It’s always nice, right?
To take a peek behind the curtain and see what shortcuts, tools and gadgets other coaches and consultants are using to run and grow their businesses?
One of the reasons I love listening to or reading interviews with other entrepreneurs is because a lot of times they talk about mistakes they’ve made, lessons they’ve learned and the tools they’ve used to get where they are today.
That means that I get to take a shortcut. I don’t have to research and discover everything myself. I can use what they’re teaching me to grow quicker and easier.
And that’s what I want to do for you today – help you by giving you a peek at what I use to run my business to help you run your business more efficiently and smoothly.
Now before we dive in, it’s true that I have used (and, for most of them, still use) all of these apps and tools and wouldn’t be recommending them if I didn’t find them helpful.
But some of them might not be right for you.
So take what works and leave the rest. (Which is what I always say, but that’s because it’s always true).
Let’s jump into it!
You’ve got 11 categories to choose from…
(Pssst… click on the name to jump right to that section)
- Staying Focused
- Getting To-Dos Done
- Research & Idea Generation
- Content Creation, Graphics, Pics & Design
- List Building & Email Marketing
- Security & Storage
- Coaching Sessions, Group Calls & Teleseminars
- Membership Sites & Online Program Delivery
- Social Media
- Getting Paid
Before you officially take the leap, in the interest of keeping my “above board” rep… Some of these links are affiliate links which means I’ll get “thank you” money from the developers if you click on my link and decide to buy the tool or program.
In all honesty, it’s a way to make a bit of money from my blog. And every affiliate link is only there because I’ve used it, loved it, and would tell my best friend to buy it.
Now let’s do this…
What It Is: A timer that helps you keep track of where you’re spending your time.
You type in what you’re working on, press start, work on that project, and then when you’re done you press stop. Do this for each task or project you work on during the day and it’ll keep a running tab of how long you’ve been working on each task.
How It’ll Help You: At the end of each week you’ll be emailed a breakdown of how long you worked and what tasks and projects you worked on. You’ll be able to see where you’re spending your time (and where you’re wasting your time).
If you want a successful business you need to make sure you’re spending your time on tasks that’ll actually move your business forward. Using Toggl will help you see when, where and how you’re spending your time so you can waste less of it.
Price: Free. Or $5/month for a Pro subscription. Or $49/month for a Business subscription. (I have a free account).
Why I Love & Recommend It: It helps me stay focused and stops me from spending my time on pointless activities.
When I get the breakdown of what I’ve worked on in the past week and I see that I spent 5 hours in my email inbox, 3 hours on social media, and only 1 hour writing, I know that’s a problem and I need to turn that around.
So it not only motivates me to get stuff done (so I don’t get an email that basically tells me I wasted an entire week doing nothing) but it also keeps me on task because the clock is running and I want to get things done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Getting To-Dos Done
What It Is: If you have a Mac, iPad, or iPhone, Things is a great task manager to use to get your projects done.
There are a couple different ways you can use it…
For Projects: You can create a project with a list of tasks you need to get done for that project. When you complete a task you check it off and then keep going until you’ve done everything you need to do to finish that project.
For Random To-Dos: You can just keep a running list of whatever things you want to get done.
For To-Dos That Need to Get Done in the Future: If you want to remind yourself to get something done a couple days, week, month, or even a year+ from now, you can pop it in and it’ll remind you to do it on that date.
For Recurring To-Dos: When you need to get something done every week, month, year or some other timetable, you can set it up so Things automatically reminds you to do it.
How It’ll Help You: You don’t have to remember everything you need to get done today, tomorrow, next week, or worry about making sure you don’t lose that scrap of paper you wrote your must-dos on.
Price: $49.99 for your Mac. $9.99 for your iPhone. $19.99 for your iPad.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I don’t have to keep all the things I need to get done in my head or on random pieces of paper. It’s all there for me so I don’t have to remember.
I also love the fact that I can schedule in reminders for things I do every couple weeks, once a month, or once a year – like making sure my social media posts get scheduled to go out, setting my profit goals and tracking my income and expenses, reviewing and updating my 90 day plans, and so on.
Research & Idea Generation
What It Is: A tool that helps you organize and read all the blog posts and articles from various blogs and websites you want to follow.
