Small Business Tools

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Since starting in 2011 I have gotten regular emails from readers, or friends of readers, who are interested in starting their own website or blog. This list is meant to be a partial response to those requests for information on how to get started. I am happy to share what has worked for me and what tools I find useful. When possible these links are affiliate links:

The Website:

Website/Blog Platform: Wordpress. My website is NOT built in Wordpress, but it is where I recommend you start. Wordpress is straightforward and has become the industry standard. You are also able to easily find add-ons to add features to your site and, if needed, assistance from developers who familiar with the platform. *Make sure to read about the difference between and!

Website Hosting: I started out with Bluehost and then moved to Hostgator. I am currently hosted with a company that isn't taking new sites for hosting, but when you are first starting out I would recommend Hostgator, they were fairly easy to set up and work with.

Staying Organized:

When organizing content I use a few different tools, but most frequently I use Evernote (for post writing, lists, etc), and Airtable for planning and tracking different aspects of business. Both have options for Free accounts and I have never felt the need to upgrade.

Staying Connected:
Sending Emails: Powered by MailChimp- I have only ever used Mailchimp for email newsletters and I love that it integrates so well with other programs, like SumoMe. There is a free version for small lists which is great when you're first getting started. Other popular programs include ConvertKit, Madmimi, and Constant Contact.
Social Media Management - I share content from MyActiveChild daily on Facebook, but I also make sure to share in the MyActiveChild Facebook Group, on InstagramLinked-In, and Twitter. There are a variety of programs which post to several accounts at once. I have used HootsuitePostplannerMeetEdgarBuffer, Coschedule and am currently using Amplifr which I LOVE and highly recommend. 
Canva - Free to use design software and lots of free templates. Any stock images you download from them are just $1 each. This software is great for quotes or adding text/elements to images. You can upload your own images to use in it as well. Excellent branding tool. Another similar program that I use and like is Stencil.
Tracking Software:

Google Analytics: add the GA code to your website and you will be able to track how much website traffic you get, where it comes from, what visitors do on your website, and more. This is FREE and invaluable. Set it up right away.
SumoMe - add their code to your website and it will show you heatmaps of where your visitors click on your website, as well as provide pop-ups for email registration, analytics and more. Free accounts (paid options with more features) are available.

Accounting & Payment Software:

Paypal is a wonderful resource and I use it regularly, you can't beat it for ease of use! Note, you can also pay by credit card, a paypal account is not required in order to make a payment.

Billy - I have used both Quickbooks and Quickbooks Online and was frustrated with both. I grabbed a great deal on Billy and am in the process of switching over. 

Ad Server:

OIO Publisher: After trying a couple of different options for hosting my own ads I came across OIO. I love that I can host it myself, that it takes care of payments, and sends reporting to advertisers. For a limited time you can use promo code AUT17-MAC to save $10 (regular price is a one time $47). Click HERE to Sign Up.


Gleam: I am currently using Gleam for giveaway/contests. There is a free and paid version available and there are lots of ways to integrate social media and sharing into the entries. Another option with a free version is Rafflecopter.

AppSumo - The people that run SumoMe also periodically make deals available to their subscribers. I have found many of these offers to be awesome and it has saved me years of time and tons of money (think free stock images for life). 
Getting Started:
Every blog/website/audience is going to be different and will follow a different path! I have found the website Blogelina to be a great resource for general tips on how to get started blogging.
I hope this list is helpful, suggestions are always welcome as this list will evolve as I find more great resources and use them myself! Hampton Roads Group
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