Resources, Tools, & Programs
Hostgator – If you want to host a single domain then you’ll only need the “hatchling” plan but if you plan to add multiple domains (your main website, a couple of blogs, and other related sites) then you’ll need the “baby” plan (recommended). You can get a break on price if you buy annually rather than the monthly plan.
It uses cPanel, which is a very popular control panel that lets you easily manage many aspects of your account, including the files, applications, and email hosted on your account or server.
MomWebs – great for those starting out, plans start at $5 / mo.
Tiger Tech* – They are a little more expensive than the other shared web hosting companies, but I think they are worth it. They provide a personal touch to their service and a custom control panel. This means they don’t use cPanel out of the box and you can have fewer restrictions when it comes to naming conventions and passwords, etc. For example, my client uses special characters in his email accounts such as “++” and other hosting companies do not provide this capability, but TigerTech allows this plus many other custom touches.
WordPress – Open source software you can use to create websites, blogs, or apps.
WP Engine – They offer great service, fast-loading sites, automatic backups on a very secure platform. When it comes to security patches and WordPress core updates, WP Engine is proactive in keeping your site secure with automatic updates. They also perform proactive security and malware scans to ensure that all WordPress sites running on WP Engine are free from intrusions. Whether it’s a security update for a popular plugin or emergency maintenance due to an issue with a data center, WP Engine’s technical support team is fanatical about great customer service.
*what I use and recommend
I switched to Namecheap for my domain registrar (the company used to register my domain names) after using GoDaddy for many years. I like Namecheap’s intuitive dashboard and the free domain privacy feature. It really cuts down on the spam, phone calls, and direct mail since my domains are now private.
Design Tools and Resources
BUSINESS CARDS AND MARKETING MATERIALS
Free Logo Maker – Anyone can register and create their very own logo themselves in as few as 10 to 15 minutes.
Overnight Prints – Online printer of business cards, postcards, brochures, and other printed materials. Also stands alone in the industry when it comes to delivery.
Vistaprint* – An easy-to-use online printing service that allows you to design products like business cards, calendars and invitations. Vistaprint can also make unique items like smartphone cases, T-shirts, mouse pads and coasters.
* What I use and recommend
DESIGNERS AND BRANDING
Greatest Story Creative – Annie Franceschi works with only small businesses and does branding that shows your value, tells your story, and grows your business. Your one-stop creative partner for the name, logo, words, graphics and website you need to clearly and confidently share what you do.
How to Fascinate – Sally Hogshead helps people be understood by their co-workers, partners and families. Also providing an actionable roadmap for team interactions!
WordLab – Dedicated to helping individuals and small businesses get free help for any kind of naming, slogan/tagline or other related branding project.
GRAPHICS AND STOCK PHOTOS
CoverActionsPremium is Photoshop Actions that are great for ecovers, binder graphics, and doo-dads.
Design Pickle – Specializes in providing personalized graphic design support for small to medium-sized design jobs. Fast, easy, and affordable graphic design.
Flocksy is an on-demand graphic design service that has different tiers of support. I use them for ecovers, social media graphics, templates, logos. I don’t recommend for the occasional graphic design job as their lowest plan is $199/month, but if this is something you need on an ongoing basis, highly recommended.
Online stock photo sites:
- Canva (YES! Not only is Canva an online design tool that allows people to easily create beautiful designs using ready-made, highly customizable templates, but they also have an extensive collection of stock photos.)
VideoMakerFX creates fun animations, whiteboard presentations, and videos set to music.
PHOTO AND IMAGE EDITORS
Canva – A free online graphic design tool that helps you create designs for almost any purpose including social media posts, ebook covers, posters, flyers, infographics, and more.
DesignBold – User-friendly, robust, and intuitive freemium online design platform built to help anyone create professional-looking, eye-catching visual content for print or digital media in a matter of minutes.
PicMonkey – A free online tool that allows you to do basic photo editing without downloading any kind of software.
Piktochart – Tool for creating infographics. While putting together an infographic, they will interpret info, then create a combination of text, images, and charts or graphs to share with others.
Snappa – Pre-loaded with every possible set of dimensions for every major social media platform — and keeps them updated. The templates also give a ton of flexibility in being able to create messaging for a wide variety of clients and industries.
Stencil – Lets you create ads, YouTube thumbnails, Facebook headers, Twitter images, Instagram posts, and more! From your browser! Quick gorgeous graphic design assets with just a few clicks.
