I wish I had known about these online business tools when I first started trying to make money online with my early websites. When I launched my first company (which was a colossal failure, mind you), I was moving full steam ahead with a huge number of great ideas, an insane work ethic, and innate passion for eventually creating my own job – as opposed to working for someone else for the rest of my life.
Amongst the many reasons why that online business eventually devolved into a fiery inferno, one thing I seriously lacked was an in-depth knowledge of all the incredibly useful online business tools, services, and platforms at my disposal, that could help me more effectively launch a profitable online side business.
By choosing to start a side business and grow it while keeping my day job, I now had extremely limited time and financial resources.
It was a constant struggle to bring on help. It takes money to hire talented contract developers, designers, writers, and marketers. Then, after they’re on board, you spend a lot of your precious time (which you don’t really have) managing their progress. I call finding this balance opportunity management.
Much more on how to effectively do that in my course, The Launch While Working Formula.
I knew that all of the top entrepreneurs I followed like Ramit Sethi, Tim Ferriss, and Lewis Howes had a big enough business that they could afford to hire help to amplify their efforts. But I was then left wondering, how did they get there in the first place?
So, I set out to dig deeper into all of the possible ways I could automate, streamline, and outsource the process of building and growing my side business by finding and utilizing the best online business tools.
If you’re still looking for the right side business that aligns with your skills and passions, check out my list of the 101 best side business ideas.
In no time, I came across intricate email marketing platforms, tools for setting up automated sales funnels, social media scheduling services, website themes, plugins and other online business tools that could accomplish exactly what I was looking to do in minutes as opposed to hours (or days). Not to mention the treasure trove of business books and online business courses my mentors told me to check out.
My mind was officially blown.
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How had I gone through so many of the beginning stages of building a business, like designing prototypes, building a website, and lining up manufacturing without looking ahead and proactively seeking ways to more effectively grow my business without so much of my own personal effort?
Whether your new business is centered around a physical product, a service-based offering, SaaS tool, or the next iPhone app that everyone must have, you need to have an arsenal of useful tools that'll propel you forward as quickly as possible.
— Ryan Robinson (@TheRyanRobinson) January 4, 2016
Please note that some of the links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission. Know that I only recommend tools I've used and believe are genuinely helpful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to purchase them. Most of all, I would never advocate for buying something that you can't afford or that you're not yet ready to implement.
Here are my picks for the 101 best online business tools, apps, resources, browser extensions, plugins, and platforms that will help get your website (or online business) to profitability as quickly and inexpensively as possible.
The Must-Have Online Business Tools
In my opinion, having a WordPress hosted site is the absolute best balance between easy-to-setup website and scalable platform for future growth, especially if your online business model shows early positive growth signs. If you're new to setting up a visually appealing website, there are an incredible amount of online courses, tutorials, and free resources that can teach you how to get started with WordPress. I also put together one of the most in-depth guides on how to start a blog (and actually start earning money from it).
The free, simple to use Content Management System (CMS) that WordPress gives you is a basic website, published on one of their free default Theme templates in a matter of minutes. For more creative control and advanced features that you'll eventually want to use for your online business, you'll want to pick up more complex themes and plugins.
While I've since moved on to using Kinsta to host my blog now that I get millions of readers, Bluehost is where it all got started. Their hosting plans are some of the most affordable you'll find online, starting at just $3.95/mo with a variety of different plans to suit your unique and growing needs. Whether you're starting your first website or you just want to get your online business up and running quickly, Bluehost is my pick for the quickest & easiest web hosting provider. On top of just hosting, they also give their customers access to 24/7 expert support to help with any questions, troubleshooting, and customization issues you have as you get going. Plus, they back all of their hosting plans with a 30 day money back guarantee. You can get started right here.
OptimizePress is the premier WordPress theme for creating conversion-optimized websites, and it's what I use to power my online business on the backend of this site. The amazingly simple visual live editor and template library enables you to very quickly build high converting landing pages, set up your blog, construct member portals, offer gated content, and so much more at an affordable price point.
As an added bonus, all of the pages you'll create with OptimizePress are automatically fully responsive, so they'll display perfectly on mobile & tablets. The theme is regularly updated with new features, functionalities, and has an amazing support team to answer any questions you have once you get started. On top of that, the theme plays very nicely and has direct integrations with all of the other top online business tools on the market, which makes seamlessly running your business a breeze.
A huge part of getting traction with any online business is building up your email list. Your subscribers are one small step away from becoming customers, and they'll serve as your first group for testing new products, sharing helpful insights, and launching new features. I've used several different email marketing tools, but ConvertKit is my all-time favorite. Their functionality is designed specifically for solopreneurs, bloggers, small business owners, and they're constantly creating new features with these users in mind.
It's very affordable (starting at $29/mo) and comes with every feature you need to build lists, quickly generate high-converting landing pages, set up automated emails, message subscribers, and includes numerous helpful email templates to start with. It also integrates directly with WordPress and dozens of other important tools for online business owners, so you can easily install visually appealing opt-in boxes and capture leads. If you want to take your email marketing seriously, check out ConvertKit today, it's by far my most essential online business tool.
