We use a lot of different tools to build, market, and run our online businesses. We wanted to create a page that shares these tools with you so that you can see what’s working for us and what’s not. We will change this list from time to time so be sure to bookmark it for later.
If you prefer to download the list you can simply enter your email here and we will send you the list so you can save it on your computer.
Shopify: Our e-commerce platform of choice because of the ease of use, customizations available and healthy third party eco-system. If you are not set on hosting your e-commerce site elsewhere, we highly recommend shopify.
Big Commerce: Another incredible ecommerce platform that allows you to start your online store and be up and running in no team. They have a large number of plugins and add-ons that work with their platform. You are not going to go wrong with this option either.
Volusion: This is a more expensive solution that we do not believe is as user friendly for beginners but has a huge following and is a viable solution that thousands of users love.
Square Space: They have carved out a niche with beautiful themes. A common complaint about the platform is their rather weak SEO performance and a lack of customization options.
BlueHost: One of the cheapest and most reliable hosting solutions for a WordPress site or other basic sites that you may be hosting. You can easily have a WordPress site up and hosted for $5 a month.
Host Gator: This is another one of our favorite affordable hosting solutions.
Go Daddy : They are one of the largest players in the domain name registration industry. Their prices are typically the cheapest available and their site has become very easy to use. GoDaddy is where you will register your domain name, for example, www.YOURWEBSITE.com
Google Apps: The most powerful email and online business suite available. At $5 a month a user you won’t find a better solution.
GoDaddy: When purchasing your domain name you may decide to just get email through GoDaddy. Its inferior to Google Apps but may make your setup one step easier.
Constant Contact: The leader in the space, Constant Contact offers a ton of features and is incredibly reliable. You can’t go wrong with Constant Contact as they have been doing this a long time.
Mailchimp: A great user interface, simple drag and drop tools and beautiful templates are a few reasons we love mailchimp. They also have some nice integrations with some ecommerce platforms that make it a nice option.
Aweber: This is our choice if you are building your own site and hosting outside of one of the e commerce platforms available. They are very reliable and have incredible drip email campaign tools.
Virtual Phone Systems
Grasshopper: This is an easy to use phone system that lets you setup a phone tree and forwarding to multiple phones and various people. Its a simple self service phone system that lets you look like a big company inexpensively. We talked about the importance of an 800 number for your online store here.
Ring Central: This is an easy to use phone system that lets you setup a phone tree and forwarding to multiple phones and various people. Its a simple self service phone system that lets you look like a big company inexpensively.
One Box: This is similar to both Grasshopper and Ring Central and very easy to use. Owned by the same company as eFax, it offers many of the same features as the other two phone services. We have used all of these services and they are pretty much the same but each offers different phone numbers. If you are looking for a particular area code you may need to check each out.
99Designs: This site lets you hold a mini contest for your logo design. Hundreds of freelance designers from around the work submit their logo concepts based upon your instructions. You can invite friends to vote for their favorite designs. Ultimately, you pick your favorite design and award a winner.
Fivver: A site where thousands of people from all over the world are willing to do tasks from logo design to video production for $5. It is amazing what some people are willing to do for $5. Worth noting is that most freelancers on the site will include kickers on deals to increase the over all value, however, the entry price is $5. We have written about our own business logo design experiences here.
Legal Zoom: If you are looking for boilerplate legal agreements that you can trust you can get them here. From standard purchase agreements to partnership documents, Legal Zoom offers a simple solution for contracts. Save hundreds of dollars on legal fees.
Fax by Email
eFax: The leader in the space eFax lets you setup a fax number and receive all your faxes as scanned pdf files to your email inbox. You can also send faxes by emailing attachments to an email address.
Image Design Tools
Pixelz (formally RemoveTheBackground): With an e-commerce business you are going to be working with product shots. If you are trying to manipulate images or standardize all of the images on your site, you at some point will have to remove the background of your images. Thank heavens remove the background exists as they remove all of the complexity for you within 24 hours. I have talked before about how appearance is so important for your online store.
Canva: This lets you be a graphic designer by using pre-designed templates and layouts. Its free if you don’t pay for their stock photography and an incredible tool to make your site and social sharing images professional looking.
Unsplash: This site posts one image a day of beautifully shot scenes that are royalty free and you can use in your advertising or site design. Doesn’t have the depth of Flickr and you can’t search the images but they have beautiful shots. This is just one of a number of blog graphics sites that I showcased here.
Favicon Generator: (Browser Tab Icon) A favicon is the little image that shows in the top of the browser when you are on your website. Its a tiny little icon. This site lets you upload your logo or image of choice and converts it to a favicon so you can upload it to your site to replace the default one. If you are looking for help with this I wrote a whole walkthrough how to add a browser tab icon here.
