Bootstrap Your Small Business
Bare bones essentials for a beautiful online presence
I continually hone it down, make every dollar I spent on my business work for me. I don’t want to spend time or money with apps or software unless they work really hard so I don’t have to. Here is my list of free and low-cost technology and marketing resources to help your business be productive and profitable.
For less than $100 a month you can have everything you need to market your business and plan your social media.
WordPress.org Website – $20
WordPress and Squarespace are the current top contenders for website creation. They both offer similar pricing for the necessary software to host a website and online shop. Squarespace boasts easily configurable sites made for everyone. Self-hosted WordPress sites are extremely customizable and are widely used across the web. I have worked on both and have to say I am still partial to WordPress because of the huge variety of themes available and the fact that they can be changed and tweaked easily to suit a specific need. Both types have a learning curve. I have not found one to be easier than the other.
Either way, a website is absolutely the best $20 you will spend on anything this month. Don’t rely on your Facebook page to represent your company. You need complete control of your online presence.
Learn WordPress in 90 minutes.
Dropbox – Free or $9.99 for plus
Dropbox is absolutely essential for keeping files, images, and text safe and backed up in the cloud. Perfect for sharing files with others as well. I have the plus plan which comes with 1TB of space. (Recent experience has informed me that I need my important files secured in two places off of my computer. Ideally, one would be an external hard drive and the other would be in the cloud. Dropbox syncs across all platforms on any device.) For most of us, the free version is enough. Photographers could make good use of the plus plan. Find a free tutorial here on how to use Dropbox.
Canva – Free or $12.95 ($10 for the annual plan)
You can’t beat Canva for creating beautiful graphics for just about any purpose. I use it almost every day. I have opted in to the monthly Canva for Work plan because it keeps my branding colors handy and instantly resizes graphics for all social media platforms. Upload your own images or grab one of theirs. They even have a Canva design school with free access. I used to struggle like crazy making graphics in Photoshop, now it’s a breeze.
Ulysses – $5
You can’t beat this small but powerful app for text. Create folders and text files right within the app. Copy and paste words from the web in any font or size and the app transforms it instantly to plain text. This is super important for blog posts and newsletters as importing text from a variety of places can be tricky business. Plain text prevents difficulties with formatting and revisions. I plan all my words here first; website content, blog posts, newsletter content; it then stays ready in its particular folder where I can find those words again for another purpose. Worth the 5 bucks for sure.
Adobe Photography Plan/ Lightroom CC and Photoshop – $9.99
Imagery is everything. Whatever your artistic endeavor you need a huge amount of imagery for your brand. Whether you are using a phone camera or DSLR the best way to edit your pics is with Lightroom. Worth the monthly investment for sure. And you get Photoshop to boot! I like the Lightroom Classic version that lives on your laptop or desktop. It offers complete professional editing software that can’t be beat.
Learn Lightroom in One Hour
UNUM – Free or $5
Instagram is definitely my favorite social media hangout. The feed is more curated than Facebook and has so many inspiring artists to follow. Instagram is also a great place to have an up to the minute portfolio of your work. I love UNUM for planning and editing my Instagram posts. You get a planning grid with 15 spots for free, 30 for $5 a month. Here’s a tutorial showing how I plan my posts a month in advance with the UNUM app. Takes the stress out of daily posting.
Tailwind – $15 ($10 for the annual plan)
Scheduling app for Pinterest. It took me a while to get on board with Tailwind. Honestly, I didn’t want to add another monthly fee to my list of expenses. But I just kept hearing so much about it so I gave it a go. I am hugely impressed! They have awesome tutorials that are easy to follow. In two hours I ran through all the tutorials and set up over 100 Pinterest pins that are scheduled out over a couple of weeks. Pinterest is not a social media site but a huge search engine and fabulous for getting traffic to your website. A great tool for getting your work out there in the world.
Teachable – Free or $39
Teachable is the platform I use to host all my online classes. It is easy to learn and use as an online teaching platform. The paid version gives you the option for a dot com, coupons, and a few other goodies. Beautiful sales pages come with any plan. Get started with the free version to try it out.
And on the subject of online classes, if you are going to create classes with screen share videos or slide presentations, I highly recommend Screenflow. I was completely frustrated with the entire process until I purchased this software. Made for Mac, it will help you create beautifully presented videos with great sound.
For regularly updated app and software suggestions see Essential Resources for your WordPress Website.