recommended tools & resources

Here you'll find a list of tools and resources that I use and recommend, including various types of marketing software, WordPress Plug-ins, video tutorials, and reading material all designed to help launch, market, and grow your business. I have a group to each one of these resources called tool sets. You can find the categories and a quick navigation menu below. Full disclosure: Several of the links below are affiliate links, where I may benefit either monetarily or through credit; however, if you would like to avoid this, you can search for the named to resource and navigate directly to their website without clicking on the affiliate link.

WordPress Toolset

There is a whole world of wordPress plug-ins and add-ons that I can talk about so I've included a group of what I consider to be either essential wordPress tools. 

Over 35% of all websites on the internet run on WordPress. The platform is stable, open source, and completely versatile. And the best news is the platform itself is free. Keep in mind that you’ll need to find a hosting company to house your WordPress site, but that’s a pittance compared to what you may pay for other comparable website platforms out there. 

If you run multiple websites, then ManageWP may be a helpful add-on you may want to consider. It essentially allows you to access any of your sites from a single dashboard. Personally, I love their single click login feature. They charge a reasonable fee for each of their a-la-carte add-ons. Their daily backup feature for $2 a month is a “must have”. The only downfall of this company, is they were acquired by GoDaddy (I’ve never been a huge fan of GoDaddy). 

InMotion Hosting is quite competitive in their pricing, especially if you purchase more than one year upfront. Be careful though. Their rates will go up once you need to renew. This is a pretty common practice for most hosting companies, but a simple conversation with their loyalty department however may clear this up. On the upside, they offer live telephone support, as well as chat support. Their customer support team is usually pretty responsive and knowledgable, but every now and then you may get a support rep who is a bit “green behind the ears”. I also like the simplicity behind their UI dashboard, which they refer to as their Account Management Panel (AMP).

ThriveThemes offers a suite of tools that I have found invaluable in building and designing my WordPress sites. I can't emphasize enough how much I really enjoy using their suite of products. Thrive Quiz Builder and Apprentice are two of my favorite products. This company has changed the rules of the game for me, and made my transition into WordPress a lot less painless. They have a kick ass WYSWYG editor called Thrive Architect that offers powerful capabilities and is intuitive to use. They do offer each one of their products independently; however, I recommend subscribing to their membership as this is the most cost effective way of taking advantage of all of their products at once.

In full disclosure, I use Wishlist Member as a membership plug-in because I was able to purchase a lifetime license for $49, from AppSumo. As it turns out, I have become quite fond of this nifty app. It allows me to restrict certain types of content pretty easily on WordPress. If you’re offering an online course, or want to restrict access to certain types of posts, then this may be a nice solution for you. 

I installed SEOPress, and have used it quite a bit since watching Shane Melaugh’s SEO Sprint Course. I've tried using Yost in the past, but I found it to be quite glitchy at times. This plug-in is equivalent in features, more intuitive to use, and I don't pay a single penny to use it. Most of what I need to optimize my posts or pages for SEO is located right within the SEO Press interface. I really love how easy this plug-in makes it to optimize my content. 

Oh how I have become quite fond of PrettyLinks. This is operates a lot like other well known URL shorteners like bit.ly or goo.gl, but you get to use your own domain instead. For example, this allows me to take https://amms.io, a domain that I own, and use it to create custom URL redirects. For example, https://amms.io/prettylinks redirects you to you my affiliate page for PrettyLinks. This nifty little plug-in has come in quite handy, especially if I have a multiple URLS embedded across several blog posts and web pages. With PrettyLinks, I can update all of those embedded URLS with a single click. I can also track which links are getting the most clicks with their click reporting feature. If you have a single WordPress site, then this will run you about $50 a year. 

CRM Software Toolset

There are so many customer relationship management (referred to in the industry as CRM) options out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the choices available. If you're just starting out, I encourage you to start small and cheap. You’ll find a list of several CRM’s that I’ve used and recommend. 

