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When you started your business did you think you would need to be a project manager, a marketer, a designer, a copywriter, an accountant? No – me either! There are so many things we need to learn and do to grow our business, that we weren’t expecting!  Luckily there are awesome people who have created some great free tools to help make many of these roles a little easier.

This is not an exhaustive list – these are ones I use, in some cases on a daily basis and could not have grown my business without them. 

Before you start go here – Getpocket. This is where you can add articles, resources and tips like these below for when you actually need to use them. It stops you from going back through emails or browser history to find that thing you thought would be useful at sometime. I tag all resources and articles I think will be useful and they are there when I need them – super awesome!

Images resources

We need images for our website, social media, and marketing. Getting a photographer and having a photo shoot is the best idea, but until you have the time and $$ to do that, here are some fab resources.

They are free resources which means anyone can use and many do. Choose images that haven’t been overused and are clearly recognisable as stock photos – this can devalue your brand.

Stock Images

Unsplash.com is my number one go-to for copyright-free images for websites SO many awesome images and you can create reference folders for later or each project. Here are the other sites I use to to mix it up.

Pixabay.com
Pexels.com

Rawpixel.com
Reshot.com
Stockvault.net
Gratisography.com
Pikwizard.com
Morguefile.com

Most of the images on these sites have a Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. This means you can copy, edit or distribute the images, even for commercial purposes, without a license or author consent. So you can do what you want with them without restriction. 

Image Optimisation.

So you have your beautiful image from Unsplash but it’s HUGE. First, you need to resize it, and then maybe crop it for the space you want it to go in. 

resizeimage.net an awesome easy to use tool I leave on my dashboard for daily use.

If you are using images for your website you need to compress them. Images come with lots of metadata that you don’t see but increase the size of the image file which can seriously slow down your site. Images from your mobile phones are especially bad for having huge file sizes so make sure you compress those images before uploading.

Tinyjpg.com is the tool I use daily to compress images for websites so they still look good but load much faster

Custom Graphics

Canva.com – Love, Love. I used it so much I now have the paid version. I use it for social media and presentations as well as online course creation. They have videos too which are super awesome. 

I see some people use Canva for website images with text on it. I don’t recommend this. The text is never crisp enough and valuable content is lost in an image. Uploading images and add text through your website edit is much better for SEO and user experience.

Business Management Tools

Email Providers

Gmail – I’ve used this for years and just love it. Easy to set up, love all the google tools, and as it’s all linked with Google why wouldn’t you???

Outlook – never used this but hear its good 🙂

Email Marketing

Mailchimp  I have used this for several years but like it less and less, lots of changes and restrictions so I moved to Mailerlite. Easy setup and love their automation, perfect for lead magnets, and staying in touch!

In both of these options, you can create pop-ups or embedded sign-ups for lead magnets or mailing lists. There are other “Optin” providers but I’m a keep it simple and don’t need to add another tool kind of person…If you create a cool sign up page the actual optin just needs to be very simple.

Project management

How many balls do we have up in the air at one time as we navigate this business world?? Yes lots. Luckily there are awesome tools to help us with managing all that and not drop anything important!

Trello I love Trello but it wasn’t always that way! It was a bit challenging to start with but as I broke everything down into projects and then checklists I used it all day every day to manage my daily and weekly tasks. I still use it as a repository for my growing operations manual BUT as a web design agency, we needed the next level. I moved to Click Up as my go-to project management tool which is awesome for managing individual website projects and my team. It has HEAPS of functionality which has helped me reduce down the number of separate tools I needed for task, time and  team management.

Online Payments

If you want to accept online payments through your website then you need a payment gateway to be able to process credit card payments. Paypal is the most well known and is very easy to set up and use. Usually, this is attached to a shopping cart on your site but can be attached to a simple button too. Stripe is also a very good option especially for memberships and any subscription models.

Document and File storage

DropBox I use this for my client image files and file sharing to keep separation with my own business files which I keep on Google Drive. This is free and attached to my email so easy access and sorting with file folders etc. It also has a great search functionality if you haven’t set up your folders right….

Other

Zoom.com I use Zoom several times a week for client check-in and business support groups. It’s a free, easy way to have online meetings or run webinars. I’m not sure where I would be without it! 

Grammarly  I’m a bit spelling challenged so this is perfect for me!

Book Like Boss – I have set this up for many clients as the easiest online booking tool I’ve worked with. Their onboarding is awesome, it has a really nice interface and best of all  WORKS! Great for coaches or any business that books out time for free or paid services. 

***this is not a free tool 

LastPass  How many passwords have you got? I have 685. Yes, it is quite a lot and its not good (very bad actually) to have the same password for all. I have passwords for all the websites I build and client information, so I need the best security I can get BUT be able to access them all easily from anywhere. Lastpass does all of that and makes my life SOO much easier. 

Creating an Online Course Tools

Course creation tools

We are doing a lot of our learning online now so having a course on your website is great for you and great for your clients who want to learn from you! Here are my go-to tools for setting up an online course.

Loom Create videos for your courses with loom. Easy to use you just click start and off you go! It records you and your screen so you can talk through “how-to” and be there in person yourself. Perfect for 2 – 3 minute videos.

Canva I use canva to create presentations that I record with loom. I list key points and keep it visually appealing, also a great reference for the viewers. Canva links to unsplash so has an awesome selection of images or see the image resources as above. I also use Canva to create ebooks and downloads like checklists etc.

Mailerlite for email automation, follow up and keeping it all on brand.

Course platforms

For WordPress, there is LearnPress which is free and works really well plus there are a few paid-for extras if you want them. LearnDash is also a good option for WordPress, its not free but not expensive. For an external self-hosting platform, there is Learnworlds.

SEO Tools

Seo starts with Google Analytics to measure your site traffic so we set this up first. Then we set up Google My Business because it’s worth so many Google brownie points that literally gets you on the map!

Then I use GT Metrix to check site speed and ensure a website is loading well. It doesn’t matter how good your SEO is if your site loads too slowly. 

My next fav SEO tool is seositecheckup.com/. This tells me where to start, what needs fixing, are all the headers and alt tags where they should be etc. Next, we move to keywords and I still find Neil Patels ubersuggest to be the easiest to use.

One of the big drivers for your page ranking is backlinks. Here is a list of Business Directory Listings for SEO  you can list your business on for a bump in the ranks! Check what backlinks you already here with ahrefs.com/backlink-checker.Top tip – put in your competitions url and see where you could list your business too!

Then rinse and repeat – schedule a regular website SEO review of your site and run it through the SEO site checkup tool.

And to wrap up here is a tool I use at the end of every website project to help get that Google reviews Google Review Business Link Generator

Well that should be enough to get you started! I hope you found at least one useful tool here that makes your business day that little bit easier and hopefully saves you buckets of time!

Always happy to answer any questions, contact me –iona@growmybusiness.co.nz

Have fun growing your business!

Iona