My very first online store ran on Shopify. Beyond just their easy-to-build online business storefronts that you can host on your own custom domain, they've released a suite of other online business tools and integrations that allow you to sell your products directly on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, and you can even embed shopping carts directly into your existing website.
With low monthly and per-sale transaction fees on top of a free trial, Shopify is a great option for selling products online without going through the complicated process of custom-building an online store directly into your website.
This Chrome extension for Gmail pulls in all of the LinkedIn information about whomever you’re corresponding with via email, which is essential with my business as a freelance content marketer. When you hover over their email address, a sidebar will appear with their LinkedIn profile picture, job title, social links, and other relevant information. This extension gets bonus points, because it'll help you test and confirm whether or not you have the right email address for a person you're trying to reach out to.
I use the Boomerang Chrome extension to trigger automated follow up emails, schedule emails to be delivered at a later time, and resurface emails I want to follow up with in my inbox on a pre-determined date. This online business tool has become an essential part of my content distribution cycle and outreach process for my freelance business—especially when it comes to remembering to follow up on my work from home job leads. The goal of using Boomerang is that you’ll never forget to follow up or lose track of important prospects again.
Similar to Boomerang in some ways, Inbox by Gmail will help you become significantly more effective with your email follow up (and email organization). Snooze emails to a later date if you can't deal with them immediately. Send emails to potential clients and trigger them to resurface in your inbox if you haven't heard back within a week. To make things even better, there's even a Mac desktop client called Boxy, that allows you to get Inbox out of your browser and onto your desktop.
After testing several different web hosting providers for my online business over the years, I've found an incredible new home with Kinsta. Since joining their premium WordPress hosting service, they've helped me make impressive gains on key factors like site load time, in addition to having one of the best customer service teams I've ever worked with. Kinsta comes at a higher price point compared to many of the entry-level hosting providers like Bluehost and HostGator, but once you're starting to get traction with your website, their unparalleled hosting plans and accessible customer service team makes them the perfect solution for growing your website to the next level. Check out their hosting plans and you'd be glad you did.
I've used many social media management tools for my online business over the years. I now choose to use Edgar, a relatively new player in the industry, because it allows me to automate social media updates based on which category of content each message falls into (think: inspirational updates, funny memes, promotional messages, or guest posts), to make sure I'm sharing a strategic variety of different types of content. Another great feature of this online business tool is that you can allow your posts to be re-shared in the future, which cuts down on the amount of time you need to invest in regularly scheduling updates.
As you know, growing your email subscriber base is essential to increasing your revenue and monetizing your online business. This useful email capture tool can be set up on any page of your website (they have an incredibly easy-to-use WordPress plugin) and gives you the ability to A/B test different messages to find your most effective email capture mechanisms, all without having to hire expensive development help.
12. Quuu Promote.
Since discovering Quuu Promote on ProductHunt back in 2016, it's completely changed the way I promote my blog posts—helping me get several hundred shares for everything I publish within just a few days. With Quuu Promote, you take 2 minutes to submit a new article you want shared (for example, my 9-step guide to start a phone case business that I recently ran a campaign for), pay $10 - $50, and your content gets promoted across the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn accounts of more than 60,000 people who use the service (including yours truly).
Here's what it looks like behind the scenes:
Think of it as a way to jump-start the activity and social sharing for new content. It won't replace the massive returns you can get from reaching out to influencers, getting featured in major publications, or sending the article out to your newsletter list, but it's an incredible supplement. Check it out and sign up right here.
Outsourcing Tools and Platforms
Crew is hands down the highest quality freelance marketplace I've used when outsourcing design or development work for my business. If you're in a position where you have more financial resources than you do time to build an app or launch your website, then choosing to outsource to these top pros is a no-brainer.
What's really great about Crew is that they're bringing you these top designers and developers in a very tightly managed, carefully curated system that pairs you with account managers to help run your projects more smoothly (a huge value). After submitting a project request, you get matched up with several hand-picked freelancers to choose from. Not to mention the fact that these freelance designers and developers have won Apple design awards, Emmys and have built products that are used by millions of people. You'll choose from freelancers that have experience working with companies like Google, Uber, Apple and literally hundreds of other top startups and companies around the world.
Hiring talented freelance help will allow you to focus more on your strengths, and give you the benefit of offloading business tasks that may not be your strong suits. Copywriting, logo design, development, SEO, and even sales & marketing will be crucial to your early success in growing your side business. A platform like Upwork can help with outsourcing and easy payments, plus provide valuable resources to get your online business off the ground.
For more on how to prioritize what you should outsource within your online business, join my course, The Launch Formula.
This is one of my favorite communities to source freelance content marketers and community/social managers that know exactly what they're doing (and can build a powerful content marketing strategy). They already have the marketing skills you need in a talented freelancer. They vet every freelancer in their community very carefully, and ensure there's nothing but the best, which is a must when you're trying to grow your online business without sacrificing the quality of your work.
