Running an online business ain't no joke, but having the right tools can make it a little less stressful.
  
After years of trying everything on the market, these are my faves.

Many of these are affliate links! I only link to things I personally use and am OBSESSED WITH, but know I may receive a commission if you buy through my link.

Online
business

Online business

SONY ALPHA A6000 MIrrorless digital camera


PHOTO & VIDEO TOOLS

PHOTOGRAPHY TOOLS

I do a lot of my own videos and photos so I needed something a bit more robust than my iPhone, but easier to schlep around than my DSLR.

This guy is expensive (I got mine for about $200 less on President's Day), but I use it way more now than my big Canon. It can shoot in low-light, blur your background, plus it connects to my phone over bluetooth so I can use my phone as a remote, which makes taking photos on my own so easy. 

It takes care of all the things I used my DSLR for, but it also connects to my phone and fits in my purse.

Having said all that, I still use my iPhone ALL THE TIME, and I wouldn't invest in this until you're SURE you need it and it's not something your phone can do. #soapboxdone

$649 at Amazon


PIVO FOR LOOKING LIKE YOU HAVE AN ASSISTANT



$99


Speaking of which, if you want to trick out your iPhone to its max capacity, this Pivo is LIFE-CHANGING (if I were getting started, I'd skip the fancy camera, buy this and call it a day).

The Pivo is this genius device you put on a tripod and turns your iPhone into a photographer/ videographer.

It does all sorts of things, but there are two functions I use a ton. First, it can follow you while recording so you can walk around and aren't stuck by the bounds of a small frame. It ends up looking pretty professional.

Second, you can automatically take photos by either snapping or pausing. It may sound like a small thing, but when you take a lot of photos of yourself there's a lot of hitting the button and running back to place or trying to hide the remote (and forgetting). This takes all that out of it.

I wasn't sure about investing in it, but I'm SO HAPPY I DID.

A REALLY GOOD TRIPOD WITH BELLS AND WHISTLES

I can't tell you how many years I had a crummy tripod and what a pain it was. Legs would collapse as I was shooting, it pinched my fingers, photos weren't straight. 

Then for $23.49 I CHANGED MY LIFE. 🙄

This tripod is so easy to move up and down, it adjusts in multiple directions, it has all sorts of levels, it's lightweight. it works with your iPhone or DSLR. And it is LESS THAN $25. 

PUH-LEASE, don't fall victim to bad tripods. 😂

$23.49 at Amazon


COLOR StORY APP FOR EDITING PHOToS + VIDEO


There's only one editing app you need on your phone and it's a Color Story by the gals at A Beautiful Mess.

It does EVERYTHING. 

It has a ton of gorgeous filters with new ones coming out all the time, it has stand-alone editing, including curves, and it works with video.

I've used a bunch of phone editing apps and this is now the only one I actually keep on my phone. 


$24.99 a year

I'm going to be honest and say editing videos is one of my least favorite parts of this job. But, it's a necessity so I do it and it has gotten better since I invested in Screenflow.

I've used several other editing softwares (Camastia, Inshot, which is great on your phone, Adobe Premiere) and I've found Screenflow to be the most intuitive and easy-to-use while still feeling robust.

You can easily add captions, music, layer photos, add voiceovers - it does it all. It might be a little much if you're just getting started, but if you're editing videos on the reg I'd say go for it.

$129 for full use


WRAPping paper for backdrops


You do not need to spend a lot of money on fancy backdrops for your photos, k?

I invested in this set of wrapping paper years ago and I still use them for flat lays, tape them to the wall for close-up backdrops or use them to hold things against. It's easy and looks professional, pinkie swear.

If you'll be standing or need more area, I also have several of these paper backdrops that are good-sized (4' across) and work great.

One word of advice! I highly recommend using  paper versus the cheap material backdrops because, while it sucks you can't reuse the paper, it will give you a seamless background the material one just can't (I swear they NEVER iron out completely so you have to do a ton of Photoshopping). 

$24 for four rolls


SHOWIT for your website


BLOGGING TOOLS

BLOGGING
TOOLS

For many, many years I ran my blog on Wordpress, which was great. The problem I kept having, though, was I'd want to change something (add a new banner, change the navigation, edit how the comments were displayed) and I'd have to pay someone to do it because I don't know html.

It was time-consuming and expensive.

A friend convinced me to try Showit instead and I have been blown away. It takes a bit of getting used to, but it is SO EASY. 

I had a designer put it all together and she created elements that I can drag and drop to create pages. I can edit pages to get it exactly right, create new pages when I launch new products, and it works with Wordpress (this is big because if you're blogging you want to use Wordpress!).