How It’ll Help You: If you don’t want to subscribe to every single newsletter, but you want to stay up-to-date on what’s hot and happening in your niche, this app can help.
Price: Free. Or $3.75/month for a Pro Plan. Or $12.08/month for a Team Plan. (I have a free account).
Why I Love & Recommend It: I like to keep in the loop on what’s happening in the world of blogging, business, marketing, health and wellness and other fun topics. But I don’t like getting a ton of email. So I subscribe to my absolute favorite blogs and then use Feedly to keep up to date on the rest of them.
I usually pop in once a week or so for a couple hours to read the articles and blog posts that stand out to me.
I then often save my favorite reads into my Pocket account (which just so happens to be my next recommendation…)
What It Is: An app that lets you save articles and blog posts that you want to read or come back to later.
You can use tags to organize your fave posts and easily find a bunch of posts you’ve saved in the past on a topic you’re researching right now.
How It’ll Help You: I find this a way better way to keep track of articles and blog posts than just bookmarking it in my web browser.
It’s also a great way to find new writers and bloggers because you can dive into the “recommended” section to find more good reads.
Price: Free. Or $44.99/year for a premium account. (I have a free account).
Why I Love & Recommend It: Two of my favorite ways to use Pocket is to…
1. Use it when I’m writing a blog post or something else and want to do research on a certain topic. I just search for the tags that relate to that topic and sift through what I’ve already saved so I don’t have to spend time hunting down new stuff.
2. Use it when I’m scheduling social media posts to go out. I want to make sure I’m sharing the goodness other people are putting out there. And instead of having to read a bunch of posts all at once to put into my social media scheduler, I just go through and choose some articles that I’ve already read and saved in Pocket and put those into the rotation.
What It Is: Similar to Feedly, Alltop collects all the best stories covering all kinds of topics so you can get a good sense of what’s hot (or not) in your niche.
How It’ll Help You: You’ll get a sense of what people are already reading so you can craft blog posts that tap into that desire for a particular topic or post.
Why I Love & Recommend It: While Feedly is great for getting the latest goods on sites I’ve already found, Alltop is good for helping me find new sources to draw from.
It also gives me a broad, big-picture glimpse at what people are already searching for and talking about so I can make sure I create relevant, helpful content.
What It Is: An app that lets you find the most popular blog posts on other people’s sites.
How It’ll Help You: You’ll learn what’s already popular on other blogs like yours so you can put your own unique spin on a topic people are already searching for and reading up on.
Price: Free. When you sign up you’ll get some credits you can use to start. If you run out, you can request extra credits by sending out a tweet about the app.
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s an easy way to see what’s working for other people doing something similar to me so I don’t have to do as much trial and error to find what could be popular for my blog.
Of course, every blog is different and has a slightly (or totally) different audience so take what you find with a grain of salt.
What It Is: A survey creation tool that can help you with your market research.
How It’ll Help You: You can easily and quickly make great looking surveys to send out to your email subscribers and others to get feedback on what your audience wants and needs.
Price: Free. Or $20/month for the Pro subscription. (I’m on the free plan).
Why I Love & Recommend It: I used to use Survey Monkey (and still do sometimes) but I’m a sucker for a great design so I choose Typeform over Survey Monkey because it just looks so darn pretty.
It’s also very user friendly – both for the creator and taker of the survey.
And they have ready-made templates you can tweak, or you can create a survey from scratch so it’s quick and easy to get a survey up and running.
What They Are: Online forums where you can ask questions or search through “subreddits” to find more information about your audience, niche, or anything you want to know.
How They’ll Help You: People can be quite open and honest on forums like Quora and Reddit so you can get to the core of what’s going on inside your audience’s head.
On Quora you can ask a question and get an answer, or simply sift through questions that have already been asked.
On Reddit you can search for specific topics by using what they call subreddits.
Keep in mind that when you’re searching for anything – whether on Reddit, Quora, or elsewhere – the more specific you can get, the easier time you’ll have.
So instead of typing in “Green Smoothies” (like I did above :)) type in something like “Green Smoothie Challenge” or “Protein For Green Smoothies”.
Why I Love & Recommend Them: Online forums are a great place to see what people are complaining about (AKA their problems and pains) so you can get a better idea of what blog posts you can write about that’ll hit home with them.
