Whether you’re self-employed, a solopreneur, or small business owner, you have to work both IN your business (serving clients & customers) and ON your business (managing technical operations and administration). Selecting the right suppliers and tools to keep your business running efficiently is NOT easy, especially with so many options out there.
Here are the services, tools, and products I’ve selected after hundreds of hours of trial, error, research, and customer service calls. I entrust my own business with these solutions, and I highly recommend them because they’ve made my life easier, improved my business efficiency, and provided the best value.
Note, I’ve included some affiliate links below, but rest assured that I only recommend services & products I use myself.
Last updated Sept 2020
- Hosting: A2 Hosting is my web hosting due to their fast speeds, great customer service, and green servers. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a comprehensive review of A2 from WPKUBE.
- Domain registrar: NameCheap offers competitive fees, affordable rates, and simple, user friendly control panel. Also, since May 29, 2018, Namecheap has offered free lifetime privacy protection on all domains purchased through them, which is a huge bonus if you don’t want your contact info visible in public WHOIS records. I used to use GoDaddy, but no longer prefer them due to their aggressive upselling tactics and somewhat distasteful advertising.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Attracta offers a simple interface to optimize the SEO on your site.
- Content Management System (CMS): WordPress.org all the way. I’ve tinkered with Wix, SquareSpace, and others. I was on New Rainmaker for a year (steer clear!), and eventually came back to WordPress. WordPress is by far the most robust, and the wide adoption means you’ll never be short of developers or resources. I use WordPress for this site, CareerRelaunch.net, and ilumity.com.
- Themes: Themeforest is a great place to find solid themes for your WordPress blog.
- International payments: Monito allows me to find the most affordable way to transfer money abroad
- Receiving payments online: BrainTree is the back-end payment solution I use on this site. A bit tricky to set up, but once you’re up and running, it’s fantastic!
- Receiving individual payments: PayPal is the industry standard, and many of my clients find these to be the simplest, most straightforward way to pay me.
- Accounting: QuickBooks Online is where I manage all client invoicing, payments, expense tracking, and accounting.
- Media host: Blubrry– media host with seamless Powerpress integration in WordPress, stats, and affordable rates, not to mention great customer service.
- Audio recording software: Adobe Audition (former Cool Edit Pro) is the software I’ve used for years, going all the way back to my news anchor days. Love the ease of use and amazing versatility of the program.
- Music: Although I commissioned an independent musician to compose the Career Relaunch theme song, I often use AudioJungle to find other royalty-free tracks for my projects.
- Virtual Notebook: Evernote is my where I save ALL my ideas, project notes, lists of favorite things, article ideas. I use it as a virtual business card holder, idea repository, resource database, and content planner. Syncs seamlessly across all my devices, and even works offline.
- To-do lists: Todoist is where I create checklists, organized by project. Works seamlessly across desktop and mobile, and allows offline usage. I migrated over to Todoist after being a loyal user of Wunderlist for years, but Wunderlist shut down in 2020 after Microsoft acquired them in 2015. I couldn’t bring myself to shift over to Microsoft To Do, mostly because of how I saw Skype go downhill after Microsoft acquired them in 2011. Zapier has a great article on a few other to do list apps to consider.
- Saving stuff from web: Pocket (Read It Later, Inc) allows you to easily save articles, videos, and other web content.
Managing virtual teams
- File sharing: DropBox is my virtual drive of choice. Simplifies document sharing with clients and freelancers. Gone are the days of emailing large files. Great for working on shared documents with a virtual team. I prefer it over Google Drive and definitely over Box. Find it easier to share, edit, and replace files.
- Project management: Trello has transformed how I organise workflows and tasks, helping me stay visually organised and focused across projects with my virtual teams. I love the visual, pin-board style system it offers. Also works seamlessly across my desktop & mobile device.
- Collaborative docs: Google Docs is my go-to platform for sharing docs with my teams and clients. Back in 2017, I was more of a fan of Dropbox’s Paper (launched in early 2017) because I found the interface cleaner, more intuitive, and easier to set up for sharing vs. the older Google Docs, but the most recent updates to Google Docs have made it much more user-friendly with seamless formatting and sharing options.
