The 17 Best Tools I Use as a Solopreneur (hint: 11 are free)
As a creative entrepreneur, I know how overwhelming it can be. We often feel like we’re bouncing from shiny object to shiny object without ever following through. And we’re worried about doing #allthethings well.
It can feel like, if we just find the right resource, then all of this will be easier and we’ll finally be able to focus. This, I’ve come to realize isn’t true. It’s not about your tools, it’s how you use them. Still, I see the same questions come up again and again around tools/resources.
That’s why I’m sharing 17 of the BEST tools/resources that make my business easier and more streamlined. These tools save me multiple hours a week! Fo’ reals!
Oh, and 11 of them are completely FREE – the ones with the 🤑
Website + Design
Squarespace (website builder + blogging platform)
Gone are the days when Wordpress was the only option for creating a legit website. With Squarespace, there’s practically no learning curve and you def don’t need to worry about hiring a developer for customizations. There are no plug-ins to fuss over, no backups needed, no threat of hackers, and (contrary to outdated opinions) it’s both customizable and SEO-friendly. Plus, as a Squarespace Circle member, I get 20% off for my client’s websites (first timers only).
Sketch (digital design app of choice)
Fuck Photoshop for anything except editing photos. There, I said it. But seriously, it’s not meant for web design. You could go the Illustrator route but (1) you have to pay a monthly fee and (2) none of the keyboard commands are intuitive (if I want a rectangle I have to type an “M”???). Enter the glorious Sketch! It’s the beloved design app of all the cool kids these days. I’ve been using it for about 3 years now (and they just keep making it better). It’s not free but it is only a one-time fee (and a relatively cheap one compared to Adobe).
Add this to your checklist right meow: “run image/graphic through an optimizer”. That should be the step before uploading to your website. Keeping your website loading speedily is one of the easiest things you can do to bolster relations with the Google gods. So, before uploading any PNG or GIF file to your site, run it through Kraken and before uploading a JPG/JPEG file, make sure you optimize it with TinyJPG.
UsabilityHub (testing tool of choice)
As a former professional UX (user experience) designer, I learned the importance of creating websites that don't just look good but get real results. This means that we need to test our assumptions (and, yes, set aside our designer's pride) to validate that our pages are intuitive to our site visitors.
Enter the amazing UsabilityHub! Why I love this tool:
- It comes with ready-to-go test templates for 5-second tests (test your USP with this), preference tests (like A/B tests: test images, colors, or call-to-actions), and more.
- It allows you to target specific demographics (like all women, between the ages of 24-34, and in the USA) similar to how you'd set up your Facebook Ad audience.
- You get results in minutes! And you can send the tests to your own audience, if you want to.
FullStory 🤑 (sexy analytics + segments)
I’m completely in love 😻 with the analytics app called Fullstory. They have a free version and it’s easy to install: you put the code in the header of your website (or add it to your Google Tag Manager, which is what I do).
It allows me to see where people are “rage clicking” (i.e. clicking repeatedly in fury because they think it should be a button/link but it’s not going anywhere). It also gives TONS of analytics (like my top referrer for a segment, the top browser that segment of users is on, whether they’re on desktop or mobile, and so much more!).
The feature that I love most is that I can create my own audience “segments” based on a page or sequence of pages that they visit!!
Google Drive 🤑 (for #allthethings)
Google and Facebook are taking over the internet for good reason. I use Google email, docs, spreadsheets, and drive to share project assets with my clients and to organize my biz.
AndCo 🤑 (contracts + invoicing + time-tracking)
I cannot count the number of times I’ve seen people asking about contracts and invoicing apps in the 58 Facebook groups I’m a part of. Seriously, so many people out there that don’t know the magic of AndCo. It makes it über easy and has an impeccable user experience. BTW, I’ve got 3 promo codes that I can send to friends to receive their first month of AndCo Gold fo’ free. So, if you’d like one, comment below and let me know.
Loom 🤑 (to create short screencasts and video tutorials)
One of the BEST ways to communicate with clients is by not merely explaining something via text (like in an email) but by showing them exactly what I mean with a step-by-step video tutorial. This is a great way to maintain human communication when you can't or don't want to meet by Skype every week.
Bonus tip: you can have your clients use this too to explain things from their end, which is a huge help when debugging or understanding where they're getting stuck.
KWFinder 🤑 (keyword research)
Honestly, I’m not that concerned with keyword research 😱 but I’d rather just create great content. However, this is a really easy-to-use tool for times when I want to get a little more SEO juice to my blogs.
CoSchedule (to plan my editorial cal + Pinterest posts)
You’ve probably checked out their Headline Analyzer but have you used CoSchedule? I love playing with this tool. You just pop in your headline (or email subject line) and it calculates how effective it will be. I play with this for about 5 minutes on every headline to get that green-light action.