MailChimp is a a decent entry-level email delivery autoresponder that you can use at no cost. It's an excellent entry level piece of software that has some pretty impressive features included. This is not exactly a CRM platform per se, but it does offer several of the same features as some of its CRM counterparts. I do want to heed a warning though. MailChimp has earned a reputation of throwing off its users with little to no notice or reason if published content is even slightly provocative, or if the user sidestepped their Terms of Service. I’ve never personally experienced anything negative like this from MailChimp, but it’s good to go in with your eyes wide open. That being said, I encourage you to explore, discover, and have fun with this software. You can produce some beautiful looking emails with MailChimp. 

Several years ago, when I was on my quest for searching for the perfect CRM software, I stumbled upon ActiveCampaign. Even though they’ve been around for a while, they’ve only recently started to become really popular. I had the fortune of interacting with some amazing techs they had on their support team, a few of whom have gone on to become senior level VP’s. Unfortunately, this company does not offer live phone support like its InfusionSoft counterpart, but their turnaround time for email and chat support is impressive. And their entry level price point is quite reasonable, starting at about $9 a month (if you purchase annually). For that price point, you get a really good ROI on your dollar. Their software is packed with features. Get naked

I really had to think long and hard about recommending InfusionSoft, despite the fact that I use them as my CRM of choice to run my mobile DJ service. Yes, it is an amazing piece of software, but it's not cheap, and it can be pretty complex if you are unfamiliar with how to use it. I had a pretty atypical experience when I first started working with InfusionSoft. You can read about my initial InfusionSoft experience on my About Page . InfusionSoft is considered by many to be the gold standard in CRM software. It is quite versatile, and it integrates with just about every piece of marketing software out there. They do have a more affordable version of the software made especially for small business owners called Keap. It starts at about $80 per month. 

I hold mixed feelings about MyFusion Solutions. It serves as an adjunct enhancer to the Infusionsoft platform, and it was founded by a man that I really look up to in the world of automation, Troy Broussard. My trepidation comes from the fact that this company was sold not long ago, and their response times on support tickets have really been on the decline, as have their ongoing software updates. That being said, I couldn't imagine using infusionSoft without it. Yes, I realize that I’m talking from both sides of my mouth, but it’s really true. It opens up a whole world of capability that's not covered by the Infusionsoft platform. Plus, they charge about half of what their competitors do. If you’re working with a list of 1000+ subscribers, and you’re comfortable working with a CRM platform, I would recommend checking out this company. 

Payment Platforms Toolset

You need to get paid, right? I've compiled a list of various payment gateway platforms that you can integrate pretty easily into your word press site.

As the name implies, ThriveCart serves as a shopping cart for your website when selling products or services online. Don't be fooled though. This software company is based in New Zealand and has no affiliation with Thrive Themes. The two companies are often confused for one another. I enjoy using thriveCart because of its ease-of-use and overall UI design. They have several features, like 1 Click upsells and coupon codes. Most impressively, they offer a one time payment for a lifetime license, something that will definitely save you some money in the long run.

Stripe is very similar to PayPal in that you can use it is a payment gateway for all your product and service offerings. Your turnaround time to process a payment is relatively quick. You’ll usually find that the funds are transferred into your bank account in about a day or two after the purchase has been made. Although there is no monthly charge to use stripe, they do charge a percentage on every transaction they process. I believe their pricing structure is identical to that of PayPal. In my experience, Stripe has proven to be a bit more “seller friendly” than their PayPal competitor. 

PayPal is just one of those necessary evils that every small business owner has to use. Although there is no charge to use their business tier plan, they do charge a per transaction fee (usually 2.9% plus $.30 per transaction). Personally, I've had several negative experiences with their customer support, and they are known for being aggressive against the sellers that use their platform. For example, if someone subscribes to you membership platform, and that same person disputes that charge from PayPal, PayPal has been known to immediately approve the chargeback without any notice to you. I use it because I must. PayPal has the unfortunate advantage of brand recognition. Many consumers feel more comfortable making an online purchase when they do it through PayPal.

I adore FreshBooks. They make invoicing a breeze. They even allow you to collect a deposit for services upfront. I don't know of any other accounting or invoicing software that does that. And they integrate to several CRM platforms with the help of Zapier. The coolest thing about FreshBooks is you can use their entire feature set for zero cost. The catch is, you can only store three clients at a time. The workaround is pretty obvious. Once you've finished invoicing a client, remove them from your FreshBooks account, and then you can add another. If you need to store more than 3 clients at any one time, then that is a good indicator that you’re generating enough revenue to justify the cost of their “Plus” service for $10 a month. 