Want to grow your twitter following? Increase your Instagram engagement? Get some professional copywriting done? How about outsource the creation of an infographic? GrowthGeeks has been my go-to for getting help with stepping up my social media activity and producing high quality infographics for my online business. If you're in need of top growth hacking talent, this is your place to go.
With over 1.5 Million freelancers on their platform, Guru's concentration on bringing together experienced technical and design-oriented freelancers makes them a great alternative to Upwork, where I've historically had more quality issues.
A notch above the rest in terms of talent pool, Skillbridge brands themselves as the access point to the hidden world of elite business consultants, experts, and professionals in a format that focuses more on industry-experts as opposed to skills-based experts. Here, you'll certainly be spending more money for help, but you're much more likely to find a pro with broad expertise across an entire industry - a valuable asset if you have more money than you do time for growing your online business.
This freelance community focuses on bringing in creative talent and offering pre-packaged services like logo design, image editing, newsletter design, blog post writing, crafting press releases, or even whipping together designs for motivational quotes 😉. What makes them different is their quick & simple checkout process that eliminates the need to search for freelancers, negotiate on price, and worry about deliverable timelines.
Toptal is a great place to look for talented software developers if you have the budget for quality help. The platform bills itself as an exclusive marketplace that weeds out all but the best and most decorated developers working on everything from Java to Python. Best of all, Toptal does the head-hunting work for you, so you'll spend less time searching for the perfect developer and more time building your online business.
JobRack is a job board specifically for hiring high-quality Eastern European contractors to help you grow your business. Hiring talented freelancers from Eastern Europe is a growing trend because of their work ethic, language experience and significantly lower wages than Western Europeans. It can be a a great pool to tap into for either outsourcing mundane tasks or getting higher quality results with projects outside of your area of expertise.
Research, SEO & Marketing Online Business Tools
I've used SEMrush for several years—it's an all-in-one toolkit for digital marketers. From estimating search volume ahead of time on a set of keyword phrases I'm considering writing new blog content about, to examining competitor pages, checking for backlink opportunities, paid ad analysis and more, their suite of tools have become an essential part of my workflow as a content marketer.
Check out their suite of tools by signing up for a 7-day free trial right here today.
If you're new to the world of SEO and link building, then signing up for a free Ahrefs account and keeping track of your website's ranking metrics with this online business tool is the best place to start. Ahrefs tracks a large number of website metrics including how many backlinks are pointing to your website (and where they link to) which builds your site's authority and ability to rank well on Google, your traffic rankings, best performing content, and much more.
Some of the many benefits to using Moz's intricately built-out suite of SEO tools is quickly establishing a website's relevancy, authority and credibility when you're evaluating potential partners, distribution and publishing opportunities. Their analysis tools will also guide you to perfecting your own website's SEO-optimization, increasing your domain authority, and avoiding any of the pitfalls that would harm your site's ranking ability. I also use their free Chrome Extension to get easy one-click access to their tools.
This awesome online video and animation maker gives you all the tools you need to create professional intro videos, explainer videos, animations, slideshows and more—think of it as an easy-to-use DIY alternative to hiring a video maker or animator on Upwork. If creating and promoting YouTube videos is a component of your marketing strategy, Renderforest's video template library will help you hit the ground running from day one. Even better, it's free to sign up and give it a try 🙂
I've frequently covered how important this free tool from Google is, in validating business ideas, deciding which topics to blog about, which keywords you should be targeting for your webpage, and so much more. Use the keyword planner to check average monthly search volume for different sets of keyword groupings, and that'll give you a very quick sense to whether or not there's demand for the product, service, or content you're wanting to offer with your online business.
With this simple tool, you can paste in links to your webpages and analyze them for getting to the right meta tags, page titles, post titles, and you'll learn about the optimal balance of keywords to use when creating new content.
This tool is as minimalist and straight forward as it gets when it comes to embedding quick and easy tweetable bits anywhere on your website with an easy-to-install WordPress plugin. I use it within this post!
The CoSchedule team is doing something right. They have tons of great online business tools, including this one that gives you a quick SEO analysis of how your potential headline ranks on a scale of 0-100. It goes a step further and also helps you boost the effectiveness of your blog post titles with powerful word and phrase recommendations.
I use this diverse researching tool to concept potential blog post topics, find key influencers to help distribute my content, and identify opportunities to build relationships with potential partner sites. You can use it to see how many social shares a competitor's blog post has, which will give you insights as to which social channels that topic may perform best on. It’s a great place to see which topics related to your online business get the most attention, so that you don’t go flying blind the next time you write a new blog post.
Yoast is legendary in the SEO industry, and their optimization plugin for WordPress posts and pages lives up to their reputation. All you do is fill in the sections for meta title, meta description, target keyword, then Yoast scans your content and gives you precise recommendations for how to further optimize your content for ranking well. If you're starting a blog or relying on content marketing to drive new customers into your pipeline, this is a must-have online business tool for your arsenal.
This social media-driven sharing tool, has a suite of offerings including the social sharing widgets you see on this site. Their targeting tools allow you to zoom in on your website visitors to create dynamic portrait based on geography, mobile usage, social media connections, and more.
