So you’ve soon come to discover that I am a HUGE web nerd and an info-junkie. For your convenience, I’ve gathered and compiled my best resources of Tools, Systems and Resources that I use for my business.
I’m always updating, adding and deleting to and from this page, so stop by often to keep updated. To enjoy, keep scrolling or click on a button to get straight to the section your heart desires.
I’m all about being real and upfront, so in the spirit of full disclosure, there are affiliate links listed below, which means that I may get a commissions if you decide to purchase anything from the links in this resource page. I ONLY recommend products & systems that I use and love myself, so I know you’ll be set in your business. See my full disclosure here.
These are the tools I use to run my online business on a daily basis. I would be lost and so disorganized without them. Most if not all are available on cell phones and tablet and syncs across all devices.
Freshbooks – if you’re over the Excel spreadsheets sheets like I was last year, Freshbooks is your new best friend when it comes to your business accounting. Three reasons I love Freshbooks:
- Invoicing, time-keeping, receipts, time sheets, financial reports, business expenses categorized – boom. Done.
- It syncs with both your bank account and PayPayl. Bonus! If you use PayPal to invoice, you save on the fees when you send the invoice using Freshbooks.
- This program saved me at least 10 hours of time when I did my taxes this year.
Asana – not the yoga position, but the project management software. This a great collaborate tool for client work, collaborative team work or even just personal projects such as putting together your website, an editorial calendar, or even a launch. Asana has helped me to become so much more organized with my projects that I highly recommend checking it out. Available for the iPhone/iPad and Android.
- The documentation is excellent, and it is free up to 15 people.
- If you want more of a robust training, checkout the Asana Guide for Small Business from Natasha over at Systems Rock.
Calendly – . Instead of texting, messaging or emailing back and forth to figure out a time with someone, I use Calendly to manage my schedule so the other person can choose a time that works well for both of us. Calendly syncs with both my personal and business Gmail calendars, which is awesome. A must have tool to incorporate into your weekly planning routine. Monthly and yearly plans available. Not yet available on mobile.
Evernote – Evernote is thebombdiggity.com and my hard drive would be a hot digital mess without it. Between being an information junkie and my brain refusing to turn off – I use Evernote for almost everything – note taking, blog post ideas, brainstorming sessions, goals, client notes and to clip articles from the web. This Tools & Resources Guide you’re looking at is bought to you by Evernote at work for me over 2 years – seriously ( I told you I was a nerd.)
- I had been using Evernote for a while, then came across this article from Lifehacker that just made my digital world a better place.
- I also highly recommend Evernote for Small Business from Natasha at Systems Rock.
Slack – Slack is like Twitter chats but with all the hashtags organized into various channels in a nice little sidebar. It is just amazeballs. If you have a team of people that you’re managing, or just want to collaborate with other creative minds without exploding your inbox or your mind – Slack is a must have. Instead of creating tags in your inbox, use the channels in Slack to keep your communication and resources organized – all in one place.
I use it primarily for my mastermind groups and joint ventures. More than anything – I love the sense of community and how connected I feel with others. Great alternative to a Facebook group or an email chain. Seriously, get Slack – now. Available for iPhone and Android.
Dropbox – my sisters introduced me to Dropbox back in 2011 and my method of file sharing has never been the same since. Dropbox is a cloud-based program that you can use to share files between yourself and others. Three reasons I love Dropbox:
- It is such a great alternative to doing things the “old-fashioned” way and sending large file attachments via email. Things tend to get lost in email so you can instead access a Dropbox folder with all the files right there at your convenience.
- It’s cloud based, which means if you save your files in Dropbox I can access it from another computer
- It is a perfect collaboration tool – especially if you are working with a creative professional for things such as web design, graphic design, ebook covers, blog posts, web copy, etc.
The free plan starts with 2GB of space, but you can earn more space( up to 32GB) by inviting people to sign up for Dropbox through your referral link. There’s also Dropbox Pro (the current plan I’m using) which costs $99/year or $9.99/month for 1TB of space, or Dropbox for Business, which starts at $15/month(great option if you work with a team.)