THEMES, TEMPLATES, AND PAGE BUILDERS
Elegant Themes* – I moved most of my sites over to the Divi theme and am lovvving it! It’s built on WordPress and with its visual drag & drop page builder, integration features, and affordability, it’s a great resource.
LeadPages* – Drag and drop editor with conversion expert support making it a breeze to create landing pages with its easy-to-use interface.
ThemeForest – A huge marketplace of pre-made themes for sale for a variety of CMS platforms as well as HTML websites.
Thrive Themes provides WordPress themes & plugins, built from the ground up to make your entire website convert more of your visitors into subscribers, customers & clients. I’ve found that the difference between Thrive and LeadPages is that Thrive is a WordPress plugin, which is installed on your site. The pros are that you pay for it once and don’t have to pay an annual fee and the themes are really pretty; the cons are that if something is wrong with your site, the plugin won’t work. Also, you have to pay for each site, whereas LeadPages is one fee to use on all my sites.
WooThemes – Offers a lucrative options page that gives users complete control over the way the theme looks and feels. Style your pages in any way you like without using coding.
WuFoo* – Online form builder to create contact forms, online surveys, and invitations so you can collect data, registrations, and payments that you need. Pricing starts at free.
BACKUP AND SECURITY
Backup Buddy – The plugin is the best way to back up (and move) a WordPress site. It allows for scheduling, offsite storage, and it can do database or full backups.
LastPass remembers all your passwords, so you don’t have to. There is a “family” option that lets me share specific items with family (so they stop bugging me about Netflix password).
Mozy and Carbonite protect your data by backing it up to the cloud. Copying data to another hard drive isn’t enough these days – what if there was a natural disaster or a burglary? Backing up data to the cloud should be part of your contingency plan!
Sucuri is a website and blog security monitoring service. This service has saved me and my clients a ton of downtime and headaches. Once you get an alert that your system has been hacked, you send the alert to them and they take care of it.
PROJECT MANAGEMENT / TEAM COLLABORATION
Asana – is one of the best collaboration and productivity apps for teams you’ll find and it’s free. This web-based team collaboration service specializes specifically in workflow management, but it also handles the nitty-gritty of task management with ease. Business owners with teams can use it to keep track of the daily to-dos of projects – it has space to separate out the projects, tasks, assignments, due dates, notifications. It really has it all and I love working with it.
Basecamp is everything you need to pull people together to work on projects or with clients. Every team needs a way to divvy up work, hash things out quickly, make big announcements, keep discussions on-topic, store and organize key files and assets, lay out milestones and deadlines, and have regular check-ins to make sure everything’s all right. I think this is a great program for large teams; this is what we used for IVAA’s day-to-day activities as well as manage volunteers and projects.
iMeet Central (formerly Central Desktop) – A collaboration platform that connects people and information in the cloud, making it possible to share files, combine knowledge, inspire ideas, manage projects, and more. Pricing starts at $45/user per month with a 10-user minimum so it may be ideal for marketing agencies, but probably a little too much for the solopreneur.
Meistertask – Create a project, add as many team members as you want, assign tasks and follow each other’s progress. MeisterTask’s flexible project boards adapt to your workflow and make sure everyone is always on the same page. Task management has never been more intuitive. Features include a customizable dashboard so that you can see what’s been done in your projects while you were away, get a quick overview of your open tasks, and decide what to focus on that day.
Slack – Real-time messaging, file sharing, and powerful search.
SmartSheet – Manage projects, keep track of files, discussions, and calendars all in one place.
Teamwork – Combines high-performance features that build smarter workflows and close communication gaps so you can focus on getting things done.
Trello is a visual-based, free team collaboration system, using boards, lists, and cards.
ONLINE SCHEDULERS, SIGNATURE COLLECTION, AND STORAGE
Online schedulers are great because it eliminates the back-and-forth emails with clients to schedule phone calls or meetings. All of these programs let you easily schedule appointments online and adding an online calendar can turn even a basic website into a powerful sales tool that works 24/7.
ClickBook – Free appointment scheduler for solo business owners with 1 physical address, mobile & online services and 50 max current bookings. An upgrade is required for additional staff and physical locations or more than 50 current bookings.
Collect signatures and get paid in one go, using DocuSign. It’s as easy as adding a payment amount and inserting a drag-and-drop ‘Pay’ field via your mobile. Then send your invoice.
Dropbox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. There are different levels, such as personal, business, and enterprise accounts. I use this program as a file-sharing program between me and my clients. It provides a way of sharing files securely as well as having a backup.
HelloSign is a powerful browser extension that allows you to sign documents from right within Gmail. Once the extension is installed, any attached document you receive through Gmail will have a “Sign” button to load the HelloSign window. Sign; then download your signed document.
