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Taming Tech Overwhelm – A Guide to The Essentials

Taming Tech Overwhelm – A Guide to The Essentials

“Discover the tools to build your own vision.”
~ Mary Anne Radmacher

I know how overwhelming tech can be when it comes to setting up your business. It seems like there are a million and one tools we need to buy and learn how to use and with so many different options the task can be daunting and confusing.

Getting hung up on tech (when there are far more important business tasks for you to focus on) is a massive timesuck and a really great breeding ground for procrastination. In this blog post  I share with you the essential tech you need to get started in business and what you might consider upgrading to further down the line.

Your Platform

Every business needs a platform and taking on the mantle of web developer, brand specialist, expert copywriter and web designer all whilst also doing everything else you need to do to get your business up and running can be overwhelming to say the least.

To avoid getting lost on this step, here’s what I recommend…

If building a website feels like a gargantuan task and you don’t have wads of spare cash to pay someone to just do it for you, then consider starting out with a simple Facebook Business Page. This gives you a place to start publishing content, building an audience, showcasing your offering, collecting testimonials and more. If you are at the very beginning of your business journey this can make the most sense while you figure out things like your niche, message, brand etc.

If you’re ready for a website I usually suggest one of these options:

For the hardcore DIYers amongst you and those who love to get into the tech and design of things, consider building your website on WordPress using Divi as your theme. You will need to spend more time maintaining your site and on designing it, but if you’re down for that it’s a great option and the one I’ve personally chosen.

If the idea of messing around in the backend of your site, trying to figure out how to make a box move left 2 inches, brings you out in hives then I recommend Squarespace. It has easy to use, simple and elegant themes, which you won’t be able to customise as much, but on the plus side, things like site maintenance and hosting are all taken care of by Squarespace, so you don’t have to worry about them.

Personally I use WordPress with Divi — because I want to be able to customise my website as I please. But I also know of some enviable Squarespace websites that tempt even me to make the switch.

If you go the WordPress route, you will need hosting — the best hosting experience I’ve had was with WP Engine but they are pricey, I’m in the process of moving over to GreenGeeks, a leading eco-friendly web hosting provider.

Your Brand

When starting out in business it’s easy to look at other more established businesses and find ourselves envying their polished and professional looking brand. We might even start telling ourselves that having something similar is the only way we’ll ever be successful in business, but when professional branding packages start around the $3–5K mark, for most newbie business owners, stumping up this kind of cash is simply impossible. Not only that, but it’s also not advisable, given how much change happens in our businesses during the first couple of years.

So rather than while away the hours, fawning over other people’s stunning photos, gorgeous graphics, logo and fonts, do this instead…

Sign up for a free Canva account and teach yourselves some design basics — Canva has a great little design school full of design and branding classes and mini-courses. I also share a DIY Design class I taught with Steph Lisa Kelly with my Back to Basics members.

Once you’ve gained in confidence, you can start to DIY design a few things to give your business a more professional look and feel. Graphics you might consider creating include your social media channel headers like the one I created here or blog post graphics like the one you’ll see on this post.

The key is to let go of the desire for the perfect brand for now so that you can focus on more important things. Later when you’re making consistent income, you might invest in some professional copywriting and/or web design.

Your Audience

Starting a mailing list and sending regular newsletters is one of the most important things you can do to grow, and deepen your connection with, your audience. The people who have been to your website and handed over their email address (essentially the keys to their inbox) are amongst your most engaged audience members. So, it’s no surprise that on my list of tech essentials is an email service provider.

Of all the ESPs out there, I hands down recommend Mailchimp. I was once lured away by Convertkit and wasted a lot of time and money making the switch, which I later reversed (more time spent!).

There’s a lot of misinformation out there about Mailchimp and what you can and cannot do with it and once I realised that, I wouldn’t use any other service. My personal Mailchimp Guru is Paul Jarvis, you can read his review of Mailchimp here. His course Chimp Essentials is amazing.

One of the great things about Mailchimp is that it’s free for accounts with up to 2000 contacts, so it’s the perfect choice for beginners and once you’re ready to upgrade, has all the bells and whistles needed for any kind of online business.

Your Schedule

If you have 1:1 or group sessions with people online, I highly recommend that you invest in an online scheduler. Trying to deal with booking calls across time zones and handling reminders, pre and post-call questions or messages manually is a recipe for disaster, believe me I tried it.