Created by content marketer, Sujan Patel, this online business tool can help you build a targeted Twitter following that regularly engages with the content you create & share. It automates and streamlines the process of engaging with your target market, based on keywords and hashtags you identify with.
34. Google AdWords.
Affordable, targeted paid marketing to as wide or as narrow a client base as you'd like within Google's sponsored search results or across their vast display network of partner sites. Cheaply test the viability of your product by driving paid traffic at a quick landing page to see if they'll sign up for more information about your online business. Attract your first customers who are ready to buy, conduct aggressive A/B testing campaigns, and grow your userbase with relatively cheap pay-per-click advertising.
Pingdom has a nice free tool to troubleshoot slow load times on your website. Aside from just checking how fast a page loads on your website, Pingdom will send you email alerts if your servers are down, and will also show you the exact web elements, based on content type like specific image files, CSS, and HTML that are causing your site to load slowly.
This Chrome extension for Alexa.com's traffic rank tool is a great way to keep an eye on your competition’s macro search engine statistics. It allows you to instantly see their international and domestic traffic rankings, the number of sites linking to them, and how much time an average user spends browsing their site. It’s also useful for seeing how your website stacks up, and I use it as a factor in deciding whether or not to forge partnerships with other websites. I take their statistics with a grain of salt and use it more for directional purposes, as they themselves admit they're not 100% accurate, especially on sites outside of the top 100,000 most trafficked in the world.
See which tools and extensions your competitor websites are using. I've used Ghostery to learn about interesting new services I could be using to help amplify my results online, in addition to controlling what information I share about myself to the websites I'm browsing.
38. Google Trends.
Like Google's Keyword Planner, I frequently use Google Trends as a litmus test for measuring the potential success of a blog post, new online course offering, and for getting a glimpse of what major topics are trending within topics related to my online business on the internet.
This lead generation and online marketing platform is great for small to medium-sized businesses that are looking to generate leads through social contests, landing pages, conversion-optimized popups, and forms. They also have an awesome email and automated marketing platform built-in. If you want more resources for increasing your lead flow, I highly recommend checking out this list of lead generation tools over on the LeadBoxer blog.
This influencer prospecting and outreach tool can help you find key influencers to help you the right exposure for your online business content. What makes NinjaOutreach special is that you can do all of the outreach right within the tool. You can find content ideas, see which post are successful on different social media platforms, build a list of influencers to connect with, promote your content, and build a strong backlink portfolio.
Writing a book? As the quintessential marketing platform for authors, LaunchTeam provides a curated list of best-in-class resources and partners, alongside proprietary community-building tools to grow your tribe. Bringing everything you need into a single hub, the platform solves the inherent issues of today's fragmented publishing industry.
Most entrepreneurs don't have the luxury of being able to hire expensive PR firms and when you're just getting started, you don't have a fancy bio with impressive accomplishments to share with the press either. This awesome tool enables entrepreneurs, startups and freelancers to reach out to targeted press contacts to help secure a more regular flow of online and social mentions back to your website.
Welcome to the 21st century. Quizzes are the future of marketing, whether you like it or not—and if you're not employing them in your marketing strategy, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to engage with your audience in new, exciting ways. But, it can be a pain to try and set up quizzes that sprawl across multiple pages of your website, use complex plugins or clunky integrations. That's where Interact, the incredible quiz building tool I personally use, comes into play. What's really great about Interact is that you can start with pre-made quiz templates, switch up the questions, customize them to fit your brand, match your style and launch them in a matter of minutes.
Communication & Collaboration Online Business Tools
44. Google Drive.
If I were to be stuck on a desert island and could only choose to have access to one online business tool that I'd have to run my company with, Google Drive would be it. You can share and collaborate with others on documents, spreadsheets, slide presentations, video files, and so much more.
Funny enough, it's hard for me to even imagine collaborative work without Slack, despite it being such a relatively new tool in the world of group chat. It has very become the go-to messaging app for distributed teams and startups around the world. It’s perfect for group work and collaboration, and removes the tired hassle of checking long email threads for attachments and missing important information.
46. Google Hangouts.
When you have to video chat with your collaborators and no one is in the same place, Google Hangouts is my favorite tool. It also comes with built-in messaging to share documents on the fly, or chat with others via text in case everyone in the coffee shop is giving you dirty looks for speaking too loudly.
Skype is the original messaging and video conferencing app. It’s especially useful if you clients, partners, or contractors are based internationally, because calling abroad is exceptionally cheap. Another alternative is Google Voice for making affordable non-domestic calls.
Images, Graphics & Visual Online Business Tools
I use Infogram to create beautiful graphic representations of data. It puts Excel graphing and plotting to shame with it's flexible, easy-to-use interface and vast template library of graphs, charts, tables, and infographic elements.
Canva offers all sorts of great, easy-to-use visual design tools for free. You can filter out photos, add graphics and icons to them (this is especially useful for creating social media-friendly images), design awesome infographics with drag-and-drop elements, create visually appealing eBooks, and more for your online business.
