Business Tools of the Trade

Are you looking for the best tools and software to run your business? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Whether you’re a seasoned business owner or a budding entrepreneur, the sheer number of tools and services to choose from to optimize and run your business can be overwhelming.

That’s why I’ll keep it simple.

This list is short. I’ll cover just a handful of categories. And I’ll only list those tools I use myself for either WebsiteGecko or my other projects, curated after years of testing pretty much any tool under the sun.  

Are you ready? Then read on or jump straight to a category by clicking on any of the links below.

Categories

At the moment anyone can built a good website. The days that you had to rely on an expensive web development agency are luckily over. These are the best tools and software to get your business website up and running.

Web hosting

Without a great web hosting service you’ll end up with a site which loads slowly, is frequently offline and you’ll get plagued a slew of other problems.

In the past I committed the cardinal sin of choosing the wrong web host. The irritation, time and missed opportunities this led to is something I’d definitely wouldn’t wish upon you.

Luckily, I found out about SiteGround about a year ago. Ever since I use them, my hosting problems are a thing of the past. SiteGround is lightning fast, offers fantastic uptime and has the best customer service in the industry. What’s more, they offer managed WordPress hosting, which means they’re fully optimized for WordPress websites.

Siteground WordPress managed hosting.

WordPress theme & page builder

What your website looks like is as important as its content. You can have the best content in the world, but if your site looks terrible, your visitors will click back to the search results faster than you blink.

Divi is one of the most versatile and customizable WordPress themes and website builders out there. You can adjust almost every element of your site without writing a line of code.

They have an easy to use drag & drop builder which lets you build a website from scratch, but they also offer over 100 free fully designed websites for any type of business, where you just have to adjust the copy.

Free alternative: Kadence is a fantastic, free to use theme.

Webshop 

If you’re looking to sell products online, you’ll need a solid ecommerce solution. WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin for your WordPress website. It also works in conjunction with page builders like Divi and Elementor.

Through WooCommerce you can easily set up a safe and secure payment system, manage your incoming orders, and add, remove or edit your products.

SEO

In order to rank higher in Google you’ll get pretty far with good knowledge about your subject matter, grit and determination. But in order to keep up with the competition, you’ll need a tool that lets you think like Google. That’s where SEO tools come in.  

From all the SEO tools I’ve tried Ahrefs is my favorite. It has the most features and best user interface of the major SEO tools out there. With it you can easily do keywords research, track keywords and check backlinks. 

Although there are tons of SEO tools out there, with Ahrefs you’ll have close to all of your SEO needs covered.

You can try it out for $7 for 7 days.

Free stock photos and videos

You really need imagery to make your website’s content come to life. But you can’t just pluck any image you find on Google due to copyright infringements.

You could buy images and videos, but this gets very expensive fast. And creating themselves will take too much time, in most cases.

Luckily there are a bunch of websites which offer stock images and videos which you can freely use.


For detailed instructions on how to build your own website, check out this page.

If you’re spending considerable time on business development, you’ll outgrow spreadsheets pretty quickly. Here you’ll find the business development and support tools to level up your sales.

CRM 

A CRM system is a must-have for any structured type of business development. Even as a freelancer in search of clients it can be useful to use one from (nearly) day one.

Are you a freelancer, small business owner or getting a startup off the ground? Then go with Pipedrive. They offer a clear, no-nonsense interface where you can easily track leads, customers and ongoing deals.

Pipedrive pipeline.

Pipedrive is less advanced than a juggernaut like Salesforce. Having said that, it will cost you a fraction of the price. Plus, for a small business all the bells and whistles Salesforce offers are completely unnecessary.   

Free alternative: Hubspot is a great CRM system which also offers a free version. Aside from business development, their system also helps you streamline many of your marketing and customer support activities.

Finding email addresses 

Hunter.io makes finding the email addresses of prospective customers a breeze.

This is how the tool works. You key in someone’s name and add their business address. Next up Hunter.io’s robots will scrape the web et voila: in a few seconds you’ll get your hands on the email address you were after.

The free version lets you search 50 email addresses a month. Once you need more, you can upgrade to one of their paid plans which lets you track down 500 email addresses a month or more.

Send emails later and set reminders

Sometimes you write an email but want to schedule to send it for a later time. This is exactly what Boomerang lets you do.

The tool also can also send you reminders in case people haven’t responded to you yet. Given the importance of follow ups when sending out sales emails, this feature can significantly improve your workflow.

You can try Boomerang for free with 10 message credits per month. For $4.99 per month you get to use this tool as much as you like.

Customer support

At first you can easily keep track of your customer support through email. But once you start getting a blitz of customer queries every day, you should definitely start using a customer support platform.

Zendesk is an all-in-one solution for everything that has to do with customer support. They offer live chat which you can integrate in your website. They also let you hook all channels through which clients can reach you (contact forms, email, social media, etc.) together in one easy to use dashboard.

