I’ve tried tons of different products to help me manage my online shops. Some really helped me improve productivity and others were a complete waste of money (and time). Below is a list tools I use daily to help me become more efficient.
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Domains & Hosting
- NameCheap – I personally purchase domains through NameCheap. Their pricing is fair and they also offer free WhoisGuard privacy protection for the first year. Most services charge a fee for this.
- GoDaddy – I also buy domains from GoDaddy, but I do not use them for hosting. I typically prefer not to have my domains and hosting purchased from the same provider. This is just a personal preference.
- BlueHost – I’ve worked with clients that used shared servers from BlueHost. I found their customer service to be helpful in resolving issues and their service and up-time good compared to others.
- Hostgator – Before moving to MediaTemplate, Hostgator hosted all of my sites. I switched because I outgrew their service and needed something more advanced. But Hostgator continues to be a great option for beginners with limited funds.
- MediaTemple – I currently use MediaTemple to host my site. They have always been available when I’ve been confused or need a clarification on services. I would highly recommend them.
- NameCheckr – I use this tool to check if a domain name I’m interested in is taken across all relevant social media networks. This helps me to determine if I should register a domain before I fall in love with it. There’s nothing worse than finding the perfect domain name, purchasing it, then realizing the Twitter handle is taken and hasn’t been used since 2013.
- Shopify – I LOVE SHOPIFY. They literally saved my online shop from demise after a I made a critical update on WooCommerce that disabled my entire shop. From the ease of use to the 24 customer support, Shopify has proved to one of my best investments of 2015.
- WooCommerce – WooThemes and WooCommerce are still favorites of mine. Especially if you want to launch a shop and don’t have the money to invest initially. Just be aware you will need to manually manage your shop. Which includes routinely updating third-part plugin updates, WooCommerce plugins, theme updates and the standard WordPress core files.
- Square Space – I’ve never used Square Space, but I’m considering it for a future project. I like what I see from others using this platform. If you want simple and elegant styling with not many bells and whistles, Square Space may be a good option. Plus you can add ecommerce.
- BigCommerce – I have never used BigCommerce, but I like their service. If I hadn’t chosen Shopify to host my online stores, SquareSpace or BigCommerce would be the next choice.
- ThemeForest – This is my go to resource for quick, nicely designed and affordable website themes. Just be sure to read reviews and ratings.
- Template Monster – I’ve been buying themes from Template Monster since I started this blog in 2009. In online years, that seems like forever. I appreciate their range of options and that they add new designs and integrations based on new market trends.
- WooThemes – WooThemes and WooCommerce will always hold a soft place in my heart. Before I started selling products online and integrating WooCommerce, I’ve purchased their blog themes for various projects.
- StudioPress – I’ve been using StudioPress longer than WooThemes. They were actually the first theme/framework I purchased. My current theme is Magazine Pro by StudioPress and I couldn’t be happier with my design.
- Stripe – No matter what ecommerce platform I choose, I look for a Stripe integration. I love the simple and seamless interface. There is no middle man (like PayPal) holding your money. Payments are received from customers and transferred directly to your bank account.
- PayPal – As a consumer I’m a fan of Paypal. It’s a quick an easy way to pay online that secures your information and protects you from bad purchases. However, I am not a fan of PaypPal as a business and do not use it for my shops.
- Google Wallet – I don’t use Google Checkout as a business owner, but I’ve seen other businesses use their service and they love it.
Social Media Management
- Buffer – This app is used daily to manage Facebook, Twitter and Google+. My team schedules posts weekly throughout my nextwork.
- Postso – I use this app to manage my Instagram and Pinterest pages, automatically. You upload your photos, add captions, schedule a time and you’re done. Unfortunately, I don’t think they are accepting any more Instagram accounts.
- Hootsuite – In the past I’ve used HootSuite, while I do like how I can follow conversations on Twitter I found the interface lacking and overwhelming at times.
- Tweetful – This growth hack is used for Twitter. Once you sign up for the service it will automatically favorite and retweet content based on the hashtags and keywords selected.
- Hopper – This is an online scheduler for Instagram. I have not used this app personally, but until I find a service I’m 100% happy with I like to keep my options open.
