Hey party people!  

I know that the ‘back-end’ of running your business can be confusing and time-consuming to figure out.  

And since my brain thrives on all things systems, teams and operations, I want to share that wisdom with you, and show you what tools and programs I recommend and use to run my own consulting and course-based business…  

So, I’ve pulled together this blog post breaking down exactly WHAT I use in my business and WHY I recommend it.

Hopefully this blog post will save you a lot of the research, time and trial-and error involved in deciding what to use.   And of course – it will give you a peek behind-the-scenes of my business!

(Note:  This is a time-tested, up-to-the-minute list.  I just deleted one platform from here because I was not happy with the service provided.  So you can trust that these are what I currently know, use, and recommend).

Without further ado then, let’s dive in!

Email and Inbox Tools

Gmail

I know, it’s not high-tech, cutting edge or brand new – but the honest truth is that my team and I spend a fair amount of time in Gmail Inboxes each and every day.  

If you’re going this route, I recommend you make the most of the Gmail Inbox with:

  • Boomerang:  Schedule emails to send later, set reminders, and more 
  • Canned Responses: Save your Top 10 emails to paste (and then customize) as needed, so you’re not re-inventing the wheel every time you hit ‘reply’ #lifesaver
  • Priority Inbox: I know the often touted ‘Inbox Zero’ is not a reality for everyone, so I set up sections in the Priority Inbox settings for ‘To-Do’ and ‘Pending’ (or whatever labels make sense for you) to keep things organized.
  • Tags + Folders: While I have a deep love and respect for tags and color coding 😉don’t go too far with this one. The goal is to keep it simple and manageable. Search is your friend. 

HelpScout

HelpScout is a Support Inbox that allows easy collaboration among team members, as well as online searchable support FAQs and… soon, chat too!  So if you have a team, this is great way to have them help you with your client support and customer service. 

A application like HelpScout is also helpful for business with a higher volume of email / customer service. You can get feedback on your customer service, run reports and gather data about what you’re receiving, your response times, most used templates, most active customers, etc. So, if you’re running a larger volume of emails and customer support this is the way to go.

 

Email Marketing 

ConvertKit

I am a B-I-G fan of ConvertKit.  I love the tagging, sequences and automation options, which let you take email marketing to the next level —  without the eye-watering monthly price tag of an all-in-one system. Get your first month free with this link!

Active Campaign

I’ve been digging in here with a client lately and am getting the lay of the land. I love to the automations and segmenting with ease. Plus, Active Campaign plays nice in the sandbox (integrates) well with a lot of other apps and services which is a big bonus.

 

Team Communication

Teamwork Project Management

Teamwork makes the dreamwork. #excusemypun  

I have a team of 9+ people, so keeping everyone on the same page with projects, tasks, due dates, processes and procedures can feel like a HUGE undertaking. 

So, I use Teamwork Project Management to make it easy, and I LOVE the functionality if offers.  Everything we do is in here… All tasks, all recurring tasks, procedures, project details, launch plans, project plans, calendars… AND, my team even tracks their time in here for easy invoicing at the end of the month.

Teamwork also has an email/help desk add on and a chat option. We’re not using them right now but testing them is on the list for Q4. 

Asana

Asana, like Teamwork, is a web-based project management system.  It’s great for managing tasks and team members, and keeping track of what needs to be done!  Like Teamwork, you can create and assign tasks, and everyone has access to tasks to comment, ask q’s, and update their progress.

Asana is pretty much Teamwork without time tracking (thought it integrates with other time tracking apps), the Notebooks that we use to store process and procedures – I don’t use it in my own business, but a lot of my clients love it and I use it with them – so thought I would share it as an alternative option. Bonus for anyone just getting started the free plan covers almost everything you’ll need to get started and get organized. 

Slack

Working with a remote team has its share of communication obstacles! My favorite tool to combat these?  Slack!!

Here are the most common ways we use it:

  • Quick questions/clarifications to keep us moving forward
  • While on a webinar, communicating between team members
  • Wishing each other happy birthday!
  • Sending a quick “hey, you there? Can we video chat super quick?”
  • And the least productive? Creating custom emojis! (Don’t say I didn’t warn you! 🤣)

 

Money & Finances

QuickBooks

I use QuickBooks for all of my financial tracking. It makes it easy to see what’s going in and out on a monthly basis. And, as an added bonus, it pulls all of my year end tax info together in an easy way to share with my accountant.  No more pre-tax panic attacks. Which is worth the price alone. 😂

Xero

Xero is similar to QuickBooks, and I know many international businesses that prefer it for the added integrations if offers to their banking and financial companies.

