Top 24 Must-Have Tools To Run an Online Business Successfully
When you’re running an online business there is no excuse for being unorganised. There are thousands of online tools to help you gain control of your virtual business and life.
But isn’t that half the problem? There are so many tools for this, that and the other, that frankly, you end up feeling overwhelmed.
So to make life easy for you, I have consolidated all my [free tool] emails and trawled my Evernote ‘online tools’ folder. Here are the top 24 must-have tools to run your online business smoothly.
These are the crème de la crème of must-have essentials. They will simplify your life, help you create great content and overcome those tech headaches that we all get…
Simplify Your Life
1. Organise your business.
One thing I learnt early on in business was to create process documents for tasks that I do over and over again. I started using Googledocs, which are OK, but then I discovered Asana and have not looked back. I love this simple, neat and clear tool for getting organised myself – and sharing projects and tasks with team members. Free until you add team members.
2. Achieve your weekly goals.
I’ll let you into a secret. The wallpaper on my iPhone ‘lock’ screen is my weekly three-point priority goal list. This is my way of ensuring that I see my three most important goals for the week – a gazillion times a day. There is literally no getting away from it
With Wordswag app on your phone you can create awesome text in seconds for just $3.99. Then simply save the image as your wallpaper.
3. Remember everything.
Evernote solves the problem of finding some awesome blog post, app or tool and needing to file it somewhere to refer back to.
I use it to keep all my kids school activities and clubs in one place, I keep all my invoices filed here and things like a swipe file for brilliant examples of online sales pages or opt in incentives which you can clip from inside the web page (genius feature!).
Every note in Evernote is searchable (even pdfs) and you can use it to share notes with clients too. I could not do without Evernote premium ($45 per year) but you can start with the free version.
4. Recruit great virtual staff
One of the biggest problems many of us face is with unreliable staff, assistants suddenly disappearing, being flakey or just not following instructions correctly. I’ve recruited five virtual assistants in the last few years and they have all been exceptional and cost less than $15 per hour.
I’ve sourced an SEO expert in the Philippines, an adwords specialist in India, two copywriters both in USA and a social media assistant also in the Philippines.
I’ve used Upwork, Elance and Odesk (now all upwork) for every one and cannot recommend them enough
5. Be effective with your time
Need to start taking control of your time? Then install the free Rescue Time app. It keeps track of which apps and websites you send time on so you get an accurate (often surprising) idea of where your day goes. I love the weekly summary email that helps me to stay on track of my goals.
6. Schedule content for your social feeds
Want to share a page you’re reading? Or schedule your posts for later in the day or week? Buffer does all this brilliantly. Use the browser extension to ‘buffer’ any content you’ve found online and it will use a smart schedule to post it out at the best times for you.
7. Stop wasting time on Facebook
Ever sat down to do something, got a Facebook notification, just had a quick check then looked up 40minutes later thinking “shit, what was I doing?”
Me too. Until I downloaded this little free extension for chrome. It kills the newsfeed so you can’t get distracted. Problem solved.
BONUS: Get organised with your meal planning
This one’s not directly related to online business, however I’ve included it as a bonus tool for all busy mums (and dads). Prepdish helps you to shop once, do your food prep once and eat healthy stress free meals all week. You get weekly meal plans emailed to you that cut out all mealtime craziness. One more way to simplify your life ;0)
8. and 9. Quickly find relevant content for your social networks.
One of my major bugbears of running an online business is the amount of time I spend on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn and industry news websites, searching for interesting topical content to share with my audience.
Drumup makes this easy. Use it to discover content and curate it yourself using the free plan, or you can schedule posts for your feeds as well.
There is another nifty app that allows you to see top news stories from your friends. Nuzzle is my second favourite for curating social content. I’ve used this consistently after discovering it from Gary Vanerchuck and still use it to fill up my social content scheduler.
10. Easily create stunning graphics for your blog.
I honestly don’t know what I would do without Canva . If you have a website, or a social media page (and are not a designer) you’ll know how frustrating it is trying to create email headers, blog post images, ebook covers, social media posts or page headers. Even creating Facebook ad images are a synch with Canva.
I upgraded to Canva for work because I use it so much and wanted to have my ‘brand-kit’ built in. You can use the free version for most things. Truly a must-have.
11. Quickly find free stock photos
Searching for good free images for use on my blog = Bain of my life. I used to spend forever looking in 7-10 different places for images. Until I discovered Zoomyapp.
This is the only place I search now when I need to source an image. There are more than 18,000 photos licensed under Creative Commons Zero from 30 different sources. The search function isn’t great but having them all in one app saves lots of time. ($3.99)
12. Get colors from any image
OK I admit this is not a ‘must-have’ online tool – but it is such a cool little thing that I had to include it. If you’re creating an image and want to find out the hexcode of certain colours then upload the image into this nifty tool and it will tell you exactly what the hexcode is.