50. Design Wizard.
Design Wizard is another easy to use graphic design tool that has many benefits for those of you starting a side business—especially if you've got a boot-strapped project. You can use their 1.2 million images and 25,000 professionally designed templates to create professional standard graphics and save money on design costs. If design work is your side hustle, you can even take advantage of the same image and template library to sell a type of design (with variations) to your clients. The ease of use and speed with using their templates is what sets this tool apart, cutting down the time it takes to create great marketing images. Lastly, one more cool thing about Design Wizard, is that they also have a full library of premium HD videos that you can pick and pull from in order to polish off any video projects you take on—such as highlight reels for yourself, or paid gigs for clients.
51. Adobe Photoshop.
If you want to go for truly unlimited image editing and customization, Adobe Photoshop is the one tool you can rely on to make your images do exactly what you want. A must-have online business tool for those who are ultra design-conscious. Depending upon what you’re doing, having Lightroom to touch up hi-res photos could be a useful, too.
52. Adobe Illustrator.
The visual creation complement to Photoshop, is the industry standard for creating custom vector graphics, illustrations, icons, and anything else you can think up. If you want to become a master at creating high quality infographics, this will be the tool of your trade.
Designfeed is my favorite new online business tool for quickly generating high-quality social images. With their easy-to-use automated tool, you can create awesome visual content, text-overlay social images, and more. What's even cooler, is that they give you images sized to fit every relevant social platform, and connect with various social media management tools for quick scheduling. You can sign up for free, right here.
54. GIF Brewery.
Turn short video clips of anything into GIFs with this Mac application. Whether it's product demos, quick tutorials, or visualizations, there are tons of great uses for GIFs, including making your email follow up stand out from the crowd.
55. Keynote and Powerpoint.
Sometimes you just can't beat the features of the original presentation software makers. I use these online business tools to create professional eBooks, white papers, and design presentations for client meetings and webinars.
This awesome tool, used by speakers at TEDx, SXSW and other conferences around the world is a recent discovery for me. It takes the manual work out of creating engaging presentations. All you need to do is provide the text that you want on your slides, then SlideBot automatically designs your presentation for you. Each slide is specifically tailored to fit with your content and and you're able to present, edit, or export a fully editable version to Powerpoint right away. It's the ultimate value for me because it does all of this in a matter of seconds.
You can’t say no to free stock photos, right? This site is my go-to for high quality, genuine stock images that don't fall into the cheesy classification.
Similar to StockSnap, this site publishes a slightly more limited catalog of beautiful, free, hi-res images that you can also use without worrying about copyright infringement.
As the name suggests, this screen capture tool is an awesome way to capture all (or parts) of any webpage you’re on. You can also annotate those screenshots, blur sensitive information, and easily download & share them with collaborators.
This wireframe tool makes designing anything from a simple landing page to a detailed project proposal easy as pie. You can also collaborate with designers, copywriters, and whoever else you’re working with, directly within the tool to create high quality content for your business.
This highly creative video production studio creates quality, custom-made animations and videos for your business, in case you have neither the skill nor the time to do it yourself. This is definitely something I'd recommend outsourcing in the beginning stages of your business.
Easily make beautiful app mockups and demo videos with Placeit, an online business tool that gives you hundreds of different mockup templates and scenarios to show off what someone using your app would look like in real life. This is a great tool for adding a human element to your landing pages, long before you've actually got the budget for a product shoot of your own.
Content Creation & Delivery Tools
If you're thinking of getting into the business of making and selling online courses that teach people how to master a skill set you've built, then Teachable is hands down the easiest-to-use (and most affordable) online course delivery platform.
Just shoot your course footage, write your written lectures, create any worksheets students will need to complete and start uploading your content to the backend of your Teachable school. Craft your sales page, connect Teachable to your PayPal or bank account and you're ready to start accepting payments from students. Teachable also offers regular free information & training webinars to learn more about their platform, selling online courses and if this is the right business model for you. Check it out and sign up right here to learn more today.
A priceless app for scheduling editorial content and maintaining a collaborative editorial calendar for your blog posts, Coschedule integrates across a variety of platforms including WordPress, Buffer, and Evernote to bring your content marketing assets into one central hub. You’ll be able to look ahead and strategically share your content more efficiently across your social media channels as a result.
I use this great WordPress plugin created by Derek Halpern, to power the backend of all my online courses. ZippyCourses allows you to fine tune your course delivery, down to timed releases of different course modules, set up quizzes, facilitate downloads, accept one-time or subscription payments, and more. Since getting into online educational content, this plugin has become the backbone online business tool that keeps my courses up and running.
This great tool is designed to let you whip up high-converting responsive landing pages in a matter of minutes. Their easy-to-use landing page tool includes great integrations with all the major email marketing platforms to help you capture email addresses, phone numbers, and registrations for your upcoming product launches.
Similar to LeadPages, Instapage gives you a platform to very quickly build conversion-optimized landing pages. Beyond that, they have a robust analytics tool built-in, which allows you to simultaneously A/B test different versions of your landing pages, to increase your conversions.
This is a required tool for online educators or podcasters who create content with audio involved. Online courses, podcasts, or screen recording audio over your tutorial videos all require clean audio. The mic plugs right into your laptop via a USB cable and features minimal setup hassle.
