Everything I Use + Recommend To Run My Business

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps! Are you ready to feel vaguely disappointed?

Disappointed Side Eye is the response I usually get when people ask how I run my business. Weirdly, nobody seems to want to hear that I film my videos on a cheap Android and I do all my writing in Google Docs on an old laptop that cost $300 two years ago.

Why doesn’t anyone want to hear about my old Lenovo Thinkpad?! Why can’t I tell you about my $120 phone with a sparkly cat case??

Welp, because a lot of us want to believe that buying a $1,500 laptop or a new DSLR will cure What Ails Us Professionally.

Real talk: your equipment probably isn't what's standing between you and success. Click To Tweet
Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that all you need to launch a successful business is gumption and a mouse pad. You need more than that. You need regular access to the internet, some basic tech skills, and it certainly helps to have your own computer.

But you can probably get along without top of the line everything, 23 differently monthly fees, and 43 different types of software.

I’ve spent the last seven years walking the line between boot-strapping and “I will pay to make this easier.” Here are all the things I use to run my business, if something costs $$$ rest assured I’ve tried the free/cheap versions and found them lacking.

Everything I Use + Recommend To Run My Business

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps!
Design

Unsplash for photos: free

I love this curated collection of beautiful photos. The only ‘problem’ is that everyone on the internet loves and uses Unsplash so you’ll often see the same pug-in-blanket photo evvvvverywhere.

Canva for image templates: free

All my tall, long, Pinterest-friendly post images look the same, right? That’s because I have a template. Same with those Instagram quotes!

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps!

Courses + Ebooks

Teachable for hosting my courses + ebooks: $83 a month

I’m actually currently using Thinkific but we’re transitioning to Teachable because their sale pages are a million times prettier!

Sure, you can create email courses and drip them out through your email provider, but I like having all my stuff in one place. I’d rather spend the extra money for a clean, organized, accessible space than save a few bucks a month and patch everything together.

Screencast-o-matic for recording my screencasts: $15 a year

Because I GET VERY CONCERNED about learning styles, all of my courses come with video versions of the lessons. Screencast-o-matic is super easy to use and – despite the terrible name and janky interface – totally legit.

Just plug in your mic and record your voice and your slides, then upload the whole she-bang into your course hosting platform. Also: it’s hard to go wrong with $15 a year.

Online video converter for converting video to audio: free

I convert all of my class videos into mp3s so students can listen (and re-listen) to lessons when they’re commuting, walking, etc. This site works like a charm but it’s a little spammy, so be careful what you click and download.

Audacity for recording audio books: free

I also record audio versions of all my ebooks. A lot of the topics I cover – spending habits, ending self-defeating behavior, setting boundaries – are the sorts of things you need to think about and hear about multiple times.

Audacity is super user-friendly; you can literally highlight and delete all your “umms” and cusses!

Blue Yeti Mic: $128

I recently upgraded to this mic from, ummmmm, my $7 headphone mic. Unsurprisingly, it sounds a million times better! Who knew? Literally everyone!

Ebook design: price varies

If you like my ebooks they were created by Erin, Elise, and Susannah!

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps!

Marketing

OptinMonster for my pop up: $108 a year (google around for discount codes)

I use OptinMonster because it allows me to make my popup IP-sensitive, so once you close my popup you won’t see it again till you clear your cache or use a different IP. Slightly less annoying than other popups!

ConvertKit for my newsletter + sales emails: $179 a month for 12k+ subscribers

I swear by ConvertKit and proselytize to anyone who will listen. They make sales funnels easy. They make trigger links easy. They let you re-send emails to people who didn’t open them the first time.

They make it easy to see which freebies are attracting the most subscribers. They have great customer support. They make it easy to dump ‘cold’ subscribers. They don’t double charge you if one subscriber is on two lists. If you have a list over 2,000, I SO highly recommend them! (Mailchimp is free for lists under 2,000 so it might be worth it!)

Leadpages for my landing pages: $297 a year

I use Leadpages for everything. I use them for landing pages for freebies, thank-you pages, even sales pages. And did you know you can host your webinars with Leadpages + and an embedded Youtube Live stream? You don’t need to spend $$$ on WebinarJam!