FreshBooks

If you’re getting started and need to manage invoices and payments, then FreshBooks is for you. It’s simple, intuitive and affordable. Bonus points, as you can bill via PayPal, and save on fees as well.

 

Design Tools

Canva

I have got a bit of a crush on Canva. Seriously – it’s one of the best online image editors because it offers powerful editing tools, pre-designed elements and more. Not to mention, the interface is pretty handsome and user-friendly (even for a graphics challenged person like me!)

My team and I have been using Canva for a couple of years now, and we use it regularly to create images for my blog posts, social media posts and even for my website.  

Best thing about it? The free version works great! Need something a bit more robust? With plans starting at $12.95/month, this tool gives you a big bang for your buck.

 

Stock Photos

We use and love Stocksy and Deposit Photo for stock photos.  

While I don’t actually create my social media graphics and images myself – not my zone of genius – my time is better spent elsewhere (I promise!), working with clients –  my wonderful team does this for me!

Here’s a list of great places to find quality images to adorn your website, social media and marketing content with – including both paid and free options.

Pexels (free)Death to the Stock Photo (free)Unsplash (free)Canva Images (free & paid) Deposit PhotosStocksyHaute Stock

 

Social Media Tools

SmarterQueue

Right now SmarterQueue is winning all around for me and my team. I love the way we can save and have our social media library in there AND still have it be flexible and able to move posts and content around with ease. The best of both worlds.

Grum

Grum only does Instagram planning and posting, BUT the big bonus here is that it will fully post to Insta (your post AND your first comment – for your hashtags) without the push notification and acceptance in the mobile app, which gets a ‘heck yes’ from me.

 

Website Building Tools

LeadPages

Okay, so it’s not really a website tool per say but it makes it super easy to get an opt in page up and working asap.

The original and best landing page platform, I connect this with my ConvertKit account and use this to collect emails and sign ups for my webinars and free lead magnets. Straightforward to use, reliable, and loved by many of my clients, it gets a thumbs up from me!

Divi Themes

Divi is my go-to WordPress theme, and it’s what I built my site on. The creators at Elegant themes are constantly updating and improving this software, so you rest assured you’ve gotten a sustainable theme.  Which is one of the reasons I love it so.

Wishlist Member

This is a robust membership plugin that I use with too many clients to count. You’ll still need to have a WordPress site + a theme to go along with it {see Divi}. Biggest drawback is the time to keep this running smoothly – you’ll likely want a developer on standby if something starts acting up.

Kajabi

Kajabi is an awesome all-round option if you want to set up a Membership Site, that is a blend of Wishlist Member, Divi Themes and LeadPages. It takes payments, hosts your landing pages AND manages your members all in one. Plus, the members area layouts area spacious and user-friendly. And, bonus it’s where I’m building my DIY courses.

 

Tools To Show Clients & Team Members Love

BoxFox

My go-to for gifting my clients and team. You can personalize each box, choose exactly what you put inside – think candles, chocolate, skincare, stationery and prints to drool over – and more. I love it. (And so do they!) 💜

Bouqs

Another favourite for surprising and delighting my people – I love to send clients and team members these beautiful flowers to celebrate successful launches, big milestones, birthdays…and sometimes ‘just because’ they’ve been amazing.  

 

Admin & Organization Tools

And, back to the ‘back-end’ of business we go, to finish up.

Google Docs + Sheets

This is the very best way to manage documents, and to make sure everyone is looking at the most current version. My team and I use Google Docs for website edits/copy, blog post copy (yep, including this one), newsletter intros, content marketing planning, and for process and procedure docs all. day. long.

Google Drive

A cloud-based file storage program.  This is where my team and I store and share all of our files, documents and PDFs. I recommend having a simple filing structure in here to keep things organized, as it can get chaotic quickly.  But Google Drive means that you can access your files from anywhere, which is so darn useful.

Dropbox

While it might seem to overlap with Google Drive, we use Dropbox to store and share non-text files… Audio, video, and graphics.


Other Useful Tools

LastPass

LastPass remembers all your passwords, so you don’t have to – and allows you share them with team members and contractors securely.

Zoom

This is where I host my team meetings, clients calls and webinars. It’s free (up to a certain number of participants) and reliable.

Bit.ly

Bit.ly shortens links so they can be easily shared! It’s also good for tidying up messy and over-long affiliate links. You know the kinds. 🙈

And that’s a wrap!

The 25 tools and programs I use to operate my online business, and make sure everything runs efficiently.  These are the go-to tools that I use, love and recommend to my course participants and clients.

Are there any tools or programs that YOU love that aren’t listed here? Share them below.

XO,
Amber

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