Disclaimer: I may be an affiliate for some of these companies. All that means is that I receive a small commission whenever someone makes a purchase using my code or link. Most of the time my code will actually have a special discount associated to help save you money!
Need a free and easy to maintain time tracker? I've been using Toggl for years as it's so easy to track and share time so it makes it easy to bill for projects (or give yourself a time audit).
If you need to transfer large files without having to jam you or your client's inbox, WeTransfer is the answer! All you have to do is simply add the recipient's email, your email, attach the file, click send - and you're good to go! It will even alert you when the recipient has downloaded the file. Zip file that baby and send it off! No account required to use.
If you are running a business, you need to keep track of every dollar that comes in and out of your business. I know Quickbooks isn't very sexy but it's the universal software amongst accountants, so this makes it easier to find an accountant and/or bookkeeper to help manage your finances.
I'll admit, I was one of those people that had a secret page of different logins for a long time. I totally regret not getting a password management tool in place earlier! It will not only save you time trying to locate usernames and passwords, but it also helps make it easier if you need to share a login with someone else.
Asana is a project management system that offers a free base account. Asana has helped me keep track of both client projects and my own business goals so that nothing gets forgotten.
Formerly known as GSuite, this online software includes a membership into 20+ Google offerings and productivity tools to help run your business. It includes GMail for email, Drive to offer cloud storage support, Analytics, Docs, Sheets, Slides... I could go on! It is definitely worth the money, hands down.
This iPad design app ($10) can't replace Adobe Illustrator but it sure offers a ton of awesome capabilities! I love using this tool if I want to do something more hand drawn and have it be digitized. You can export artwork as jpegs, pngs, PDFs.. it's pretty amazing.
Canva is an online design program that offers an easier way for anyone to create something graphic without having to hire a designer. Canva can't do everything (ex. completely custom logo) but it does allow for you to set-up your brand profile, access hundreds of free or very affordable designs to customize, and even sell your designs to make a little extra passive income.
Not to age myself but I've been a user of the Adobe Creative Suite since 2005. They have since switched to be "Adobe Creative Cloud" as the software is all available online. Although the subscription is $50/mo., you can have access to Illustrator (vector), Photoshop (photography), InDesign (documents), Premiere (video), and more. If you're thinking about getting into graphic design, the Adobe Creative Cloud is pretty much an industry standard.
Paper Source is usually my go-to place when I need some envelopes for invitations or other paper products. If you have a business and are looking for that extra branding edge amongst your marketing materials, perhaps consider purchasing some paper in your branding color. They have fun gift ideas too!
For me, Creative Market is like a blend of DesignCuts and Etsy. There is a larger market of design offerings, but it doesn't feel as well curated as Design Cuts. As a designer and/or creative, this is a great site to either purchase designs for your project or create your own store to sell your own designs. Creative Market will also give away designs on occasion to their email list.
I shop on this website often when I'm looking for a new font for a project, pre-created imagery or even for just some inspiration. Design Cuts has these amazing, affordable bundle deals they offer from time to time to get some amazing discounts on their products. If you belong to their email list, you will learn of any temporary freebies that they are offering, including free fonts, filters, graphics, and design classes.
Design Resource Shops
For those of you who are looking for something a bit more substantial when it comes to paper, look no further! THikit has an amazing selection of thick paper stock and also offers fun details like hand painted edging for that extra pop in design. They also offer free shipping and printing with white ink!
If I have a custom print project that needs some extra TLC, I head over to Mingo. This Tulsa, Oklahoma, printer has reasonable prices, super responsive and helpful staff, and my orders are always completed with peace of mind on my end.
If I have a "low budget" print project (postcards, general business cards, flyers, etc.), I head on over to GotPrint.com. I find that their interface is easy to use and I like that I can find their templates quickly. Also as a designer, they have a broker program so I can get access to wholesale pricing along with free blind drop shipping. In particular, I love their 16pt matte business card option- it is very popular amongst many of my clients!
Online Print Shops
If your business is a retail store or has a lot of products to sell, Shopify is going to be the platform you want to use. It's very existence is to provide strong e-commerce functionality and has many integrations with other software to make online selling a breeze. Looking to sell a few products? You can embed Shopify Lite into your website to have the ecommerce capability with your current website (works great for digital downloads).
Note: if you already have a great Wordpress website, you can add WooCommerce to add a shop functionality to your website.
Showit continues to impress me on it's ability to pair design and website development so nicely together. It's almost like using Adobe Illustrator to create your website. There is a slight learning curve to understand how the platform works, but overall, it is much easier to customize and launch yourself. (This website is built on the Showit platform!) You can also integrate a WordPress blog to your website so you can get the best of both worlds. They also have great customer service. Very impressed!
Showit is great for photographers, designers, coaches, podcasters, event coordinators, etc.
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WordPress continues to be the lead in websites due to its open source platform and content management system. There are so many different themes and plugins as well as the opportunity to do your own custom coding that the sky is the limit! On the other hand, WordPress isn't easy for the novice user and one will often need a designer or developer to help get your site launched.
Note: I recommend adding WordPress to your hosting account and not sign-up directly with WordPress through its website. I recommend WPEngine as a hosting provider and Google Domains for your domain.
If you choose to go with Wordpress, I strongly recommend using the Wordpress Theme Divi by Elegant Themes. It has a drag and drop editor and has greatly improved design capabilities without having to hard code. I've designed several sites using Divi. There's also a big following with Divi so there are plenty of other designers and developers that have tutorials to help you. I've also heard good things about Elementor, a similar Wordpress plugin.
A Wordpress "theme" is a template for your website.
I was a long-time GoDaddy user until I tried out WPEngine. Sure, it might seem a little more expensive but knowing that they already include the SSL certificate, it is TOTALLY WORTH the extra money to have peace of mind when it comes to your website hosting. (Have you ever had your website go down and had no idea what to do? #theworst.) They have a "staging" area where you can easily work on updates to your website, test, and deploy with only one-click. They also have great customer service as you can literally ask them for help in the chat box.
Get an extra 10% off here!
"Hosting" refers to where your website is stored.
I honestly, truly love Google. I transferred my domain over to Google Domains a couple years ago as I felt it was just easier to have my domain, email, and other Google products all under one roof. It's pretty much just one-click to add on the Google Suite and create a business Gmail email when you have your domain registered with Google. They also include domain privacy and their domains are reasonable at $12/year.
A website "domain" refers to url that is associated to your website
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