Google Apps for Work – Whenever someone asks me – “What’s the best way to get my business email ( firstname.lastname@example.org) setup?” My answer is simple: Google Apps for Work. Let me break it down for ya:
- The #1 reasons I use Google Apps for Work is so that I can access my business email using Gmail. I personally prefer this method over going through my web host, using a tool like Microsoft Outlook or the Mail Desktop App for Mac.
- I love being able to toggle back and forth between personal and business Gmail in my browser. I would rather keep those two email accounts separate so that I don’t miss anything important.
- In addition to Gmail for Biz, I get all of the features of the Google Productivity suite that I have for my personal email. If you are already familiar with all of the features Google has to offer – email, calendars, video conferences via Google Hangout, Google Plus, Google Drive, and collaboration tools such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets – then you already know how Google Apps for Work , err works.
Website & Blogging Platform
The one and only platform I recommend for building your website or blog is WordPress. I build all my sites and client websites using the self-hosted WordPress.org.
- SEO ( Search Engine Optimization)friendly
- The ability to grow with your business
The learning curve is a little steep in the beginning, but in the long run it is the best option for your online business. Period.
If you are just starting out with your website or blog, you will need to buy a domain name( yoursitename.com), setup web hosting (to store your website files and data) and then setup WordPress on your website.
NameCheap.com – Reasonably priced, no hard upsells, a monthly coupon available if you’re a idea guy or gal/domain-name- buying junkie like myself, and free domain registration privacy for the first year with each new purchase.
WordPress-Friendly Web Hosting
Bluehost – if you are just starting out, I highly recommend Bluehost. Their interface is user-friendly and only requires one simple sign on to access everything. I’ve used Bluehost for years and have had wonderful customer support – especially when my websites got hacked!
GreenGeeks – also great for starting out, and Green Geeks has both monthly and annual billing options.
WP Engine – I like to call these guys the Rolls Royce of Web Hosting. WP Engine offers what’s called Managed Hosting, which means that the support and maintenance component of running your WordPress site is taken care of for you – at a premium price. Starts at around $25/month.
One of the most frequently asked questions I get is which plugins should I install on my WordPress site? There are so many of them it can be overwhelming! It can be challenging to weed out the good vs the bad, so I’ve done the work for you.
After installing WordPress on your website and logging into the backend, these are the core plugins I recommend everyone install and activate in their Dashboard:
(P.S. These are all free with some paid options available)
Security & Speed:
Akismet – helps to reduce the amount of spam comments on your website.
Wordfence – one of the best WordPress security plugins you can have on your site. It helps to make your site faster and more secure.
BackupWP – one of the better free plugins out there for backing up your website. You can choose to backup your website to your web host, or even a cloud-based software like Dropbox.
W3 Total Cache – this helps to improve the speed and the performance of your website.
SEO & Analytics
WordPress SEO & Yoast – the best plugin to optimize your site for search engine traffic, and connect your social media accounts.
Google Analytics by Yoast – a simple, easy-to-use plugin that will put tracking information right in your WordPress Dashboard. Go to the Website Management section to get the link to setup Google Analytics.
Contact Form 7 – installs a simple form that you can place on your contact page ( or any other page on your site) instead of your email address. Not only is this good for privacy, but it helps to cut down on spam. The information entered into the contact form can route to your address.
WP Edit – this plugin extends the functionality of your visual editor as you are creating content for your website. You can embed videos from Youtube, change the font style and size.
WP Google Fonts – allows you to integrate Google’s free fonts into your website without having to touch code.
Email & List Building
Ultimate Coming Soon – an excellent option for having a coming soon page that captures email addresses while you are working on your website. The free version is great, but if you want more options for layout and email capture, check out the paid version here.