69. Amazon Web Services.
For data-heavy projects, or affordably hosting video files and images on servers that won't bog down your own site load time, S3 by AWS is the place to go. You can even get a whole year’s worth of cloud services for free.
Payments, Invoicing & Accounting Tools
I've been using Stripe for several years now. It has totally revolutionized how businesses accept online payments by making credit card acceptance safer, cheaper, and simpler than ever. They have a flat rate of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction, a competitive rate in an industry that is largely unregulated and notorious for charging all sorts of hidden fees to businesses. Beyond that, it's one of the most well documented and widely used payment processors in use by digital entrepreneurs.
Square has been my go-to in-person payment processor since back when I was running my phone case business. Their tool suite of credit card readers, chip card and NFC readers are the perfect solution for business owners who collect payment from customers, face-to-face. With a 2.75% transaction fee on all swiped cards or 3.5% + $.15 on keyed in transactions, Square brings entrepreneurs one of the most competitively priced point-of-sale transaction tools. What's more is that they've now expanded into offering business owners a set of email marketing tools, an online store builder similar to Shopify, appointment booking software and an app marketplace to help streamline your business.
Selz is an awesome eCommerce platform that helps online business owners monetize their visitors by selling digital products. Within Selz, which of course integrates easily with WordPress-powered websites, you can create your own beautiful online store, add buy buttons to your existing website and social channels. On top of that, Selz has a powerful backend that allows you to manage customers, orders and process payments in one simple place. Sign up for a free account today.
Bonsai is designed to help freelancers get paid on time with a workflow of freelance contracts, e-signing, invoices, and payments. It's super simple. In just minutes, you can create and send a bulletproof freelance contract for free. You can also send automated invoices and set up reminders that ensure get you paid on time. They've helped over 10,000+ freelancers get paid an average of 14 days faster.
The ultimate cloud accounting, invoicing, expense tracking, payment acceptance, and time tracking all-in-one online business tool. Especially if you're running a service-based or freelancing business, Freshbooks makes getting paid and keeping track of what you're owed as stress-free as possible. Which is great, because I personally hate keeping tabs on every outstanding invoice from my freelance clients. They have a great 30-day free trial, and once you get everything set up you'll realize how useful it is for helping you manage the money side of your online business.
If you need to make your contracts extra official, I definitely recommend using DocuSign to quickly draft up legally binding contracts in seconds (from their awesome template library) and save yourself from the pain of unnecessary legal fees. This company is here to stay and is constantly innovating with new tools and services designed for everyone from freelancers to contract-workers and full-time employees.
Hurdlr is awesome for a few different types of people. Authors, speakers, digital entrepreneurs, and even Uber & Lyft drivers can benefit big time from this tool. It let's you manage your finances by automatically tracking earnings, expenses, and calculating your taxes. As you're going, the platform actively finds suggestions on how to lower your taxes, so you can maximize your income.
77. Churn Buster.
Every company with recurring revenue knows the frustration of failed payments. Credit cards expire, get reissued, and are declined for many reasons. Without a good subscription management process, failed payments contribute up to 50% of total churn. Churn Buster—an easy Stripe integration—was built to optimize payments for companies at scale, doing everything possible to clear charges before emailing the customer. Past-due invoices get paid, and subscriptions are reactivated automatically.
Productivity & Organization Tools
Hailed as one of the best project management tools, Planio was originally built as an internal side project by the company's founder Jan Schulz-Hofen, and is now earning a whopping $110,000/mo in recurring revenue. What makes this tool special, is that it's designed specifically for engineering teams to maximize their effectiveness at managing projects. From issue tracking to traditional project management, version control, a help desk, internal wikis, and chat, Planio is growing in popularity with startup engineering teams around the world.
Trello is a collaboration-friendly task manager that’s great for team projects. A customizable project board that lets everyone post what they’re working on, allowing for you to easily tick off items that are done, and contribute to different projects that aren’t. Trello is crucial for my workflow in setting due dates and prioritizing which projects and posts are most important in my online business.
80. ToDo for iPhone.
This simple yet powerful app turns your iPhone into a personal to-do list and task manager. It helps me keep track of everything from my weekly groceries to a detailed checklist of everything I need to accomplish in preparation for a conference call with a freelance client. It's the backbone of my time management system.
Close.io is actually my #1 pick for the best CRM for small business. Why? Well, this a sales-focused CRM does the heavy data entry for you and frees you up to make more sales, which is pretty damn appealing. Your entire sales workflow within Close.io is consolidated into one easy-to-read interface, and all the time-consuming tasks like logging phone calls and emails is done seamlessly behind the scenes.
If you love reading and staying in the loop on what's new in your industry, Brevity is a must-have. You get summarized insights from new content in an array of relevant fields based upon your preferences, delivered directly to your inbox. Their minimalist landing page should give you an idea of what to expect.
This customer support-friendly tool allows you to track your progress on multiple collaborative projects. With Lighthouse, you won’t bang your head against the wall because of missed or late support tickets, thanks to features like automatically organized tasks, reminders, and document attachments directly into your support emails.
