I wanted to share a few of my favorite things with you. These tools and resources have helped me grow my business – and have helped me grow as a person.
Note: Some of the links below are affiliate links which means that, at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a small commission if you purchase one of these products or services. I’ve personally used everything on this list for myself or on behalf of clients and colleagues. If you have questions about anything on this page, you’re more than welcome to drop me a note.
This is a living list. Check back often for new resources!
The following tools are the ones I recommend most often. If you’re looking for a quick way to cover your basis, here are the resources from my article 5 Systems You Need For Your Small Business in 2015.
Contactually – This is my favorite contact management program. I've been a user for a while now and find it hard to leave. The insight it gives me, the reminders and tips, the interface – I love it all. I've tried over a dozen CRMs (and that's being conservative) and Contactually is my favorite by a mile. I've never been with any CRM as long as I've been with them. I couldn't even quit them when I adopted 17hats – so I use them both!
17hats – This system won me over at the end of 2014 when I was looking to streamline my systems and cut back on the number of services I was using. While I love 17hats and recommend it often, I will say its best for two kinds of people – 1) people who are just starting out and have no systems and 2) solo entrepreneurs. Why? If you love the features your standalone CRM (like Contactually) or invoicing tool offers, you might find 17hats trades some of that depth for breadth. And, at this point, there's only one login option – so if you need an assistant to login and only have access to certain data, this isn't the system for you. BUT if you're lacking systems in a few areas and only need access for one, I highly recommend this service. It's easy to use and can simplify many of your processes. Check it out!
Asana – I love Asana as a project management tool. It's easy to set up projects, invite teammates and keep track of tasks and deadlines. Even better? It's free!
Evernote – I use Evernote for oh so many things: saving drafts of ebooks I'm working on, scanning and saving client notes, collecting blog post ideas, bookmarking interesting stuff on the web. Some people use it to save recipes, ideas and more. I've never used it to collaborate with others, but the capability to do so is great. So, if you want to share a notebook of content ideas for next quarter with your team, its easy to pull everyone in, collect ideas and collaborate.
Get Clients Now – One of my absolute favorite business books. I've been using this book since at least 2008. That's one of the things I love about it – you can use it over and over and get something new out of it each time. If you're a service provider looking to improve your marketing and sales, definitely check this book out. My GCN mantra is: its great alone, better with a partner and best with a group. So, if you do grab it (please do) – try working through the 28-day program with a partner or join a group. I facilitate GCN groups at least four times a year (sign up for my list to get notified about the next one) – but you can also gather a group of like-minded motivated folks and get your own group going.
Body of Work – I love everything Pamela Slim puts out. But this book holds a special place in my heart because when she wrote it, I felt like she “got me.” If you're looking for an effective way to tell your story, this book is for you. If you're like me and have a diverse work background and are looking for a cohesive way to bring the threads of your story together, this book is for you. I've recommended it many times over.
Your Network Is Your Net Worth – Networking is sooooo incredibly valuable. You need a community if you want to make it in business. Your network should be diverse and multi-layered. I love this book and the author, Porter Gale, because it helps you create a plan for growing your network. Great for entrepreneurs and 9-to-5ers alike. This is the book I wish I wrote on networking.
Getting to Yes with Yourself – this new book is actually a prequel to the best-selling book Getting to Yes. The author, William Ury wisely notes that before you can get to a good place in your business relationships and negotiations, you need to get to a good place with yourself. Both books are must-reads in my opinion – but start with this one first!
The Desire Map – creating goals with soul. Sounds good doesn't it? I'm big on setting goals and creating plans to accomplish them. What I love about this book is that it gets you to look at goals in a completely different way. Start with how you want to feel. It can really help you put things into perspective. If you like writing things out, like I do, consider snagging the corresponding workbook.
Right Brain Business Plan – while business plans are important, a traditional one might not be what you need at this stage of business. BUT if you still need to express what your business does, some sort of plan is ideal. If you're the creative type, this book is fantastic. It walks you through creating a visual representation of what a business plan is. And in case you do need to take it to the bank or a potential investor, there are tips on how it translates to a more traditional format. The author, Jennifer Lee, also offers classes and groups if you need support to work through the program.
CreativeLive – my favorite place to go for online learning. CreativeLIVE classes run anywhere from one to five days (with a few 30-day classes thrown in) on a variety of topics. Though they started as a site geared toward photographers, they've continued to expand their business classes, which draws a wider audience. Classes are free to watch live online, but you can also purchase the classes and bonus materials. They've covered a wide variety of topics including social media marketing, podcasting, getting over fears, mastering Google Apps and more. They have wide variety of top notch instructors leading the way. If you watch the courses live, you can also meet lots of great folks in the chat rooms. Aside from learning a ton, I've also made from great new friends because of cL.
Skillshare – Though they started with in person classes in a few cities, Skillshare has become focused on online learning. Their current database boasts over 1,000 courses on everything ranging from design to business.
Udemy – another great resource for online education. They have classes that cover topics like running a business, down to specific things like using Excel or mastering social media marketing.
Podcasting and Livestreaming
Podcast Launch – when I started my podcast, this book helped guide me to getting it done. Hiring an editor also helped, but I loved being able to launch my podcast as I worked through each chapter. A great quick primer if you want to join the world of podcasting.
How to Use Periscope – New to the Periscope community? Check out this article to get started on the right foot!
Audio-Technica microphone – This is the mic I use to record my podcasts. While not billed as portable, it is easy to throw into a suitcase or duffel bag if you're planning to podcast from the road.
Windscreen – using the mic above for podcasting or other audio projects? Get a windscreen and stop popping your P's! At less than $2, this is a no-brainer
Audacity – whenever I record solo episodes of my show, I record my audio in Audacity. It's free and comes with a quick guide to get you started. I'm a PC, but Audacity is also available on Mac.
Lavalier microphones – the two most popular ones are the Rode smartLav+ and the Movo PM10. Both clip right on to your shirt and give your sound a boost and a little more clarity. Helpful, especially if you're using these for Periscope and think you might repurpose your videos on other platforms. Also great if you like to podcast on the go.
Double lavalier microphone – I grabbed this portable little mic to get better sound quality when interviewing people on Periscope. It's so tiny, travels well and plugs right into your phone! Also, its great for podcasting on the go if you're planning to do some in-person interviewing.
Tripod and smartphone mount – My arms got tired of holding up my phone while broadcasting on Periscope. This inexpensive tripod came with a smartphone mount, so now, I can be hands free! Already have a tripod? Then just nab this smartphone mount. Even if you're not shooting video for Periscope, this is handy for any other kind of videos you plan to use your smartphone for.
Planners and Notebooks
The Next 12 Months: Weekly Planner – great planner for solopreneurs and small business owners. In addition to having space for your schedule and goal tracking, there's also room to track your marketing efforts and results. Available in digital and print formats.
Evernote Notebook – If you like writing things done with pen and paper like I do, but still want your notes available in the cloud, check out the Evernote Moleskine Notebook.
Best Planners for Small Business Owners – I start every day with a little bit of planning. As more people do (yay!) there are ongoing discussions about which planners are worth the dough. In this article, I review several planners. Check it out – maybe one will work for you!
Goal Planning Guide – not clear on where you're going and what to do next? This goal planning guide can help. It guides you through setting your goals and creating a plan to help you make them reality.