PBworks Wikis – Wiki pages are a great alternative to storing Word docs in a central location.
Pocket – Save articles, videos, and stories from any publication, page, or app. Curate your own space filled with everything you can’t wait to learn.
systemHUB – Secure, cloud-based software to store your business’ systems, processes, and checklists – it’s standard operating procedure (SOP) software made easy. (If you are interested in this program, let me know as I may be able to get you a discount.)
Unroll.me lets you ditch the emails you don’t want and keep the ones you do.
SOCIAL MEDIA SCHEDULERS
Buffer – shares your content, schedules your posts, and monitors your social media accounts.
CoSchedule – marketed as a “mission control for your marketing roadmap,” it features a marketing calendar, scheduler, email marketing, workflow, team management. Starts at $80 / mo so it has it ALL.
Hootsuite – a social media platform that publishes your content, manages your social profiles, and promotes your brand. Create keyword search streams to track mentions, respond to customers, and nurture leads.
Meet Edgar is what I use and is the social media queue that never runs out because it creates a database of your posts. I set up the calendar, categories, then it sends items out according to my schedule. Let me repeat, it never runs out. With other programs you have to keep uploading posts every few months or so, queue them up, then remember what you loaded and when. With Edgar you don’t have that problem. I’ve never loved a program so much in my life and recommend this program wherever I go 😉
Customer Service Programs / Helpdesk
CUSTOMER SERVICE SOFTWARE
Freshdesk – A full-fledged cloud-based customer support solution that offers everything a business needs to deliver exceptional support.
Kayako – A cloud-hosted help desk software that puts all your customer service channels in one place the better and more efficient way to address customer concerns.
Zendesk – Web-based help desk management solution offering customizable tools to build customer service portal, knowledge base, and online communities.
Zoho – Customer relationship management software that allows small businesses to manage their contacts and automate their email marketing and lead generation tasks.
8×8 – Reliable cloud based technology for all of your business phone service needs. Communicate easily and continuously across all lines of business and devices.
Google Voice* – Users can obtain a single phone number to be used on all of their devices. No longer do you have to give out separate office, cell, and home numbers.
Nextiva – Combines high-quality service with incredible technical support, as well as delivers powerful communications capability with simplicity and ease of use.
RingCentral – A top choice for organizations interested in scalable VoIP service and streamlined communications. Their services carry a high per-user fee, but the wide variety of business-friendly tools means you’re still getting a great deal.
* What I use and recommend
Marketing Tools & Programs
CRM & EMAIL MARKETING
Active Campaign – A mobile-friendly service that has SMS automation with sales & CRM. Very easy to transfer over with free account migration.
Aweber – A service that includes 700+ email templates with bulk email sending. It has 99% email deliverability and it’s a Stevie Award Winner!
ConstantContact – is awesome! I used that program when I first started out and only had a newsletter. Just remember that this is mainly for sending out newsletters so if you want to provide programs, products, etc. then you’ll need the other programs as well.
ConvertKit – Reliable support focusing on concierge migration with text-based emails, and a Slack Community to connect with other users.
Drip – E-commerce, forms & surveys, lead capture, marketing automation, membership, and payment processing.
Keap® (fka Infusionsoft)* – CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, online sales, analytics, and mobile. (I’m a Keap Certified Partner so contact me for discounts and specials.)
Mailchimp – Templates, unlimited sending, predicted demographics, email, and chat support.
ONTRAport – Consolidates newsletters and subscription emails into one summary message with campaign reporting, built-in best practices, and high-converting campaign maps.
* what I use and recommend
AccessAlly* – Very flexible membership plugin and LMS for WordPress course creators who want deep marketing automation. I transitioned all of my courses over to AccessAlly and am super glad I did, I’ve had NO problems and it works seamlessly with Infusionsoft.
LearnDash – If you don’t use WordPress, If you want to create and sell courses on your membership website, check out LearnDash.
Wishlist Member – is a powerful, yet easy-to-use membership solution that can turn any WordPress site into a full-blown membership site. I used this for many years to deliver training programs and control membership permissions. It’s a WordPress plugin so it’s super lightweight and easy to use.
WPeStore and WPAffiliate WordPress Plugins- A complete solution to sell digital products from your WordPress blog securely. If you don’t want to pay ongoing fees and commissions to sell via a third-party website, then WPeStore is a great solution. At only $49.95, you can sell your digital products, integrate with autoresponders, easy checkout and it’s a multi-site license so no need to buy multiple licenses for your other sites. While you’re on the site, check out WPAffiliate add-on for only $30 more.
