17 Tools in 2015 Every Entrepreneur Needs to Make More Money
Anybody can make a few bucks on the internet. When I was 19, I bought broken xbox 360s for $20 (tell me you remember the red ring of death), reapplied the heat sink, and then sold them on ebay for $75. I was making money- a couple hundred bucks a month! But, anybody can do that, and you can’t really make much more than a couple hundreds bucks doing it (or any bucks doing it, as it is not years later).
Since then, I’ve had a few more pursuits. I published a book, sold thousands of dollars of vintage jewelry on etsy, and, most recently, started a beef jerky and candy subscription businesses. But I haven’t done it without help. Sure, I’ve had some great mentors and I’ve made a LOT of mistakes, but what helps me grow my businesses (and the businesses of those I work with) is online, automated tools. Stuff that takes the info I put into it and automates it at a thousand times efficiency.
LeadPages is a website that helps you convert more, plain and simple. They create templated squeeze pages that are tested and proven to increase opt-ins, signups, sales- whatever your goal is. If you know how to create websites, paying as much as they charge for the benefits (email integration, popups, A/B testing on leadpages elements) might be a bit much but, if you don’t have a technical background and want something that is essentially plug-and-play, LeadPages is a perfect tool for you. They also have a money-back 30 day free trial, so if you’re on the fence but curious about how you can increase conversion, I encourage you to check it out.
A huge part of my business models relies upon organic traffic. Organic traffic is a great way to establish yourself as an authority website which not only gives you “free” traffic as well as encourages other websites to engage with you (albeit for self-fulfilling purposes). SEMrush helps decide what direction I will take my website in, as well as allows me to see what sectors are open for growth. SEMRush is also a HUGE part of my consulting services. When I consult on growth strategies, the first thing I check out is SEMRush when deciding how to approach digital expansion. There are tools on this list that aren’t for everyone– SEMRush is not one of them.
When you just start out (i.e. have no money), outsourcing to freelancers isn’t always feasible. They don’t cost a lot, but they do cost a little, and sometimes you don’t have a little money. But once you do have a little money, either from a “real” job or once you’ve been able to harvest some profit from business, outsourcing menial tasks or niche skill tasks is imperative. I’ve outsourced everything from PR/SEO work to copywriting to payment portal integration to creating mini-site on wordpress. Note: It takes a while to find a good Freelancer sometiems- for every good worker there’s going to be 9 who are shit and just want to take your money in return for a miserable job. If it is design work, look at their portfolio, if its PR or SEO work, make sure that they’ve got a high deliverability rate. You can also use mechanical turk for some of these tasks, but I make sure the work you want is as menial as they come, because, for $.05 a click, it’s not going to be of any discernible quality at all.
It possible to make a business online without a website, but you’ll most likely be relegated to craigslist ads and scamming people in Facebook groups over broken cell phones. I use Dreamhost for all my websites. They make it easy to host, easy to buy domains, and SUPER easy to run a wordpress blog with their One Click Installation. There are tons of hosting services out there, but I recommend Dreamhost to everyone I work with, not only because of the ease, but also because their customer support is second to none. I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait more than 24 hours to get a response.
Most of the tools on this list fulfil a very specific purpose. LeadPages optimizes conversions, VWO does A/B Testing, but Wishpond is kind of a jack-of-all trades. Wishpond has created a suite for digital marketers that allows you to track conversions, create basic squeeze pages, track on-page analytics, run contests, manage ads, and automate emails to make especially actionable landing pages. Consider it the Walmart of digital marketing, except less mouth-breathers greeting you at the door. I mean, its nicer than Walmart and, holistically, it has value but if you were to compare its individual features against any of these companies that have specialized in a task, you’ll see that it’s just not as nice.
Mailchimp is a email marketing tool. But, beyond sending out email blasts, there is a huuuuuuge benefit of using Mailchimp. If you go to my homepage, you’re prompted to signup for my email list and, in return, I send you a valuable eBook about how to convert cold emails into thousands of dollars. It’s an awesome eBook and gets me tons of interested readers, but do you know how terrible it would be if I had to do it all manually? It would be really, really terrible. Like the worst ever. So, I automate it with MailChimp. It’s awesome; I love it; you will, too. Three semicolons can’t lie.
Shopify is like wordpress if wordpress was about selling stuff instead or writing blog posts about cats wearing baby jeans or golf courses in Nova Scotia or straight razor shaving guides or whatever you people are interested in. Better description: Shopify is a content management system that allows you to implement eCommerce solutions. It’s a turnkey solution to the middle 95% of all eCommerce needs, including plug-ins that allow for csvs of products to be uplisted/edited. If you are an entrepreneur that want to sell products on your own platform/use content marketing to bring in customers, then Shopify will be for you.
