A Peek Inside My Virtual Toolbox …
There are oh so many tools available to help you run your business. It’s so hard to choose which ones are best suited for what you need and according to your preference. My list is vast due to the nature of my business (creativity and organization) so besides good ol’ Adobe Creative Suite, here is a peek inside my resource toolbox. I have put together a list of tools according to what I use, what I use for my clients (links included) along with a small handful of extra resources.
Now, let’s take a peek inside …
- GoDaddy powers the world’s largest cloud platform dedicated to small, independent ventures. They are a publicly traded internet domain registrar and web hosting company. With their services, you can purchase many products such as domain names, websites (including WordPress.org – not .com), hosting, email and website security. They also have 24/7 sales and support team members for those of you who are night owls or early go-getters. whether you have a brand-new idea or an established business it’s a great one-stop-shop for all of you online business web-based needs.
- WordPress, which began as a blogging system, is one of the most popular full content management systems and website building tools for entrepreneurs, small businesses and bloggers alike. With thousands of free plugins and widgets, customizable themes and community forums, it’s an easy, professional looking choice for entrepreneurs wanting to build their own website. You can create beautiful designs, powerful features, and the freedom to build anything you want. WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time.
- Toggl is the simplest time tracker to help you get things done. Did I forget to mention it’s free? Well it is – great bonus and ideal for teams, entrepreneurs and agencies. You can track your hours with a single click and learn where you spend your time. See the hours spent on various projects and tasks at a glance or dig deeper into details with visual reports. You can also estimate project timelines and keep track of your projects with their Project Dashboard. This helps get a more accurate picture of how profitable your projects and clients really are.
- Wave Accounting helps you look professional and get paid all the while being free to use. In this application, you can create and send invoices, estimates and receipts within seconds. A huge bonus is that you can track the status of these files and know when to expect money in your bank account. It also allows you to accept credit cards and get paid faster. Most invoices paid by credit card get paid in 2 days or less. More convenient on both ends of the project. There is a small percentage fee on Wave’s end for setting up credit cards but it’s the most reasonable I’ve seen out there yet!
- Evernote is a very useful app to have on your smartphone, tablet or use web-based. It’s just what the name implies: an application that services as your note-taker, to-do list, etc. The beauty of this application is that it syncs automatically across all your devices and operating systems. You’ll never lose another post-it or scrap piece of paper again. You can create a notebook for a particular subject/topic then fill it with ideas/notes. You can then share these notes with other people, add or take pictures, attach voice memos, spreadsheets or docs, set reminders and even create checkboxes for your to-do lists. This gem is a real time and space saver.
- Asana is a free tool that helps you manage team projects and tasks all the while getting a clear picture of what work needs to be done and who is doing it by when. With it’s great features you can do away with chaos and guesswork, and spend more time making ideas happen. You have ease of access to make sure you hit your deadlines by using the “Timeline” feature to create a plan that shows you how the pieces of your project fit together and helps you keep work on track as things change. And lastly, tie it all together by bringing emails, files, tickets and more into Asana with over 100 integrations to choose from, so you can see everything in one place. This online platform basically makes work less …. well work!
- Dropbox is a free data sharing system that allows individuals, businesses and teams to access media without sending endless back-and-forth emails. Because files are all saved within the cloud-based software, when one-person changes or moves a file, the updated format is available in real time to everyone else working on it. Dropbox also allows users to access their files from just about anywhere with a WiFi connection, eliminating the need to be at your personal computer or laptop to get work done.
- Zoom is a free video/web conferencing service. This platform provides remote conferencing services using cloud computing. Offering both meeting and webinar software. Zoom combines video conferencing, online meetings and mobile collaboration. It’s truly a consistent enterprise experience. Some of the fun features within Zoom include: online meetings, training and technical support, cross-platform messaging and file sharing as well as being able to empower your apps with video, voice and screen sharing. A must-have for those of you who work virtually.
- Slack is where work happens. Slack unifies your entire team’s communications, making your workflow, well, flow a lot better. All the apps you need are seamlessly integrated into their platform, so you can easily search and find all your files, calls, messages and clients (or colleagues) in one place. Slack offers a lot of fun features such as: persistent chat rooms (channels) organized by topic, as well as private groups and direct messaging. All content inside this platform is searchable, including files, conversations and people. Slack integrates with a large number of third-party services and supports community-built integrations.
- Canva is an online graphic design tool which is perfect for working individually or with teams of all sizes. It has an easy to use drag-and-drop interface and provides access to over a million photographs, graphics, and fonts. The tools can be used for both web and print media design and graphics. I feel their best feature is the pre-set sizes so if you’re working on something specific you don’t have to waste time hunting for the “proper” size. So, whether you’re a professional or just beginning your design journey, this resource has everything you need. They also have our templates and pro features that you can check out for making designing in their platform even more efficient than it already is.
- WooBox is a great way to create engaging and fun marketing campaigns. If you’re creating giveaways, coupons or instant wins, you can easily collect entries through forms or social networks. If you’re more into polls, quizzes and games, you can “gamify” your marketing and gain insights by creating fun, interactive experiences for your users. Or perhaps you’re looking to create some lead generation forms to distribute some awesome downloadable content, optimize landing pages and collect form data. This platform has it all. My favourite feature is the Facebook Page Apps that brings your social media together by synchronizing your marketing with their integration tabs all onto your Facebook business page. And best of all, it’s free! So, why wait? Give it a try!