For startups, I recommend e-Junkie. It is inexpensive and you can increase your plan as you grow. For example, for 10 products it is only $5 per month. It also has a built-in affiliate program (albeit very spartan!) and it integrates with Paypal so no need for an additional merchant account.
Clickbank is a marketplace for digital information products. It aims to serve as a connection between digital content creators and affiliate marketers, who then promote them to consumers. It’s pretty easy to use and only requires a one-time payment for the product activation fee after which you can add as many products as you want to your marketplace. This is great to use if you want to get up and going quickly as it automatically has the affiliate piece built-in.
TELESEMINARS / WEBINARS
Instant Teleseminar by Xiosoft – If you are going to be holding teleseminars and want a professional delivery method, then InstantTeleseminar is for you. It’s easy to use, customizable, and provides Q&A submission page, replay page, slide presentation, and branding options. They provide a bridge line for up to 250 guests on the line and many more on the webcast, but you can also use a different bridge line if you prefer.
Zoom* is rapidly becoming a favorite tool in the online coaching world and those who do webinars. This video and web conferencing service allows cross-platform messaging, file sharing, and video, voice and screen sharing. One of its biggest draws is its high-quality HD video and features include recording, screen share, video conferencing, and audio calls. I also use it for my webinars, which you can upgrade your plan for just the month.
*what I use and recommend
Job Boards, Referral, & Training
JOB BOARDS & REFERRAL AGENCIES
International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA) – as the past-president of IVAA, this is the only trade association that I recommend! Member benefits include RFP service (business owners submit RFPs), free mentoring, online summits, Expert of the Month and other educational opportunities, coffee chats, and more!
Nina Feldman Connections – a resource and referral network agency, this service is for highly skilled service providers. Once you sign up, Nina matches you up with business owners (you pay a finder’s fee).
VANetworking – Tawnya Sutherland is an industry veteran and the founder of VANA, one of the premier online companies specializing in serving virtual assistants with resources, training, and a job board.
We Are Virtual Assistants – a thriving community site offering information, job postings, and advice to virtual assistants. You can join for free.
Social Media Manager Pro is the best social media management training I’ve found.
Freelance University (formerly VA Classroom) for skills training from everything from podcast production to online event management.
OBM Academy – Take this FREE assessment and discover how your strengths & interests are a fit for becoming an online business manager (OBM).
OBM Free Starter Kit – curious about becoming an online business manager? Start here with this free starter kit.
VACT – training courses for the UK-based virtual assistant by my fellow military spouse, Amanda Johnson.
VAinsiders Network – An exclusive membership for VAs who require coaching, accountability, training and want access to a busy job board.
Event Calendars and Listings
PRIVATE LABEL RIGHTS (PLR)
PLR is a big help when it comes to writing special reports, articles, etc. If you need great content for yourself or to resell to others, these are the best sites to purchase from:
- Coach Glue by Melissa Ingold and Nicole Dean provides instant-expert templates allowing you to design and create high-end coaching programs, workshops, and content for business coaches that you can license, brand, and sell to your own clients.
- Content Sparks by Sharyn Sheldon has professional, ready-to-go content for business coaches, consultants, and educators.
- Thrive Anywhere by Lynette Chandler is perfect for those who cater to the self-help market. She offers beauuuuutiful planners and journals. For example, her Thankful Heart Guided Gratitude Journal is a powerful resource you can use to help your audience cultivate an attitude of thankfulness so they can transform their mental health, relationships, and more.
- Content Drafts by Nicole Dean. Professionally written articles and reports you can use for lead generators to build your list, conduct challenges, and create content for upsells, etc.
- Done-For-You Templates by Ron Douglas. They have options for personal use too.
- Publish For Prosperity by Alice Seba. This site was created in response to the demand from personal development coaches, speakers, and publishers who wanted more practical, high-value content with private label rights. Alice not only provides the content but also provides the training so you can excel in your online business.
- PLR.me by Ronnie Nijmeh specializes in content for authors, speakers, coaches, therapists, and health professionals.
Financial, Accounting & Payment Systems
INVOICING & ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE
FreshBooks – Reliable and fast accounting suite that turns otherwise complex financial management into an enjoyable experience.
QuickBooks* – Web-based accounting solution that caters to individual accountants and small businesses.
WaveApps – Free online accounting, bookkeeping, and invoicing software. For additional fees, you can also accept online payments and run payroll for your employees.
* What I use and recommend