Curator is an awesome iOS app that’s perfect for collecting inspiration from around the web and brainstorming ideas until you can put them together into simple presentations.
Here's another great one, built by one of my favorite fellow content marketers, Sujan Patel. This online business tool is designed to help salespeople and marketers be more effective at building relationships, delivering the right emails (at the right time), promoting their content, and testing out new ways of how to drive traffic. You can build outreach lists, automate the process of sending personalized emails & follow ups, and track the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Personally, I love drafting out my ideas and business concepts by hand first. There's something magical about the creative process of physically drawing and writing for me, and that's not something I want to give up. Pop is great for creating prototypes on paper, and moving those designs from paper into digital versions that'll get you to the next stage of your business.
87. Inbox When Ready.
This Chrome extension hides your Gmail inbox by default (seriously, it's actually amazing). All other views remain accessible as normal, so you can search your archive or compose messages without getting distracted by emails flowing into your inbox right in front of you. The extension also has a timed lockout feature, which is great if you want to train yourself to only check your inbox at particular times of day, like I've been recently experimenting with. In short, using this extension is a great way to improve your focus while working with email and get out of a reactive mindset that's so easy to fall into when working from your inbox.
88. Time Doctor.
Time Doctor is a time tracking and time management software application that helps you get more done every day. It's a web-based solution that provides time tracking, computer work session monitoring, reminders, screenshot recording, invoicing, reporting tools, integrations and more features that are helpful for freelancers who charge their clients on an hourly basis. Time Doctor offers a solo plan for $5 per month and a free plan with limited features so you can try it out for free.
Zapier is an awesome automation tool that helps you connect all of the various different applications, online tools and services that run your business. Once set up, the tool moves information between your web apps automatically, so you can focus more of your time and energy on your most important work (which I'm a huge proponent of). This means that all of the services that keep your business running efficiently, are able to work together harmoniously and can seamlessly & securely pass data between each other.
Weekplan is a weekly planner app with more 300,000 users. It's based on Dr. Stephen Covey’s four quadrant model. Most time management systems are good at helping store the tasks you need to do, but Weekplan is different—it helps you not just prioritize your tasks but also motivates you to do these tasks through daily reminders and notifications. It also allows you to mark tasks as important or urgent, so you can view your priority list. By the end of the week, you can clearly see where you spent most of your time. It even provides quadrant view, goals, a journal, reminders and integration with Google Calendar.
Teamgate is an Inbound Sales CRM that'll make your inbound process much easier to manage—thus helping you grow your business. It's designed specifically for startups and SMBs and is incredibly easy to use. Unlike many CRMs, you can become a pro at using Teamgate within a day of signing up. With the help of our fast and friendly customer service team, you'll be able to set up powerful insights, new sales processes and focus on closing more deals. Your business will benefit from multiple pipelines, implemented SmartDialer and a wide API connection range. Beyond just the features they offer, the price is almost 3 times cheaper than many CRMs on the market today.
Qbserve is a time tracking application for Mac that automatically logs your productivity and work hours—behind the scenes while you're working. By watching which apps and sites you're using in real time, it constantly keeps you updated with your productivity score. Additionally, Qbserve can look for keywords in the names of opened documents and web pages, automatically assigning your work time to a specific project you're working on—which is great if you work with multiple clients because you can later use this data to generate invoices for your clients. Qbserve is a standalone software tool that works without a server and stores all the collected data privately on your computer. They have a 10-day free trial and comes for a one-time fee of $40 once you sign up.
Schedugram is seriously the ultimate Instagram management platform, it's got everything you need to visually plan, create, analyze and schedule your Instagram posts. The tool is widely used by everyone from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies saving their customers hundreds of hours every year. Schedugram lets you schedule and post carousels, photos, videos and stories directly to Instagram so you can build a dynamic feed that engages your audience. It's perfect for agencies, influencers, small businesses and global brands.
This managed cloud hosting platform is at the top of their game when it comes to hosting choice, simplicity and most of all—performance. Their WooCommerce hosting service in particular is extremely useful for bloggers and online business owners that need a reliable solution for facilitating online transactions. All of their plans are backed by an expert support team, so that you can stay focused on what you do best—growing your business.
EngageBay is a unified sales and marketing software tool for growing businesses. If you've ever tried using several different marketing tools at once, then EngageBay can really help to cut costs and streamline your workload by consolidating functions like email marketing, marketing automation, landing pages, web pop ups, deal pipeline views, a centralized customer information panel, and many other essential marketing features into one hub. If you can't afford a mammoth marketing tool like HubSpot, I highly recommend checking out EngageBay today.
Mixpanel tracks conversion rates for the key events (think: email signup, account registration, purchase) on your web and mobile landing pages. Above is a screenshot of my Mixpanel account, showing the conversion rate from visit to email signup on a recent blog post of mine. Among many other things, it also gives you an immense amount of useful raw data on the sort of activities your site visitors are doing (which is the first step in testing how to improve your conversion rates), all without having to write complicated SQl code.