Customer queries get automatically transformed into tickets which you can easily track. This way, it’s pretty much impossible to have answering your customers slip through the cracks.

Marketing has over the years become a lot more versatile than it once was. This is good news, but it does make it a lot more complex and time consuming. In order to run your marketing machine smoothly, check out the following tools.

Social media manager

Social media has grown into one the most important marketing channels. Regardless of your industry, size or age of your business, you’ll need social media to succeed in the digital age.

Hootsuite is a super handy tool which lets you schedule social media posts head for over 30 platforms. This will save you tons of time.

Aside from that, Hootsuite offers a few other neat features:

  • Reply to messages to your posts through the Hootsuite dashboard. This takes away the need to visit your social media accounts one by one
  • Set automatic replies
  • Keep an eye on specific trends, topics and influencers

Social media doesn’t have to be all that hard. But without a tool like this one it might take up way too much time to be of much value to your business.

You can start out using Hootsuite for free.

Email marketing 

Over 80% of all B2B and B2C companies use email marketing.

Data from 2018 shows that email still is the most effective marketing channel out there. It outperforms social media, SEO, and SEM. So you should build out an email list straight from the get-go.

There are a lot of email marketing platforms out there but AWeber is my favorite. In whatever tools I use I favor simplicity, and AWeber is super easy to use. At the same time, it probably has all the functionality you’ll ever need.

You can start out using AWeber for free.

Graphics

To become a savvy Adobe Illustrator user will take some time. Luckily there’s Canva, which makes it extremely easy for non-designers to put some nice-looking graphics together.

With Canva you can create graphics for your social media, website or presentations in just a few clicks.

Canva.

Canva has a paid version but for the majority of users their free version will suffice.

In order to increase your productivity and improve your workflow, I recommend you use the following apps.

Email, data management, docs and spreadsheets 

For close to a decade now, G Suite forms the core of my working life. Email, saving files (through GDrive) and collaborating on documents and spreadsheets – I do it all through Google. Through Google Calendar I schedule my appointments and keep track of my time.

With Gmail for Business you can easily set up your business team, and you can hook up your site’s domain name to Gmail.

All my videocalls I do with Google Meet.

G Suite producten.

Bottom line, G Suite is an absolute must-have for pretty much every small business or freelancer.     

Chatting with your team

If you have a team, then smooth internal communication is a must. And you’ll make no one happy with playing games of email ping pong. This is why over recent years business chat apps have been popping up left and right.

Slack is my favorite business chat app by a mile. You can integrate it with pretty much any software tool you can image, it has both a desktop app and a mobile app, and their non-premium product (which will do just fine for most people) is free to use.

Security

Encrypt hard disks, folders or files for free with the open-source app VeraCrypt. At times you might want to give particularly sensitive information an extra layer of security. VeryCrypt is the perfect tool for this.

It ensures only you – or other people with the password – can access your encrypted files. VeraCrypt is practically un-hackable. Encrypt your file or folder and you can securely send it through email, upload it, or put it on a USB-stick.

Password management

There are loads of password managers and both Google and Apple offer it in their browsers. But sometimes you’ll want to access something on your phone, or your tablet. In those cases it might not be that easy-to-get access to your passwords.

LastPass offers a great solution here. Save your password once and you can easily access it from whichever device. They also suggest save passwords for you and offer a secure password autofill.

Save web pages in PNG or PDF format

How often would you like to be able to save an entire web page in PNG or PDF format, but you aren’t able to? With the Chrome browser plugin GoFullPage you can capture an entire web page in one click and export it as an image of PDF. Free of charge.

Screen videos

Are you looking to quickly show someone how you do something on your computer through a video? Then try Screencast-O-matic.

You can pick which part of your screen should be captured and whether you should be a part of the video, too. This is how you can make a quick how-to video in just a couple of minutes.

Project management 

If you’re working with a team, a project management app does wonders for getting everyone aligned. Plus it ensures maximum output.

There are a few project management heavyweights which will cost you an arm and a leg, but Trello is a superb free to use alternative. But don’t let Trello’s seemingly simple interface fool you. I’ve used it for years for all my project management needs in a company of 30+ people.

It will take you a couple of minutes to set up a Trello board. Adding some people to it maybe takes about one minute more. After which, you’ll never have to worry about losing track of important tasks.

Conclusion

There are millions and millions of small businesses worldwide. All those businesses are looking for a competitive edge.

If you run a small business or are a freelancer, odds are you’re looking for tactics, strategies and hacks to run your enterprise more effectively.

Picking the right tools and business software is one of the ways to this. Using the wrong tools – or no tools for some tasks – can cost you a lot of money and time.

Now it’s over to you.

In which way does software help you run your business more effectively? And is there a business tool you’d recommend, but can’t find on this list?

Please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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