Tiny PNG: This site lets you upload any of your png files for free and it will smush them down in size to increase your website loading time. It will reduces the size of your png images about 30% on average without decreasing the quality of the picture. It’s magic.
Sign in Blue: Full disclosure, we built Sign In Blue so we are biased here. I will tell you up front this is not the most robust solution on the market and if you are a super advanced user there are other options out there. However, if you are looking for a simple, easy to use, e-signature solution that’s what Sign In Blue can offer you.
Dropbox: The single best recommendation we can make is to signup for a Dropbox account now. Its free and incredible. Without getting too technical, dropbox lets you have a folder on your computer that is automatically backed up to the internet and available online at your account and any other computer you install it on. For example you have a folder of pictures on your computer. Merely dragging new folders into that folder will upload them to the internet and download them to other computers you have. Never fear losing files again and you are able to easily share files across computers.
Google Drive: Part of Google Apps you actually get storage space within the Google ecosystem. If you have a Gmail account you are able to save your attachments directly into Google Drive. Its convenient from that perspective but in our opinion does not stand up to Dropbox.
Webmaster tools: One of the most important tools to make sure your website is configured properly and performing as best as it can for search engines is Google Webmaster Tools. This free tool from Google provides insight into what sites are linking to your site, what pages of your site are indexed in Google’s search and how you can improve your site to please Google, which is important.
Google Analytics: This is probably our most entertaining tool and one that every online site should be using. Google Analytics is also free and is an incredibly powerful traffic analysis tool. Amongst hundreds of other statistical points you have access to these types of data points. Number of visits, referring sites, time spent on site, geographical breakdown of site visitors, entry pages and exit pages, sales conversions and how they came into your site, bounce rate, number of pages viewed, frequency of visits, and real time (creepy) stats of people on your site at any time and what they are looking at. Its amazing and free.
SEO Moz / Open Site Explorer: If you are looking for more advanced search engine optimization tools then Moz is one of the leaders in this space. They have an incredible free blog which is chock full of educational articles about SEO. Their service is not cheap but lets you monitor and track progress of your rankings for particular keywords week after week. If you are making a formal SEO push for particular terms it may make sense for you to try Moz. They also offer a great free tool called Open Site Explorer, which lets you research the backlinks of competitors sites to see where their may be an opportunity for you to get links as well.
Long Tail Pro: Part of getting traffic to your site is determining keywords that you can target to show up in search. The short keywords are highly competitive but obscure variations can result in a lot of traffic to your site. This is the tool we use to find those long keywords and we have negotiated a discounted rate of $30 off the regular price.
Ahrefs: A competitor to Moz, ahrefs offers a similar product ot Moz which is very powerful for tracking the progress of your search engine campaigns. We find the backlink checker and reports more accurate and more detailed but other than that they are a competitive solution.
WordPress Site Security
Credit Card Processing
Authorize.net: These are the largest plays in online processing and we have used them for years for many of our online businesses. If you are not using a custom shopping cart software that already has a payment processor built in we highly recommend Authorize. You can click on our link and get a reduced cost that we negotiated.
Quickbooks Online: We have been huge fans of Quickbooks for years now and their online version has made things even easier allowing you to pull in your transactions automatically from your online banking accounts. With the link here you can get a FREE 30 Day Trial.
Amazon Office Supplies: It seems crazy but sometimes its actually less expensive to order office supplies online then to get them at the local office supply store. Look at the amazing office supply prices amazon has. You will be surprised.
Hootsuite: This allows you to pre-schedule your tweets in advance. You can enter them and set the time of day and day that you would like them shared. You can configure how many times to share it and gives you the ability to automate a lot of your tweeting work.
Buffer: Another option to manage your social media posts and statistics. Buffer is an easy way to track what is working and what’s not.
IFTTT: The acronym for “If This Then That” this service allows you to setup automated procedures or recipes as they call them. This service lets you perform some amazing tasks for free that are triggered by other events. An example is to share all your facebook posts on to twitter. Another is to download all images posted on your Instagram feed to your dropbox account.
Google Alerts: Allows you to setup a notification, either daily, weekly or in real time at no cost for mentions of your brand or name online. Google Alerts lets you enter whatever terms you want. It will then scour the internet and any mentions of your brand or name will be emailed to you with a link to the post.
Elance: This is the defacto source for outsourced work on the internet. From content creation to legal work and programmers, you can find almost any type of service professional on eLance. Within minutes of posting work you will receive bids to complete the work from freelancers all over the world.
Fiverr: This site lets you shop through thousands of different services from people online mostly from developing countries for $5.
Printing Business Cards
Moo: Beautiful business cards or printed materials. A step above all the cheapy online solutions that offer free cards. You get what you pay for.
Hemingway App: It seems like a weird category but writing properly and avoiding complicated sales copy can actually increase your conversion rates online. I wrote a detailed post about my writing process secret weapon so you can learn more about this tool.
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