#036: The Best Online Business Tools [Podcast]

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constructionIn today’s podcast, I am spending a lot of time answering one of the most common questions I receive: “Ray, what online business tools or software do you use to run your Internet based business?” I’ll go into detail about what online business tools I use, why I chose them, and also be very candid about whether I would make the same choice if I were starting over again today.

Specifically, in this episode we will cover the following:

  • I will share my new favorite iPad app, which is a notetaking app with a twist.
  • In Spiritual Foundations, will discuss God’s will to heal in all areas of your life.
  • I will go in-depth on the subject of online business tools. I’ll get specific, and name names.
  • Stu McLaren shares exactly how frustrations can be the source of million-dollar business ideas.
  • And I will share a few special announcements.

Tip Of The Week

Some of my own Paper doodles.

This week’s tip is for another iPad app. This one is called simply Paper.

What makes it different from the app I reviewed last week? Paper is more than a notetaking app. It is really intended for artists. It works and feels like, well… paper.

Hence the name. Check it out.

Spiritual Foundations

God’s nature is to heal you in every way:

“…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.”
Acts 10:38

Don’t fall for the lie that says God made you sick to “teach you something”. That’s not who He is!

The Best Online Business Tools

In the course of running an online business, there are many tools and applications to choose from.

I use a lot of different tools in my own business, and I am frequently asked for recommendations about what the best tools to use might be.

I am going to supply some very specific answers, and share some of the tools that I use most in my own business. Before I do, however, I want to make a couple of things very clear.

First of all, it is rarely the case that the lack of a tool creates the lack of success. In my experience, successful people are successful despite not having the “right tools”.

This may sound counter-intuitive. I am not saying that it’s wrong to have the best tools available to get the job done. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is this: if you are using your search for the “perfect tools” as an excuse not to act, you will almost certainly encounter disappointment. Perhaps outright failure.

There is no such thing as a “perfect tool”.

It’s better to start with what you have, from where you are, and do the best job possible. That is what being an entrepreneur is all about. Creating value out of the available resources.

The second thing you should be aware of is that I do receive a commission for recommending most of the tools listed here. If that bothers you, feel free to disregard my advice. However, I will say this: I do not recommend any tool that I have not used myself, or that I do not feel will help you.

Here is my list of recommended tools, software, and websites. These have helped me build a successful online business, and I believe they can help you do the same.

What I’m Using Now… And Most

WordPress.org – This is what I recommend almost everyone use to build their website. It’s about more than just “blogging”, it is a rocksolid architecture for constructing any website. There is a reason why so many Fortune 500 companies choose to build their website on the WordPress framework. Plus, because of the ability to apply different “themes” to your WordPress site, you can change the look and feel of your website with the touch of a button (or, in this case, the click of a mouse). Just make sure you are running the self hosted version of WordPress, which will be found that WordPress.org. You don’t want to build your website on WordPress.com, because you lose a certain amount of control, and also it just looks less professional.

DIYthemes.com – This is the company that sells the thesis WordPress theme. Devotees of thesis are almost fanatical in their enthusiasm for this very solid, lightning fast, SEO optimized WordPress theme. While it is very powerful, and very sophisticated, it also comes with a bit of a steeper learning curve than other WordPress themes. But if you are looking for a rock solid framework for your website, this is the place for you.

StudioPress.com – The folks at StudioPress are producing some of the most elegant and beautiful WordPress themes available today. They all work with the Genesis framework, which means your WordPress site will be running on a solid foundation that is optimized to get you search engine love. This is a great option for short-cutting the design phase of your website-these things look great right out of the box.

InfusionSoft.com – We just switched! This is a very robust and powerful CRM (or customer relationship management) software system, including email followup, direct mail, shopping cart functionality, and more. Infusion allows you to do some very sophisticated marketing, using behavior-based rules, analytics, and automation sequences. If you have a business that is doing $1 million or more in revenue per year, you might well want to consider using this system. It is not cheap, and there is a learning curve to get the most out of it, but it is well worth both of these costs.

PayPal – This is the easiest and best way to start taking payments online. PayPal is an established, trusted payment processor, thanks mostly to their very close association with eBay. It’s easy to set up an account, and you have direct access to the money as soon as someone pays you. This is where I recommend you start when you’re ready to start taking payments online.

iPowerPay.com -At some point, you’re going to need a real, honest to goodness merchant account. This is an account that lets you take credit cards directly as a means of payment for your products and services. The customer pays using their credit card, and the money is automatically deposited in your bank account a couple days later. The problem is, it’s not exactly easy to get a true merchant account for online business. Especially if you’re just starting out. This company is the company I use for my own merchant account. It’s very inexpensive to get started, and they have a 98% approval rate for all applications (sometimes it feels like other companies have a 98% rejection rate!). These folks truly understand the business of Internet marketing, so you’ll never have to feel like you’re forced to explain your business to someone who just doesn’t “get it”. Highly recommended.

