At the beginning of a new year I make time to set new goals and to outline my big plans for the year ahead. I also like to take stock of what tools and resources I have and use in my small business.
As I was working through the resource list I used the past year, I was amazed to see that I ended up with more than 70 items on my list. (And this didn’t even contain my wishlist of new tools that I want to add to my arsenal!)
Yeah. That’s a lot.
Do I use them all daily? Of course not.
But for certain tasks, or at certain times during the week or month I keep going back to these tools. Because they help me
- streamline my work,
- organize my documents,
- collaborate with clients and partners,
- grow my business and email list,
- market my services – among others.
Creating an ultimate list of all the resources and tools I use in my web design business also helps to spot where I may have duplicates. There’s always room to simplify and optimize.
When I look at my big resource list, I use questions like these to evaluate them:
- Can I do this with the help of another tool that I also have on my list?
- If yes, which one do I like to use myself?
- If it’s a collaboration tool – which one did my clients/partners prefer to use when working with me?
- Is it a free tool or a premium tool?
- Does it make sense to upgrade my free plan to a paid plan?
- If the answer is yes, I keep an eye on that product to see when they run a promotion and aim to upgrade then.
- Do I use all or enough functionalities and features of a premium tool? Is it worth to keep my subscription?
- If yes, I keep the tool.
- If not, I check if I can downgrade my plan or even revert back to the free version completely.
- Or I may cancel my subscription completely.
As I did this yearly small business housekeeping I found that there are a couple of tools, that are my most frequently, almost daily used go-to resources.
Disclaimer: This blog post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase via my referral link I may get a small commission.
My Top 10 favourite business tools and resources I use in my web design business
- Google Analytics
- Facebook & Instagram
- Adobe Creative Cloud (Photoshop, Illustrator, Spark, InDesign)
- TinyPNG & TinyJPG
- MOYO Studio & KaboomPics
- Dropbox & Dropbox Paper
- Hemingway Editor
My number one website tool: Elementor
Elementor is a WordPress page builder. My website is built on self-hosted WordPress and instead of purchasing a WordPress theme I used Elementor to build it up from scratch. It helped me build a custom-made website and I can control every aspect of my web design.
Elementor is free to install and works with almost any WordPress theme and plugin. It also has paid upgrades, and the professional plans include
- widgets & templates,
- Theme builder and popup builder functionalities, and
- WooCommerce builder – if you have an online store.
I’m on a paid Elementor plan and can highly recommend this to anyone who wants to custom build their own website. As the pro plan comes with a full theme builder functionality, I put it to the test when I ran my first Giveaway last year. I designed all of the landing pages of the Giveaway with Elementor.
Tip: During Black Friday and Cyber Monday you usually can get a nice discount on Elementor’s paid packages.
My go-to website and business analytics tool: Google Analytics
Whether you have a small business website or a personal blog, if you don’t install Google Analytics, you’re missing out. It’s completely free so even having a tight budget can’t be an excuse.
Google Analytics helps you get a deeper understanding of your customers and website visitors:
- Which social platform sends the most visitors?
- During what time of the day do they visit your website?
- What web pages do they visit?
- How many pages do they visit during one session?
- What buttons do they click on and which ones get neglected?
- What is your most read – least read blog post?
Knowing the answers to these questions is essential to optimize your website and business for the greatest return of investment. You’ve built your small business website to make profit, haven’t you?
The best free SEO analytics tool: Ubersuggest
Have you heard of Neil Patel? He’s a digital marketer and an SEO expert. Sharing tons of useful information on his blog, Youtube and social media channels.
And he has this uber-cool tool called Ubersuggest – which is completely free by the way – to help you:
- analyze your website’s SEO performance,
- do competitor research,
- write content people actually look for and want to read.
If your business goals for 2020 include to up your website and content marketing game, then you have to start using Ubersuggest. I mean it!
My favourite email marketing tool: Flodesk
Flodesk is a new player on the email marketing service provider market.
They’re still in private beta launch. And don’t have that many bells and whistles released yet that you can find with MailerLite or ConvertKit. But thanks to their stunning templates anyone can design emails within a few minutes. And these are gorgeous emails people actually love to get in their inbox.
How gorgeous? Jenna Kutcher kinda gorgeous. See for yourself!
Flodesk has a single subscription plan at a flat rate of $38. This gives you unlimited everything and access to all available features. including subscribers. No matter how big your email list grows, the price stays the same. And right now, coupon code ARRADESIGNSTUDIO will give you 50% off, making it only $19/month. As long as you keep your subscription.
Are you on the fence whether to take it to a test ride? Check out my growing collection of Flodesk related articles. It gives you an overview of what you can do in Flodesk and how you can do it.
There are plenty of social media platforms out there. In an ideal world you would sign up to all and share your content, advertise your business everywhere. The more people hear and know about you, the higher the chances that they will visit your business and buy from you.
But I don’t live in an ideal world and need to make the best out of this one.
