Put on your hard hat and let’s talk tools.
Running a business is tough, right? Especially when you’re trying to DIY everything on your to-do list.
It can be really hard to commit to paying for programs and services that you think you can do without. But when you tally up the hours you’re spending on spreadsheets or manual tasks, you may be leaving income on the table by not using your time to its most profitable potential.
The right tools can make the day-to-day of any business easier. These are the tools and resources that I use to keep EDWC on track without losing my marbles in the process, and that I’d recommend to any small business owner.
This page contains affiliate links where indicated with this chill guy: 🦦. This means that if you decide to make a purchase through one of these links, I’ll get a small payment (at no cost to you).
Financial and Legal Tools
Gotta keep track of those dollars somehow. I use Freshbooks bookkeeping software, which I find to be pretty intuitive.
I use it to track work in client projects, send proposals and invoices, and to keep an eye on my expenses. It also makes it super easy for my CPA to do my taxes at the end of the year, since everything is all organized in one place. (In fact, my CPA once told me I was “so organized.” I was riding that high for weeks.)
Freshbooks also has lots of handy integrations with other programs like WooCommerce, Shopify, and Gusto so all your money apps can talk to each other.
For a while, I just transferred myself money every other week as a “paycheck” and considered that to be good enough.
But eventually, my CPA told me that it was time for a real grown-up payroll. He’s so demanding. So I use Gusto. It’s pretty affordable, and it files certain state and federal payroll-related documents for you automatically.
How very helpful.
The Contract Shop 🦦
Lawyers are great and all, but they’re outrageously expensive. So unless I need personal advice, I head over to The Contract Shop for most of my legal needs.
Plus (and this is the best part) most contracts come with a video guide that walks you through what the clauses mean and when they apply. Incredibly helpful if you’d like to actually understand the contract you’re sending out.
Planning and Organizational Tools
Day Designer 🦦
I’m a sucker for a pretty paper planner.
The Day Designer planner a nice hardcover (in tons of pretty designs), a heavy-duty coil binding, and a clean daily layout. It has a large space for hourly planning, which I use for time blocking my daily schedule. And there’s plenty of room for to-do’s, even on my busiest days.
Save 10% on your entire purchase with code DDAFFILIATE10 through this link:
Okay, I know I just said I was a paper planner fanatic. And I am.
But I also use Asana, a digital work management platform. With Asana, I can set up unique task groups for each client, and plan out deliverable due dates well in advance. I can also create recurring tasks for things like monthly billing, and set up templates for repeat tasks.
2023 will be my third year using this handy tool, and I love it. PowerSheets is a wonderful goal planner that helps you set objectives, make a plan to accomplish them, and track your progress throughout the year.
I use this for personal goals, like running 1,000 miles and remodeling my bathroom, both works in progress. And I use it for work goals, like creating this tools page (check), revenue milestones, what-have-you.
For most of my online work, I’m a Google gal. My work email is through Gmail. All client deliverables come in Google Docs. I keep a swipe file in Google Keep. You get the picture.
The artist formerly known as G Suite is now Google Workspace. Most of the product suite is free, but for the price of about $7 a month, I get a company-branded email address as well. Trés professional.
I am not awesome at design. Just not my wheelhouse. So I rely on Canva for nice templates and stock photos that I can use on my website and social media. The great thing about Canva is it’s mostly drag-and-drop, so even the design-challenged can use it.
The free version has a lot of functionality, but I’ve upgraded to the paid version, Canva Pro. It has more templates, way more stock photography, and lets you build out a brand kit with your fonts and colors. You can also schedule posts right from Canva to your social media profiles.
When I first started my email list, the most important feature was price. As in: free. I went with Mailchimp because they had the most free features at the time.
Now I pay a monthly subscription fee for the service, but I haven’t had much reason to change. Mailchimp is perfectly sufficient for me, and it recently implemented some upgraded reporting features, making it easier to track my metrics.
This website lives on WordPress, which I chose for its better SEO capabilities than most of the competition. There are benefits to most of the major players in website building:
- WordPress is immensely flexible and has better SEO capabilities, but it’s not as user-friendly.
- Squarespace makes it easy to design a beautiful site, but doesn’t allow for as much customization.
- Wix is also easy to use, but you can’t change your site template once it goes live.
You get the idea. For me, WordPress made the most sense as a text-heavy site with a blog attached. And fortunately, there are WordPress experts out there to help if you get stuck.
Styled Stock Society
There’s stock photography, and then there’s stock photography. Some will be horribly corporate with dead-eyed models and soulless backdrops. But some will bring major ViBeS with gorgeous backgrounds and models that look like real people.
Styled Stock Society is the latter. Their great library of marketing photos can seriously elevate your brand if you don’t have the dough for custom photography.
Writing & SEO Stuff
Frase is an SEO and content tool that has helped me to write high-performing blog posts and web content for my clients. Based on your chosen keyword, Frase will analyze top-performing content and help you identify topics and semantic keywords to include.
This program has tons of features I don’t even use, like AI-generated content and content briefs. If you do use the AI content, make sure to edit heavily to make it your own.
Get 60% off your first month when you sign up through my link!
Keeping your content unique is key to getting good search results. And I have a suspicion that it may also become important to differentiate human-written content from AI-written content in the coming years.
Originality.AI can help on both fronts. It’s a combo plagiarism and AI-detection tool that searches the web for duplicate content and assess the probability that the text was written by AI. Pay by the credit—no monthly fees or subscriptions.
UberSuggest is a great free keyword tool. With their Chrome Extension installed on my browser, I can get search volume and keyword difficulty scores for each keyword that I search on Google. It doesn’t get much more convenient than that. On their website, you can also get a free audit with a report on backlinks to your website, SEO opportunities, and current keyword rankings.
The free version does have limitations, like a daily search limit. But for a business owner with modest SEO needs, it’s a huge help.
Another great tool for keyword research is Ahrefs. I use Ahrefs when UberSuggest gets glitchy, which happens on occasion.
And if you’re looking for a super robust SEO tool with rank tracking, full access to keyword research, and tons more, you can use their paid plan. Plans start at $99/month, so I would only recommend this for full-time marketers!