Pop Up Ally – this is a free pop up you can use on your website to capture emails right before visitors leave. It has a built-in visual editor that allows you to customize the look to your brand.
Backup Buddy – one of the best backup plugins in the industry.I use this plugin not only to backup my website and client sites, but I’ve also used it to migrate websites between hosts and also used it to restore my website when it got hacked. You can do local backups in addition to email and remote storage like Amazon, Google Drive and Dropbox.
Gravity Forms – I love Gravity Forms because it is user-friendly and there is literally so many things you can do with it. I’ve used it to create resume application forms, survey forms, contact forms, accept payments via PayPal – the possibilities are endless. If you are looking for a more high-end contact form solution – Gravity Forms is your best bet.
Ultimate Coming Soon Pro – if you want to have a landing page on your website, can’t afford LeadPages quite just yet, but still need a way to capture email addresses while you put your site together, this plugin is the way to go. Integrates with several popular email providers, including MailChimp, Aweber, Infusionsoft and Get Response.
Pretty Link Pro – if you plan on using affiliate links, I would definitely consider this plugin. It “cloaks” the long gibberish mess of affiliate links we are given( eg.http://prettylinkpro.com?aff=webspyredmedia) and changes it to something magical that looks like – http://webspyredmedia.com/prettylink :). See isn’t that better? There is a free version you can pick up here , but the premium version allows for split testing, analytics tracking and even sharing on social media where permitted.
If you are new to WordPress and are still testing the waters, free themes are a great way to break yourself in without making a big investment.
If When you do fall in love with WordPress, long term I would definitely recommend using a premium theme, like Genesis( see below under Premium Themes).
Nothing wrong with bootstrapping in the beginning, but long term as your business grows – make the investment and upgrade to premium. Free themes are great, but they can have limitations in their features and their support. Okay, enough chit chat here we go:
Make by Theme Foundry – If you go with any free theme – this is the one to check out. Make is probably one of the better free WordPress themes out there, especially for beginners. It’s a drag and drop theme, well-documented and definitely worth checking out.
WordPress Theme Directory – the WordPress repository has several free themes that you can choose from to get started. Also, most WordPress installs automatically come with 2-3 free themes that you can play around with to get a feel for the look you are going for.
Free Themes by WPExplorer – Offers a variety of free themes for business, bloggers, photography and portfolio-style websites.
Free Themes by Colorlib – Free, mobile responsive themes.
My absolute favorite themes to use are the Genesis Child Themes from StudioPress. Pretty much any website that I’ve put together over the past few years ( I’m using a customized version of Minimum Pro on this site) has been a StudioPress theme. I love these themes because they are well-coded, well-optimized for SEO, the supportive community and also they have a HUGE variety of themes to choose from.
To use Genesis Chid Themes, you’ll need to purchase the parent theme, Genesis, otherwise you’ll have a heck of a time getting them to work on your website.
So because I’m a nerd, I’ve listed some of my favorite Genesis themes and broken them down into categories. Really you can use any theme for anything you want, so these categories are like guidelines more than anything. Enjoy!
Blog Style Home Page
Genesis Sample Theme (Free!)
Want even more? If you are looking for more Genesis Themes outside of StudioPress, these are some of my favorite Genesis 3rd Party Developers:
After you’ve gotten comfortable with plugins and working with the Genesis Framework on your WordPress site, then we’ll enter the world of Genesis Plugins. These plugins are specifically configured to work with the Genesis framework to make your website more functional:
Simple Social Icons – This is what I use to create the social media icons in my sidebar, header or footer that will connect to my various social media accounts. Why I love this plugin:
- You can adjust the icon size as needed to make the icons round, square or a transparent background if you choose.
- You customize the colors to match your branding
- There are several social media networks to choose from – including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, LinkedIn, Instagram and Youtube.
Genesis Simple Share – Add simple, sleek looking sharing buttons to your content without bogging down your website. You can configure the settings to add the sharing buttons before or after your content.