You just want to be careful because if you come across as too overly promotional, people will be turned off and you might get yourself blocked. Just don’t be the weird, pushy, market-y person and you’ll be all good.
Go in with a curious, playful mindset and just see what happens.
Content Creation, Graphics, Pics & Design
What It Is: An app that allows you to jot down long or short notes and gather info all in one place.
How It’ll Help You: You can use it anytime, anywhere to write blog posts, work on projects, share ideas with your team and more.
Price: Free. Or $28.99/year for the Plus subscription. Or $57.99/year for the Premium subscription. (I use the free version).
Why I Love & Recommend It: I have Evernote downloaded onto my computer, phone and iPad so whenever I have an idea that I want to remember for a blog post, or something else, I have a place to write it where it won’t get lost.
In all honesty I don’t use Evernote in its full capacity – I know it could do so much more for me if I wanted it to.
But for the most part I just love it because I always have a space to jot down ideas when I’m out and about and I know they won’t get lost.
I use it a lot when I’m flying to write blog posts or if I come up with a brilliant idea (or at least what I think is brilliant at the time!) that I want to remember when I land.
What It Is: A free font downloader. You can search for a particular kind of font you’re looking for – serif, sans serif, handwriting, etc. – and download it to be used on your website, in an ebook, or for something else.
How It’ll Help You: If you’re looking for a funky font and the usual Times New Roman ain’t gonna do the job, you can jump into Google Fonts and find something unique.
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s easy to find and download fonts for whatever project I need them for.
I especially love how I can actually type whatever I want into the preview text bar so it’s easy to see what specific words or phrases would look like using that particular font.
What It Is: If you see a font somewhere and think “I gotta have that!”, you can take a screenshot and use What the Font to try to find out what font it is.
How It’ll Help You: When you’re out and about on the interwebs and see a font that you’d love to use, just take a screenshot and pop over to the app to see if it can help you out.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I love good design (simple, clean, crisp) and a good font is a great find.
It doesn’t always work perfectly – sometimes it can’t decipher what the font is. But if you have a decent picture of the font, chances are you’ll get what you’re looking for.
What It Is: A graphic design tool that let’s you create images for your blog, social media, ebooks, and more.
How It’ll Help You: Anytime you need something designed you won’t need to hire a designer if you’re on a tight budget. And your design will still look good. Win-win!
Price: Free. Or you can pay for the premium images. (I usually just design free stuff but the premium images are pretty cheap to use). Or you can snag Canva For Work with more tools and such for $12.95/month.
Why I Love & Recommend It: Canva is probably one of my fave design tools of all time. I adore it!
It’s so easy to use and you can create a beautiful design for a blog post, book, social media, or something else funky that looks like a pro did it.
They have a ton of templates you can tweak or you can start from scratch and do your own thing.
I use this a lot. I have a feeling that, once you start playing around with it, you will too.
What It Is: A website that allows you to find copyright free images that you can use on your blog or elsewhere.
Just make sure you double check and give appropriate attribution where it’s required. Some photographers want you to simply mention that you got the photo from them, others don’t need to be mentioned. Some will allow you to modify the photo, others won’t. You can use some images for commercial reasons, and others you can only download for personal use.
So check what the license is for each photo you find before you slap it up on your blog and find yourself in hot water.
How It’ll Help You: You can find some great pics for your blog or other projects without having to take the photo yourself or spend money on a photo you find online.
Why I Love & Recommend It: Unfortunately you can’t just Google something and then use whatever image pops up. You can be sued if you do that. Seriously. So that’s why it’s great to have resources like Flickr.
There are a ton of creative commons pic sites out there. I’ve simply used Flickr before so I’m familiar with it. And I honestly don’t use images that I haven’t created myself very often.
How It’ll Help You: You can change the colors of photos – from regular to black and white, sepia and all kinds of fun colors.
You can crop photos, add text, add shapes, put a frame around the pic, make it look like the photo is a polaroid, and much more.
Price: Free. Or you can upgrade to a Royale subscription and get even more options for $4.99/month or $33/year if you opt for the annual plan. (I just use the free features).
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s so easy to use and I can make changes to my photos without hiring a designer.
I use it a lot when I create images for my blog, sales pages, program content, freebies, and other stuff.