Have you ever got an email from someone and been like “man, I wish I could find their twitter/facebook/linkedin profile”? Of course you have– we all have– that’s where Rapportive comes in. When you download the Rapportive extension for gmail and you input an email into the message field, a profile pops up on the right side with all the info you could ever hope to stalk down from some unassuming stranger. Bonus: it’s also a great way to find emails– if you’ve got a hunch about what somebody’s email is just toss a few possibilities in the input field and, poof, when their social profiles show up then you know you’ve got the right one.
If you’re going the physical product route, you’re going to need to ship stuff. Assuming you aren’t using a third party fulfilment center, you’re going to need to ship it yourself. There’s always the option of going to the post office and waiting in line and spending a bunch of money working with postal workers, or you can download endicia, print off your labels on a Zebra Printer and you can drop off your freshly marked packages at the post office drop spot at your soonest convenience.
Google has got tons of free services- Google Drive, Gmail, Google Docs, Google Sites etc… but if you want to label them under your own services (use them all under yourdomain.com, for example) or if you find yourself going over the limits they set forth, you can use Google Apps. They might not be best for you as you start your business, but, once your team grows, having a normalized team working on the same platform is needed for efficiency.
PR and SEO are becoming one– in order to get link juice from authority websites, you need to give them a reason to right about you, in order to get them to write about you, you need HARO. HARO is a service that allows sends you out press requests three times a day, organized by categories into a list. They’re sent from from bloggers/reporters who are looking for sources and, if you can answer the question in suitable fashion, you can get worthwhile links from reputable sources back to your website. Best of all- HARO is free. They harass you about signing up for Vocus (the parent company of HARO), trying to get you to invest in PR work, but it doesn’t cost you anything to say “no”.
If you use the internet in any regard, you need to use Google Analytics / Webmaster Tools. They are, hands down, the most important thing for somebody who is trying to make money on the internet. I hope everyone reading this know what you can do with Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools, but if you don’t, I’ll give you a brief rundown of what you can do with it.
- How many visitors your site has gotten
- How many visitors your pages have gotten
- How many conversions your website has gotten
- Where these conversion and pageviews came from (social, direct, referral, organic)
- What keywords you’re ranking the highest for
- What keywords you get the most traffic from
And so, so much more. If you aren’t on this, you need to.
So you want a nice website but you but don’t want to make it yourself and hiring a freelancer to make you something customized is costing a couple thousand of dollars you don’t have: enter ThemeForest. Theme forest is like Amazon for themes. They’ve got HTML, WordPress, Drupal, Email Templates, Tumblr, eCommerce, PSD, Shopify, whatever. They’ve got every sort of theme you’d ever need. If you want something cool on a budget, then you want to go here. Better yet, buy one of these themes and then iterate to make it your own, that’s like the best of both worlds.
Okay, so maybe you’ve already got a theme but your theme is lacking something special. It needs like a ticker or a countdown or an input form or something for SEO or a member gateway portal or any of the dozens and dozens of categories that exist in CodeCanyon. Generally, these snippets are usually a lot cheaper than whole themes, as well. Just taking a little looksie inside the wordpress > SEO category, you get code that implements affiliate links, that creates smart txt robots, or that checks for duplicate content, among others. Between ThemeForest and CodeCanyon, you’ve got everything you need to make a website 95% customized from anything else on the web.
Ah, the entrepreneur thread of reddit, a gurgling pool of 100k+ people who want everything in the world. All jokes aside, this thread is a great place to network with people, see what people are working on, and get feedback on ideas you’re working on, directions you’d like to go, and basically anything else that a human could ever possibly have an opinion on. It’s also a good place to mess around on after you’ve spent 15 hours vetting your business plan or writing emails to sales contacts or packaging bags of candy to send out to 500 people around the United States.
Everybody knows that social media is important in some abstract regard. Although Matt Cutts denies any direct influence that social media metrics have on search rankings, there is an undeniable correlation between better social follower counts and higher search results. But how do you manage all your social media accounts? There’s Tumblr and Twitter and Google+ and Facebook and Instagram and, besides posting, maybe you want to respond to people or track comments or see how your fans/followers have moved up and down over the months– that’s where Hootsuite comes in. Hootsuite is a manager application that integrates with all your social accounts and allows you a bird’s eye (“hoot”, get it?) view of all your social channels.
Popups remind me of all that the internet used to be. Big, flashy in your face squares or banners that give some ridiculous claim and probably are talking about bovine hormone treatment or how to lower your mortgage payment by 1 billion percent. At the same time, they work. WisePops offers a really cheap alternative to some of the other options out there (Unbounce costs like 3k a month) and by cheap, I mean like $9 a month. As an added bonus, you can totally customize everything that is being thrown in your viewers face, so if you’ve got a basic idea of how to work with js/html/css, you’ve got some serious power at your fingertips. Using a “final offer” alert that pops up when a user tries to exit the session, I’ve increased bocandy conversions by 5%. That’s amazing, consider it costs as much as a fancy beer.