Genesis eNews Extended – I use this plugin for my email newsletter subscription service, which is through MailChimp. It creates a widget that allows you to collect email addresses and subscribers to your website. Currently works with MailChimp, Aweber, FeedBlitz, Constant Contact and Mad Mimi.
If you any of these email service providers, check out this resource from the developer, Brandon Kraft, about how to connect and configure your account with the Genesis eNews Extender.
Genesis Simple Edits – I primarily use this to modify the footer of a Genesis theme( at the very bottom) – to replace the default information with copyright and attribution.
Genesis Simple Sidebars – I like this plugin because it gives you the option of having multiple sidebars on your pages and posts. You can actually create additional sidebars and use them instead of the default Primary or Secondary sidebar that is built into most Genesis Themes. For example, I can use the default sidebar for all the pages on my site, and I can create a sidebar called “Blog Sidebar” that will be used for all my blog posts.
Genesis Favicon Uploader – use this plugin to upload your favicon – you know, the little image that shows up in the browser next to your website name ( oh yeah that!)
Display Featured Image for Genesis – this plugin allows you to place your featured blog post image above your content and stretch that image out to the full length of your content ( like the articles on Medium’s website). Speaking of Medium, check out this article by Matthew McConaughey – man his last name is hard to spell. Okay, tangent done…reeling it back in.
Genesis 404 Plugin – instead of a drab 404 error not found page, use this plugin to jazz that page up. Tip! Use your 404 error page as an opportunity to give value to your audience by sharing some of your best content or even having a subscription box to capture email.
Design Palette Pro
Genesis Grid Loop – if you want to change the default layout style of your blog page to have more of a gallery style.
ManageWP – This is a great tool to remotely manage multiple WordPress sites. Whether you have a few sites under your brand or you are managing client websites, this bad boy will hook you up. Imagine being able to manage, install, activate, update all your plugins, themes, comments and spam from one Dashboard. With the option to do stuff like backups and Google Analytics. Yeah, baby! Free up to 5 websites.
Nibbler – This tool scores your website on mobile friendliness, user experience, social media integration, analytics and more. It gives your site an overall score from 1-10 as well as suggestions for improvement.
Pingdom– This is a website monitoring service that gives you a report on how fast your website is, in addition to offering alerts when your website goes down. Free and paid versions available.
Peek User Testing – if you want to get an unbiased opinion on your website ( your Mom loves you – but let’s face it she’s not your ideal customer), check this service out. You can get a free 5 minute video of someone using your website to get some honest feedback on your website’s overall performance.
SEOptimer – use this tool to get a free review on your website SEO ( Search Engine Optimization.)
QuickSprout – This free website analyzer will give you ideas and suggestions on how to increase traffic to your website, and send a detailed report to your email address. Also highly recommend checking out the Quick Sprout blog by Neil Patel for website traffic and SEO tips.
Google Analytics – a free way to track the analytics of your website, including number of visitors, page views, source of web visitors, and more. You will need to have a gmail email address to get this setup.
Google Webmaster Tools – another free monitoring service by Google. It allowed you to submit your site to the search engines, make sure your content is being tracked by Google, and also notifications of any malware( virus or bad files) on your website.
Other Website Tools:
Built With – Want to know what software was used to build a website? This will tell you whether it was WordPress, SquareSpace or anything else.
What WP Theme Is That – this will tell you the specific WordPress theme being used on a website, in addition to some of the plugins being used on the site.
Royalty Free Stock Photos
There are so many amazing resources online these days for stock photos – the question is, “Where do I even begin to find said awesome stock photos for my website/blog post/social media posts?” Look no further my friend, for your search has ended. Most of these resources below are free These are some of my favorite places to collect free and or royalty-free stock photos. Enjoy!
Pixabay – 100% free to download any pictures that you find. The variation of photography is stunning!You need to have an account to be able to download images, and it’s not required but donations are appreciated.