In fact, every image that you see in this blog post was created by taking a screenshot, popping into PicMonkey, cropping the photo and adding a drop shadow.
That’s what I love when I’m looking for tools for my business and PicMonkey gives me that.
What It Is: Also a photo editing app.
How It’ll Help You: You can use it to edit any photos you want to tweak.
Price: Free. Or you can download Pixlr for Desktop for $1.99/month or $14.99/year if you opt for the annual plan. (I just use the free web app).
Why I Love & Recommend It: What I like about Pixlr that I can’t do with PicMonkey is combine multiple pictures together. So say I want to make 5 photos into one photo, I can pop into Pixlr and make it happen.
(That’s actually how I combined the two screenshots of Quora and Reddit above. Went into Pixlr and put the two photos together to make one pic).
I can also erase part of the photo – so if I want to get rid of the background, for example, and just keep the picture of me on a white or transparent background, Pixlr can do that.
I find Pixlr a little less user friendly than PicMonkey. PicMonkey just seems simpler to use, but Pixlr is still a great tool if you’re comfortable playing around to get your footing with it.
Bottom line: I like both Pixlr and PicMonkey and use them both a ton.
List Building & Email Marketing
What It Is: Aweber is an email marketing and autoresponder program.
It’s the software you use to build your email list so you can attract more potential clients your way and keep in touch with them until they’re ready to say yes to buying a service or product from you (if they’re the right fit and it’s the right offer for them, of course).
How It’ll Help You: You can use Aweber to send emails to your email list (AKA newsletter) subscribers, people who have signed up for an online program you’re running, people who’ve bought a product you sell, or something else.
Price: You can try it out for free for 30 days to make sure you like it, then it’s tiered pricing…
You can send an unlimited amount of emails for $19/month for up to 500 subscribers.
$29/month for 501 – 2,500 subscribers.
$49/month for 2,501 – 5,000 subscribers.
$69/month for 5,001 – 10,000 subscribers.
And $149/month for 10,001 – 25,000 subscribers.
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s easy to create multiple lists so that if you have several free offers, products or programs, you know exactly who’s signed up for which one.
You can create as many different lists as you want and set up unique autoresponder sequences for all of them. That way, if someone signs up for a particular freebie, you can send them that freebie and then have a follow-up email series that entices them to purchase a product or service you’ve created that’s related to that freebie.
That way you’re being more targeted with your marketing and not trying to market everything to everyone. This can help you get more sales and happy customers.
You’re also not locked into any kind of contract and there are no set-up fees like some of the bigger email marketing companies.
Whenever I’ve had any issues (which has only been twice in the last 3+ years) their customer service was quick and helpful.
What It Is: Created by digital strategist Nathalie Lussier, as she describes it, PopupAlly Pro is a “polite popup that builds your email list fast”.
How It’ll Help You: Popups are one of the best ways to entice the right kinds of subscribers to sign up to your email list.
And this popup does that without being annoying or looking like a terrible 90s billboard (like what you get with so many other outdated popup apps out there).
Price: $97 for unlimited popups on an unlimited number of websites.
Why I Love & Recommend It: When I first started my online business I was in the “I’ll never, ever, EVER have a popup” camp.
Then after seeing the studies over and over again that showed how effective they were, I decided to give it a try. I first bought another popup software that just looked terrible and made me feel like a slime-ball.
Then I found PopupAlly Pro.
And I’m darn happy I did. Within 3 months I was able to score 520 more subscribers with the help of this puppy.
And it’s not just me. Entrepreneur.com used it and they were able to boost their conversion rate 32% and triple their email list in two months. Pretty awesome!
I love PopupAlly Pro because it’s so easy to use, and it doesn’t look horribly cheesy like so many other popups out there. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that are stuck in the 90s? Yeah. PopupAlly Pro makes popups look much better than that!
You can totally customize the design, timing and style of your popup. You can decide whether it’ll appear after a certain period of time, when people go to leave your site, when people click on a link on a page, when people scroll to a certain section of a page, or you can just create an opt-in box that’s embedded on a page on your site – like in your sidebar or the bottom of your blog.
You can also have it show up on certain pages but not others. You can embed a video into the popup. You can split test if you want. It’s mobile friendly (meaning it won’t look all weird when someone comes to your website from a phone).
