Part of building a successful online business is designing a system that allows you to work effectively and efficiently as your business grows. To build a highly effective system, you need to leverage a variety of tools.
Here, I share the tools I use and how they have helped me grow my business to 7 figures.
Google Workspace is an all-in-one solution for your email, calendar, and documents. Set up your domain with Google Workspace to have a professional solution. Every team member, even those who only work 5 hrs a week for you can have their own email address. Access is easily controlled over folders or individual documents and multiple team members can edit the same document at the same time. I store all emails, sales page etc. in Dropbox.
Price starts at $6/user/month
For more information see https://workspace.google.com/
Dropbox syncs your data to all your devices and with all your team members without filling anybody’s hard drive as all the original data is stored safely in the cloud.Add all your team members to Dropbox Business for better access control. You and your team members can still use Dropbox Personal for private data as the two folders show up separately on your computer. I store all images, videos, audio files and PDFs in Dropbox.
Price starts at $10/user/month
For more information see https://www.dropbox.com/
Slack is like Facebook Messenger for businesses and also so much more. When you hire your first team member you realise that you don’t want to be communicating over Facebook Messenger or What’s App, you want to have a separate tool. Slack is that tool. You can create private and public channels for different projects, call each other, add a project to your project management software directly from Slack – and so much more.
Price starts at $0
For more information see https://slack.com/
Asana is a straightforward project management software. You don’t even need a team to benefit from using Asana. Create projects and task lists within projects for yourself to make sure you don’t forget anything. And create templates from projects for repetitive tasks. You can use Asana in a traditional list-based way, in a horizontal flow, based on calendar or a chart. You will not forget any task when you use Asana.
Price starts at $0
For more information see https://asana.com/
Other similar tools: Trello, Notion
I recommend you use ConvertKit or ActiveCampaign. We moved from Ontraport to Infusionsoft and are now using ActiveCampaign.
Beginner > ConvertKit – price starts at $29/month
Intermediate > ActiveCampaign – price starts at $9/month
Every business needs accounting software. Some business owners start with Excel but that is not sustainable and sooner than later you need to have a proper accounting system that can help you do a profit & loss statement and balance sheet. I tested several accounting systems when I started my business and chose the best one – Xero.
Price starts at $65 for multiple currencies.
For more information see https://www.xero.com/
Other similar tools: Banana (Switzerland), QuickBooks (USA)
My business is completely paperless, I have no paper receipts thanks to Receipt Bank. When we receive a receipt over email, it’s forwarded it to Receipt Bank that automatically categorises it. Also when we pay for something e.g. dinner or parking, we take a picture of the receipt inside the Receipt Bank app.
Price starts at $15/month
For more information see https://www.receipt-bank.com
Evernote is not just a note-taking tool, by hand or keyboard, it also helps you take and organise screenshots with its companion tool Skitch. You can forward emails you want to keep to Evernote, you can create to-do-lists, take pictures of documents and automatically save them as a PDF. You can share folders in Evernote with other team members although Evernote is more of a personal tool to keep files organised and searchable.
Price starts at $0
For more information see https://evernote.com/
5 years ago I tested 5 scheduling tools and the winner was ScheduleOnce and still today I think it is one of the best scheduling tools out there. ScheduleOnce connects easily with other apps, has customizable booking forms and booking pages, and allows you to schedule different types of events with different criteria for different dates.
Price starts at $7.50/month
For more information see https://www.scheduleonce.com/
Other similar tools: Calendly, Acuity Scheduling
Most tools don’t talk natively with each other. In order to send data from one tool to another you need another tool. The most basic one is called IFTTT and that one is great for simple tasks like saving images you are tagged in to your Dropbox. The intermediate one and most popular one is Zapier which can do almost anything for you e.g. send data from your scheduling tool to a Google Doc.
Zoom is by far the winner in video conferencing, both for meetings with up to 100 people and for webinars from 100 to thousands of participants. You can schedule recurring meetings so that your students always have the same link for all meetings. You can broadcast to Facebook Live and stream on YouTube as well. Recently Zoom acquired the app Otter so that in future your live videos can be automatically transcribed.
Price for meeting version starts at $0
Price for webinar version starts at $55/month (includes $15/month for the meeting version)
For more information see https://zoom.us/
Other video conferencing tools: Google Hangouts, Skype
Other webinar tools: WebinarJam, EasyWebinar (both can also be used for automation)
LeadPages was the leader in landing pages for a long time but many other vendors have entered the market since then. Still, most of my clients create their first landing pages in LeadPages as it is easy to use and so many are using it, that it is relatively easy to get help. Some WordPress themes have similar capabilities but might not give you the statistics and A/B testing that typical specialized landing page tools offer.
