Whether you’re a digital nomad and work remotely or you have a cozy office nook, below I’ve listed 19 tools to run your business online.
Once you’ve cemented your great business idea, done all the market research, registered through the proper legal and revenue channels and perhaps even built your first prototype—you’ll need to get your business up and running online.
Particularly if you’re a service provider—such as a freelance content writer like myself—you can run your business remotely from just about anywhere in the world.
You don’t need a formal office space, in fact you don’t even need a desk. But there are a few tools that every aspiring entrepreneur starting their small business will need to master in order to run a business online.
Whether you’re a digital nomad and work remotely or whether you have a cozy co-share office nook, below I’ve listed my recommendations for 19 tools you’ll need to run your small business online.
WordPress.org is the gold standard in content management systems (CMS). It’s used by more than 74 million sites that publish new posts every second. This widely used CMS has become a favorite among businesses because of how powerful of a tool it is. WordPress is free, secure and SEO-friendly.
Squarespace is another great platform to create and host an amazing online presence. Whether you need simple pages, striking galleries, a professional blog or an online store, it’s all included.
Best of all, everything is mobile-ready right from the start. They also have great customer services and helpful tips.
WordPress SEO by Yoast is an all-in-one SEO solution for your WordPress site. Its features include SEO titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemaps, breadcrumbs and much more.
In addition to improving my blog’s rankings, Yoast also helps me write more SEO-friendly content.
Yoast is comprehensive, user-friendly and free! You definitely need Yoast to improve your online visibility and run your business online.
Creative Market is my go-to source for website themes, blog themes, templates, fonts, patterns and overall great ideas for designing and branding online content.
Canva has everything you need to make your ideas come to life. You can create designs for use online or for print.
It has templates for blog graphics, email newsletters, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations, business cards and social media posts (including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+).
E-Commerce and Selling Online
WooCommerce is a completely customizable eCommerce platform for entrepreneurs and online sellers. It’s built on WordPress so that means it will go great with your site.
It integrates with PayPal and has lot of additional extensions to help you sell and ship online including Canada Post, Ship Station, Amazon and Stamps.com.
From physical products and digital downloads to subscriptions, content and even appointments, you can sell anything with WooCommerce.
It even has an extension that lets your customers pay in installments.
Easy Digital Downloads will be crucial if you’re not dealing with any physical products and only want to focus on selling digital downloads.
From eBooks, to WordPress plugins, to PDF files and more, this plugin makes selling digital products super simple.
Once you install this plugin in your WordPress website, it will allow your customers to purchase digital downloads using the shopping cart system. I love that the shopping cart system seamlessly integrate with your website. You don’t have to manually create new pages.
Invoicing and Payments
FreshBooks is also a must-have for service providers who run their business online. If you’re a consultant, freelancer or coach that does not sell products, but rather works with clients, then you’ll love using FreshBooks for invoicing and client management.
FreshBooks is accounting software that makes running your small business easy, fast and secure. I dislike spending a lot of time on accounting so I use FreshBooks to make tracking my time, invoicing and receiving payments business tasks that I don’t need to worry about.
PayPal Small Business accounts makes collecting your money easy. Whether you sell physical products or sell your time, you’ll need to collect your money somehow.
PayPal integrates with most shopping cart systems (including WooCommerce), you can integrate it with your accounting software (including FreshBooks) and it doesn’t matter where in the world you or your client is based—you can accept currency from just about anywhere.
If your client or customer doesn’t have a PayPal account, they can still use their credit card online and the funds will be deposited into your PayPal account.
Need to issue a refund? Paypal makes that process easy too. If you don’t use an accounting software, just send a customizable PayPal.Me link and get paid!
Growing Your Audience
Hootsuite is a social media management tool to help distribute your content and grow your audience. When you run your business online, your audience growth will determine your earning capability and social media management will play a crucial role in your growth strategies.