And – here’s my fave part – it has “smart subscriber recognition” meaning that you can set it up so that it really is polite and won’t annoy people who are already subscribed to your email list.
You also get access to a video library showing you how to customize and create your own popup so if you’re not techy at all, it’s totally okay. Nathalie walks you through everything.
Yes. I’m gushing. Because I really, really love it!
Security & Storage
What It Is: A plugin you can use to backup, restore or move your WordPress site.
How It’ll Help You: You can relax knowing that if your site ever goes down, gets hacked, or you lose a blog post or page for some reason, you can rely on BackupBuddy to get things back to normal ASAP.
You can also pick what gets backed up – everything, or only a portion of your website.
Price: Their base package backs-up 2 websites for $80/year.
Why I Love & Recommend It: Something strange happened with my site about a year ago. It just kind of disappeared.
I’m not sure what happened, but if I didn’t have BackupBuddy I would have lost everything. Everything. That’s a lot of things. And I’m so glad I didn’t lose it all.
Long story short: backup your website.
It’s like car insurance. You don’t realize just how important it is until you need it.
Whether you use BackupBuddy or something else (like the next tool I’m going to suggest) the last thing you want is to lose all your content.
You can set it up to automatically backup your website on a regular schedule (daily, weekly, or monthly, for example). And you can also just manually back it up whenever you like.
What It Is: Software that automatically scans, protects and cleans your website from hackers, blacklisting and nasty malware that tries to ruin your day.
You can also use it to backup your website (so it’s like BackupBuddy with even more goodness).
How It’ll Help You: If your website is ever attacked by hackers, malware, or blacklisted Sucuri can make all that pain go away quickly.
Price: They have different levels of security and responsiveness depending on what you’re looking for. Their Basic account goes for $199.99/year. Pro is $299.99/year. Business is $499.99/year. And Enterprise starts at $500/month.
Why I Love & Recommend It: Once upon a time my website was hacked.
I went to check on my blog post that was just sent to my email subscribers and all I saw was a lovely (kidding! It was terrible…) little note letting me (and the world) know I’d been hacked.
The ironic part is about two weeks before it happened I said to myself “Jen, you should really sign up for Sucuri, just in case.”
So of course the first thing I did was hop over to the Sucuri website. I tried not to sound too panicky when I chatted with their customer service agent. The good news is that, I kid you not, within two hours I’d been signed up and my website was back to normal.
Totally normal. Like nothing happened normal.
I avoided a whole lotta stress and time consuming panicked running around by just getting Sucuri to take care of it.
Before this happened I figured that my site wasn’t really at risk because I was just a wee little blog in a world of big blogs. I was apparently wrong. Anyone can get hacked. Don’t let it happen to you, friend.
Whether you snag Sucuri or something else, protect yourself so you don’t lose everything if your site gets compromised.
What It Is: A place where you can virtually store any files you want other people to be able to access online – including video and audio files.
How It’ll Help You: If you want a secure place to put files for your free or paid offerings, Amazon S3 works well.
Price: $0.03 per GB/month for your first TB of storage. Translation? Cheap!
Why I Love & Recommend It: While it’s not as user friendly as I would like – it took me a little while to get used to all the settings and get my bearings – it’s a great, cheap option for uploading my free PDFs and other files for my paid programs.
If you’ve ever wondered how people store their PDFs and such for free offerings and paid programs, Amazon S3 is a popular choice. It gives you a URL that you can direct people to to see, download and print files.
While you do have to pay for the storage, I have a lot already stored in my Amazon S3 account and have yet to be charged over $1/month. So it’s a cheap, secure option.
What It Is: A free alternative to Amazon S3 where you can store any files you want to store and share online.
How It’ll Help You: You can use Google Drive similar to Amazon S3 – a place to store any and all files that you want to save and share online.
Price: Free up to 30GB. 100 GB is $1.99/month. 1 TB is $9.99/month.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I save the majority of my files on my laptop. I mostly use Google Drive to share files with clients and team members.
I love it because it’s easy to use and you can store a lot of stuff for free – including photos, videos and audio files.
What It Is: Software that allows you to send files up to 10GB to anyone’s email address.
How It’ll Help You: If you record client sessions and want to send the recording over to your client, you can use Hightail to do that.