- Sending large files: Firefox Send is my preferred tool to send large files. In 2019, I used to use WeTransfer, but in 2019, I shifted over to Firefox Send, which is free, fully encrypted, and allows you to send files (up to 2.5GB) through a safe, private link that you control and set to expire after a certain number of days or downloads. I also began using Dropbox Transfer after it launched in 2019, which allows me to send large files directly from my local drive. So handy!
- Email: G Suite is what I use for my business email, especially after they rolled out Gmail confidential mode in 2019. I used to use Office 365 Exchange, but switched over to G Suite because it covered my needs at a fraction of the cost of Office 365. If you aren’t ready to commit to a domain and just want a professional-looking email so you’re not sending someone to your Gmail, Hotmail, or AOL (please no!) account, check out this article from Cloudwards on the Best Email Hosting Services.
- Finding someone’s email: I still find emailing to be the most effective form of outreach (vs. social media). I typically turn to ContactOut or GetProspect to track down an email. Check out my full article on 4 Free Tools to Find Someone’s Email.
- Newsletter: Mailchimp is my trusted newsletter platform after doing a lot of research into various providers. Simple to use, free up to 2,000 subscribers, and a very user-friendly drag & drop email builder. I initially used AWeber, but that was a HUGE mistake even though it works out to be cheaper with larger numbers of subscribers. AWeber was so much clunkier with a more dated user interface. I wished I’d just started with Mailchimp from the start. Switching later was a big hassle.
- VPN Providers: Windscribe is my go-to VPN when I need to set up a secure network. To gain access to online content that requires you be based in a specific country, I use Location Guard for Chrome, as I work with clients spread out around the world. This article on the 7 Best VPN Services by ProPrivacy or Guide to VPNs by Wizcase also provide solid overviews of VPN options out there.
- Scheduling meetings: OnceHub is my meeting scheduling platform of choice that I use with all my clients, teams, and podcast guests. It allows people to suggest meeting times directly in a calendar that shows my real-time availability to avoid time-consuming, back-and-forth emailing to find mutually agreeable meeting times. I considered YouCanBookMe, Calendly, and Assistant.to, but found ScheduleOnce to offer the most versatility at a reasonable price.
- Audio conference calls: Uber Conference is a simple way to set up a conference call without having to worry about calling into phone numbers or setting up PINs. All you need is an internet connection.
- Video conferencing: Zoom (incredibly simple, professional, and versatile) is my go-to platform for all client video conferences and webinars. WhereBy formerly appear.in (one-click web conferencing & screen sharing) and FaceTime (iOS & MacOS only) can also be handy if I just need to set up a really quick conference call. I used to use Skype, but after Aug 2018, I shifted exclusively to Zoom because Skype has become too finicky for my tastes.
- Legal documents: Docracy offers free legal document templates and an easy online signing system that I use for legal contracts and legal forms used for my podcast.
- Trademark searches: Trademark247 is where I do quick trademark searches, especially when advising clients on potential personal branding ideas. Much easier than trying to navigate the US Patent & Trademark Office’s antiquated database.
Things I Never Leave Home Without
- Mug: My trusty Zojirushi mug keeps drinks hot or cold for hours. Best insulated mug I’ve owned. Hands down.
- Music: iPod + JVC Marshmallow earbuds– if I ever want to be in my own world, or block out noise during a commute, this combination is perfect.
- Phone: iPhone– I’ve been an Apple loyalist since 2007, the year the iPhone launched. It integrates seamlessly with my MacBook and forms the digital hub of my life. I can’t imagine myself ever switching to Android, although I know a lot of people who love their Android devices too!
- Business cards: call me old fashioned, but I always carry a few with me. My business card provider of choice is Moo.com. Get 20% off your first order using this link.
Need more help running your business?
If you need more personalized guidance on navigating the mechanics of starting your own business, I also offer 1-on-1 consulting to help guide you step-by-step through the strategy and logistics of defining, building, and marketing your personal brand.