Welcome to the Top Tools page. Here’s where you’ll find a curated list of the very best tools to help you get your blog and business up and running quickly. If you use the right tools, you can save yourself loads of time and lots of money. Now, who doesn’t like the sound of that?
In the interest of complete transparency I should mention that some (not all) of these links are affiliate links, and if you make a purchase through my link I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Alrighty, let’s get on with it!
STEP 1. Get Your Website Up and Running
DOMAIN REGISTRAR: NAMESILO
The first thing you'll need to do when setting up your website is buy a domain name. NameSilo is the most reasonably-priced, non-jerky registrar I've found, plus they don't charge extra for things like privacy protection and email forwarding. Their website looks a bit dated, but not to worry, they are legit.
WEB HOST: SITEGROUND
After purchasing a domain name, you’ll need purchase a web hosting package. I use SiteGround, and I am very happy with them. They have good page load speed, a nice uptime guarantee, and stellar customer service. Plus, they offer free SSL certificates, site migration assistance, and daily backups.
PLATFORM: WORDPRESS (SELF-HOSTED)
If you’re just starting out, it might be tempting to start a simple blog or website using a hosted solution such as WordPress.com, Wix, or Squarespace. However, my recommendation is to choose a self-hosted WordPress installation instead. When your business starts to grow (and hopefully it will grow quickly!) chances are good that you’ll want to use a specific theme, plugin, or service to boost your business. A self-hosted WordPress installation will give you the ultimate freedom to take your website and business in any direction you desire.
THEME: GENESIS BY STUDIOPRESS
Over the years, I have tried free WordPress themes, Divi, Beaver Builder, ThemeForest, and Thrive Themes; I always go back to Genesis by StudioPress. What I like about Genesis is that their themes are coded well, and they don’t produce errors whenever WordPress is updated. Plus, you can get the Genesis Pro Plus Package which lets you have access to ALL of the StudioPress Genesis child themes FOREVER for one low price. I took advantage of this deal and recommend that you do, too!
P.S. If you dislike messing with code but want the ability to customize your Genesis theme, check out the Design Palette Pro WordPress plugin.
STEP 2. Optimize Your Website
SOCIAL MEDIA BUTTONS: SOCIAL WARFARE
Need to add social media buttons to your site? Be sure to check out Social Warefare. Although there are plenty of free social media plugins out there, Social Warfare is my weapon of choice because it allows me to specify custom text and images for each of the different social media platforms.
STEP 3. Create Amazing Content
Sure, you could use Word or Pages for writing, but what’s nice about Scrivener is that you can easily move sections around, jump from section to section, and keep track of resources. It’s a truly wonderful tool for writing ebooks, scripting presentations, and other longer length documents. There is a learning curve, but once you get past it, you’ll never want to go back to Word again.
SIMPLE GRAPHICS: CANVA
If you're not a designer, but would like to create graphics for your website, email newsletters, and social media campaigns, look no further than Canva. Canva is an online tool that makes creating graphics super easy. You can create business cards, social media graphics, logos, and much more.
ADVANCED GRAPHICS: ADOBE
At some point, you may desire to create slightly more complicated graphics than Canva allows. When you're ready to invest in a more professional setup, here's what I recommend:
- Adobe Illustrator: For vector graphics and graphics that have a lot of text
- Adobe Lightroom: For general photo editing
- Adobe Photoshop: For photo compositing and extreme retouching
- Adobe InDesign: For multi-page documents
- Adobe After Effects: For animating graphic elements
STEP 4. Build a List of Raving Fans
LANDING PAGES: Thrive Themes
If you need to create landing pages for selling products and growing your email list, look no further than Thrive Themes. Thrive Themes is an incredibly powerful tool for creating high-converting landing pages, lead boxes, popups, and more. In addition, your Thrive Themes subscription includes tools for optimizing blog post headlines, gathering testimonials, and creating online courses—all for one very reasonable price.
EMAIL: Active Campaign
Active Campaign is a fantastic email marketing tool for those who want a little more functionality than a basic service like MailChimp, but don’t need a full-blown CRM tool such as Infusionsoft. What I like about Active Campaign is that it’s super easy to use, it works really well with a variety of landing page tools, and it offers amazing automation features.
STEP 5. Share Your Content with the World
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULING: BUFFER
One of the best ways to save time while promoting your business is to create an editorial calendar and schedule all of your posts and tweets ahead of time. This way, you can sit down once a week, get your promoting done, and save the rest of your time for creating valuable content. There are several scheduling tools out there, but Buffer is my top pick because it is simple and very easy to use; a slightly higher priced alternative is CoSchedule.
MANAGING INCOMING SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGES: HOOTSUITE
The other component to social media promotion is interacting with your followers. If you have multiple profiles on the same platform, it can be downright confusing to constantly have to sign in and out of all of your various profiles. Hootsuite, while also providing social media scheduling, shines at helping you keep track of multiple accounts on multiple platforms. Sign in once and see all of your mentions, direct messages, etc. all in one place.
STEP 6. Organize Your Business
Wave is an excellent tool for solopreneurs who want to keep their business finances separate from their personal finances, but aren’t ready to invest in a comprehensive tool such as Freshbooks or Quickbooks. I like Wave because it is not as overwhelming to use as other software, but note that it is not a true double-accounting system.