Even though, I’m all for keeping your tech simple in the early days of business building, having a scheduler is right up there in my list of tech essentials. My scheduler of choice is Calendly and like most of my favourite tools, I have, over the years. dabbled with other alternatives out there to see if there is anything better but I’ve always come running back to Calendly.

You might not think you need a scheduler if you don’t have online sessions or calls but even if you plan to reach out to people professionally online, I think it’s worth signing up for the free version of Calendly to avoid screwing up appointments and looking unprofessional.

Your To Do List

Oh my, have I tried all of the tools when it comes to task management. If you can name it, I’ve probably tried it. Trello, Todoist, Things, Monday, Wunderlist, Asana, ClickUp, a variety of online planners (mine and other people’s) as well as good old pen and paper. I’m not even kidding. To avoid you going down the same path, I’ll say this…

My favourite tool so far has been Todoist. Inspired by this video from Business Coach, George Kao, I bit the bullet and signed up for the paid version and have it all set up as an app on my Macbook, on my iPhone, in my Gmail and as a Google Chrome Extension. Which basically means that I can add a to do to my task manager from pretty much anywhere and have it all synced up. It’s great but I still find myself reverting to pen and paper when I get super busy and I think it might be awhile before I make the most of everything Todoist can do for me.

Other tools I recommend

A couple of other tools I currently couldn’t live without include:

Google Drive, which I use for all of my storage. I pay for 130 GB and I store most of my documents on there as well as create shared folders for all of my clients so that we can co-work on documents together.

Dubsado, which I use for client onboarding, contracts, invoicing, time tracking and more. I wouldn’t say that this is an essential for beginners but when your business grows, I recommend this as a great tool for client management.

And there you have it my tech essentials for small, service-based, online businesses. I hope this helps to tame the overwhelm. 

Introducing Back to Basics

This affordable, subscription-based service is for business owners early on in their business journey who need a place to get all of their business related questions answered. Click here or the image below to subscribe.

Once a month on the first Thursday of the month, I host a live group call on Zoom for up to 90 minutes to which you can bring any and all of your business questions.

You can ask your questions on the call itself or if you can’t make it, you can send the question ahead of time and watch the recording back for my answer. This is a Q+A format so the content provided by me depends on the questions asked by you.

These Q+A calls are specifically for people who are new to business, new to the doing business in the online space or perhaps you’ve been in a business a while but you just can’t seem to make it work no matter how hard you try.

 

Everything I Use to Run My Business

Everything I Use to Run My Business

The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.”

~ Benjamin Franklin

As a one-woman business, if there is something I can use to make my business life easier, I’ll gladly take it. Over the years I’ve taken on numerous free and paid for tools to help me operate more effectively and efficiently in my business. The key has been finding the right tools to streamline my processes rather than complicate them. With so many tools available, it’s easy to end up feeling overwhelmed rather than empowered. It’s for this purpose I wanted to share the tools I use and the processes in which I use them.

Scheduling

I offer complimentary coaching calls to members of my audience to both be of service and to give them a true sense of what it would feel like to work with me. To allow people to book sessions with me online, I use a tool called Calendly. It allows me to simply share a URL either as a link on my website such as on this page or in an email or message. I have my Calendly synced with my Google Calendar so that when people check my availability on Calendly it’s aligned with the calendar I use daily to schedule calls and tasks.

The premium version of Calendly (which I have) allows you to use different URLs for different types of events so once I’ve signed a new client I send them a different URL (specific to clients) so that they can book in their sessions. Doing this saves a lot back and forth.

Calendly is free if you only use one event type. Otherwise there are premium and pro options. I use the premium option as I host many different types of calls.

Video Calls (1:1 and Group) 

To host all of my calls, both 1:1 coaching sessions and the live group calls I host for my Female Business Academy, I use Zoom. I used to use Skype but the quality of calls wasn’t great and to record sessions, I had to purchase a separate call recorder and then it was on me to upload the calls (to Google Drive) for my clients to be able to then download them. It was such a hassle! What I love about Zoom is that the call quality is great and my clients can record the sessions themselves, meaning I don’t have to worry about doing anything after the call or having recordings taking space on my hard drive.

It also allows fun features on my group calls like break-out rooms – so I can divide up my attendees into smaller groups for group discussions. There are a whole host of other features and what’s great is that if you want to use zoom for 1:1 calls, you can get the free version, which has unlimited 1:1 calls. If you’re wanting it for group calls, then you’ll probably want the pro version (which I use) as there is a 40 minute time limit on group calls in the free version.