I feel like my site can now evolve and change with me over time rather than needing to do a big redesign every couple of years.

As well, it's hosted on WP Engine (the best place to host for sure!) and it's part of the monthly fee so I'm paying the same for hosting and Showit as I was just for hosting before.

The only things I would caution against are:
-it takes some time to learn it (but their support staff is fantastic and answered all my questions)
-it's not responsive so you basically build two sites - one for web and one for mobile. I don't mind because I'm a control freak, but this is a big issue for some people.

Let me know if you have questions, but I'm a big fan for sure!



$19 - 34/month


FLODESK FOR SENDING EMAILS


This is a hard one for me to write, because for many years I used Convertkit as my email provider (I've also used MailChimp, Emma, and ActiveCampaign) and I LOVED them.

But, then I got an email from someone and it was stunning. Like so readable and lovely that it made my day. I looked into it and found Flodesk

So, here's where I'm at with it. Flodesk is GORGEOUS. They have a ton of templates that are truly breath-taking. They make me want to write emails (which is a huge hurdle) because so much of it is done for me (it's designed, you just fill it in). 

They also have almost everything ConvertKit has - segmenting, sequences, forms - and it's done in a very easy-to-understand way (they're also relatively new so I'd imagine they're going to keep adding things).

Having said that, their analytics isn't as robust, their tracking isn't as thorough, and I've noticed open rates are slightly lower. 

So, it's a balance. Right now I'm opting for Flodesk because its emails are inspiring and easy and that feels like a win. I'll let you know if I change back or move to something else (Ontraport or Keap probably as I continue to grow).


$19 A month with code


CLICKUP FOR EDITORIAL CALENDAR


Managing a content calendar can be a truly overwhelming task and I've always struggled with how to organize upcoming posts, back content, and ideas for new posts.

A friend turned me on to Clickup and it has revolutionalized my organizational systems (all of them - see below!), but specifically my content calendar. 

It's allowed me to lay out a process for each piece of content (social, blog, email) so I can see where I am with each one and then pass it off to my VA at the right point. All my content ideas are in one place as well, and I can see what's coming and what I still need to do for each post. 

I AM A STREAMLINED MANIAC!

The best part is it integrates with all my other to dos and planning so I'm not all over the web, trying to get organized. Instead, I can see it all in one place (previously I used Asana for my ed calendar with Things for to dos and Trello for projects. It was too much!)

Free or $5 / month for base plan

Envato for all your design needs


Part of running an online business means having to come up with a crap ton of content, am I right? And while I can design well enough to be dangerous, it takes me FOREVER and is usually pretty mediocre. 

So, this year I bought a membership to Envato Elements, where you can download pretty much any asset you might need. They have fonts, music for your videos, templates for websites, presentations, and more, photos, design elements, and it can all be customized. 

I've used it for birthday party t-shirts, a powerpoint presentation, fonts for Pinterest images and downloads, graphics for a holiday campaign, and music for videos. 

It's not cheap ($29/month), but I figure the time I save trying to invent things on my on is well worth it. 

$29 a month


CLICKup for managing it all

RUNNING A BUSINESS

RUNNING A BUSINESS

I mentioned above that up until recently I was using Asana for my editorial calendar, Things for my to dos, and Trello for project management. And it was CRAZY PANTS.

My problem was none of them on their own gave me 100% what I was looking for. And while they managed each element really well, I kept dropping the ball because I was all over the place.

Now, I'm going to gush for a minute, but Clickup changed all that.

EVERYTHING is now in one place and it intergrates together, but I can still get individualized views. I can't quite explain how magical it is - there hasn't been one thing yet that I've needed and they haven't thought of.

It can manage your outreach (I use it for organizing pitches), your time tracking, it will even turn your emails into tasks, notes or reminders, which means I'm at INBOX ZERO. I KNOW! The only thing it doesn't do is make dinner for my kids, which I'm sure they're working on. 

It took me a full two days to get it completely set up, but I have made that time back in spades so totally worth it. GUSHING DONE. 

Free or $5/month for my plan (basic)


full focus to stay on track


One of my biggest struggles is staying on track and focussed.

I'm an idea gal, living in a time of distractions who can easily waste a full day looking at pants on Zara. I also am someone who is dedicated to hitting pretty big goals and is willing to put in the work.

The Full Focus planner bridges those two things for me. It helps you determine what your actual goals are for the year and then breaks them down into doable tasks. 

