Well, this page ended up running way longer than I expected it to, almost 3,000 words gasp! (Who knew I knew so much :))
If you’d rather just cut to the chase, these links will jump you right to the tool treasure chest:
For those who decided to stay and find out whose ‘dealing out the dish’ here and why, well first of all thanks very much for that significant leap of faith I’ll do my best not to disappoint, so without further ado…
Have you ever heard the expression “You don’t know what you don’t know, until someone tells you YOU don’t know it”?
Of course you have and I’ll admit, I’ve been on the wrong end of that statement way more than I would’ve liked to have been and especially when I first started online. Having said that, it’s been a while since then and one of the best things about doing business online is that there is a huge community of people who genuinely want to help you figure out what you don’t know yet.
Sure there are a few cowboys hanging around (aren’t there always?) but generally you can spot those PDQ by applying some common sense and doing a little “Google Excavation” to check out the reputation of who you’re looking at, listening to or thinking of dealing with.
One of the most exciting things about owning an online business is the ability to free yourself of much of the overhead expense and many of the aggravations typically associated with running an offline business. Once we buy into that concept, the biggest problem can be figuring out where to find the right software, systems and service providers to be sure you can still get everything done and done right.
There’s plenty of software, tools and services available to address the most common issues you’re likely to come up against, but figuring out which are the best solutions can be a challenge even when you’ve been online for a while. So with that in mind I’m going to keep a few lists with links to the tools and software I use in my own online businesses right here. Maybe it’ll help shorten your learning curve and keep you behind the 8-ball.
Be sure to check out our blog posts though, they’ll likely answer a lot of questions and cover these and other tools and resources in a lot more detail than I can here. Also make good use of the Site Search Box, Categories, Recent Posts and Hot Topic widgets – they’re there to help you find what you need fast and easy and they’re all easily accessed from any page with a right sidebar.
Can I ask a favor of you though?…If (I should probably use the presumptive ‘whenever’ there) you find a cool resource, a smart tip, nifty tool, software solution or some great information anywhere on this site, please play the social game and spread the word… go on I dare you G+, Tweet, Like or share this page with others right now…thanks much in advance 🙂
One last thing… I do hope you’ll always feel free to let us know if there’s something specific you need or are looking for by leaving a comment at the foot of this page we’ll get back to you asap with an answer.
FREE Software & Tools
This list (in no particular order just as they came to mind while I was writing this post and I’ll update and add to the list in the future – so come back to check this out if you’re looking for anything) covers tools and software that I use pretty regularly. Most are FREE (although some do also have paid or premium services, but the paid levels are always optional if they’re listed in this section) my suggestion is for you to start out by trying the free version, you can always decide later if you want to upgrade.
- LASTPASS – Password Manager, trust me you’re going to need this and once you start using it you’ll wonder how the heck you ever managed without it!
- EVERNOTE – Remember Everything! – Note taking and organizing tool to help you keep all your notes, thoughts and ideas organized, accessible via mobile device too! The basic service is Free with an option to upgrade to Pro for increased storage capacity and a few other bene’s. There is a little bit of a learning curve but once you get it figured out you’lll love this I know I do and use it every single day for both personal and business
- FRESH BOOKS – Simple accounting and invoicing for small businesses. This is a great system when other accounting systems might feel like way more than you need right now and may be way more expensive too. FreshBooks is FREE to manage up to 3 clients. Whatever you do set yourself up with a reliable system to track revenue and expenses, tax time will be a breeze and it’s essential to know and understand at a glance where the money comes and goes with your business
- BUBBL – A simple mindmap builder that allows you to save in multiple formats (including JPG & PNG) so you can use to in docs or show on webpages
- SCREENCAST – A FREE account gives you up to 2GB of storage. This tool allows you to capture a still shot of your screen or create short video’s with audio (if you have mic and speakers) then save to your hard drive or share it with others via a link or upload direct to YouTube. Great for creating quick screen shots or short (5 mins or less) videos