Or if you have a file that’s too big to send over email, you can send it with Hightail.
Price: You can test it out in a free trial if you like. You can share files up to 250MB for free. Over top of that, the Professional subscription is $15.99/month to send files up to 10GB and the Team subscription (for up to 10 people) is $24.99/user per month to send files up to 10GB.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I like to record client sessions and send them to my clients so they have video or audio files to go back into whenever they want.
But they’re too big to send over email. Hightail solves that problem for me.
Of course, you can use it to send other files to other people as well.
So if Grandma misses baby’s first steps and you want to send her the video without posting it on YouTube, you can use Hightail to get it to her.
What It Is: A program that remembers passwords so you don’t have to.
It can also generate complicated passwords to make it more challenging for people to hack into your various online accounts.
How It’ll Help You: If you want to keep your passwords secure and not have the same password for every single online account – like YourCat’sNameABC – then Last Pass will store, remember and can automatically fill your username and password on sites you visit on your own computer.
Price: Free. You can pay for the Premium subscription to get more bells and whistles – like syncing on all your devices – for $12/year.
Why I Love & Recommend It: The long and the short of it is that I don’t have to remember a bunch of passwords and I can easily create a bunch of complicated passwords so each log-in is unique.
It also makes it easy for me to change my passwords on a regular basis without trying to remember what I changed it to.
Coaching Sessions, Group Calls & Teleseminars
What It Is: An online calling service.
How It’ll Help You: You can make video and audio calls to anyone, anywhere for free online.
Price: Free to call online. You can buy Skype credits to call cellphones and landlines in various countries.
Why I Love & Recommend It: When I have client sessions, mastermind sessions with my business buddies, want to join a teleseminar that supports Skype callers, or just want to chat with someone over video or audio online, I use Skype.
Pretty much everyone knows about Skype these days so I won’t go on-and-on.
I’ll leave it at this: it’s my fave way to do a client session because it’s easy and I get to see my client’s pretty faces. I find it’s easier to create a strong connection when you do video (as opposed to just audio).
What It Is: A Skype call recorder for Mac.
How It’ll Help You: If you want to record a conversation that happens over Skype you can use this to do it. It’ll capture both video and audio.
Price: $29.95 with free lifetime updates.
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s so easy to use. You just hit record and it’ll automatically save a copy of the recording to your computer when your call is over.
I use this to record client sessions, mastermind sessions, sessions with my coach, interviews with other experts for my blog and anything that I want to save and potentially upload online later.
What They Are: If you have a gmail account you’ll be able to use Google Hangouts and Google Voice.
Google Hangouts is similar to Skype in that you can make video or audio calls online.
Google voice allows you to make calls to mobile and landline phones through your computer.
How They’ll Help You: You can use Google Hangouts to video chat with up to 10 people.
Google Voice is great if you live in the States or Canada because you’ll be able to make calls to mobile phones and landlines all over the U.S. and Canada for free.
Price: Google Hangouts is free. For Google Voice, if you live in the United States or Canada you can call anywhere in the States or Canada for free. For all other rates check out this page on their website.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I’ve used Google Hangouts in the past for client sessions, for mastermind meetings, and to do webinars without needing to sign up for a webinar service.
I’ve used Google Voice to call clients who prefer to do their sessions over phone, instead of Skype or Google Hangouts. Since I live in Canada I can make free calls to Canada and the United States so I don’t have to worry about long distance charges.
What They Are: Teleconference lines that will allow you to host teleseminars – or what most people in the biz call “free calls”.
How It’ll Help You: You can host free calls to attract more subscribers and clients your way.
You can also use them to have client sessions if your client doesn’t have Skype or Google Hangouts and lives somewhere where you’d be charged long distance fees for calling them.
Price: Free Conference Call is free to host up to 1,000 people.
Instant Teleseminar’s prices are…
$47/month for 20 phone participants and 100 webcast participants (people listening to the call via the web).
$67/month for 100 phone participants and 500 webcast participants.
$97/month for 250 phone participants and 1,000 webcast participants.
& $197/month for 500 phone participants and 3,000 webcast participants.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I’m gonna come clean… I have yet to find a teleconference system that I love. There seem to be a lot of different options but nothing has really stood out as the go-to must-have.
But let’s talk about why I like these options, shall we?
