I'm a tool "minimalist" but these are the ones I can't live without.
When I first started my online business I used a free WordPress template and paid $20 for my domain and hosting. I used the free version of Mailchimp and a free Gmail account.
My monthly costs were $1.66. No that is not a typo.
As I grew and worked with more clients I found there were manual things I did over and over which wasted a lot of time.
Time is my most prized asset and I protect it like my husband protects his last beer in the fridge.
So if I can save loads of time -- and avoid tears -- then I’m paying for a tool. Simple things like sending invoices and scheduling meetings can burn through so much of it.
I also try to balance not having TOO many tools because it can overcomplicate things. If a simple manual process works and takes me two seconds then I’ll keep doing it.
As I’ve built my online toolkit I’ve been fortunate to peek under the hood on my private clients’ tools. I’ve got to see Kartra, Kajabi, Teachable, ClickFunnels, WebinarNinja, ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit, Mailchimp, Wix, WordPress, Squarespace, OptinMonster, just to name a few.
So my current toolkit has been chosen after test driving quite a few.
Before I get a new tool I ask myself these questions:
Will it save me time?
Will it save my sanity?
Will it give my client a better experience?
Does it have a free version that I can use now and upgrade later?
Here are my current online tools and monthly costs for them:
My current monthly expenses are $123.
This is why I love online business so much. The start up costs are not a hurdle. You can literally start for a $1.66 a month like I did.
I've found the real hurdles to success are mindset ones, like imposter syndrome, overthinking, comparison and resistance.
In his book, Business Made Simple, Donald Miller says “As you attempt to build your company or career, know that you can beat just about anybody in the marketplace as long as you wake up every day and take action.”
He is spot on.
Here's a breakdown of each tool I use and why I love it
Wix: $12.50 a month
I originally built my website with WordPress using the Divi template. This was in 2019 and chosen based on the advice of a friend who is a web developer.
I should have known to ask a non-techy person without any web experience. I despised WordPress. It would take me hours to do anything. I chose it because it’s the gold standard for blogs and integrates with virtually every tool out there so I saw it as the best long term option.
If I had known how many hours I’d cry watching YouTube videos.
I just ditched WordPress and built my website in Wix and cried again, but this time they were tears of joy. I literally built my entire website one Friday afternoon while Unspeakable screamed in the background. If you can concentrate while Unspeakable is on then you know the tool is easy to use.
That said, I did run into a few challenges where mobile didn’t look great. I learned my lesson with WordPress and instead of wasting hours on YouTube I hired web expert Jer Chapman. It took him less than an hour to spruce things up.
If you’re not using a free appointment tool you’re missing out on making things easy for your clients AND wasting a ton of time on back and forth emails.
“What’s a good time for you?”
“What about next Thursday at 2:00?”
“Remind me of your time zone?”
“Oh crap I’m busy then. What about Tuesday at 1:00?”
All of the back and forth becomes 1 email: “Yes I’d love to meet. Here’s a link to my calendar. Pick a time that works best for you and I’ll chat with you then.”
You can set your availability and sync up your calendar. You can require questions prior to booking or attach files relevant to your meeting.
I plan to upgrade to the paid version soon to accept payments for my Strategy Calls, which is $15 a month.
Zoom: $16 a month
I used the free version of Zoom until I needed the ability to offer meetings longer than 40 minutes and offer group calls.
It’s also been great during Covid for virtual family get togethers and happy hours.
ConvertKit: $29 a month
ConvertKit is my favorite email marketing tool (also called email service provider (ESP)) for solo online entrepreneurs who need a tool that’s easy to use and grows with them.
You can do everything from sending newsletters in 3 simple steps to advanced things like creating Wait Lists, tagging someone when they click a link, and setting up sequences with automations.
They offer a free version for up to 1,000 subscribers. It’s great but you can’t send an automated Welcome Email. You have to use a Double Opt-In as the stand in for a Welcome Email, which is fine and totally works. A lot of my clients start with the free version and upgrade when they’re ready.
**This is the only affiliate link in this article** If you decide to sign up for ConvertKit you can use my link. Click here
Loom - Free
I love using Loom to send my clients quick tutorial videos. This allows me to show a step-by-step visual for anything technical, like building segments or using a new part of their email marketing software.
Loom has a Chrome extension so you can start recording your screen with one simple click.
I’m using the Free version which allows for 100 videos, up to 5 minutes long. I’ll be upgrading shortly to the paid version which offers unlimited length and videos for $10 a month.
Here’s an example of how I use this in action:
Teachery: $49 a month
I’ve chosen Teachery for my online course platform. It offers the most features for the best value and it directly integrates with ConvertKit which was a big factor for me.
It also has a Loom integration for videos so I don’t need to get another video platform or any gadgets like a webcam or mic.
My first step with Teachery is to create a client portal for all the training videos I make over and over, plus keep everything in one place. This will save me SO much time and step up my game for my private clients.
G Suite: $6.50 a month (recently renamed Google Workspace)
I used to have my business email (email@example.com) on a free Outlook account, but a lot of my emails weren’t being delivered to clients.
I use my business email to send my marketing emails so it’s very important to me that my domain is set up on a platform I can trust. $6.50 is a nominal fee to pay for this security.
If you’re wondering why you can’t just use a free gmail account to send your marketing emails this article explains it well.
I love Wave because invoicing takes me two seconds and their free templates are snazzy.
They offer a “one-click” feature so my clients can click and pay directly from the invoice with the payment type they prefer (credit card, bank account, etc).
You can check payment status, send reminders for any tardy payers and set up recurring invoices.
Wave’s cut is around 3% which is pretty standard.
My favorite tool for creating graphics and lead magnets. No design experience needed and there are tons of free templates.
Canvas is one I could probably get away with using the free version. I upgraded after getting tired of the error messages saying my graphics had premium fonts.