13. Create beautiful in-situ images
When I created my first ebook I agonised over the design of the front cover – and wanted to create an amazing graphic so that it felt like a major piece of content. Placeit allows you to create truly beautiful in-situ images of your website, app, book or even video.
14. Improve your SEO
If you’re creating content regularly then you should be researching which keywords to target on your blog. This tool will help you quickly find words and phrases your audience are searching for. Keywordtool.io is easy and simple to use (instead of the better but more complicated Google keyword tool) and gives you keywords for Google, Bing, YouTube, Amazon and the App Store.
15. Find out what content gets most attention online
How do you research what to write about on your blog? A great way of finding topics that people want to read about is by searching for what others have written already.
With Buzzsumo you can find what content performs the best defined by how often it’s shared. So you can quickly see what is working well in an industry. A must-have tool if you are blogging.
16. Create Irresistible Headlines (for non-copywriters)
Do you ever get stuck figuring out what to call your latest blog post or ebook?
I know how hard it is to come up with that attention-grabbing headline, and I know just how important it is to get people to click on your link. So I always run my draft headlines through the Headline Generator.
This tool is the secret to generating click-worthy headlines every time, and it’s free – The Headline Generator.
Just enter the info about your post, your product, your market etc. and it magically generates effective attention-grabbing headlines that convert for you.
17. Sharpen your writing skills (for non-copywriters)
I’ve always known my skills lie outside of writing copy. Granted I can get the message across usually, but I’m nowhere near ‘good copywriter’ status. Shame. So I rely on this tool to help me make my copy clear and bold.
Hemingwayapp is a brilliant free app, which improves the readability of your copy. Simply paste your copy into the website and it will highlight long, complex sentences and common errors.
18. Map out and optimise your sales funnel
Confused by what step to create next in your sales funnel? Which comes first, your email sequence or your ‘thank-you’ page? There is a tool that lets you map out every step of your funnel in a horizontal layout. So you can see your users journey page by page. Try Gingko app to map out brilliant sales funnels and ‘swipe’ competitor’s too (Shhhhhh).
19. Get Website Peace of mind
Will you get hacked? How do you keep your site bug-free? Will your site load quickly enough for people to stick around? Are your meta descriptions loaded and the correct length? Have you linked your social profiles to your website?
These are just a few of the ‘website issues’ that you can forget about if you use wpcurve. They are a Word Press support service where you get unlimited small fixes, 24/7 world wide, same day turnaround from $69 per month. I cannot recommend them enough. They are proactive, highly efficient and worth every cent.
20. Find your files on any device
If you want to be able to find any file or document on any of your devices then Dropbox is a must. It keeps them all synched seamlessly and safe in the cloud.
You can use it for free or with the pro account you get 1 TB (1,000 GB) of storage and powerful sharing features for $99 per year. Use it to share files with clients and collaborate on projects.
21. Make fillable pdf files
Ever spent ages fiddling around with your PDF files and still not figured out how to get the hyperlinks working? Or want to make your checklist ‘fillable’ so that your customers can fill out the sheet? Here’s the perfect solution.
PDFescape will save you time, make your ebook or cheatsheet insanely useful and it’s free. Simply upload your PDF file, then start editing.
22. Create effective opt-in boxes
If you want to capture email addresses on your site (you do don’t you?!), then Leadboxes from Leadpages makes it super easy. Plus you’ll create lovely boxes that look professional and work.
I also love their landing page templates – there are hundreds of them. You can select by conversion rate so you know the template you choose will get results. Leadpages starts at $25 per month for a year. (Leadboxes is a feature within leadpages).
grab my free checklist by clicking here >> P.S. If you need a little help creating irresistible opt-in freebies that attract dream customers then
23. Test new copy or a new layout
Ever wanted a quick review of a new page on your website or app? This tool allows you to see and hear a 5-minute video of a real person using your site or app (for free).
You submit your URL to Peek user testing and within a couple days (sometimes hours) you’ll receive a 5-minute video of a random person figuring out how to use your site – often a real eye-opener!
24. Be secure online
We do everything online these days don’t we? I have over 50 different accounts and logins that I need to remember. Lastpass remembers your passwords so you only need to remember your one master code. I wish I’d known about it five years ago.
You can upgrade for $12 per year to keep them synched on all your devices. Complete time saver but mostly, peace of mind.
Save time and be more effective with online tools
The Internet has unlocked a colourful and exciting world to many small businesses. We now have everything at the touch of a button. So to not use online tools to simplify your business and life would be a travesty!
My advice to you is to focus on what you want an online tool to do for you. Spend time only on the ones where you can see a clear benefit.
If you’re not using a new tool 5 or 6 weeks after downloading it – clear out. Get rid of tools that don’t work for you, and focus on getting the best out of the exceptional ones.
We all want to banish overwhelm and feel on top of things don’t we?
These tools will enable you to feel in control. And when you feel in control, you’re more likely to be in control – and succeed in your online business.
Let me know which ones are your favourites or any other must-haves that you’re using?