- PICASA – Most of us know or think of this Google tool as a place to organize and share photos, but an often overlooked use for it is for image sizing and particularly for BULK image re-sizing. Import your images to Picasa> Select multiple images> select size> quality > add a watermark > then export them to a new folder remember if you’re planning to use them on the web, smaller images load faster! If you need help check out their Getting Started with Picasa Guide
- FAVICON GENERATOR – create a mini version of your logo to help brand your site. This is the small icon that shows in bookmarks, URL icon on browser tabs (check out our ‘NGBT Cog’ in your browser tab). Use the DD favicon generator to create the .ico file then upload to your root dir, ask Liz for reminder on how to ‘force’ it to propogate – add a video to show how to do this
- WEB 2.0 BADGES – a great selection of badges, star-bursts, seals and attention getters to help you spice up every sales page or post to your hearts content
- WORDLE – for when one word just doesn’t say it all create a word cloud
TAGXEDO – this one is like word clouds on steroids, you can create all manner of amazing word clouds just let your creativity run wild
- FILEZILLA – File Transfer Protocol (FTP) client (whether you want to or not, eventually you WILL HAVE TO LEARN how to do this) you’ll need a means to upload files to your server, this is one of the best and most popular FTP clients out there and pretty easy once you use it a few times
- FREEMIND – mind mapping tool to help you organize your thought processes and build an action plan
- BACKGROUND GENERATORS – Fancy a new background for your website or need something eye catching for a landing page? Well here’s a whole host of resources for you to play with as you create graphic awesomeness for your site:
PATTERN COOLER – choose a pattern and color it to match yours site, twitter bg or more
BG PATTERNS – app lets you make background patterns in a few clicks
DOTTED BG GENERATOR – this’ll let you go ‘dotty’ literally
STRIPE GENERATOR – does exactly what it says it does and lets you add shoadows, angles and lots more to boot
STRIPEMANIA – create all kinds of striped BG in seconds vertical, horizontal and diagonal
TARTAN MAKER – just for the Scot in all of us, create your own Tartan BG with enough choices to warm even William Wallace’s ‘brave heart’ 😉
DYNAMIC GRADIENTS – there are lots of tools out there to create gradients but I happen to like this one
TILE MACHINE – use this tool to make your own tiling bg
- WINDOWS 7 SNIPPING TOOL – This is one of those cool little tools that comes in the Accessories folder in Windows 7 SnippingTool but I still find a lot of people have not discovered it yet. Go to Start>Progrsams>Accessories>Snipping Tool> a dialogue box will pop-up and you need to use the ‘NEW’ drop down menu to select the type of snip you want (free form/rectangular/page/window) then use the cross hairs cursor to select the area you want a ‘snip’ of, once you’ve got your snip on screen you can copy it to paste into a doc, write on it with a ‘pen’, highlight, or even email your snippet. You can also save in multiple formats JPG/PNG/GIF/HTML for use elsewhere – a handy-dandy tool, completely free and like I said most don’t even know it’s there. Happy snipping:)
Cheap & Cheerful Handy, Dandy Web Candy
So this list covers a few tools and solutions I think are just awesome! Most of these I consider to be start up essentials too. Some offer 30 day FREE Trials and you’ll find a few also have Pro versions with advanced features at really great rates. These are tools you can & should (IMHO) be able to master pretty quickly, you can always upgrade to the paid or pro versions once you and your business can justify the expense and are ready to benefit from the added features.
- WISE STAMP – FREE for the basic service which let’s you brand every email with all your social media and contact info. The paid version (well worth the low cost) allows you greater control and customization
- FRESH BOOKS – 30 Day FREE Trial & FREE Basic service with Low Cost beyond that – great invoicing and book keeping solution for small businesses allows you to deliver invoices via email and for your clients to pay via Credit Card direct from the emailed invoice – how sweet is that!
- HOOTSUITE – 30 Day FREE Trail to manage all your social media from one dashboard, tons of great features allows you to schedule posts with low cost Pro version for added features and use by teams
This would be my GoTo List to get you up and running with the most basic solutions needed to start an online business or website that you hope to grow into one. These are the tools that’ll save you time and make you money by keeping you and your business well organized. They’ll also set you up to build your online business on a strong, solid foundation that’s designed from the ground up to build a loyal customer base and drive traffic to your site from day one.
