Here’s another Spark Bits Weekly where I ask a panel of homepreneurs a blazing question about running and growing their businesses from home.
What are some business resources you’ve used that has helped you run or launch projects for your internet home-based business? Which ones can you not do without?
Cindy Bidar from The Educated VA says:
I don’t buy a lot of tools or other shiny objects, so my “must have” resources all revolve around people and connections. I’ve said many times that I would not be self-employed today if it weren’t for the friends and mentors I’ve met through various events and forums.
My go-to place for learning everything about online business, from shopping cart setup to email marketing is SoloMasterminds. I’ve been a member for years, visit the forums every single day, and just can’t say enough good things about Kelly and the rest of the man and women in that group. It’s truly a treasure trove of information and support I could not do without.
For networking, my favorite is live events, and among those, NAMS is at the top of my list. I try to go every year, and it’s been invaluable to me as my business grows. I’ve learned more than I’ll probably ever put into practice, and met some of my best friends, business colleagues, and clients there.
Finally, staying connected with my market is equally important, and for that I rely on WordPress (naturally) and Aweber for email management. It’s impossible to run a business online today without a website and an email marketing plan. These two resources make the task much easier.
Tishia Lee from Tishia Saves Time says:
Right now, things in my business are probably as simple as can be. In other words, I’m not doing anything “fancy” when it comes to products. I have a couple for sale and I’ve kept it really simple – just using a PayPal button to sell them. Eventually I’d like to switch to Amember but I’m not ready to make that big of a switch…need to get more serious about creating products and creating an affiliate program first (that’s a whole other can of worms for a different time though).
So, to sum it up these are the tools I’m using:
- My website – obviously
- Aweber – to collect the names/emails of purchasers to get them into my mailing list funnel
- 42 Day Launch Incubator
- Solo Masterminds – a ‘safe’ place I can go to ask an amazing group of smart, savvy internet marketers for feedback, suggestions, help and more when it comes to my sales page, product, etc. for sale
Like I said, I’m doing things pretty simple right now so there aren’t a lot of tools I’m using.
Helena Bowers from Your Message Amplified says:
I’ve used a lot of different tools and resources over the years. The first thing I absolutely can’t do without is a good HTML editor. The second would be a really good graphics program. I just recently took the plunge into the Adobe Creative Cloud so that I get the all in one package and can use it on whichever machine I happen to be working on. Right now my must-have pieces of that suite are Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Abobe Illustrator, but I’m looking forward to learning how to use all the other parts of it too.
Other tools and resources that are essential for keeping my business running are Evernote for keeping my notes and things organized, Dropbox for delivering files to clients, and Aweber for mailing list management.
The one piece of physical equipment I couldn’t do without now (besides my computer, of course) is my Wacom tablet. My son got it for me for Christmas last year, and I love it for creating hand-written graphics and indulging my doodling habit.
Stephanie Watson from Barry Publishing says:
People — My most important resource to date is Solo Masterminds. Without this wonderful group I would not be as successful as I am. I would not be pushed to grow. I would not have the clients that I have. I feel that finding a group that will be honest with you, make you think, and share real knowledge with you is a true treasure. A good mastermind group will offer you challenge, potential for joint venture partnerships, and an honest mirror in which to view yourself. They’ll kick your butt when you need it, and even sop up you tears sometimes too. They offer that connection to others that solopreneurs so desperately need.
Backup & File Storage – I cannot live without Dropbox (or something like it). I’ve mentioned before that in April of 2011 we ended up without power for two weeks. My external drive was destroyed. We were all fortunate to be alive, and had I had Dropbox fully functional at that point, recovering from this situation would be been a breeze. It’s imperative that you have a cloud-based backup and file storage system. There are many out there, find one you like and use it, religiously.
Accounting, Bookkeeping & Invoicing — Currently I am using Go Daddy Bookkeeping along with Freshbooks to do my books and invoice my clients. They both work together and while I have a degree in business and know how to do bookkeeping the old fashioned way, my business is small enough that this works for me. If you have a bigger business and sell a lot of products though I would use something like QuickBooks Online instead.