Utility Toolset

Inside this toolset you're going to find the essential building blocks you'll need to market your business. If you have a wordPress site, then I recommend using every single one of these resources within this tool set.

Oh how I sing Zapier praises from on high. It currently integrates with over 2000 SaaS companies, and that number is still growing. This program will allow you to expand the capabilities of your CRM, as well as the slew of other types of software. It does this by integrating two or more apps so they pass information to one another. Any time you create an a series of actions, it’s called a zap. I build a zap for each one of my lead sources, this way when anyone makes an inquiry, Zapier will pass that information to a dedicated Slack channel, and then back to my CRM. Then an automated and personalized email response goes out to the prospect within minutes. Can you see the possibilities? Zapier’s free tier lets you get started with 100 free tasks each month. 

Lost or forgot your password? No worries, LastPass to the rescue! This app will save you so much time and trouble. This program will allow you to safely record all your passwords, license keys, credit card numbers, or any other type of information you want to keep safe. You can login to your LastPass vault online, or install the LastPass browser extension on either Safari or chrome. It’s also available as a desktop and mobile app. No matter what version you use, you'll know that all of your information is encrypted, and stored safely. There is a free tier that works great. 

Slack is the perfect tool when you need to collaborate with team members, clients, subcontractors, or other vendors in your industry. It allows you to share information privately, and in a very organized structure. It's also an excellent place to receive notifications as a means of keeping your email inbox clean. There is a myriad of ways to utilize this app. It’s available via browser, desktop app, and mobile app. Slack offers a very generous no cost tier of service. If you’re running a small business you need to know about Slack.

Why do I recommend Google Domains? Because it supports my cardinal rule about protecting your domain at all costs. It would be wise to separate your domain registration from your hosting service. Google is stable, and they’re not going anywhere anytime soon. Also, they will not nickel and dime you for extra features like keeping your contact info private. Plus, if you park your domain on Google Domains, you have the freedom to jump ship or migrate to another hosting platform at will. All you would need to do it to point your nameservers to a new host, and voila, you’re in business. Don’t let your hosting company hijack your domain, or delay its release. Protecting and managing your domain with Google Domains will far exceed the $1 you’ll pay each month for Google Domains. 

Productivity Toolset

Here is a toolset that will help you with saving time and effort. After all, it’s about maximizing the time that you do have. 

Trello is one of my most utilized Apps that I use on a daily basis. They offer a very generous entry-level tier of service at no cost, and is available through a browser, or a standalone app for your desktop or smart phone. For me, Trello has been a true godsend. It's because of Trello I've been able to streamline many of my business processes. If you like to know more about this ingenious productivity tool, make sure to check out the Trello Mastery Online Course. If you think you know Trello pretty well, then make sure to check out the Trello Mastery Quiz. This is the one tool you don’t want to miss out on!

I first heard about AppointLet from the infusionSoft Marketplace when they were just starting out. AppointLet allows your clients to make an appointment with you online. It cross references your online Calendar for availability, and offers the end user the choice of where or how to meet. It even allows you to add a payment gateway before your client can book a meeting, and it integrates beautifully with Zoom. They offer live chat support, and have aggressively competitive pricing. Before considering Acuity or Calendly, check out AppointLet. 

I almost forgot about Apple Voice Control despite the fact I’ve been using like a madman lately. As a matter of fact, I’m using it right now as I’m typing this description. This is a hidden gem that is built right into the Apple operating system as part of their accessibility feature set. Apple Voice Control will automatically transcribe your voice into notes, articles, emails, letters, or anything else you need to write… Except you don’t have to write it…. Let Apple Voice Control transcribe it. Use it in the car while you’re waiting, or when you’re on the plane en route to your next gig. It doesn’t cost you a cent to use (if you already own an Apple product), and it even learns the vocabulary that you use often. Check it out. It’s one of the best discoveries I’ve made this year, and I hope it is for you too. 

