Running an online business can be effin’ HARD sometimes. Not to mention hair-rippingly frustrating. So when cool tools come along to make your day just a little bit smoother, you can bet I’m going to jump on them. Today, I decided to compile a list of a few pleasurable resources that I have collected over the years that have made creating and running my online business oh so much easier. Every time I have mentioned any one of these resources to friends, I am amazed that they have never heard of them! So, I have put them together for you here.
I was surprised to find out that a lot of people don’t now about PayPal Credit, even when they use PayPal as their means of collecting payments from customers. I know about it as a customer because PayPal made sure I knew about it, and I use it ALL THE TIME. And DAYUM… I love it! It is my default payment method every time I use PayPal to buy something, even if it’s only for twenty bucks. And I don’t even use it as a means of credit in the traditional sense, I use it as a money management tool, as a consumer.
Why I think it is a great tool for an online business owner, however, is because of the blissful six-months same as cash offer they give your customers as a default, for any purchases over $99. This happens automatically. Any time a customer buys something for over $99 on a PayPal payment website, it automatically goes on their PayPal credit line and they get six months without interest to pay for it. Fabulous! So if you have any products over $99 on your site, and you use PayPal as your preferred payment method, I would advise you to use their banners on your site to show how they can enjoy this six months of interest free time to pay the bill (subject to credit approval, which really isn’t hard to get). As the seller, you get your money up front from PayPal, but as your customers, they get all that delicious time to pay (if they so choose). Of course, they can always pay it up front, but how nice to have that wiggle room! I love it. As a consumer, I will even spend more with a company if they offer it, just to meet the $99 requirement. Hell-o. Food for thought, folks.
2. Themeforest.net/Elegant Themes for WordPress Sites
Okay this first one I go back and forth on, since as a site developer, I use Themeforest all the time to look for amazing themes for my WordPress sites. However, I did have a non-developer friend go through it, and she found it somewhat difficult to look through since their categorization method for themes is not the greatest. Poop. I guess have vision blindness now on this problem with searching since I’m on there so often, but don’t let that stop you from taking a gander at the presents that await you there. It is an AWESOME repository for gorgeous themes for WordPress. If you are willing to spend some time there looking through the different themes, even in their not-so-great manner of searching, you will find some beautiful themes for a WordPress site that can make your site look spectacular. In a coming post, I am going to create a list of my favorite themes for non-techies that you can get through Themeforest, but for now, I still think it’s worth a spot on this list. It just has so much great stuff, far better than anything you can get for free elsewhere. But you do have to search.
On the other hand, for a newbie, Elegant Themes does a great job of providing lovely themes and a very easy search layout. They actually show a screenshot of the homepage design for a particular theme, then offer a demo after a couple of clicks. So if you’re very new to looking for themes for a WordPress driven website, this is a very nice place to start for (duh) elegant themes that are very easy for a non-developer to administer.
One word of caution – you might be attracted to free themes, because they are, well, free. The problem with free themes is, you get no support when things go wrong, and often they do not have continued upgrades as time progresses. This can be a problem pretty quickly, as we all know technology moves at the speed of a light saber. And, I would hope that if you have an online business that is your platform to freedom, you might be willing to invest a few pennies in it to make sure you’ve got a solid thing going. It’s your choice.
Just remember, you get what you pay for.
At some point in your development of a site, or even if you need to freshen up your site, you’re going to need imagery. Sites are incredibly boring without it. And if you’ve ever done a search for website images, the top three sites you generally end up on are istockphoto.com, gettyimages.com or shutterstock.com. And all these sites are wonderful, but their pictures are EXPENSIVE. Ke-rist! And, everyone uses them, so as a frequent flier of the internet highway, I see a lot of the same images used on different sites. Yawn. I used to use these repositories a lot (before I started on the cartoon thang), and I still use them pretty regularly for client sites (except I’m not paying for the pictures on those!). But if you’re building your own site, I have to recommend Photodune.net. Their pictures are equally as beautiful, easy to find using a search term, and most photo sizes that you would use on a website are $1-2. The $5 ones are giant and you wouldn’t use those very often. But $2!! How fabulous is that?! Most photos on istock aren’t any better and they’re $20 or more. So check out Photodune.net. I think you’ll enjoy it.
So now that you have the fabulous images from Photodune, you’re going to need a way to edit them so they’ll fit on your site and look the way you want them to. Most people think of Photoshop when they think of image editing software, but you don’t need to invest in that unless you do a lot of detailed graphic and photo editing work. The average Joe just needs a simple editing tool to resize, crop, maybe add some text on or whatever, their images. A perfect solution for this is Pixlr.com. It’s a free online editing software that has a huge selection of tools that will edit your images up just right. And, again, it’s free! If you’ve never used an image editor before, then there will be a bit of a learning curve, but it is worth it to be able to use this delightful tool. Take advantage of it!
Now Canva is a lovely little free website that produces beautiful graphic designs with barely any work on your part. I am not a graphic designer (although I know some fabulous ones!), so I often need help in this area because basically, I suck at it. Enter, Canva.com. You can go there (you sign up for a free account) and look at all their design templates (mainly with print in mind, but you can use all those print designs in electronic resources such as ebooks, pdf documents, Word documents, ecards, infographics, slideshows, social media graphics, all kinds of things) and make some wonderful designs for all your marketing materials. Free! Hallelujah! Again, like anything else, there is a bit of a learning curve, but once you familiarize yourself with how to edit the templates, you’ll be well on your way to creating some beautiful materials. OMG I just get so excited thinking of all the cool stuff you can make for your business, and you don’t have to know ANYTHING about design! Thank you, Universe. And, of course, Canva.com. 😉
This one is more for your own peace of mind and ability to create accurate billing for your business (if you operate by the hour, or just want to know how much time you’re spending on different activities), but it is worth a mention. Harvest and Toggl are online time tracking systems, and I LOVE THEM. I actually use Harvest, as it is available to me through someone else, but if I didn’t have Harvest I would use Toggl.com because it’s free and does an equally good job. Harvest has a free option but it’s limited to only four clients and two projects, and that pretty much wouldn’t work for anyone who has a business. The next option up is $12 a month (totally worth it). I use it every day to track my billable time, to keep client, project and budget data all in one place, and to run reports on all of those things. Harvest includes a running widget that clocks how much time you have/are spending on a particular task, and it shows up right in the top bar of your computer screen so you always know at a glance how much time you’ve spent doing something. Toggl doesn’t have that option as it runs straight from their website, but as long as it’s up and running in your browser you can flip over there to see how much time you’ve been working.
I love being able, easily and without any work at all, to track my time on any client or project work down to the minute. Billing is a snap. So if you’re having trouble watching your clock or truly knowing how much time you’re spending on any task or project (and you work on a computer most of the time), either one of these tools will help you tremendously. Have a look at both of them and see if one would work for you.
These are just six simple resources, most of which are free, that can help your online business in exponential ways, if you just give yourself a chance to familiarize yourself with them. Each and every one of them have made my online life so much easier and more fun to operate, and I hope you experience the same.