Hootsuite helps me organize, manage and schedule my content across Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus. Hootsuite can also manage Instagram, however, it does not have a planning grid. For this reason, I use a separate scheduling tool for Instagram.
Planoly lets you can play with your Instagram layout just like a magazine editor. You can use either the web dashboard or the mobile app to plan and schedule your feed.
Whenever you are scrolling through a beautifully laid out visually merchandised grid on Instagram, it probably took weeks of pre-planning, meetings, and production. Planoly can help you grow and interact with your growing online community on Instagram.
Tailwind is another visual marketing scheduling tool. But this one I use specially for Pinterest. If you want to drive a lot of traffic to your blog as quickly as possibly, Pinterest is a great method to do so.
But it’s hard to really leverage Pinterest for traffic growth manually, the old fashioned way. Tailwind lets you schedule pins, discover more content to re-pin, monitor conversations, join and manage Pinterest Tribes and measure your results.
You can also integrate Tailwind with your Google Analytics so you can track the growth of your traffic all from your Analytics dashboard.
Mailchimp allows me to send marketing emails, automated messages, and send targeted campaigns that helps me to grow my audience.
Our email campaigns are sent out every Wednesday or Thursday at 12:30pm. I also have an automation set up for our newsletter as well.
Whenever a reader subscribers, downloads a template from my resource page, or RSVP’s to an event, they are automatically added to our mailing list and they immediately receive a welcome email.
Subscribe & Download is a handy little plugin that I discovered and have been loving ever since.
It allows you to distribute files through subscriptions. Meaning, if your readers or website visitors want to download something from your site they must submit their contact details.
I use Subscribe & Download on my Resources page. It helps me grow my audience by collecting email addresses in exchange for free marketing templates.
Productivity & Organization
Google Drive keeps my files organized and ready for sharing with clients or contractors. I stock up on a lot of images, graphics and logos and I always advise others to provide their creative files as a link instead of as an email attachment.
Dropbox is another useful app to keep all your files safe, synced and easy to share. Bring your photos, docs, and videos anywhere and never lose a file again.
Google Calendar keeps my schedule organized. Between in-person meetings, Skype meetings, Google Hangouts, podcast interviews and social meet-ups, I was desperate to find something to sort out my time. If you have Gmail, you have Google Calendar.
Download the app on your phone and you’re good to go. Set notification reminders a month, a week, a day or an hour in advance. You’ll never miss another meeting again.
Boomerang for Gmail is an email management app I recently learned about from a fellow colleague. I was complaining that there weren’t enough hours in the day to send all my outreach emails and she highly recommended this online tool.
With Boomerang, you can write an email now and schedule it to be sent automatically at the perfect time—whether it’s later in the day, tomorrow or next week.
Just write the messages as you normally would, then click the Send Later button. Use their handy calendar picker to tell Boomerang when to send your message.
You’ll need a system to better manage your inbox and this tool will be an absolute game changer.
Calendy is a meeting scheduling platform that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. I’ve known about it for a while but only recently decided to take advantage of their free trial.
This online tool is useful for running your business online particularly if you’re a service provider—a freelancer, consultant, graphic designer, web developer, writer or coach.
Just plug in your availability times and send the customizable link to your clients so they can view all your open slots and book the time that suits them. No more endlessly going back and forth just trying to find a time that works for all parties.
Calendy integrates with Google, Outlook, Office 365 and iCloud calendars so you’re never double booked and can have all your dates in one place.
Calendly also lets you accept payments right through the platform. Clients can pay for your time right when they book. How awesome is that?!
You can also allow your customers to schedule directly from your website by embedding your Calendly page directly on your site.
The Take Away
The Internet has made starting and growing a business within reach and possible for many of us. It’s also provided an abundance of online tools and services so busy creatives, side-hustlers and freelancers like us can organize our businesses, grow our audience and increase our profit margins.
Image via Tycho Atsma on Unsplash