Pixlr is an online image editor that allows you to easily manipulate various kinds of image files. Do you need to crop an image? How about resize it, or get rid of the background and make it a transparent? Pixlr is your answer. I’ve used it every time I upload a featured image on my WordPress site. It’s so easy to resize the image to several different aspect ratios so that it displays perfectly on various social media platforms. It’s intuitive to use, and it comes with a whole bunch of features. Best of all, they’re free (at least for now) so you’ll save the monthly fee you’ll pay for equivalent programs like Canva or Photoshop. If you need some help getting starting, you’ll find several tutorial videos available on YouTube. 

It seems that lately I've had a love-hate relationship with Google G Suite. I have use Google drive for several years as a means of storing all of my online assets and documents for my mobile DJ business. However, it seems that they're losing the competitive edge when it comes to storage capacity and privacy. However, I do find myself using Google Sheets, as well as Google Forms quite often. Google Sheets integrates beautifully with several other platforms, and Google Forms does most of what I need without having to pay for it. If you use Google Forms, make sure to check out a nifty little add-on called Form Publisher which will allow you to make a styled PDF version of your completed form.

Although I don't use Microsoft products often, I must admit that Microsoft 365 offers an impressive online storage capacity for the price. Pricing may vary depending on which version of the software you use, but you can count on paying about $70 a year for a 1 TB worth of storage. If you compare that to other online storage solutions, you'll find this to be one of the most affordable solutions on the market today. Plus you get access to their core suite of products: Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OutLook. There is one MicroSoft product that I LOVE LOVE LOVE and use it daily… It’s OneNote. It’s absolutely free, and goes toe-to-toe with it’s paid competitor, EverNote. 

Historically, cloud-based storage and software solutions have never been Apple’s strong suit. But that has drastically changes since the advent of Apple iCloud. Apple provides you with 5 GB of storage when you first set up your Apple ID, and you have the option of upgrading up to 2TB that you can share with your family. I use iCloud primarily to store my Apple files such as Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, as well as my email, photos, and backups. I recommend using another platform for storing all your non-Apple related files, such as Dropbox or OneDrive. I believe apples greatest strength lies in their live telephone and chat support. They support app comes standard on all Apple mobile devices, and allows you to get in touch, usually within a couple of minutes, with a live support person. 

I never utilized DropBox all that much until recently. Compared to other online storage solutions, they are a bit pricey, but they do have one tool in their arsenal that I absolutely love to use. And that is Dropbox Paper. At its core, Dropbox Paper is a simple stripped down text editing platform. In many ways it’s a lot like the TextEdit program the comes standard on all Apple products, so you can open it and start jotting down your brainstorms almost immediately. And you never have to remember to click the save button as it autosaves as you type. I use DropBox Paper, in conjunction with Apple’s Voice Control feature (see above) to construct a working draft of all of my blog articles and website content. And it very easily allows me to share a link with a collaborator or copy editor to smooth out the rough edges of a working draft. It integrates seamlessly with Slack so that I can search and share my Paper documents without ever having to leave Slack. And because DropBox integrates with Trello, I can access all of my Paper documents directly from within a Trello card. As you can see, my affinity for DropBox comes from a single FREE option they offer. 

Analytics & SEO Toolset

Although a small toolset group, this is an important one. Both Google products that will help you grow your business intelligently. 

Google Analytics allows me to take all of my domains, what they refer to as “properties,” and track all of the incoming web traffic from a single dashboard UI. It allows me to do this by embedding a pixel onto the header of each one of my posts and pages. By doing this, I am able view conversion rates for my call-to-action buttons, social media ads, and sales pages. Google Analytics provides you the data and metrics you need to make informed decisions about your growing business. Best of all, Google proves you this service at no cost. 

Google Search Console is the doorway to being recognized in a Google search. Essentially it allows you to tell Google's crawler, “hey Google, here I am”. Google Search Console also provides you the tools you need to optimize your site so that you can increase the odds of your website ranking in a Google keyword search. Much like Google Analytics, this application is provided to you as a no cost tool from Google.

Other Toolset

I could find a category for these, but they were too good not to include. 

I started using eSignatures at the beginning of 2019 as an alternative to DocuSign. This nifty little program allows you to email an agreement to a client, and have them sign that agreement. The agreement then becomes a legally binding contract. What I love most about this cloud-based app is that it is simple and very affordable. You pay less than $.50 for each contract that you sent out in lieu of paying a flat monthly fee.

