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 Nov 2023
- Hosting: A2 Hosting has been my web hosting provider since 2016 due to their fast speeds, great customer service, and green servers. In 2021, at the suggestion of my web team, I considered WP Engine as an alternative, but felt the value for money didn’t compare. 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 and Yoast offers simple ways 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: Wise is the platform I use for all international transactions. I use their multi-currency, borderless account to send/receive payments in foreign currencies. Monito is another service that allows me to find the most affordable way to transfer money abroad, but I’ve consistently found Wise is the best.
- 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.
- Equipment: I use the Samson Q2U microphone mounted on a microphone stand I bought on eBay. I’ve also tried out the HyperX QuadCast S (more of a gaming mic), but found the bass to be a bit too strong with my voice. Aside from being in a quiet, carpeted room, that’s pretty much all there is to my sound setup.
- Riverside has written the Essential Podcast Equipment Checklist for Every Budget, which is a very helpful overview of options out there.
- Virtual Notebook: UpNote is 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. For years, I used Evernote, but departed the platform in 2023 after a major shakeup at the company.
- 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. This Fast Company article outlines other reasons why Trello is such a powerful tool. I also use Notion, which is also incredibly versatile and especially helpful when onboarding new team members or managing content calendars.
- 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. However, recent updates to Google Docs have made it much more user-friendly with seamless formatting and sharing options.
- Sending large files: I began using Dropbox Transfer after it launched in 2019, which allows me to send large files directly from my local drive. So handy!
- When sharing many pics or files, I use new.space by Shareup, which is my file-sharing platform of choice due to its amazing security and admirable privacy philosophy their founder shared with me.
- Before new.space, I historically used WeTransfer, which has improved over the years. For sensitive files, I also used ToffeeShare because the transfer is no longer accessible once you close the transfer page.
- Sharing screenshots: Monosnap is my go-to tool for sharing annotated screenshots or screen grabs. Dropbox Capture also works very well.
- Sharing videos: Dropbox Replay is incredibly useful for annotating and sharing videos with clients and team members for review. Minor point, but it shows your on-screen clicks, which can be helpful.
- Sharing screen recordings: Loom is my go-to solution for sending videos of myself, on-screen video captures, or both. Loom is intuitive to use with a desktop app not offered by others like Viyard or Claap, which operate as Chrome extensions.
- 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.
- Instant Messaging: WhatsApp Business is what I use with clients, although I’m actively looking for an alternative because I’m not convinced of WhatsApp’s privacy protections. For personal communications, I go with Signal (strong privacy) or iMessage with people who have Apple devices.
- Scheduling meetings: OnceHub is my meeting scheduling platform of choice 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. I sometimes use WhatsApp Business these days to communicate with international clients.
- Video conferencing: Zoom (incredibly simple, professional, and versatile) has been my go-to platform for all client video conferences and webinars since 2016. I also use Microsoft Teams because some of my corporate clients use it exclusively, but strongly prefer Zoom, which I find more functional. WhereBy formerly appear.in (one-click web conferencing & screen sharing) and FaceTime (iOS & MacOS only) can also be handy for very quick video calls. I used to use Skype, but after Aug 2018, I shifted exclusively to Zoom because Skype had 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.
- Personal blogging: Medium– aside from publishing blog posts on my own website, I also share articles on Medium in my Career Relaunch and Personal Branding publications.
- Social media management: Vista Social– unlike other well-known social media management (SMM) tools out there I’ve used like Later, Buffer, and others, Vista Social enables you to easily post and monitor your social content across all the major social media platforms including Instagram Reels, LinkedIn, and YouTube. I’ve explored a TON of other SMMs, and factoring in the user experience, versatility, and seamless integration with my social accounts, Vista Social is simply the best value for money.
- Surveys & Forms: Fillout became my go-to forms tool for soliciting input and feedback in late 2023. The tool is robust and fully customizable with the option to display a summary of results, which is very important for me. For years, I used SurveyMonkey, but in late 2022, they suddenly quintupled their fees overnight. While I still love SurveyMonkey, their huge fee increases just put me off. Google Forms is fine, but has limited question types.
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. If you’ve ever attended one of my live workshops, you’ve certainly seen me drinking out of this.
- Music: Apple Watch + Apple AirPods Pro– if I ever want to be in my own world or block out noise during a commute, this combination is perfect.
- Laptop: I’ve used an Apple MacBook since 2013 when I started my own business. I currently used a 14-inch MacBook Pro 2021 with the Apple M1 processor. The 2021 14″ Pro is by far the best MacBook I’ve owned after using previous MacBook Pros (with noisy fans) and MacBook Airs (that aren’t quite as speedy with more limited ports).
- Phone: Apple iPhone– I’ve used an iPhone 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. I also use the virtual card service HiHello, which I embed into my presentations and keep in my virtual Apple Wallet that enables me to share it easily when meeting others.
- Camera: Fujifilm X-T30 ii. Yes, I still carry around a separate camera from my iPhone. Although my iPhone 15 takes good photos, when I need better pics from my talks or events, I use an actual mirrorless APS-C camera. I also own a higher-end Fujifilm X-T5 that I love using, but this camera is a bit too big to carry around. I tried the Sony RX100 VII, which is supposed to be best-in-class along with the Sony ZV-1, but I found both to be less intuitive to use. Canon Powershot cameras, while compact and solid, just don’t deliver the picture quality I’m seeking.
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.