Last updated: March 27, 2020
They say it takes a village to raise a child. I think the same could be said of starting a business. Except, in the online business world, the village is the Internet with its plethora of tools, resources, and software.
Pretty much all the tools you need for running a business are available online. In fact, there are more resources available than you could ever possibly need. In my first year of freelancing, I’ve spent a great deal of time looking for and experimenting with different tools.
Below is a comprehensive list of my favorite, essential small business tools and resources, covering everything from website hosting to design software to accounting. Unless you are a brand and web designer like me, you may not need all these tools for your business, but most of them are relevant for any kind of business.
Design software and resources
Adobe Creative Suite
I use Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop every single day. The subscription is pricey, but for a graphic designer, well worth the investment.
Canva is an awesome, free tool for small business owners who prefer to DIY their social media posts, Pinterest pins, and other simple graphics. I even use it myself occasionally. What I don’t recommend Canva for is logos! You must use a vector graphics software like Illustrator to create your logo.
Creative Market is my favorite resource for browsing and purchasing fonts, icons, illustrations, patterns, and mockups. But they have much more than that.
Mockup world provides free PSD mockups for various devices and products.
Siteground is my preferred hosting service–I use it for myself and recommend it for all my clients. It’s affordable, secure, and has great, 24/7 customer service.
Although I wouldn’t recommend hosting with GoDaddy, it’s a great place to go for affordable domain registration.
Divi is my preferred premium WordPress theme. It’s very versatile, which allows me to design custom, unique sites for my clients. It also comes with templates for those who are DIY’ing their site and have no clue where to start.
I’m obsessed with Pinterest. I use it to find inspiration for projects, as well as to share my own content and designs to get more traffic to my website. Tailwind is an amazing tool to help you step up your Pinterest game and get more eyes on your pins.
I use Planoly to plan out and schedule my Instagram posts. With the free plan, you can schedule up to 30 posts per month, which is perfect for me. You can now also schedule stories through Planoly, although I haven’t tried it yet myself.
Mailchimp is great for anyone just starting out with their email list. I think they are the only newsletter software to provide a free basic plan, but correct me if I’m wrong. However, in the past month or so they made some changes that restricted the features included in the free plan quite a bit.
In March 2020, I switched my email list from Mailchimp to Flodesk, and I haven’t looked back since! Flodesk makes it really easy (and fun) to create beautiful newsletter templates. Sign up here to get 50% off your monthly subscription!
Asana is an amazing, free project management tool. I use it to organize and track all my branding and web design projects. It makes life easier for my clients, too, although it does have a slight learning curve.
Dropbox, in my opinion, is the gold standard for cloud storage. I resisted it for a while when I was first starting, but now I have so many enormous image and design files that it’s become absolutely essential and worth the small monthly fee. Dropbox is also great for sharing final design files with clients.
Google Drive is another service that I use daily. It helps keep my business organized and is great for collaborative projects.
Proposals and contracts
I love using Bonsai for creating and sharing proposals, contracts, and invoices. It helps keep my process as streamlined, professional, and organized as possible. If you’re not currently using a CRM system, give it a try–your first month is free!
If you’re a small business owner, freelancer, or solopreneur, who conducts your business online, consider banking with Azlo. It’s 100% free and integrates with tools like Stripe, Square, PayPal, and Quickbooks. Azlo is relatively new (I think I was among the first to sign up), but it’s been great so far.
I primarily use PayPal for international payments and invoices, but some of my American clients prefer it as well.
Quickbooks makes it insanely easy to track your business expenses and income. But I think the biggest plus for me is that it calculates my quarterly estimated taxes. Not only that, but I can also easily pay them through the platform (at no extra cost). It’s a win-win-win. Click here to get 50% off your first year with Quickbooks Self-Employed.
Scheduling and meetings
Calendly is my favorite scheduling tool, and if only it integrated with Instagram, it would be my only scheduling tool. I use Calendly to schedule meetings with my clients. So much easier than emailing back and forth!
Acuity does integrate with Instagram, therefore I use it to book free consultations. I’m on the free plan for both Calendly and Acuity, which gets the job done.
Zoom is my preferred platform for both audio and video meetings.
Surveys and intake forms
Typeform is great for creating simple, attractive surveys and forms. I mainly use it to collect feedback from clients.
And there you have it! All the small business tools and resources I rely on. It’s a little crazy to think that I use 21 tools to operate a one-woman business. I’ll continue to add to (and maybe subtract from) this list over time, so make sure you bookmark it, pin it, share it, do whatever you need to do to keep it handy.
In the comments, please feel free to recommend any amazing tools I may have missed. As I said, I’m always looking to streamline my processes.
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This post contains affiliate links. Obviously, these are all products that I personally use and recommend!