The right tools are essential for every business. It's so easy to spend loads of time and money testing out to see what works best for us. I used to recommend a few things in every category. For this updated list, I've done my best to narrow the recommendation to what I use daily, or on a regular basis.
Additionally, I've attempted to sort this list from 'must have' essentials, like Email Marketing, to 'nice to have' advanced tools, like ClickUp and Slack. Many of these have free versions that are great when you're first starting out. I'm all for growth by necessity, which means we don't add a lot of layers and tools just to have them, but only when they are needed because our business is growing.
Some of these links are affiliate links, and I may make a commission if you buy from my link, at no additional cost to you.
List Building & Email
ConvertKit is great if you are a blogger or have a creative business - maybe you're writing a book or plan to launch a course or two. However, if you want serious automation and list segmentation power, then ActiveCampaign is where it's at. There is also a CRM feature, and that was ultimately why I made the switch. I can track my one-on-one clients and conversations as well as email marketing campaigns. It's a powerful tool.
There is a bit of a learning curve, and I am 100% in favor of starting out on something easier if you are anti-tech or don't have a team to manage this for you. The power of ActiveCampaign is undeniable. Segmentation and Personalization are not going away.
WordPress Website & Plugin Tools
Thrive Suite & Thrive Themes
When I first got started online back in 2014, a seasoned internet marketing OG gave me some sage advice about not putting all my eggs in one basket. That's one of the reasons I keep my WordPress site to this day - I think of it as world wide web real estate that I own instead of what I rent across social media and month-to-month paid tools.
Thrive Themes provides a cutting edge WordPress Theme Builder (smart theme), and templates for your major pages (update the template and all the pages using that template are magically updated!). With your Thrive Suite membership, you also get Thrive Architect Page Builder, Thrive Quiz Builder, Thrive Leads, Thrive Ultimatum (urgency), Thrive Ovation (reviews/testimonials), Thrive Comments, and Thrive Apprentice (LMS)... At just $19 per month ($228 annual), it's one of the best deals on the web.
Funnel & Page Builder
A word about this section - if I were starting over, I'd maybe try for an all-in-one solution. Remember that whatever you choose to try out - this is not a forever decision. You're choosing something to try out for your business. Make decisions based on data and ease of use. Affiliate programs are nice as an added bonus and another income stream. Over the years I've used Clickfunnels, SamCart, LeadPages, and I'm currently testing FG Funnels. At this time, my active funnels are in Kajabi (below) or on my WordPress site with Thrive Architect (Part of Thrive Suite, above).
Along the lines of my statement above about going for an all-in-one solution if I were starting over. I use both Kajabi and Dubsado for different purposes. If you have a business with courses and coaching, you can do 95% of what you need with just Kajabi. If you only do coaching, consulting or freelance services, you can likely run your whole business with Dubsado. They are both very cool tools.
Kajabi is kinda the b-o-m-b. I resisted for a LONG time. It's an investment. However, if you're just starting out and are ready to launch your business, then this could be a solution that would actually save you money. You can literally build out a blog and web pages, landing pages for lead generation and sales, check-out pages to collect moolah (just connect PayPal and/or Stripe), send emails & of course, they have what is hands-down the best lms out there - learning management system.
I eventually caved and tried Kajabi earlier this year because I loved the experience of taking other people's courese that were hosted on Kajabi - duh. Not sure why I waited so long - just being stubborn. While I still use ActiveCampaign for email and have a wordpress site, I absolutely LOVE Kajabi for my courses. And, if I didn't have so much built out with my other tools, I would certainly give it a go as my one-stop solution. Customer support and internal training is amazing.
Dubsado has been around for five years - relatively new in the vast online tool space, yet they have a deep understanding of the tools that coaches, consultants and freelancers need to run their business...and they deliver!
With Dubsado you have a CRM for client management, contracts and forms, and emails. You can also send invoices and get paid (and set up recurring invoicing). And there's more... a scheduler for your prospects or clients, automations and workflows, plus accounting and reporting, and more.
In the 7 years I've had my business online, I've never seen a complete tool like this for less than several hundred per month, and Dubsado is currently under $40 US. Killer deal.
Fiverr is the world's largest marketplace for digital services. Fiverr enables you to browse the selection of freelancers offering services, and to place orders in just one click. A service offered on Fiverr is called a Gig. You can find help with tech like WordPress or funnel building, copywriting, video editing, graphic design - virtually anything an entrepreneur needs to hire out to save time.
Video Chat, Screen Capture & Video Editing
Click Here for my Video Gear List.
Zoom is a great way to get started with video conferencing and webinars. You can record meetings and simply have a solo meeting and share your screen to record a screeshare video. Free plan has great features and you can unlock many more with the Pro and Webinar plans.
Loom has a 100% free plan that allows you to record your screen for quick team or client communications and share via a loom.com link. There is a paid upgrade for storing more videos, but I've found the free version to be plenty for me so far. It easily connects with many business tools.
This is a GREAT solution for quick explainer videos to use for FAQ, etc.
Create and share images and videos for better training, tutorials, lessons, and everyday communication. Snag-it offers a free trial and is under $50 for a full year. Available for PC and Mac.
Also check out Loom for a free option when you need quick screenshare videos for training or explaining.
Camtasia is the 'big brother' to Snag-it. It's simply the gold standard for screen capture videos and video editing. Make your videos look professionally edited with this tool. Enhance video and audio, and add in graphics and clickable hot spots on the video.
Other options on a budget: LumaFusion (iOs devices only) - available in the App Store. Crazy fast, 6 layers of video supported and 4 layers of audio, size templates for popular social media uses.
Canva is the graphic design tool for non-designers. There are properly sized design templates for social media, presentations, business cares and more... The free version is very robust and the paid version allows for teams and collaboration. I've used Canva since 2014 and absolutely love it!
Organize, Share, Communicate & Be Productive
Organize projects, notes and research with this note taking app. It helps you capture and prioritize ideas, projects and to-do lists, so nothing falls through the cracks. Create multiple notebooks and multiple notes within notebooks. Free version and paid upgrade.
Dropbox is a modern workspace designed to reduce busywork-so you can focus on the things that matter. Dropbox is great for sharing bonus downloads with clients or sharing files with a VA our freelancer.
Google Drive & G-Suite
Google Drive is a great solution for sharing files with your team or clients. You can store unlimited Google Docs, Sheets and Slides. For a small fee, you can set up your domain on G-Suite and unlock more services and greater security.
"One App To Replace Them All" This is ClickUp's tagline, and boy-oh-boy do they mean it! We are moving everything into ClickUp and LOVING how easy it is to use and the multiple views. Do you like the Kanban board view like Trello? Got that. Prefer a list like Asana? Got that, too? Calendar? Yep - Gantt chart... Even the geekiest organizational nerds have to love this. I love the lists & also have the different views to see process flow and due dates - all in one place. ClickUp is in growth mode right now, so there are new toys to play with almost every week - new integrations and new automations.
The docs are highly editalbe - rich text, embeds, google docs...let your imagination go wild. This is the new go-to for managing our entire business - and you should definitely check it out. Warming, ClickUp is addictive - let your team help and don't get too distracted with the pretty colors and crazy number of options you have here - keep it simple and keep moving forward.
Slack is a collaboration hub that can replace email to help you and your team work together seamlessly. It’s designed to support the way people naturally work together, so you can collaborate with people online as efficiently as you do face-to-face. I love that I can have channels for client communication, yet my team can see all of them. The free version is great for communication on small teams or groups where everyone can see all the channels.