There are a lot of great tools and apps out there to help you manage an online business. So many, in fact, that it can be hard to know which ones to use!
And that’s probably why I receive so many questions related to the tools and resources I use and recommend for starting and scaling an online business.
I’m a big fan of sharing tools that work and don’t work for me. But nonetheless, I’ve curated a list of my most highly recommend tools and resources for an online business so you can view them all in one place.
In all transparency, I do receive compensation for mentioning some of these resources and any commission I earn comes at no additional cost to you. But I never recommend tools that I don’t use, love, and believe to be extremely beneficial for starting and scaling an online business.
For creating custom business graphics
If you’ve been in business longer than 5 minutes, you know design needs have a tendency to pop up everywhere. You need a logo, a website, promo materials, business cards, blog graphics, pricing guides, packaging materials... and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
But how do you create them?
Adobe Illustrator is my go-to tool for creating every single graphic for both my design clients and for Elle & Company. It’s a robust system that allows you to create a wide range of custom, one-of-a-kind graphics for both print and web.
The best part of using Adobe Illustrator? You’ll no longer be in a bind when a design need inevitably pops up.
Why Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Learn How to Use Adobe Illustrator
40 Ways to Use Adobe Illustrator to Improve Your Blog and Business
For project and task management
What’s multifaceted, time-sensitive, and continually adds tasks to your never-ending to-do list? A creative small business.
Everywhere you turn there’s a project to finish, an email to reply to, a blog post to write. You have to wear multiple hats while keeping a million plates spinning. It’s like a circus act.
But you know that already. You also know that if you don’t have a system for keeping up with all those tasks and hats and plates, things can quickly get out of hand. It’s impossible to run your business efficiently and stay on top of all those tasks without a great project management system.
Enter my favorite (free) project management tool: Asana. Asana allows you to create projects and tasks and subtasks within those projects to stay on top of client work, internal work, and easily collaborate with your team. Asana continues to add integrations and can now be integrated with Gmail so you can even add tasks straight from your inbox to Asana so things don’t fall through the cracks.
How to Set Up Your Asana Dashboard from Scratch
How I Manage Business Tasks with Asana
For building and maintaining an email list
Business owners are becoming increasingly aware of how vital an email list is for engaging their audience and making sales.
But setting up opt-ins and managing an email list can be complicated. So it’s important to use a well-designed, user-friendly platform for building your list and keeping up with your subscribers.
Unlike other email marketing platforms, ConvertKit was designed specifically for online business owners, which means tasks like automating content upgrades and mapping out sales sequences are a breeze to set up.
For hosting live events
When you’re hosting a live online event like a webinar, it’s crucial to use a livestream platform that meets the following criteria:
Easy to set up
Email capture at registration
User friendly (for both the presenter and the viewers)
Comment, question, and poll features
Crowdcast is the only livestream tool that accomplishes all of the above and more.
Why Crowdcast Trumps Every Other Webinar Platform
How a Non-Salesy Weekly Webinar Series Can Transform Your Business
For printing custom business stationery
While it’s a chore in and of itself to create branded business cards, packaging materials, and stationery for your business, it’s even more difficult to find an easy, affordable printing company.
Some companies are too pricey. Some are difficult to work with. And some might be affordable, but their print quality isn’t quite up to par.
Moo, on the other hand, is a high-quality, one-stop-shop for all of your business printing needs. Moo’s wide selection of products, useful templates, and easy-to-use website make uploading and bringing your designs to life a breeze!
For building a beautiful website
Your website’s functionality has a lot to do with the platform you use to set it up.
There are several platforms out there to choose from - Wordpress, Blogger, Wix - but the platform I use for Elle & Company and recommend to all of my clients and customers is hands-down, without-a-doubt, Squarespace.
For many reasons…
Squarespace is easy on the eyes, user friendly, all-inclusive, compatible across all platforms, allows you to easily make changes, takes care of things you shouldn’t have to worry about, and it’s affordable.
For setting up legal templates and contracts
One of the scariest parts of starting and scaling a creative business is setting it up legally.
Not only are contracts, privacy policies, and terms and agreements totally outside of your wheelhouses, but the consequences of not setting them up correctly can be detrimental to your business.
Thankfully, The Contract Shop has you covered, and their legal templates and courses are specifically designed for creative entrepreneurs, online course creators, consultants, coaches and more.
How Contracts Can Improve Your Client Experience
For communicating with your team
My assistant, Marisa, suggested that we use Slack when she came on board two and a half years ago. I was a little bit skeptical. Would Slack really be that helpful? Wouldn’t emails and phone calls suffice?
Oh my word - Marisa saved the day with her suggestion! Slack makes it so easy to communicate as an entire team and individually among team members. Instead of checking my inbox multiple times a day, I can leave Slack open and easily talk to my assistants, answer questions, etc.
This free platform has changed the way we operate. Now I don’t ever want to function without it!