I have used Zoom as my online conference platform for several years now. They are extremely competitive in their pricing, and their UI is intuitive and easy to use. I love the fact that Zoom integrates natively with AppointLet. If you need an alternative to meeting clients in person, then check out Zoom. They have a full feature free option that allows you to meet with others online for up to 40 minutes at a time. 

Technically Tidal is not a tool that is intended to grow your business, unless of course you own a mobile DJ company. What it does do, is allow you to listen to some amazing streaming music compilations while knowing that a higher percentage of your monthly fee is going into the hands of the performing artist. Tidal is owned by the hip-hop artist Jay Z. The sound quality did you receive from Tidal easily surpasses that offered by Apple Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, and Spotify. And I love their sleek looking UI. Tidal also works with Apple CarPlay which allows you go listen to concert quality sound while on the go. If you’re a member of the military, or you are a student, you can subscribe to Tidal for about $5 a month, or $10 a month for the high fidelity audio option. If you’re neither, make sure to so a thorough internet search for a Tidal promo code and / or promotion. They’re not hard to find. 

If you need a dedicated “land line” to use as a business number, then you may want to check out Ooma. For about $6 a month, you can obtain basic service from Ooma, including voicemail. And since Ooma operates from a hardware device, you an literally take your phone number with you whoever you go, including internationally (as long as you have internet access). Costco carries their products at a reasonable price, but there is a trade off. I’ve been underwhelmed by Ooma customer support. Even though they do offer live phone support, their call center located in the Philippnes, and they use low paid workers, so you’ll find that the support staff is not too motivated to help you find answers to uncommon issues. The upside is, you’ll rarely (if ever) need to contact their customer support. I’ve only had to contact them a handful of times in the 6 years I’ve been using their product. 

Fiverr allows you to find talent from all across the globe to help you with just about any project you can come up with. If you need a new logo design, or a copy editor for your latest blog post, you can look to Fiverr to find the talent. Fiverr does charge you $2 per project to hire talent, and they take a percentage of whatever you pay your talent, but it’s a pretty good deal overall. You’d be hard pressed to find a graphic design company locally that can come close to matching what you’d pay with Fiverr. A word of warning though…. If you put out a project for others to bid on, it's easily to get overwhelmed by the responses you receive. I'd recommend searching for talent first, and locating those who have impressive portfolios. You can save those artists’ profiles into a single folder, and invite them in a one-on-one basis to take on your project. I would also advice negotiating exactly what you expect in return for what you're going to pay. This may come in handy later if you need to dispute a completed through Fiverr’s resolution center.

UpWork is very similar to Fiverr in that it allows you to recruit talent from all over the world. What I love about UpWork is that you can get very granular in your search criteria. For instance, when recruiting a graphic designer, you can complete a search for one that is fluent in English, has a certain level of experience, retains a certain rating from other clients, and even lives in your time zone. Many of the artists and designers that advertise on Fiverr will also advertise on up work; however, you’ll find that the quality of work that is produced from the UpWork based talent is typically a bit better than those you’ll find on Fiverr. I can point out several exceptions to this rule, but overall that has been my experience. You can also expect to pay more for your talent as you further define the criteria in your search, especially if the artist / designer is based in Britain or North America. 

Educational Materials

Here's a handful of recommended reading material. I will be adding recommended videos here soon.

The One Thing
Gary Keller

subtitle:
The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

InfusionSoft Mastery
Troy Broussard

subtitle:
The Definitive Best Practices and Strategic Implementation Guide.

subtitle:
The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients Than You Can Handle Even if You Hate Marketing and Selling.

1000 True Fans
Jongo Longhurst

subtitle:
The Beginner’s Guide to Earning a Living Using the 1000 True Fans Model

Launch
Jeff Walker

subtitle:
An Internet Millionaire's Secret Formula to Sell Almost Anything Online, Build a Business You Love, and Live the Life of Your Dreams.

On Writing Well
William Zinsser

subtitle:
30th Anniversary Edition: An Informal Guide to Writing Nonfiction.

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