Tools of The Trade
There are a lot of resources that could be very useful to running an online business. I have tried hundreds of products and services over the years. Some are great, some are bad and some are completely useless. I’ve created this page to share the tools that I personally use and enjoy. This page is updated whenever I think a resource deserves to be added or removed.
Disclaimer: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you I will receive a commission if you purchase something through my affiliate link. Please note that I recommend exclusively the resources that I have experience with. I share these resources because I believe they will help you run an online business and not because of a small commission I might earn.
If I was to recommend only a few resources, these 4 tools would certainly make the top of the list.
Wealthy Affiliate. After falling for numerous scams and almost giving up on the idea of internet marketing I stumbled upon WA in 2007. I’ve decided it would be the last training I join and I gave them a chance, mostly because they didn’t sell hype. Wealthy affiliate is an ultimate online business training program. Besides training you also get support to an incredible community, support, free hosting, website builder and a lot more. Recently WA has made things a lot easier by offering a FREE starter membership. Give it a try and see if it’s for you without taking out your credit card!
You can also checkout my very detailed review to get a better idea about Wealthy Affiliate.
HostWithLove. Sooner or later you’ll purchase a hosting plan for your online business. I’ve tried 5 or 6 different hosting providers for my websites and the experiences were very different. I was a loyal customer to my last provider for 7 years but unfortunately their service turned very sour in the past few years. In October 2014 I’ve moved most of my websites to HostWithLove and I couldn’t be happier with this decision. They offer a low price, amazing support and great site loading speed.
Elegant Themes. I’ve used free WordPress themes for many years. However, at one point all of my websites got hacked through a free theme I was using. That’s when I’ve decided to look for a premium theme. The long search led me to Elegant Themes. They offer over 80 premium themes at an incredibly low price, this includes access to their support forum. Their designs look great and their most popular theme is extremely customizable. In fact, this very blog (and all of my sites) have been running on Elegant Themes since 2012.
MailChimp. Building an e-mail list of prospects is very important to every business, online and offline. MailChimp is one of the oldest and most trusted companies in the field of e-mail marketing. I found it very easy to set up the campaigns and personalize everything exactly the way I wanted. Their cheapest plan that includes an auto-responder is only $10/month which is a lot cheaper than most other providers.
If you sign up to MailChimp through this link they’ll credit $30 in your account. Not a bad bonus if you start with a $10 plan!
These are the tools and services I use for my websites and blogs.
WordPress.org – I use the WordPress platform for all of my sites and blogs. Simply to use and the number of themes and plugins available for WordPress make the site creation task so much easier!
NameCheap – I use this company every time I need to buy a domain name. I’ve had many domain names with GoDaddy but now I have transferred all of them to NameCheap (for different reasons). Great service and reasonable prices. They also offer hosting and other services but I haven’t tried them.
Price: $11/year (average price for .com)
HostWithLove – This is my current hosting provider. I decided to go with them after months of research. Uptime has been at around 100%, my sites load a LOT faster than they used to load with Hostgator and their customer support is simply amazing. Currently I am on a reseller plan for about $10/month.
Price: $3 – 75$ per month, depending on the plan. Use coupon code 25OFF at checkout for 25% discount.
Elegant Themes – I use Divi premium theme for most of my websites. I can’t say enough great things about this WordPress theme so I wrote a very detailed Divi review here. Elegant themes subscription gives you access to over 80 Premium themes, amazing plugins such as Monarch and Bloom and great support from the creators of Elegant Themes.
Price: $89/year or only $70 per year for developer license if you use the links above. This offer is not available on Elegant Themes website.
Monarch Plugin – is the social sharing plugin I use on Extra Paycheck blog and many other sites. It looks great, it has stats and it has lots of option (you can pretty much set it up exactly the way you want it. I’ve gone through a dozen of different social sharing plugins and Monarch is the winner. This is a premium plugin and it is a part of the Elegant Themes subscription.
Price: Free (comes with Elegant Themes subscription)
W3 Total Cache – this plugin helps you make optimize your website’s speed. I won’t go into all the details because I am not a programmer and I don’t fully understand how it works. All I know is that this plugin is very popular and a must have on any WP installation.