- Instagress – This is a growth hack tool that will save you time and money while engaging audiences on Instagram. You create filters using specified keywords and hashtags. Then the app automatically comments and likes photos on Instagram and grows your following while you sleep.
- Wisel.it – This is a paid scheduling app for Instagram. I have used Wisel.it when the Postso service was down and found it easy to navigate and schedule Instagram posts.
- Meet Edgar – I currently do not use Meet Edgar, but have heard wonderful testimonials from it’s users. Its something I’m considering for the future. It will help me constantly repost and re-purpose old content. Currently you have to sign up and be invited.
- Publish iPhone App – The iTunes stores says that Publish is the only app in the world that lets you post to Twitter & Instagram simultaneously. Publish, already being used by over 1 million users and is here to make your life easier. I have it installed, but I haven’t played around with it much.
- Onlypult – Is another Instagram posting tool that offers scheduled posts, analytics and fast content development.
- ScheduGram – Schedugram features web uploading of images or video, scheduling for later, and supports multiple Instagram accounts. it’s a favorite among social media and brand managers.
- Padgram & Phonegram (iPhone and Android) – This is my secret weapon for Instagram. It allows me to comment, like and follow from multiple accounts. Not only that, but I can subscribe to pages I want to follow, without actually following them.
- Iconosquare – Iconosquare helps you keep track of your total number of likes received, your most liked photos ever, your average number of likes and comments per photo, your follower growth charts and provides more advanced analytics.
- MailChimp – If you don’t have money to launch a brand, but need a good email service to stay in engaged with your customers, MailChimp would be my first option. It’s easy to use, has drag and drop templates and integrates with all major blogging and shopping cart software. Plus it’s free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers.
- Klaviyo – This one is new to me and I’m still trying to understand how best to use it, but this has the most seamless integration with Shopify (with reasonable pricing). It offers access customer purchasing behaviors similar to InfusionSoft.
- InfusionSoft – This is considered the big boy of ecommerce emailing and customer engagement. You can create email workflows based on customer behaviors.
- Revenue Conduit – This is simply an add-on that you will need purchase in addition to connect your Shopify store to InfusionSoft. Yes, two fees. For one service.
Stock Photography, Graphics & Fonts
- Creative Market – This is probably my “go to” resources for graphics, images and FONTS! I just love their fonts. So many to choose from, so little time to go through them all.
- Graphic River – Graphic River is a part of the Envato family of sites. They have a great search engine and tons of inexpensive resources.
- Pixeden – I’ve purchased basic and high quality templates for mobile app projects. Plus other I use mock-ups for promoting my various brands.
- Mighty Deals – What do you get if you combine Groupon with Create Market? You guessed it, Mighty Deals! This site offers daily and weekly discounts that need to be purchased within a scheduled time period to receive the promotional price.
- Icon Finder – After Create Market, Icon Finder is my second “go to” site when I’m looking for a very specific graphic or icon. They offer a paid option, but there are tons of free icons too.
- iStockPhoto – iStock is the first stock photography site I joined. Previously your only option for quality royalty free stock photos was Getty Images and they had ridiculously high prices. Once I found the wide selection of vector art illustrations, stock footage and audio for print on iStock, I didn’t look any further.
- WordPress – This is the OG of blogging software. It has the power to manage small sites, up to enterprise size blogging systems. With thousands of themes, plugins and integrations, WordPress is my number one choice to launch a blog.
- SquareSpace – I’ll be using SquareSpace for future blog projects. The interface is simple to use and manage. Plus I really like the themes they have available.
- Tumblr – This blogging platform is hosted. So you only need to sign up and begin posting content. This is useful if you are looking to create a blog that’s secondary to your main business, because it requires little to no maintenance.
- BaseCamp – I use Basecamp as the central hub for all of my projects. It not only keeps me organized, but employees I hire.
- Co-Schedule – Use this app to plan your marketing and save a ton of time. Especially if you work with a team that all need to be on the same page.