First off, Free Conference Call is free so that’s good. It’s easy to use and easy to interact with attendees. The downside is that the audio isn’t the best. And there are less bells and whistles then you’d get with a paid program like Instant Teleseminar.
Now Instant Teleseminar is good. It’s got everything you’d really need in a teleconference system. The downside is that it’s pricey.
What I typically do when I’m running group programs with coaching calls is sign up for Instant Teleseminar for the month or two I need the service and then cancel it once the program is over so I’m not being charged for something I’m not using.
It’s a good service – easy to use, clear sound, simple instructions to get my clients on the call with me. I just find it pricey unless I’m using it on a regular basis. So I only activate my account when I’m running a program and need it for my group calls.
Membership Sites & Online Program Delivery
What It Is: Software that will allow you to create a member’s only area for group programs you run or a client’s only area for your clients.
How It’ll Help You: You can keep all your member’s only content safe from (non paying) prying eyes.
Price: $197 for a single site license. $297 for a multi-site license (meaning you can put it on as many sites as you like).
(If you want to, you can always start out with the single site license and upgrade to the multi-site license later on).
Why I Love & Recommend It: It’s simple to set up and use.
You can integrate it with your shopping cart and email marketing system so that people who sign up for a particular program are automatically given access to the membership area and start getting your autoresponder emails for the program (I like the hands-free-ness of it all).
It’s easy to create the member’s area – you don’t need to be a tech whiz kid.
You can also set it up so that people can have a free or low-cost trial of the member’s area for a month or so and then give them the option to start paying and continue getting access to the member’s area.
And you can set up different membership levels. So, for example, some members can get access to all the content, while others get access to only certain parts of the content.
They also have a video library that teaches you how to set everything up and get your membership site up and running ASAP.
What It Is: A website that allows you to upload and stream videos.
How It’ll Help You: When you’re charging people to work with you you want to do everything in your power to create an enjoyable experience for them.
I find that uploading my course videos to Vimeo (instead of YouTube) gives them a more professional, polished look.
Price: The Basic account is free. The Plus account is $59.95/year.
Why I Love & Recommend It: While YouTube is great for blog posts, I enjoy using Vimeo for my group coaching programs and for uploading and sharing helpful videos for my private coaching clients because there’s so much more functionality and it just looks more professional.
I get to decide where the videos can (and cannot) be embedded, who’s allowed to watch them, whether people can comment on them, whether people can download them, I can create a custom URL for the video, and more.
What It Is: Like Powerpoint for Windows, Keynote allows us Mac users to create presentations – like say presentations for your online program that you can record and share with your customers!
How It’ll Help You: It’s so easy to create a simple, professional looking presentation that you can use for course content, blog posts, to help your clients solve a particular problem, or any other reason you need a presentation.
Why I Love & Recommend It: In the group programs I run, some of my videos are just of me talking, while others are a recording of Keynote presentations I’ve created.
I’m a super visual learner so I know it’s helpful for me to see words on a page to actually get the lesson and allow it to sink in. So I create simple presentations that give my audience the opportunity to learn how they want to learn – whether that’s audio, video, or a combo of both.
They have a bunch of templates you can choose from, or you can create your own. It’s easy to add animations to your slides. And you can even convert your slides into images or PDF files so you can give your customers a copy of the slides if you like.
It’s just a nice, simple tool to use and it’s served me very well over the course of several group program creation sessions.
What It Is: A screen capture program that allows you to record a video of what’s going on on your computer screen.
How It’ll Help You: You can use it to record what’s going on on your computer screen and your voice at the same time for group program videos or any other reason you’d want to do a screen capture.
Why I Love & Recommend It: I use Screenflow mostly to record the Keynote presentations I’ve created for group programs but it has so many other great uses.
I sometimes use it to record client sessions I have where I’m chatting with someone over Google Voice online and I want to record it to share with them later. It’s easy to extract just the audio file from the recording and send it to them via Hightail.
And I use it when a client has a question about something and it’s easier for me to just record a video of me doing it and showing them how to do it then trying to explain with words in an email.
I even once used it when I was trying to explain something to my web designer so it was easy for him to understand exactly what I meant.
What It Is: A social media scheduling tool.