The original must-have website analytics platform that every website owner relies upon for data like page view statistics, goal tracking, audience demographics, site behavior, traffic acquisition, and thousands of more granular data points. Use GA to analyze every facet of your website, app, and optimize how you drive traffic into your business.
Bit.ly is useful for coding links and tracking the activity on custom short links for your business. For example, I use ryrb.co, which adds my personal brand to all of the links I share across my social media channels and I'm able to take a look at the data behind which links get the most clicks and why.
User Testing & Survey Tools
Use this tool to make simple, user-friendly signup forms and surveys, instead of complicated, difficult to navigate ones. Typeform also gives you super useful templates for specific types of forms, such as market research, customer feedback, embeddable website contact forms, job applications, and more.
Fieldboom is easy enough for anyone to use, yet powerful enough to create smart automations that'll help grow your business faster. Use their predesigned templates or create your own simple-to-build designs, and start creating high-converting forms to drive more leads, feedback surveys to understand your customers, and more.
This awesome questionnaire app gives you instant access to large focus group quantities of people, allowing you to validate your business ideas, feature concepts, and product designs by getting your objective survey data in front of a potential audience of millions.
102. Survey Anyplace.
This is a really interesting new survey tool I recently discovered. What I like most is that it lets you create your own interactive quizzes and surveys with a focus on mobile-use first. It also makes use of cool features like a digital scratch card, selfie uploading and swiping that give it a usability leg up above the rest.
Communities, Blogs & Forums
This is a community of growth and marketing-oriented startup enthusiasts and entrepreneurs doing a lot of awesome things and openly sharing their experiences & knowledge on how to double conversion rates, increase marketing leads, more effectively onboard new users, and everything else worth knowing in the world of effective online business growth.
This is one of the longest standing, most genuine and reputable forums in the tech community. The content skews more toward a highly technical community of developers and growth marketers, but contributors share an incredible amount of cool, insightful news and learnings from the world of startups. If your product or service is technical by nature, HackerNews is your place to go for very honest (and guaranteed to be brutal) feedback.
ProductHunt very quickly became one of my favorite websites when it launched just a couple of years ago. It’s now a hub for checking out new products, tools, and apps before they take off. If your business caters to helping other startups, entrepreneurs, or early adopters, having a strategically crafted, explosive launch on Producthunt can truly mean the difference between success and failure. Dozens of detailed articles have sprung up over the past year, chronicling how to have a successful Producthunt launch. Here's my favorite.
An invaluable community-sourced tool where you can learn about literally anything, from some of the best minds in the world. Quora allows you to dive deeply into the heads of people who’ve been there, done that, as well as giving you a chance to ask for feedback on the solutions you're building within your online business. If you frequently answer questions and help others within the community, you can quickly build a loyal following of potential customers within your niche.
For many years, SCORE has been a great resource for me to pick up advice, insights, and even direct mentorship on topics related to validating my online business ideas, finding scalable manufacturing, and tracking down strategic distribution opportunities. Check out their blog, updated daily, for new tips and actionable steps to creating an online business that's relevant in today's world.
108. The Hubspot Blogs.
Hubspot’s marketing and sales blogs feature extremely powerful, well-written sources of knowledge for anyone trying to grow a business. Their blog posts skew heavily towards in-depth case studies, which means you'll see a lot of real life content marketing in action and will walk away from each post with a new skill or test to try out within your business.
109. Startup Stash.
Startup Stash is a carefully curated list of tools and resources for startups and entrepreneurs. It features nearly every possible resource in every category you can think of related to growing a business, and the best part is they’ve really pared it down to the most useful solutions. There’s a ton of great apps, websites, plugins, and more to be discovered here.
Learn about and share promising new ideas, particularly on discussion threads like /r/apps and /r/startups. Be warned though, if you're clearly self-promoting or perceived as spamming the Reddit community, you'll very quickly have your posts removed and are likely to get banned from the forums you posted your overly promotional message in. The key to success on Reddit is building a reputation, being genuinely helpful, and humbly asking for feedback directly within the community, rather than linking off to your landing page.
111. User Interviews.
Quickly get feedback and in-depth reviews on your early products or services from people within your target market with this new service. User Interviews pairs you with high-quality, real survey participants at $10/person with the goal of helping you more easily test new ideas, concepts, and products with your target market.
Devumi is one of my favorite social media marketing blogs. Since 2011, they've been sharing insights and commentary on the world of social media marketing, with a focus on Twitter, YouTube, SoundCloud, LinkedIn, case studies and more. Their content is designed to teach readers how to grow their businesses through social media.
113. Mill for Business Blog.
If you're thinking of starting a business, Mill is a great place to kick off your research, particularly if your business is going to be based around a website. Their blog platform is a one-stop-shop that features a step-by-step dashboard with intuitive, user-friendly business tools in addition to regular educational content.
What'd I miss?
Are there any other great online business tools, resources, or communities you've used to get your ideas off the ground? Share with me below in the comments!
If you're ready to get serious about starting and growing a side business into something that can support you full-time, join my course, The Launch While Working Formula today.