Productivity & Project Management — I mostly use Dropbox but some of my clients use Basecamp and I love it. Anytime I am lucky enough to get a client who uses Basecamp I know it’s going to work out swimmingly because they are organized. I am very deadline driven so it’s important for me to have clear instructions, expectations of deliverables, and deadlines.
Simple Graphics — I am in love with Canva right now. I cannot live without. I use it for all kinds of things from social media memes to creating well laid out graphics for reports. I also love ImageMonthly because I get tips on using images, fonts, and usable graphics too.
Aside from WordPress, Word & Adobe Pro I think I can run a complete business with just these things. I can’t pick one that I can live without. As my business grows though, I am starting to see the need for more integrated systems. I’m looking into Ontraport right now. I’m curious if anyone else is using it and how they feel about it?
Christa Jensen from ChristaJensen.com says:
There are many great resources out there to help those who want to work from home or are working from home. I will share my favorites, which are the ones that I have seen be the most useful in my business over the years.
Could not do without:
- Mentor Mamas Ultimate Goal Setting Guide
- SoloMasterminds Forum
- Image Software: Pxlr and Gimp are rising to the top of my list as favorite FREE software.
- Solosmarts 42 Day Launch Incubator
- Mentor Mamas Empower Your Website
I have also interned in a blogging course and have had a writing coach in the past, which proved very valuable for those who want to write well for the internet.
Samantha Pointer-Foxx from Get It Together says:
To run my business I rely on my iPad and a few favorite apps. The main one I use is Evernote to just brain dump into. I also use the Quickbooks Online app to keep up with accounting and to invoice my clients on the spot. I use the SproutSocial app to do all of my social media posting and to schedule posts. I use Google Drive, LiveDrive, Onedrive, MobilLogic and Dropbox to handle my files that I need on the go and for computer backup.
Now that you can get Microsoft products on the iPad, it is easy for me to work on documents. I use the Sunrise Calendar app to keep up with my appointments on all platforms. Because I do podcasting and blogging, my Samsung Note 3 is really indespensable when it comes to capturing audio, taking photos and jotting down quick ideas.
I use Soundcloud as well to give my audience quick organizing tips while on the go. These are just some of the apps and products I use on a daily basis to run my business.
Alicia Jay from New VA Advice says:
There are a couple of online tools that make working online so much easier for me. I’ve made an effort to keep my business mostly paperless, so all of these tools help in that area, and they also allow me the freedom to work anywhere I want.
The first and most important for me is Dropbox. I run my entire business out of Dropbox so that I can access it from any device whether it’s my desktop, laptop or my phone. No matter where I am, I can access all of my information. It’s also super handy because I have private folders set up with my clients so that we can easily share information.
Next we have Aweber. List building is such an important business-building tool and Aweber helps me do that without the need to be a master techie. It’s easy to use and I can access it anywhere to schedule broadcast emails or set up autoresponders to help me work a little more passively in my business.
Then there is Evernote. It just has so many awesome uses. I have a folder for each of my businesses and then note sections underneath those filled with my to-do lists, things that I want to research and new product or course ideas. I can just open up Evernote to check my list for the day or grab ideas for a new project.
Starting and running a business from home can invite some trials in setting up an infrastructure that systematizes your workflow. Lack of organization and distraction can easily penetrate the workday since there is a fine line between home and business life. At the end of the day, because you are running a real business, you’ll need some resources to help you manage through the day. But depending on your business model, market, and personality traits ‘must have’ tools vary from person to person.
Many of the Sparkplugging advisors mentioned cloud services as a top priority in home business management. You can’t beat being able to access all of your data online, no matter where you are. Long gone are the days you’ll have to carry around a hard drive in order to get some work done.
For me, some resources I can’t do without, are pretty much under the umbrella of Google. Tools like Gmail, Analytics, Adsense, You Tube and Web Search – who can live without using at least one of these right? From productivity to research tools and marketing, Google, more that likely, has a product for it. And the best part is that they are free to use.
Other must haves right now are things like Paypal for my payments, Rescue Time for productivity, Buzzsumo for social research, WordPress for website management and most recently I’m exploring the CamScanner app.
As technology evolves you will find yourself trying new things and adopting others. But in the grand scheme of things, as some of the Sparkplugging panel described, the ultimate resource is the people. Without them, on either side of the spectrum, you have no business. Shiny new toys will then become irrelevant.