One reminder here, I strongly urge you to ALWAYS use one company for domain registration and a totally different company for hosting. Even if you think you will never sell your site or business, you owe it to yourself to be able to accomplish a transfer easily and efficiently (just in case Google comes in next month and wants to buy your video hosting site ;)). So you need to set up registration and hosting in a way that makes it easy to transfer, sell or switch your hosting provider WITHOUT any site downtime – that can be, and often is, as long as 7 days and it can cost you a lot of money if it’s not done in the right step by step order. Having your registration and hosting providers separate will ensure you have control of the situation.
- GODADDY – a market leader and great company to have handle all your domain registrations, nice intuitive account manager interface to manage all your Domain Registrations in one place
- HOSTGATOR – another market leader with a reputation for outstanding customer service (well deserved in my experience), pricing, service, C-Panel access, quality server equipment and Up-Time are all top notch
- GENESIS – By StudioPress – StudioPress are the creators of the Genesis theme framework and child themes. If you’re thinking of going with a free theme – PLEASE STOP – and read this post before you go any further…Still here? I totally get that it’s tempting to try to save money by using a free theme to get started, I promise you, it is a FALSE ECONOMY. You will save far more by putting your time, money and effort into building your site and your business on a theme framework that has been designed and tested (by many, many others and BTW it’s the very framework that powers this site AND ALL MY OTHER SITES too) to work seamlessly with WordPress. I’m not saying there aren’t plenty of other options out there, some of them are even very good, but I AM SAYING I’ve used a lot of different themes and this is the one I trust to build my sites on
- AWEBER – it’s such an overused phrase but still a true one “The Money Is In Your List”! Don’t trust your list to anyone but a well respected autoresponder such as AWeber – they have some of the best delivery rates in the business. Netizens have come to know and respect the name, they also understand that if you really do respect their privacy, you’ll prove it by investing just a little bit of your own dosh to protect it for them
- SCRIBE-SEO – this is one of the best tools yet. Helps you optimize every page and post on your site with a score-card giving you tips on how to improve your score if you don’t ‘write it right’ at the first shot. This is the first step in ensuring that every page or post you publish is set up to generate traffic and traffic drives sales, ’nuff said!
- AMAZON-S3-SERVICES – the “S3” stands for Simple Storage Service. Amazon has massive amounts of high grade servers that have to remain online 24/7/365, but did you know you can put the power of their massive infrastructure to work for you for literally pennies? With an AmazonS3 account you can store and retrieve any amount of data at any time from anywhere on the web. That gives everyone the ability to affordably stream video, audio and images to be ‘served up’ on their own webpages. Seriously this is the lowest cost way for most of us to stream video to our sites and you’ll have to go a long way before you’ll outgrow this as your best storage solution
- BIGSTOCKPHOTO – great resource for high quality, royalty free photos, images and vectors. Be sure you buy the right size, smaller is cheaper and usually plenty good enough to use on the web, you can always re-size if needed but better to go down in size than to try to go up (that’s when things get all pixilated or as we non-techies call ’em, blurry)
- CAFE-PRESS – fantastic resource to find unique gifts BUT it’s also a place you can sell your own physical products including stuff with your logo on it. It’s 100% drop ship and you pick up a commission for whatever you sell so well worth your time to check it out
Phew I’m exhausted just looking at this post almost 3,000 words that’s insane! So I think I should leave it at that for the moment. This should be more than enough to keep To-Do-List-Terrors at bay and keep you busy for quite a while checking out all of these great resources. I will keep this list updated though, so it’ll be well worth you coming back to check it out form time to time. If you want to be absolutely certain not to miss out whenever I make my next super-sexy tool or software discovery though you should sign up in the footer form (or there’s another in the right sidebar) to get Next-Gen-News delivered direct to your inbox.
Oh and just before you go…as I just mind-dumped all this good stuff on you, would you do me a quick favor?…in fact whenever you find anything that helps you anywhere on this site, please give us a ‘vote of confidence’ and share it around a bit…go on I dare you go G+, Tweet, Like or share this page with others right now…thanks much in advance 🙂
OK this is really the last, last thing… if you need help with something (not finding a hot date yada, yada, but help with your blog or online business) and you suspect there’s a tool or software that would do it, but don’t see it on this list, let me know in the comments below, shoot me an email or send a message using the CONTACT form and I’ll do my best to help you find a solution:)
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