“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.