How It’ll Help You: If you don’t want to have to tweet or post on Facebook every day, you can use a social media scheduler like Hootsuite.
Price: Their Free plan allows you to schedule posts for up to 3 social media accounts. Their Pro plan for $9.99/gives you more options – including the ability to schedule posts for up to 50 social media accounts.
Why I Love & Recommend It: In all honesty there are a ton of good-to-great social media scheduling tools out there.
I use Hootsuite because it works and it’s free. I don’t need a ton of bells and whistles when it comes to my social media so if you’re looking for something more robust there are a lot of options out there – including Buffer, CoSchedule and Edgar.
But if basic works for you, give the free Hootsuite plan a try.
What It Is: Clickable buttons you can put at the end of your blog posts or on any page on your website so people can easily share your content.
How It’ll Help You: If you give people the opportunity to easily share your content, that can help drive more subscribers and sales your way.
Why I Love & Recommend It: You can easily customize your share buttons so they fit your website theme. And you can choose which social media sharing sites you want to include.
You also get free access to analytics so you can see how your content is doing.
I’ve tried a few different social sharing button apps and I still always come back to Shareaholic. It’s simple, looks good, and works well.
What It Is: An online payment processing system.
How It’ll Help You: You can accept all major forms of payment – i.e., major credit cards and debit – on your website.
Price: Each transaction costs you 2.9% + $0.30 (that means every time someone buys something from your website Paypal gets a cut of your profits).
They also have a Standard account for $0/month, an Advanced account for $10/month and a Pro account for $35/month depending on what you’re looking for.
Why I Love & Recommend It: While no one likes to give up a share of their profits to a payment processing system, Paypal is simple to use and trusted.
That’s a big thing when people are making payments online. They don’t want to see some sketchy looking payment processing system that looks like it’ll steal all their info and sell it to someone on the other side of the world.
That’s why I find Paypal to be a good choice. It’s generally recognized as safe and secure so people typically trust it enough to follow-through on buying from you.
What It Is: A toolkit of legal must-dos to help you get your business square with the law.
How It’ll Help You: With tons of done-for-you take and tweak templates and checklists to use it’ll feel like a piece of delicious cake getting all your legal stuff together.
The last thing you want is to find yourself in a legal battle, dealing with a client who refuses to pay and you don’t know what to do, having a random website visitor say you gave them bad advice so they wanna sue you, or something else terrible.
While I’d like to think I’m a rebel, I’m really a rule follower because being prepared and keeping it between the lines means I won’t have to deal with trouble down the road (at least there’s a less likely chance I will!)
So I like to think of any legal stuff for my business as an insurance policy to help make sure that if it hits the fan at some point, I’m not stuck trying to figure out what the heck to do!
Price: $275 for access to everything – including any updates that Rachel decides to dazzle us with.
Why I Love & Recommend It: If you don’t have the $5,000+ to spend on a lawyer to get all your legal ducks in a row, you can use Small Business Bodyguard to make sure things are all square – because the last thing you want is to get in hot legal water when you’re just getting going.
Some of my fave pieces of SBB were the done-for-me client agreements, privacy policies, terms and conditions, disclaimers and other templates that I could take and tweak. As well as the record keeping, annual reports, and hiring your first employee checklists (amongst other checklists).
Legal stuff is not my cup of tea. It makes me want to barf and take a nap.
But SBB made it simple to understand and easy to use – and it actually made me laugh sometimes too (which is always a good thing).
What Tools Made You Go “Ooooooh”?
Well that was like drinking outta a firehose, hey?
A lot to take in, I know.
Just keep in mind that you don’t need absolutely everything I listed here right now.
Prioritize. Figure out what’s a must right now.
(P.S. If you don’t have your legal game tight right now, that list should include Small Business Bodyguard because everyone needs to get their legal stuff together and hiring a lawyer ain’t cheap).
Then keep building as you go.
You don’t need to do it all right now.
Just take what you need today and leave the rest until it feels like the right time.
There will always be an opportunity to add more tools and gadgets to our lives.
The important part is to remember to do it smartly. You don’t need everything. Just a few key pieces.
Enjoy playing around with your new toys!
P.S. Got a question about any of the tools I mentioned? Hit me up in the comments below and I’ll do my best to give you a helpful answer (or at least point you in the direction of someone/something who can).