Quite frequently, someone asks me, “Brian, what do you recommend I use for ________?”
Behold, (most of) those things that I recommend appear below, in one place for your review.
There is something here for everyone including productivity tools, web hosts, social media tools, online backup options, accounting programs, etc., that I have personally used to build my own business and keep my personal life on the straight and narrow.
Also, a few of these below are affiliate links. That means that if you decide to purchase a product or service by going through my link, my kids might get an ice cream this week.
I scan and save important documents and interesting things I find browsing the web so that I can refer to them later.
This is a “checklist on steroids.” I have used it on and off over the past few years, but lately, I have been “all in.”
I share links on social media, in emails and when writing reports dozens of times daily. Bitly helps me shorten those long, ugly links. I also have a cool branded link for my business if that is interesting for you.
It’s a pain going back and forth to try to schedule appointments, interviews and calls. Calendly syncs with my Google Calendar and makes sure that I am not overbooking myself.
Most products I use are cross-platform (meaning they can be used on any device), but TextExpander is for Macs only (I am sure there is a PC equivalent out there). TextExpander saves you time by turning keyboard “shortcuts” into frequently used text.
This helps me automate tasks between web apps. So if I get an inquiry on my website, it “auto magically” creates a task in Todoist. Or if I put a new client into QuickBooks, Zapier automatically adds their contact details into my client newsletter in MailChimp. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Ever since I started my own business more than seven years ago, I have told anyone who would listen to get Google Apps for Work. It’s a powerful collaboration tool with corporate-level security, and it’s incredibly easy to use.
This is one of the easiest email marketing platforms to use to market your content to your email list.
Social Media and Content Marketing
A browser add-on for Gmail that turns Gmail’s otherwise bland, ad-filled sidebar into something that’s actually useful. Rapportive shows information about the sender of the email, such as their picture, links to social profiles, recent tweets, etc.
With Buffer, you can schedule, publish and analyze all your social media posts in one place.
I use Canva to create images for social media, blog posts and just about anything else. It can instantly turn you into an amateur graphic designer.
Add your favorite blogs and websites to start filling up your feed with content that rocks.
Easily track site traffic and visitor behavior to see how your content is performing.
Dropbox has become synonymous with online file sharing, and for a good reason.
I back up all my business files to the cloud. There are a number of platforms that can do this, but SugarSync has been our platform of choice for the past several years.
For all of my non-business-related file backups, I use CrashPlan. It’s simple to use and you can just set it and forget about it.
They make incredibly high-quality, super-official business cards that are surprisingly affordable.
We switched from QuickBooks to QuickBooks Online about four years ago, and have not looked back. It’s become better and better every year.
QuickBooks is great at a lot of things, but time tracking and invoicing are not on that list. Harvest has been our platform of choice for time tracking, project tracking and invoicing for the past few years.
I use Google Apps for Work and Google Docs to collaborate with other investigators on documents. It’s the best collaborator that I have worked with for things like word processing documents and spreadsheets.
Even though I am huge fan of Google Docs, I still use Microsoft Office to write reports. In part, because Google Docs does not have all of the advanced formatting options that Microsoft Word does.
With access to hundreds of databases and websites, it’s not easy keeping track of passwords. But LastPass stores difficult-to-crack, encrypted passwords in the cloud that can be used on multiple platforms.
I am a huge proponent of two-factor authentication, which protects your accounts with a second form of authentication by adding an extra layer of security to your account. Google Authenticator protects your account with both your password and your phone, by providing a “secret” code so that nobody can get in.
A VPN secures your computer’s internet connection to guarantee that all of the data you’re sending and receiving is encrypted and secured from prying eyes. I have been using StrongVPN for several years without a glitch, primarily because it allows me to have a static IP, but there are a number of great services out there.
Website Hosting / WordPress Theme
I used a number of different web hosts for the first few years until I came across Synthesis. It’s probably not the cheapest service out there, but it’s reliable and fast, and the support is great.
If you like the way this website looks, then you need to have a WordPress site from StudioPress. These are the best WordPress themes out there.
I can write like the wind, but I am no grammarian. I leave that up to ProofreadNOW.com. For a nominal fee, they will have professional proofreaders make sure that every blog post I write has every “t” crossed and every “i” dotted.