Price: Free (premium subscription is available but I haven’t tried it)
All in one SEO pack – one of the most popular WordPress plugins. This plugin helps you manage your on-site SEO. I have tried different SEO plugins over the years and I feel as All-in-one-SEO is the lightest and simplest out of all of them.
Email Marketing Tools
I have mentioned before that I gave up on email marketing in the past after losing a rather large list of subscribers but I am finally back at it. Here are the tools and services I use.
MailChimp – I started using this company in 2014 and I love it so far. Very simple to set up, great delivery rate and very decent price. If you don’t need automation service (auto-responder) then you can use MailChimp completely free. I do use their auto-responder feature so I am on a paid plan. Use my referral link and get $30 bonus credited to your MailChimp account.
Price: 10$+/month (or FREE if not using the automation tool)
Aweber – I’ve been using Aweber since 2008 or so. Aweber is probably the biggest and the most known email marketing solution out there. Use this link to get 30 Days Free trial with this company. Aweber is not the cheapest solution but they offer an amazing product and great customer service.
Price: $20+/month (starts with free 30 days trial)
Bloom – this is a WordPress plugin that serves the opt-in box on the website. You might have noticed a “fly-in” or “pop-up” optin box appear on this very blog from time to time, that’s the Bloom plugin. What I love about this tool is all the options. I can serve the Opt-In form wherever I want on the site using shortcodes. I can display it as static, as a fly-in, as a pop-up. I can change the colors and the look of it with a few clicks. I can make it appear after a time delay, on the exit intent, after a user performed a certain task on the site (ex: leaving a comment), etc. The possibilities are endless. Bloom also offers A/B split testing and stats so you could see which opt-ins work and which don’t.
Bloom is the latest creation of Elegant Themes and it also comes FREE with your Elegant Themes subscription, it isn’t sold separately. This tool alone is worth the $70 that Elegant Themes charges for its membership.
I launched the Extra Paycheck Podcast in April 2015 and here are the tools and services I am using at the moment.
How To Start a Podcast – I got a lots of emails and comments from people asking me on more information about starting a podcast. My answers got repetitive and I’ve decided to write a step-by-step detailed guide that will help you dive right into it and start your own podcast today. The guide is completely free, however it is over 7,000 words long so get comfortable and check it out.
Blue Yeti microphone – this is a very popular studio quality USB microphone and I am using it for my podcast. I’ve decided on this mic mostly because I didn’t want to buy a mixer and figure out the rest of the set-up needed for an XLR mic. Blue Yeti is a simple plug and play USB microphone. It comes with a headphone hack, adjustable gain level and a few other options. So far I love the microphone. If you’ll be getting it on Amazon make sure to also order a pop filter – incredibly wise $6 investment.
Price: $80 – $139 on Amazon
Libsyn – podcast hosting. Yes, you should use a podcast specific hosting, also referred to as media hosting. Pretty much every hosting provider will put a limit on your bandwidth, although they all promise it’s unlimited. Regular website hosting providers will also struggle if all of the sudden your website gets several thousands of users at the same time. Media hosting is created to deal with that exact issue. Real unlimited bandwidth for a low price.
Note: I recently became a Libsyn affiliate which allowed me to get a special discount for you! Use promo code “ALEX” at the checkout and you will get 1 full month of podcast hosting completely free. This means you will get the remainder of the current month as well as the next full month completely free of charge! Enjoy 😉
Price: $5/month. Personally I am on a $15/m plan.
Smart Podcast Player – this player is actually a WordPress plugin, created by Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com Although I could have used the free player that comes with Blubrry plugin, I opted for this premium podcast player. It simply looks great, it’s customizable, I can add show notes right inside the player and it comes in 2 forms: simple player or a full player. You can see the full player on my podcast page and you can see the simple player on any episode post on my site. I am no an affiliate for this player but I love it so much that I must recommend it !
Audacity – this is an audio editing and recording software. Just like any other software it takes some getting used to but once you figure it our you will love the tool. I use it to record and edit my episode as well as to produce the final version (with intro music, voice overs and everything else). Audacity is available for Windows and Mac. Best part? It’s completely free.
Pamela for Skype – this is a Skype plugin that lets you record Skype calls. I use it to record interviews with my guests. So far Pamela has been doing a great job although it took me a few hours to figure out how to set it up correctly and adjust volume levels. As far as I know there is NO free Skype recording software and Pamela comes at a reasonable price.