WebTextTool (like Yoast SEO without Wordpress)
If you’ve used Wordpress at all, you’re probably familiar with that green-light SEO checker from Yoast. As a Squarespace user, I’ve been searching for a web-based tool that does the same thing so I can use it for my Squarespace blogs. Well, this is it (and then some). Don’t let the interface deter you because it’s actually pretty incredible.
MailChimp 🤑 (for email marketing / newsletter)
MailChimp is now completely free (even for automated sequences)! I’ve tried MailerLite, Convertkit, and Active Campaign (briefly) and out of those, MailChimp is the easiest to get up and running without having to read through a user manual. That being said, there still are some features that may not be 100% intuitive and that’s why I love and recommend Paul Jarvis’ course ChimpEssentials.
Sumo (email signup popup forms)
Ok, I’ll admit, when I used Sumo back in the day (which was a Wednesday 😉), I didn’t think much of it. But now, it’s a core component of my email list building setup. MailChimp (surprisingly) doesn’t play so nice with Squarespace. They make it basically impossible to connect multiple opt-ins to a single list. So, to avoid creating half-a-dozen different MailChimp lists, I can just hook up Sumo. It improves my user experience, provides me with another layer of analytics, and keeps MailChimp from wigging out.
Elokenz 🤑 (Twitter + Facebook scheduler)
Anything that can be set-it-and-forget-it is a fucking Godsend in my book. So I love Elokenz for auto-scheduling my Twitter and FB posts. I wrote an in-depth blog about it if you wanna learn more.
Later 🤑 (Instagram + Pinterest scheduler)
This is the BEST Instagram scheduling app (IMHO - “in my humble opinion”). I’ve tried Planoly, Preview App, Iconosquare, and CoSchedule’s social app. Later is the best. It doesn’t fuck with my caption formatting when I paste it into Insta, the interface is super user-friendly and they’re always adding cool new features.
Finance + Mailing
Chime Bank 🤑 (aka the best bank EVER)
I’ve recently started using this to separate my business finances from my personal ones but I love it so much that I want to switch over my personal account, too! “Why?”, you ask. For 3 reasons. First, they don’t charge ANY fees (at all). Second is they automatically round up my purchases to the nearest dollar and stick that in my savings (plus they give me an additional 10% every week). Third, transactions happen immediately and they send me cute alerts on my phone to let me know when a charge/deposit goes through and what my available balance is.
Bonus, the app and website design is simple-to-use and easy-on-the-eyes. If you’re interested in getting an extra $10 by opening a Chime Account, make sure to use this link (and make an initial deposit of at least $100).
Earth Class Mail (for my business mailbox)
You know how the bottom of email newsletters displays your business address? Well, we all enjoy a bit-o-privacy and so the best thing to do is to get a UPS box, PO box, or Earth Class Mail for your business address. What I love about Earth Class Mail is that they open, scan, and email me my mail (then recycle it responsibly). This allows me to keep my business address the same no matter where my nomadic lifestyle takes me to next. (PS: that link will get you a free month, just sayin’).
You’ve probably heard of Trello but have you heard of Pomello?? It’s a customizable Pomodoro timer that syncs with your specified Trello lists (and tracks how many pom’s it takes for you to finish a task). It’s helped me up my productivity by roughly 18% (which I know thanks to RescueTime).
BONUS: Life hacks
Ritual Vitamins (for women's wellness with a tasty peppermint flavor)
I am a lazy wellness nerd. Meaning, I want to be optimally healthy but the thought of cross-fitting my brains out every morning is abhorrent. So I've become – I'll admit it – a bit of a supplement junkie. Enter Ritual vitamins. They're formulated specifically for women to fill in our most common nutritional gaps in a single supplement that's scientifically backed. Plus they've got great design. It's a simple $30 monthly subscription but you can get 50% off of your first month using my special link.
Urban Remedy (for organic and nourishing bowls + drinks)
I'll be honest, I don't enjoy cooking. I love eating good, healthy food but I'm lazy to prepare it myself and so I often get in the rut of drinking a smoothie for breakfast and then just snacking throughout the day on nuts or granola bars. That's why I LOVE Urban Remedy. They have affordable, healthy, and delicious prepared meals and juices. Seriously, I can buy a salad from here for less than I can get it at the cafe down the street. Use my link to get $10 off your order.
Honey (hidden coupon finder chrome extension)
This extension for Google Chrome serves double-duty! First, it automatically finds and tests coupon codes for me to save money when I'm shopping online. Second, it gives me points for almost every online purchase I make. AND, once I've reached 1000 points (easier than you'd think), I cash that in for a $10 Amazon card. So far, I've gotten $20 in free money for Amazon ;)
I’m always on the lookout for new apps and tools to help make things easier (and more efficient). Let me know in the comments: what is one of your favorite resources (can be an app, reference, or physical item) that you use daily?