For tracking time
My assistants and I use Toggl to track our time. Toggl allows you to create categories for different business tasks (and color code them), track your time throughout the work week, and view the data through graphs and charts.
This comes in particularly handy for payroll. My assistants are able to create and download reports for any given length of time so I can view the amount of hours they put into Elle & Company each week. I am also able to run reports on how much time we spend on particular parts of Elle & Company over certain periods of time, like how much time we spent on the blog vs. Ellechats over the past month. Another free tool that makes our job so much easier!
For collaborating on documents
My business could not function without Google Docs. I’m a big fan of using them to organize my content and collaborate with my assistants and webinar guests, and I think every business owner out there can benefit from using them, too.
I use Google Docs for everything from blog post outlines, webinar/podcast outlines, newsletter outlines, client homework, meetings notes, reports, and much more. Google Drive makes it extremely easy to organize all my Google Docs, and Google Docs makes it easy to collaborate with people inside and outside of my business. A work day does not go by without me using a Google Doc.
For booking and maintaining clients
I first used HoneyBook as a client myself.
I was so impressed with how easy it was on the other end, that I started exploring it as an option for my client work.
In short, HoneyBook is a business software built for creative professionals to manage all aspects of their business. I can create and send branded proposals and invoices, send my clients emails, make notes about their account, and more. What I love most about HoneyBook is how I can keep everything in one place for each of my clients, as opposed to having information spread across email, Google Drive, Calendly, and more.
An Inside Look at My Client Onboarding Process
For small business accounting
I don’t know about you, but categorizing expense, creating profit and loss statements, and keeping my books in order for tax time are all tasks that I don’t try myself with and don’t want to spend my time doing.
So I’ve hired Steadfast Bookkeeping to take care of all of that work for me, and I’m currently on their All Aboard plan.
Having their help has not only freed up my time to do other things each month, but it’s also given me much more peace of mind knowing that my books are being handled correctly.
For seamlessly scheduling meetings
If you do any sort of client work, Calendly is a must.
Calendly allows you to seamlessly set up meetings without the back-and-forth that typically takes place over email.
Simply set up the days and times you’ve available and any other information pertinent to your meeting and send the link to your client to allow them to choose an overlapping time that works for their schedule. Calendly automatically schedules the meeting into your calendar, allows your clients to add it to their calendar, and sends reminder about the upcoming meeting.
For hosting online courses
Online courses are a fantastic source of passive income. But creating online courses are a lot of work. Setting up online courses shouldn’t be.
Teachable is a great option for hosting an online course. It’s all-in-one, allows you to set up affiliate programs and drip content, and it makes payments and payouts a breeze. Teachable is also receptive to feedback and consistently makes updates to its platform.
For creating interactive quizzes to generate leads
Have you ever been scrolling through Buzzfeed or Facebook and got sucked into taking a quiz about “Which Friends Character Are You?” or “What City Should You Actually Live In?”
Quizzes can be addicting because, taken with a grain of salt, quizzes can give you insights about yourself. And we love learning more about ourselves and our preferences. So it’s no wonder that businesses are now creating quizzes similar to those found on Buzzfeed and Facebook as a means for generating leads, driving traffic, and segmenting your audience.
For audio/video transcriptions
Rev is a handy service for transcribing audio from videos, and I use it for my Ellechat webinars and podcasts.
Each time I wrap up an Ellechat, my assistant downloads the replay video and sends it off to Rev to be transcribed.
Rev gets the transcription back to us within 24 hours, and we add it to the bottom of the show note blog posts for a couple reasons: to make it easy on people who would rather read the content than watch the webinar, and to organically increase SEO for keywords that are mentioned throughout the webinar.
Rev chargers $1/minute, so depending on the lengths of each Ellechat, we usually spend anywhere between $40-60 on a single Rev transcription.
For connecting apps and automating workflows
Zapier is an app that allows you to sync different applications and automate certain business functions.
While it may sound a little complicated, their user interface makes it really simple to connect different platforms by setting up “zaps”, or automations.
I use Zapier to connect Squarespace to ConvertKit so that website visitors who turn into email subscribers can be added to my segmented lists in ConvertKit. I’ve also found Zpier helpful for automating other aspects of my business, like synching ConvertKit with Crowdcast so that people who register for an Ellechat on Crowdcast get an automated email giving them the option to subscribe to my email newsletter hosted on ConvertKit.
For selling access to premium content
I use a paywall for the Elle & Company Library to protect premium content.
The paywall will pop up when people click the link to your content’s landing page and prevent non-subscribers from accessing the content. It also allows those who’ve already purchased a subscription to sign in.
Piano is great for several reasons:
Multiple subscription options
A quick preview of the content
Fairly quick payouts
No extra subscription cost
Which tools and resources from this list do you already use? Are there any that you hadn’t heard of? Any tools that should be on this list?