File storage and sharing

Google drive is a free cloud storage service which you can get when you register for a google account, you’ll automatically have it if you have a gmail account. I mainly use this to share files with clients that are too big to send by email or when I want to allow the other person to make comments or edit. Most of my clients use it to send me content they want my feedback on and what’s great about Google Drive is that I can edit right in the document in real time and they’ll see the changes right away. I can also access documents in my Google Drive folder from my computer and my phone. You get 15GB free and if you want more you can upgrade.

Photography 

In much of my business communication, I use photography, to accompany blog posts, on my website, with my social media posts and in worksheets and e-books. There are three places I get my photos from. For free images, I use Unsplash and Pexels and for paid images I use Creative Market.

Graphic Design 

I do my own branding and have a set of brand colours and brand fonts. To create designs for my business like, social media posts, blog post images, headers for social media channels and workbooks and guides, I use Canva. It’s an amazing tool that allows you to create professional looking graphic design without being a professional designer. It also comes with a free version. I have the paid version called Canva for Work which has a whole host of extra features including the ability to have in one place all of your brand colours and fonts, the ability to re-size designs and upload custom fonts for your brand.

I also use Creative Market for my graphic design needs. They have a wide range of fonts, social media templates and design elements that I use to make my designs look even more professional.

Creating PDFs 

As well as the graphic design tools mentioned above, I also use Adobe Acrobat when I have a lot of work to do on a PDF such as with my Business Planner product, where I needed to combine various PDFs created in Canva and then make a LOT of sections editable. If I’m working on a paid for product, I’ll simply get the monthly subscription of Adobe Acrobat and then cancel when I’m done. For smaller jobs and free PDFs, I use a free tool called Small PDF, which is also great!

Money

There are a few tools I use to manage my business finances. I use Paypal to create payment buttons on my website. I use Paypal and Stripe to accept payments for my Academy and coaching and I use Freshbooks to track my expenses and income, raise invoices and track client hours.

To sell my digital products and affiliate schemes, I also use Sendowl.

Websites

All of my websites (I have three) are built on WordPress using the Divi theme and hosted with Hostgator. I recently switched from WP Engine to Hostgator to save costs and to be totally honest, regret the decision. WP Engine is pricey but far superior in all ways.

On my websites I use Google Analytics to track my website traffic. I’m also a fan of these plugins: Yoast SEO for my SEO, W3 Total Cache for performance improvements, Updraft Plus for back-ups of my site and Askimet for spam protection. Other than Askimet, I use free versions of all of these plugins.

Running a Membership Site

I run a membership subscription service called the Female Business Academy. The Membership is hosted on a website using the Memberpress plugin. It’s on this site that I have all of the classes, including videos and workbooks and all other resources and live group call recordings. The plugin allows people to subscribe to the Academy and get login details and access to the classes and content.

Making Videos

To record my videos I usually use Zoom for interviews and classes or Quicktime Player for my screen tutorials. For Facebook lives, it’s my Macbook Pro or my iPhone7. I edit my more complicated videos using iMovie (which is free on Mac computers) and Quicktime Player for simple edits. To host and share my videos I use Youtube (free version) and Vimeo (pro version). For any graphics in my videos, I use Canva and for all the music I use in my intro and outros, I buy rights to on AudioJungle.

Email

To have a professional email address that includes my domain name ([email protected]) I use GSuite. To send my weekly newsletter, I use Mailchimp. I also used to use Convertkit, which I like a lot but it’s a lot more expensive. In my opinion, Mailchimp is definitely the best email marketing solution for beginners (and even for many old pros) in business.

Task Management

To manage my tasks across all of my projects and services, I use Todoist, which allows me to manage tasks on both my Macbook and my iPhone. I also use the free version of Trello to keep a record of content ideas. To record and review my annual goals and plans I use my own Business Planner which I created because I couldn’t find anything on the market that adequately covered all of my planning needs.

Contact Management

To manage my contacts and clients I use the free version of CapsuleCRM which allows me to keep all of my contact details in one place, including copies of emails sent and received. It also allows me to set reminders and tasks that relate specifically to my contacts, which is great for helping me to better manage my relationships and outreach activities. There are other features of this tool but I’m not currently using them.

What all of these tools do is help me to run my business more efficiently as a solopreneur. This particular set of tools has come about after years of trial and error and I’m happy with each and everyone of them. If you have any questions about the tools I’ve shared here, please drop them in the comments below and if you have other tools that you use that aren’t listed here, please share those too. 

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