Dollar Photo Club – This is a photo membership website with some amazing images and photography. You can pay either $10/month and download 10 high quality photos per month, or pay $99/year and have access to 99 high quality photos. Additional photos beyond those limits are $1 each.
Stock Photos For Free – Same deal as Pixabay. Register an account, free downloads.
Public Domain Archive – Features both modern and vintage stock photography to download for absolutely free. If you want more, they offer a $10/month membership.
Splitshire Free Stock Photos – These stock photography images are again 100% free, thanks to the generosity of an Italian web designer/graphic designer/photographer who wanted to share her photography with the world.
Stocksy.com – what I love about these images is that they aren’t your generic stock photo images, but that they capture the very real and various emotions of people. The images are high-quality, royalty-free and exclusive to Stocksy. Individual photos range form $10-$100 depending on the quality of the photo that you want.
Unsplash – another amazing, free stock photo resource. Drool at the gorgeous images, scroll to your hearts desire, click, download. Done.
Boss Fight – Pretty much rinse and repeat the formula for Unsplash.com
Creative Market – the abundance of creative genius on this website is on another level. Not only can you get access to some amazing stock photos, but they also offer graphics, fonts and pretty much anything your creative heart desires.
123rf.com – Royalty Free photos. You can purchase credits or have a monthly subscription plan to download photos.
FreeDigitalPhotos.net – Royalty-free photos. If you are looking for a lot generic stock photo images ( food, money, health, technology, metaphors) this is a great site to check out. You can get a low resolution image for free, but then you would need to pay individually for larger, hi-resolution images – starting at around $3.00.
Graphic Design and Branding
If you are not quite ready to go pro and hire a brand stylist or graphic designer for your brand, there are a lot of alternatives for us DIYers. Below I have a list of programs you can use to create your own graphics, in addition to suggestions on where to get inspiration for fonts, colors and patterns.
PicMonkey – this is my absolute favorite tool to create logos, banners, photo editing, blog post images, etc.. For those who are not savvy in Photoshop or any of the Adobe software programs, this is a fantastic alternative. There is a free and a paid version – the paid version is only $33/year! Definitely worth it.
Canva – Canva is also an excellent tool for creating graphics for blog posts, social media, PDFs and even eBook covers if you so choose. Canva is free to use and they have options to purchase stock photos to use in your creative artwork if you so choose.
Need some color inspiration or a way to create color palettes for your brand? Check out some of these amazing resources – everything from done-for-you color palettes to color hex codes to creating color palettes from a photo!
Colorhexa – use this tool to find the hex code of the color that you want, variation of the colors and even complimentary colors to create a color palette.
Color Picker – use this tool if you have the hex code and you want to see the color as well as complimentary colors.
DeGreaves -paste the link of an image from the web to this site to drawn out the color scheme and create a color palette.
Pictaculous – upload your image from your desktop here to generate a color palette for your branding.
Design Seeds – One of my favorite places for color inspiration. This site features done-for-you color palettes based on images that inspire the author. You can search by RGB value( Red, Green and Blue) or by themes to find a palette.
Bgpatterns.com – use this tool to create your own custom background for your graphics, blog posts, website, etc.
If you are going to be doing any type of video content marketing – whether in a course, blog post or webinar – here is some of the equipment that I personally use and recommend.
Blue Yeti Microphone – this is the mic that I use when I’m recording video tutorials for the blog or one of my courses like the Free 7 Day Website Fix. It’s an excellent mic for the price and the quality is top-notch.
Screenflow – the screen recording software I use to record and edit my screen for tutorials. What I love about Screenflow is that it’s an all-in-one video software, meaning that you can use to record AND edit video at the same time. It’s not just limited to recording your screen – you can use it to record yourself and you can also import other video files to edit. For Mac users.
If you have a PC, Camtasia is the alternative for screen recording software.
Vimeo Pro – A great place to host your videos. I don’t recommended that you use your own server for video storage – that will get old and slow really quickly. You’ll want the pro version if you are going to be selling courses so that only those who have paid will see your videos.