- Easil.ly is a website that features thousands of free infographic templates and design objects which users can customize to create and share your visual ideas online. Using this site is as easy as dragging and dropping design elements, and users can either choose a template from our extensive library, or they can upload their own background image and start from scratch. Over 300,000 users have already registered with Easel.ly, and thousands of infographics are produced using the site every month. If you’re looking for an easy way to convey your visual image in a professional, flashy style, look no further.
- Bit.ly unleashes the power of your URLs as it is a URL shortening service with a built-in link management platform. It also allows you to share, manage and analyze your favourite links from all around the web. On average, it shortens 600 million links per month for use of social networking sites, SMS and even email.
- MailChimp is the world’s largest marketing automation platform. It’s kind of like a second brain that helps missions of customers find their audience, engage their customers and build their brand. This platform also has an amazing reporting feature that shows you how well you’re connecting with your audience and how much money you’re bringing in. It even gives you customized tips for improvement and you have ease of access from anywhere with their mobile dashboard! This platform truly gives you the marketing tools you need to be yourself … but on a bigger stage!
- TinEye is simply a reverse image search. It allows you to search by image and find where that image appears online. This is good for fast and accurate image recognition with your own images. Especially if you’ve found that “perfect” graphic but are unsure if it holds any copyright or you are looking for a higher quality version. This platform also offers alerts for corporate and enterprise automated image tracking, including daily reports on where your images appear across the web. For an added bonus (for you wine lover’s out there), it even has a wine label recognition API which identifies photos of win, beer and spirits with their customer algorithms and neural networks by being able to detect vintages right from the label.
Now keep in mind that this list is just the brim of the barrel when it comes to running a business, whether it be virtual like mine or otherwise. If you’re looking for an even larger selection of online resources, feel free to check out the list on the resources page of my website. Which is happily, forever growing.
Now, here are some extra handy resources that I use mainly with/for my clients include …
- WuFoo is an online form design that can help you create contract forms, online surveys and invitations so that you can collect the data, registrations and payments as needed. Building online forms can be tedious work and hard to do but this platform truly make building a breeze by being able to choose from 400+ customizable, professional, device-responsive templates. My favourite part about this platform is that it’s mobile responsive so you can share the forms you need on the go or embed them into your website while working on your desktop.
- Zapier connect all of your apps and automates your workflows which is an amazing tool for busy people, such as you and me. This application moves information between your web apps automatically, so you can focus on your most important work. All you have to do is pick a trigger that sets your ZAP into motion. The ZAP completes the actions while you solve more important business problems. It’s truly a simple, fill-in-the-blank set-up … point, click, automate helping you go from idea to workflow in just minutes! What more could you ask for.
- Active Campaign is a platform that carries all the tools you need to make meaningful connections and grow your business. From email marketing to marketing automation, sales CRM and even a messaging area. With a personalized email marketing tool such as this, you are able to send exactly what your customer wants … personal campaigns. And with the powerful marketing automation feature, you get your time back because it is very easy to run your marketing, set-up a welcome series, segment your contract and even use simple workflows to automate literally everything. To top it all off, this platform even offers an advanced reporting system, integrated forms, site tracking, migration services, email segmentation, automation goals and SO, so much more! See for yourself.
- ClickFunnels is a platform that gives you everything you need to market, sell and deliver your products online through sales funnels. This let’s you take the power back from the tech guys! This platform was created so that entrepreneurs who aren’t programmers and don’t know how to design, easily build pages inside of a sales funnel that are proven to convert. It’s truly as simple as picking your sales funnel, picking your page designs, modifying your pages then BANG, everything is done and in just minutes. Nothing better than a drag n’ drop platform to make life easier!
For all of you avid WordPress users out there, here are some of my favourite theme sites and plugin options …
- Akismet Anti-Spam
- Beaver Builder (lite version)
- Page Builder Sandwich
- Facebook Pixel
- Google Analytics
- GS Testimonial Slider (pro version)
- Testimonial Builder
- WP Testimonials (with rotator widget)
- Quotes Collection
- Icegram (welcome bar, popups, opt-ins, CTAs …)
- Kiwi Social Share (pro version)
- Shortcodes Ultimate
- UpdraftsPlus (backup/restore)
- Link Checker
- WPForms (lite version)
Now, we all know that being “social’ is important for business, no matter what niche you’re in. So, let’s not forget about having some social media platforms in our virtual toolboxes. Here are my preferred platforms …
Just a quick side note … Virtually Untangled will be available on Pinterest soon. Almost time to celebrate!
And lastly, for some added inspirational resources, check out these amazing blog sites …
I hope this list was a helpful reference for your business needs. Stay tuned for a spin-off blog post coming in early January that will be filled with free resources including everything from fonts and graphic sites to colour palettes and interactive design tools. If you have other toolbox resources you would like to share with me and my viewers reading this blog post, please feel free to drop them into the comments. I would love to add to this list!
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