Yoast SEO plugin: free

I used to think SEO didn’t apply to me. Spoiler alert: SEO applies to everyone. Yoast makes it sooooo easy; they even have a stoplight-style rating for every post. A ‘red’ post has bad SEO, yellow is fine, and green is great!

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps!

Social media

Gramblr: free

I use Gramblr when I want to upload non-photo images from my desktop. Love it!

Buffer: $10 a month

I use the $10 a month version of Buffer to schedule updates to Facebook and LinkedIn. It shows you how popular posts are, allows you to drag and drop updates within a calendar grid, and re-queue your most popular stuff. I like it so much better than Hootsuite!

Tailwind: $15 a month

I looooove Tailwind for scheduling stuff on Pinterest. It’s insanely powerful with crazy insightful analytics. Like, it knows what time of day people are most likely to pin your type of content!

If you write about stuff that’s popular on Pinterest – food, fashion, DIY, design, self-development – it’s such a good investment.

Organization

Trello: free

Trello uses the project management methods pioneered by Toyota’s CEO! It’s free, pretty intuitive, and a million times easier than Basecamp. SOLD. We even used it to plan our wedding and move!

Actual, paper notebooks: $2?

I also use real, actual notebooks to make my daily, five-item to-do lists: Three big tasks, one ‘easy’ task, and one fun thing! I prefer spiral notebooks because I like to lay them flat and flip them over so I don’t have to look at the previous day’s list. 

The Pomodoro Techique: free

Set your phone’s timer for 25 minutes. Work on one task uninterrupted. Take a five-minute break doing something totally unrelated to your 25-minute task. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Not sure which tools, software, and platforms are with the $$$? I tried 'em all so you don't have to! I'll tell you what free stuff works + what to skip! Click through for tips on social media, marketing software, and productivity apps!

Classes

Pinterest Powerhouse: $249

For a long time I ignored Pinterest because I didn’t really use it so I figured it “didn’t apply to me.” Much like SEO, Pinterest applies to pretty much everyone. Before I took this class, Pinterest sent me 7% of my traffic; now it sends 54%! Totally worth the investment. 

Webinar Rockstar: I bought it when this first came out and I don’t remember how much it cost!

I avoided running webinars for years because I was intimidated by all the moving parts, but this class made it so much easier. It even includes template slides and breaks down the language you should use and which types of images should go on which slides.

This class helped me covert almost 40% of the people who attended my webinar live. That’s an insane conversion rate! I don’t think the course is currently open for enrollment but I’d totally recommend getting on the waiting list.

Whew! What an exhaustive list! But I want to hear from you – what tools do you use for your online business? Leave links in the comments so we can check them out!

Photos by Carl Heyerdahl and STIL on Unsplash // cc

9 Comments

Sarah Von Bargen

Oh, I’ll try! Honestly, it’s all pretty low-tech! This is a bit of peak into some of the things I do.

Reply
Katie

I love these posts! hopefully I can schedule some time and figure out what works best for me on the hobby side, i’ve heard about yoast for at least 3 years but the idea of red, yellow, and green lights really appeals to me!

Reply
Hannah

Ahh, how did I not know you could create your own templates in Canva?! Game changer.

I also like:

– The free WP content calendar plugin. It’s amazing.
– Later for scheduling Instagram posts (free for up to 30 per month)

Reply
Miriam Sheerin

I’m a big fan of lenovo thinkpads too, I use the X Series, the 12in, with the best keyboard for a small laptop. I can plug in a large display, my favourite keyboard and a mouse when I’m at my desk. Hubby is a fan of the T Series so it’s a family thing.
My phone cost more than my laptop but I love it, it’s a Xiaomi Redmi, way better spec than the Samsung 8, or equivalent Apple, for a quarter of the price.
I also use Quuu.co with Buffer (free version) for a low budget way to handle posting interesting articles to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
I’ll be checking out some more of your suggestions and sharing this article, such great tips.

Reply

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