I regularly checked in Google Analytics where my website visitors come from. And among the social media channels I used for marketing, Facebook and Instagram were the top 2 referrals, generating
- page views.
So one of my business decisions for 2020 was to focus mainly on these two, and maximize the results and ROI. As a first step I’ve created my Facebook Group: Smarten Up Your Website – with ARRA design studio.
This group is for small business owners, entrepreneurs helping each other build SMART websites, and providing feedback, advice, and support on all things related to small business life:
- website design,
- website optimization,
- email marketing,
- content management and
- work-life balance.
If it’s something you’d be interested in, come and join us. Looking forward to meeting you next time in the Smarten Up Your Website – with ARRA design studio Facebook Group!
My favourite design tools: Adobe Creative Cloud apps (Photoshop, Illustrator, Spark, InDesign)
No surprise here that the Adobe Creative Suite made it to my most frequently used tools and resources list. As I run a web design studio using industry leading standard tools is a must.
As I have an Adobe Creative Cloud membership, I have access to all their desktop tools and mobile apps. This way wherever I go and whatever device I have with me, I can continue my work and share it easily.
- I use Photoshop for all things photo editing and image customization
- for social media, blog posts, landing pages.
- Illustrator comes in handy when I need custom graphics. Either for my own content or as a client project need, like logo design or illustrations.
- When I’m working on lead magnets for growing my email list, if it’s a checklist, workbook, e-book or similar product, it’s InDesign where I do my magic.
- And to spice up my social media graphics a good solution is Adobe Spark. It’s an online and mobile design app helping you create stunning social graphics, short videos, and web pages.
Tip: The best time to sign up for Adobe CC is around Black Friday and Cyber Monday as they always run a promotion for new joiners.
My dearest resources of stock photos: MOYO Studio & KaboomPics
When it comes to content creation you need two things:
- words, and
Many small business owners start out using free stock photo libraries for their various marketing needs. I wasn’t an exception either. I still love to browse through the KaboomPics site. They offers a wide range of topics and lovely photoshoot collections. If you pick a picture they even give you a matching colour palette. This comes in handy e.g. when you want to customize the image for your needs.
My favourite paid stock photo site is MOYO studio. You can browse their shop if you’re looking for a few individual images to spice up your own photo collection.
Even if you only buy 2-3 images, you can end up with more than 30 variations if you follow the simple customization tips I shared in my blog post: Simple Ways How To Make The Best Use Of Stock Photos.
And when you start maximizing what you can get out of one stock photo, be it a
- blog post featured image,
- social media post,
- email newsletter header,
- pin-worthy image,
- sales page graphic,
you’ll realize that even a quarterly membership plan at MOYO studio is a gold mine. Because you get an all access pass to their ever expanding library of photo mockups and digital design goods. With unlimited downloads. And with the membership, you are free to use the images as you wish even after your membership has expired, should you want to cancel it.
But you may get so much value out of your quarterly membership that you will switch over to the yearly stock photo membership. Like I did recently. It’s an investment well worth the money. And on the yearly plan it’s about $29 per month. That’s less than I’d spend on my monthly coffee-dose. And I love my coffee.
Most stock photos come in a high res, high quality format. So before you’d upload them to your website or share it on social media, it’s best to edit and to optimize them.
I do all my image editing in Photoshop and export the final designs in a web (legacy) format. This already compresses the image size.
But as an extra step I drop them to TinyPNG or TinyJPG as well. Both do their magic and use various compression techniques to reduce the file size even more. The result is a quality image without wasting your website storage or bandwidth!
And yes, both tools are free.
My choice of online collaboration and file sharing tool: Dropbox
Running a web design business means to share documents, design concepts and tons of other things with my clients and partners. While I do have a Gmail account and on occasion use its sharing functionality, I somehow like Dropbox better.
It’s always good to go to sleep knowing that even if my laptop has a meltdown, my stuff is safe in Dropbox. And I can restore it in a snap.
I also started using Dropbox Paper and by now it’s my ultimate note taking and idea collecting/brainstorming place. You can link in websites, add various media files, create tables, timelines, to-do lists. Everything I need, I can do it there and then.
Even this blog post started out as a few paragraphs in a Dropbox Paper document before I finished and published it.
You can start with Dropbox Basic for free. And as your business grows and you need more space, you can explore the paid business plans.
My secret readability enhancer tool: Hemingway Editor
I’m not a native English speaker. That’s sometimes an advantage, sometimes a disadvantage. As I’m a business professional I use all the help I can get when it comes to how easy it is to read and understand my content.
Whenever I finish the copy for a new sales page, blog post, or even a Flodesk email newsletter I wish to send out, I copy paste the text to the Hemingway Editor.
This free tool gives me a quick overview on readability. And where I could use simpler alternatives. And it flags complicated sentences. Based on my actual needs I can then decide to accept the suggestions or leave them as they are.
Do you use any of these tools in your business? How does your top 10 tools and resources list look like? Let me know in a comment and don’t forget to share this post.