subscriptions. Once you setup your new customer’s subscription, just sit back and watch the money flow in each month!Visit Stripe
Improving your writing skills is as simple as learning any other skill; practice, practice, practice. I was a terrible writer when I first started out, but these tools helped me improve quickly.
Hemingway scans your writing for sentences that are hard to read, phrases that can be replaced with simpler ones, overuse of adverbs, and passive voice. It also keeps track of your word count and reading level. (based on education level) This tool instantly improves your writing by offering simpler suggestions that your readers will better understand. A must for any new writer!Visit Hemingway
Tools are great, but you need to know how to use them
If someone asked me to renovate their kitchen, I could walk into that kitchen with the nicest set of power tools money can buy, but I wouldn’t even know where to start.
The same is true for your suite of online business tools. They help greatly, but only if you have the knowledge and desire to wield them properly.
It’s ok to learn as you go, just make sure you are always learning. And don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
What are some of your favorite small business tools? I’d love to know!