I get it. You don't know what you don't know, right? And there's so much advice and information out there that you just feel overwhelmed and confused.
Relax! I've created this no-nonsense resource list for you so you don't have to spend hours, even days doing your own research. My work requires me to find the best tools for my clients to suit their needs. And I'm passing this knowledge onto you.
Why spend precious time figuring things out for yourself when I've already done it for you?
Domains & Web Hosting
I have worked with many hosting companies (both for myself and for my clients) and SiteGround remains my top favourite. SiteGround is fast, secure and in my experience, has the best customer support ever. Their tech support is staffed by people who actually understand what they're talking about, rather than just reading from a script. I've never failed to have a technical question answered quickly and efficiently.
A2 Hosting is fast becoming my favourite web hosting company. Super fast and efficient customer and tech support, again staffed by very knowledgeable people. Cheaper than SiteGround too. They'll migrate your website from your old hosting company for free, saving you the headache of doing it yourself.
IONOS has 30 years of experience in web hosting and offer transparent quotes and risk-free contracts. Apart from having great features offered in the packages with them, you'll find cheap hosting for as little as $50 in the first year. They offer a fast, secure and scalable hosting service, as well as wildcard SSL certificate in all their plans. With an uptime of 99.9% and award-winning customer support, you can count on IONOS when your needs change or your traffic peaks.
HostGator offers variety of hosting plans that fit all budgets and requirements. What I like about HostGator is that every HostGator account is fully guaranteed by the CEO, Adam Farrar. If you ever have a problem with the regular support, then you can ask your ticket to be assigned to Adam. He will actually respond personally to each ticket assigned to him. How cool?
GoDaddy is on my NO NO list. In my experience with them (working on my clients' behalf), they are always trying to upsell you things that are included as standard in most other hosting companies. What's more, whenever a client's website has server resources issues, it's usually GoDaddy. I've had one client whose website I couldn't back up due to lack of server resources! Another client got a bogus malware report from them and GoDaddy very kindly offered to remove said malware for hundreds of dollars. They are also the only hosting company that telephones me on a regular basis to try and sell me stuff, despite my asking them to take me off their list. Not at all impressed. OK, I'll stop here. I think you can tell I'm not a fan. Just Google "avoid GoDaddy" and see for yourself.
As your business and website grows, you may want to consider managed WordPress hosting from WP Engine or Flywheel. (Managed WordPress hosting is where all technical aspects of running WordPress is managed by the host. This includes security, speed, WordPress updates, daily backups, website uptime, and scalability.)
Website & Blogging
WordPress started as a blogging tool, but it has evolved throughout the years into a powerful website builder and a robust content management system (CMS).
WordPress powers over 30% of all websites on the internet. It's versatile and flexible enough to make all different sorts of websites.
It's free to use and there are many free themes you can use to build your first website. As your business grows, you may want to check out paid premium themes.
Google loves fast sites for a better user experience. And your visitors do too! If your website is slow, not only does it can significantly impact your SEO, you're going to lose customers.
Speedy.Site is a website optimisation service that guarantees to make your site faster or receive a full refund. I've personally used Speedy.Site to improve my Google PageSpeed Insights performance score from below 50 to over 90! The Speedy.Site team was mega efficient and helpful from start to finish. You don't even have to do anything. Just sit back and let them do their magic. If you're suffering a slow-loading site, you need to use Speedy.Site.
You can get a $50 discount using my special discount code TSUN50.
Good internal links are crucial to your search engine optimisation (SEO). An internal link is any link from one page to another page on your website. Internal links point your users to interesting and related content. And they allow search engines to find out what content on your site is related and to determine the value of that content.
Link Whisper is a superb WordPress plugin that will speed up the process of adding internal links to your website and help you rank better on the Google search engine. This plugin will save you endless hours trying to add internal links to your posts and pages.
MailChimp [NOT recommended]
I used to recommend MailChimp to people who are just starting out as it was a good option for them to get started with. However, I no longer recommend it to anybody. Over the past few years, MailChimp has become so clunky and unwieldy to use. Plus, while most other email marketing platforms do not charge for duplicate email address, MailChimp does. What this means is that if you have the same subscriber in multiple lists, that email address is counted multiple times towards your contact limit.
If you're starting out, there are much better alternatives out there.
