This is a running list of the best entrepreneur tools I have found useful over the years. I’m constantly on the lookout for new tools and apps and update this post regularly as I find them.
Hands down, my favorite productivity app. It is built around the book Getting Things Done and is very easy to learn, use and adapt for your own personal preferences. The desktop Mac app is a pretty sweet companion for the iPhone app.
One of the easiest tools for keeping track of all your receipts. When tax season rolls around you want to be a cool, calm collected cucumber – not a scatter-brained, panic-attack digging through glove boxes, backpacks, suit pockets and email inboxes hunting for receipts to support your expenses. Get ShoeBoxed now, thank me later.
Free trial, reasonable pricing post-trial. The amount of stress it saves come tax season hovers near the realm of priceless.
Best time-tracking and invoicing system for solopreneurs and small professional service firms. Harvest is accessible via Mac app, website, iPhone and iPad apps and is very simple to use. I have heard a few people complain that Harvest gets quite expensive if you scale too large, but at $12/month for their entry plan (they have an even more limited free trial version) it has worked great for me over the years.
Free trial, reasonable pricing post-trial. Integrates with ShoeBoxed and about 50 other apps.
With social media, there are nearly too many avenues to count that are available to broadcast your message to the world. However, one of the tools too many companies overlook these days is the good old fashioned press release. Not only does it push your message in front of hundreds of traditional publications, the SEO benefits of submitting your press release through a digital distribution site like eReleases can be tremendous.
Gone are the days of needing $100k to get an online store up and running. However, most of these fancy stores have been replaced with ugly PayPal buttons and clunky user interfaces as do-it-yourselfers try to piece together their online shops with a half-dozen (or more) online tutorials. A fairly priced, nicely balanced middle ground is found in BigCommerce. You get the functionality and all the bells and whistles of a $100k shop without the sizable investment or troublesome upkeep. Granted, there is no shortage of places to sell your products online (eBay, Etsy, PayPal) but if you’re serious about building an online store, Big Commerce has all the tools needed to help you become a viable, successful business. Another big plus for them (in my mind, at least) is that they offer a wide variety of plans that allow you to scale as your business grows. When compared to Shopify (listed below), I think the primary difference is BigCommerce is better suited to people who are familiar with programming and HTML code, whereas Shopify is best suited for people who just want to point and click.
Free trial, themes galore, feature-rich, scalable pricing, over $1.5 billion in sales processed. Pick BigCommerece if you don’t mind editing code such as php and HTML/CSS.
Another great option for eCommerce is Shopify. Shopify has over 100 great looking themes and a mobile app that makes keeping track of your store on the go a breeze. In all honesty, the features and plans are very similar to BigCommerce, so the real question becomes, “Which one should I use?” If you’re not sure which solution to use (BigCommerce or Shopify) there are several comparisons floating around the interwebs, however, I’ll summarize the difference between the two in one sweeping statement: Shopify is best suited for non-technical people whereas BigCommerce is best suited for people with programming and HTML/CSS knowledge. If the thought of editing HTML gives you a panic attack, go with Shopify. If you love tweaking code and stylesheets, go with BigCommerce. You are still free to search google for more in depth comparisons, but trust me, I just saved you 30 minutes of research with that sweeping, yet precise, summary.
Over 100 themes, easy setup, solid support, great mobile app. If you’re not a techie, I would pick Shopify.
If you’re not familiar with CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) read this. Once you’re convinced of their benefit, and trust me, CDNs are great even if you have a small amount of traffic, I would highly recommend using MaxCDN. Not only is their pricing super competitive, they boast such clients as Garmin, The Next Web, Stumble Upon, Stack Overflow and Disqus (among roughly 13,000 others). In addition, thanks to MaxCDN’s numerous plugins (for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and just about any other platform out there), you can impress your visitors with faster loading times in just a few minutes (typical setup only takes 5 minutes – depending on your skill level, of course). For a couple of very good articles on how faster loading times positively impact your bottom line you can check out this and this. You can also test your sites loading time with tools like Web Page Test or Google’s Page Speed.