- HelpScout – All customer service related emails are filtered through Help Scout. Help Scout keeps my team organized and customers happy with a host of features designed for managing email at scale. What I love about Help Scout is that it integrates with Shopify and other ecommerce platforms. When you receive emails, you immediately get access to recent purchases and correspondence.
- Fiverr – This online marketplace is full of freelancers willing to complete all types of tasks starting at $5. While most jobs I end up paying more to ensure it’s custom work, I’ve always been happy with the results.
- UpWork (formerly Elance) – When I have larger and more detailed jobs that I need completed I post a job on UpWork. I have hired developers, graphic artists, virtual assistants and lawyers (yes, lawyers) within their network of freelancers.
- Instagram – I’m sure you’re wondering why Instagram is listed. I use Instagram like a personal freelance finder. I follow various hashtags related to photography, typography and design. Often freelancers will post and tag their photos with the hopes of getting more clients. I contact them directly and solicit commissioned work.
- Local networks – I hire directly from my personal network of freelancing friends and family. This is helpful when I need to work with someone I trust and who might need access to sensitive information.
Drop-shipping & Fulfillment
- The Printful – Printful is the easiest order fulfillment system you’ll ever use. Their service allows you to print products on demand through their proprietary drop shipping service. Outsource your fulfillment and save time and money. I’ve used their service and overall found it very well managed. Read my full review of The Printful.
- Spreadshirt – Another low cost and effort option to add tangible products to your online store. Once your custom designed products have been added to your shop, your only job is to promote. Spreadshirt will handle payments, order processing, printing, packing shipping and returns. It’s the true definition of passive income.
- Print Aura – Print Aura is offers the same service as The Printful, with one major difference, their catalog of products include cell phone cases. I’ve ordered sample products from them and he quality is average for a direct-to-garment printer.
- PhotoShop – I’m a PhotoShop and Mac kinda girl. I’ve used it so long that any other graphic software will always be second. So of course, it’s my favorite.
- Canva – I do realize that PhotoShop isn’t for everyone and tends to be more advanced than what most people need. In that case, I’d suggest Canva and Canva for Work. Whether using their software online or through the mobile app, you can create professional custom graphics in minutes for a fraction of the cost.
- Pages (for Mac) – Pages for Mac is a powerful word processor that gives you everything you need to create documents which look beautiful. It’s used for pages layouts, which might include worksheets, ebooks or presentations.
- PickMonkey – PicMonkey Editor is an easy to use online photo editor similar to Canva. They offer simple tools for you to apply filters, add photo frames, add text to your photo, remove wrinkles, whiten teeth and more.
- Pixelmator (for Mac) – If PhotoShop is out of your price range, take a look at Pixelmator. It’s the most innovative, fastest, full-featured, and powerful image editing app for the Mac that has everything you need to create and edit your images.
- ShipStation – We use ShipStation as command central for every order that is printed, packed and shipped from our facility. It helps use organize packing lists, purchase postage and keep track of inventory. ShipStation integrates with all major shopping cart platforms.
- ShippingEasy – This is an alternative to ShipStation. Process orders, automate shipping, get discounted rates, and optimize your entire shipping process.
Packaging & Supplies
- Packlane – Packlane makes it easy for brands to create beautiful custom packaging. Order custom printed boxes online with low minimums, affordable prices, and fast turnaround. We placed a custom order for boxes and we were more than happy with the results.
- Uline – Unline has thousands of shipping boxes, packing materials and mailing supplies. We order product in bulk to our facility. Most orders will ship the same day and be delivered within 24 hours.
- Amazon – I stopped going o Office Depot and Staples once we joined Amazon Prime. I order everything from printer ink to PostIt notes. I no longer have to circle the aisles at my local office supply store. I can order supplies, verify reviews, compare pricing and have my items delivered to our office within 2 days.
- USPS – The United States Postal Service is our main carrier. Not only do they offer the lowest pricing to ship products around the world, but you can also get free supplies to mail your orders.
Whew! Would you believe that I left off some resources and tools, because the list was just too long?
The good news is, you made it to the end. I hope you’d had a chance to check out a few of these services. I know it’s a lot to go through, but well worth it. Don’t waste money on tools that won’t help you grow your business.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about any products listed above.