MailerLite is one of the fastest-growing email marketing services out there. No matter what level of experience you have with email, you'll be able to create professional campaigns, landing pages, pop-ups, automated workflows and more. I like that their features are easy to use yet they are just as advanced as other email tools. If you need help setting it up, you can browse through their help resources or get a quick response from their 24/7 live support. Their Facebook community is also a huge bonus when you need support.
You can sign up for a free account with MailerLite that will allow you to send up to 12000 emails to up to 1000 subscribers per month. As your business grows past those limits, you'll have to upgrade to a paid account but the free account should keep you going for a while.
ActiveCampaign / ConvertKit
As your email list grows and you want more flexibility and capability with your email marketing provider, you may want to switch to Active Campaign or ConvertKit. Both are designed to handle complex email automations and offer features like data driven segmentation, split testing, personalisation and more.
If you require a blend of email automation software with a sales and CRM system, get ActiveCampaign. If you don't need your email software to sync with a CRM or other sales tools, get Convertkit.
You can create invoices with PayPal easily and free of charge. You can also create PayPal buttons to put on your website. PayPal will take a small cut from the payments you receive but hey, they run a business too 🙂
Stripe will allow you to take online payments or create some basic subscription billing options, but it's really built for larger companies and developers. If you want a simple solution just to get up and running and don't want to hire a developer to help you, then PayPal is probably a better option for you.
SamCart is a web-based check-out platform that features conversion-optimised checkout templates along with 1-click upsell, order bump, subscription and payment plan capabilities that are designed to maximise profits from every sale.
SocialBee is one of the best social media management tools I've tried and it's what I use now. Schedule your posts with categories in mind, to get the best content mix across all your social profiles, just like the best social media marketers do. You can also repost (recycle) your top evergreen content to save even more time.
The best thing? They offer a free 14-days trial, with no credit card required.
Tailwind is a Pinterest and Instagram scheduler. With Tailwind you can post at the best times for engagement, grow together with Tribes, and get more actionable analytics so you can see which of your pins are performing well. You can just spend a few hours a week setting up all your pins and forget about it until next week. Tailwind is approved by Pinterest, so you can be sure it will play nicely with the platform.
RecurPost allows you to manage all of your social media from one dashboard. It supports content gathering, multiple accounts and custom scheduling. RecurPost automatically shares your updates at a perfect frequency thereby saving you hours every week.
Buffer has a simple-to-use interface and supports scheduling and analytics and RSS feeds.
The simple analytics makes it easy to see which social messages are performing best - you can then easily re-Buffer any messages with the click of a button.
HootSuite allows you to monitor multiple streams at the same time. For example, with Twitter you can monitor: mentions, lists, hashtags, keywords, home feed etc. You can reply to comments and respond to mentions within Hootsuite. The publisher menu tab allows you to see your scheduled updates on a calendar.
Design Tools & Graphics
Canva is a great design tool! I've been a pro PhotoShop user for years but I'm using Canva 90% of the time now because it's so easy to use. Whatever you want to design - social media graphics, website images, presentations, posters, documents and other visual content - you'll find plenty of attractive templates to use as a starting point. Premium features are only available in the Pro account, but the free designs and templates will keep you going for a while.
More focused on designs for small businesses and stores, EDIT.org has free templates for different business niches: restaurants, sports clubs, online businesses, startups, schools, etc.
All these designs can be fully customised with other images, text, colours, graphic elements and your own logo. Creating a profile and editing a template just takes a few minutes and the results are spectacular and professional.
Creative Market is a world of design at your fingertips. Find the perfect template, pair it with a striking image, and overlay it with a beautiful font. Creative Market is home to millions of design resources that work great together.
Google Fonts is a large library of free fonts that you can use on your website, as well as download to use on your own computer. The website allows you to filter results by font style, languages, popularity, and weight.
Landing Pages and Funnels
I can't recommend LeadPages enough. It's what I use to create landing pages for myself and my clients. The new drag and drop design interface makes it easy to create any design. They also have many ready-made templates you can use as a starting point for your own design.
There are many free landing pages plugins out there for WordPress but in my experience it's very difficult to create a high impact landing page that grabs attention and converts well with these free options.
ClickFunnels is a landing page and sales page designer that comes with tons of templates. Their funnel templates have been tested and proven to work. All you have to do is tweak and edit. It's pretty much plug and play.
ClickFunnels also handles all the billing for you. Link a Stripe account to it and you can take payments directly from inside your sales pages.
ClickFunnels is not cheap but it's definitely worth the investment once your business starts to grow and expand.