The most helpful piece for me, though, is the daily Big Three, a tool where you lay out the three things you want to accomplish that day and you focus on them before everything else. This has revolutionalized how I work because looking at pants isn't typically in my Big Three. WEIRD.

It also has a weekly check-in where you can see what worked / didn't the previous week and get all your ducks in a row. And it emphasizes Daily Rituals, which I've gotten pretty into and have actually made my days run a lot more smoothly (who is this person?!?!?). 

Like anything, it takes some commitment to get going, but it's truly so easy and and effective I haven't had a problem keeping up with it like I have with some of the other (many) planners I've used. 


$35/planner


evernote for ideas and writing

I hope I'm not over-complicating things when I deep dive into how I actually get things done around here. It's just for so long I struggled with getting things out the door that now that I actually have a system, I CAN'T SHUT UP ABOUT IT.

While I use Clickup for to dos (including podcasts I might want to listen to or work books to read), I use Evernote for managing everything else.

If I have an idea or find a great website I want to remember, I'll throw it into Evernote.

So, let's say I'm thinking about starting a podcast. It's not something I'm doing yet so I'm not creating to dos, I'm just noticing information. I'd create within my Work Stack a folder about Podcasting and have notes like: Podcasts I Like, Emails about Podcasting, Tips on Podcasting, Potential Classes to Take, etc. Basically anything related to Podcasting that I run into on my travels around the Internet I'd put in there. 

It has seriously freed up my brain (and browser). I have notes for house ideas, things the kids say, documents I need to keep but don't want a paper version of, ideas for future projects. It's basically my brain if it was working at full capacity. 

I've even taken to starting to writing blog posts and Instagram posts in there so they're all in one place for easy reference. 

Between Evernote and Clickup there's really no excuse for things falling through the cracks. MWAHAHAHAHA! Ah, I love a good joke. 

$8/month for premium


freshbooks for accounting


Every year, the week before Tax Day I dump all my receipts from the previous year on the bed and spend the next 12 hours of my life trying to reconstruct the previous year. Such an effective accounting system, right?

So, this year I committed to getting my accounting organized. And, here's the thing. I'm never going to be someone who relishes in spreadsheets and bottom lines, but using Freshbooks has cleared up a huge amount of stress. 

It is EASY. It is USER-FRIENDLY. It is perfect for people who HATE ACCOUNTING. 

I tried a bunch of other ones (Harvest, Dubsado, QuickBooks) and came back to Freshbooks because it gave me everything I need (basically expenses, invoicing, time tracking and reporting) and put it in a very clean, easy-to-navigate interface.

I've started other years off using some of the above-mentioned tools but didn't stick with them because they felt too overwhelming. Freshbooks is weirdly the exact right amount for my creative brain.

And I can't tell you how good it feels to have my finances organized and actually know what I'm making and spending (what a concept, Kara!).  

starts at $7.50/month


virtual assistant for sanity

In my business journey, I've come to realize there are a lot of things I'm really good at (ideas, writing, video) and a lot of things I suck at (being consistent, accounting, spreadsheets). 

In order to have more time to do what comes easily, I made the bold decision to hire help. I hired a VA (hi, Katie!) who is AMAZING and good at the things I struggle with.

Until I hired Katie, I didn't realize how much I truly got in my own way. For example, I'd sit on Instagram posts for WEEKS, perfecting and tweaking them but NEVER POSTING THEM, while Katie puts them up and gets them out there.

Running your own business can be isolating and lonely; hiring a VA can be a cost-effective way to pull someone onto your team and GET THINGS DONE.


Dependant on the month


KBB for creating courses / masterminds


CLASSES & COURSES

CLASSES & COURSES

I'm a bit of a course addict. I love learning and tend to believe this next thing will have the answer that will CHANGE EVERYTHING so I have taken an embarrassing amount of courses. 

Some of them are good, some have failed to deliver, but I can say I have learned something in each one.

There is one though I finished, have applied the lessons consistently, and even went back to do again because it is just that good and it's KBB.

It originally was designed for people who want to create masterminds, but it's evolved into a course that I believe any online content creator can benefit from.

Dean Graziozi (the main guy) is so flippin' smart yet still truly accessible, I honestly learned something in each and every lesson. And he is SO GENEROUS. Everything he teaches, he gives you permission to go out and use as your own. So, not only are you learning how to build online courses and masterminds, he's also giving you the content to fill them.

On top of that, you have to actually do the deeper work yourself so I figured out all sorts of things that were holding me back (it's truly the reason this site is up and running now!). 

It's hands-on, realistic, immediately implementable, everything an online course should be. I can't recommend it enough if you do anything online. 


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