Price starts at $25/month
For more information see https://www.leadpages.net/
Other landing page tools: Instapage, ClickFunnels
WordPress Themes with landing page capabilities: Thrive, Divi
Not all teaching platforms are real learning management solutions but the term describes well the purpose of these types of tools. As soon as you start to sell your first online course you need a teaching platform that controls access to your paid content. There are so many available options that it is almost like a jungle out there. A few have risen to the top in recent years and made it a little bit easier to choose. I recommend picking one of the teaching platforms below. Some of them can also replace your landing page tool as well.
Canva is the one and only graphic software you need in your online business. It helps you create beautiful graphics in no time, has all kinds of fonts, templates, backgrounds and stock images so that you don’t even need to look further for inspiration. You can save your designs into folders so that you find them quickly again – and keep your brand colors ready to use.
Price starts at $0
For more information https://about.canva.com
At some point you want to start to record and edit videos. If you are on a Mac then Screenflow is your go-to video editing software. If you are on a PC then Camtasia is your go-to video editing software. Both tools are very similar, if anything Camtasia is more powerful. Both tools have regular software updates, some updates are free and others are not. If you want to add captions (subtitles) to your videos and/or create letterbox videos then you need other one of these tools or something even more powerful.
Sometimes you just want to record a quick video to explain something to a client or a team member and you don’t need a fancy video editing software. Then Loom is your go-to-tool.
For more information https://www.loom.com/
This is a nice to have tool but not essential. An audiogram is an audio file combined with an image that is saved as a video. It’s typically 30-60 second videos on Instagram that show you an extract from a podcast. I have used Wavve since I launched my podcast in August 2017. Price from $0/month
Price from $0/month
For more information https://wavve.co/
This is a nice to have tool but not essential. Sometimes you want to create a short video for social media built on a mix of images and videos and add an overlay text. This can take a lot of time to create in a normal video editing software but luckily there is a great number of apps that can do this quickly and easily for you. Most popular ones are Wavve, Lumen5 and Magisto.
When you start recording videos you want to host them somewhere so that you can embed them into your teaching platform. Some teaching platform include video hosting, others not. I have used Vimeo Pro for over 5 years and it does exactly what you need for video hosting.
Price for Vimeo Plus from $7/month
For more information see https://vimeo.com
If you want to produce a podcast you need an audio recording and editing software. Audacity is a free software that many use to record their podcast. I already had access to the Adobe Suite so I use the same software as my podcast editor which is Adobe Audition.
To save you time from posting on social media every day, you’ll need a social media scheduling tool. There are many to choose from for every budget and I’ve used MeetEdgar for several years but have recently started to use AgoraPulse.
When you start to get several emails a day from your clients and subscribers, it pays off to invest in a helpdesk software. Then you can see whether somebody on your team replied to an email and when and you can advise your team members how to reply to emails. After evaluating several tools couple of years ago I decided on GrooveHQ.
Other helpdesk tools: Intercom, Zendesk
From time to time you want to survey your community and clients. For many years SurveyMonkey was the only survey tool I knew but then Typeform came along and suddenly filling out a survey became more fun and looked so pretty. If someone is on a budget then I recommend Google Forms for surveys.
Sooner or later you need someone to sign a contract with your business. This can be a client who needs to sign a photo and video release form or this can be a team member who is signing a non disclosure agreement. The most modern and online business savvy way is to have a software with electronic signature and there are a couple of options.
Most websites in the world are created with WordPress and it is completely free. Normally you don’t need to download the software but just sign up with a provider that offers WordPress hosting.
Price – Free
There is really only one solution for website statistics and that is Google Analytics. Make sure you install Google Analytics from the very beginning and also add your Facebook Pixel at the same time.
Hosting your website or domains is not really a tool but somehow this list doesn’t feel complete without mentioning some international hosting solutions.
Please be aware that Dropbox and Google Drive are not backup solutions so you need to also have a backup of your most precious data somewhere else. You can do this by copying your data onto an external hard drive and also having an online solution like Backblaze.
In online business you need to be able to accept online payments. Paypal is the most popular and most accepted payment solution but it is dangerous for your business to rely solely on PayPal as they are known for freezing accounts and holding businesses hostage until they have all the documents that they want to see from your business. Therefore I highly recommend you also offer Stripe as an online payment method. In some countries bank transfer is also expected and some providers offer solutions to make that automatic.