BlueHost - This is the place to start when you initially billed your website. You will not outgrow this quickly in all likelihood. Even if you experience huge success with your new website, blue host can accommodate your growth a long way down the road. Their prices are excellent (starting at about 7 bucks a month), and their service is just as good. This is where I recommend all beginners start for their web hosting-and more than a few “seasoned veterans” should be able to do quite well with an account at blue host.

Opt-in Skin – This is a WordPress plug-in that allows you to design beautiful and response-enhancing opt-in forms for your WordPress powered site. It has many built-in features, including the ability to split test different designs see which will get the most registrations. I’ve been using it for a while now, and the only criticism I have is that it runs a little slowly when you’re trying to design and generate a new form. That, however, is a small price to pay for what this plug-in will do.

Scribe Content – This plug-in helps me optimize my blog posts and site content for better placement in the search engines. This is really the only SEO work that I do on my site.

Evernote – My absolute favorite app that defies description – but I’ll try: your new omnipresent, universal, non-corporeal notebook. Yep, can’t describe it. Try it. You’ll understand.

LastPass
  – The last password you will ever need. Remember a single password, and access all of your accounts and sites.

DropBox – This vital service allows me to synchronize the folder on my computer with an identical folder in the cloud. What this means is, I can have access to my files anywhere I can access the Internet. I can also share with others. Indispensable tool!

Backblaze – This automated backup service makes a complete up-to-the-minute backup of my computer “in the cloud”. That means even if my computer catches on fire and burns to ashes, I can still duplicate it at the click of a button later.

Screenflow – I use this tool to make a screen cast recordings that are responsible for so much of my revenue. For instance, when I make sales videos for my own products, I knew Screenflow. When I create the products themselves, I used Screenflow to create the content. And when I am paid to create sales videos for clients, this is the tool that I use.

ByWord – A simple, distraction free writing environment that I love. I learned about this gem from Michael Hyatt.

Word – I wish it were not so, but sometimes you just have to have Microsoft Word to get the job done. Usually, the “have to” part is because someone else is using it and thus I am forced to use it also.

Pages – In my opinion, a much better word processing and page layout program than Microsoft Word. Lean, sleek, and easy-to-use, everyone should just switch now. So I can stop using that other program altogether.

OmniFocus – Hands-down the best implementation of GTD I’ve ever seen in software. I use this every single day.

Synthesis – I’m not currently using synthesis WordPress hosting, but I’m very close to making the move. It’s mostly a matter of time for me. Their hosting is designed and optimized for WordPress sites. Meaning you get better security, fewer crashes and other problems, and speed. All very important.

GetNoticed! WordPress Theme – I am looking forward to testing Michael Hyatt’s upcoming WordPress theme. Based on the design of his own popular website, this team is optimized for experts, authors, thought leaders, life coaches, and others who wish to build an online platform for themselves. The theme has not yet been released, but you can sign up to get notified when it is by clicking here.

WishlistMember – Plugin that turns WordPress sites into recurring revenue!

Online Business Tools I Don’t Use, But Do Recommend

Here are a few recommendations for services that I don’t currently use in my business, but that I have tested and believed to be very useful. In some cases, I am using these tools and services on behalf of clients. In all cases, I believe these to be of the utmost quality and worth your consideration.

SquareSpace.com – Until very recently the only platform are recommended for building a website was WordPress. That was until I gave square space a try. While there are many website building services available these days, this is the only one that I would recommend as a way to build your platform website. Their hosting is incredibly sophisticated, and you will probably never outgrow it. It’s virtually impossible for you to generate enough traffic to bring one of their websites down. Their built-in design templates will make your site look like a million bucks. Their drag-and-drop interface makes it easy to design your website yourself. If using WordPress intimidates you, and if you don’t need to build sophisticated paid membership site, this is worth considering. Not to mention it is very reasonably priced.

BigCommerce.com – If I were starting my business again from scratch today, it is very likely that this is the shopping cart system that I would use. But this service is much more than merely a shopping cart, as they offer help with all phases of building a profitable website. If you take full advantage of everything they have to offer, you will end up spending more than a few dollars, but they do very good work. Highly recommended.

AWeber – There are many options to choose from for building your e-mail list, delivering messages to them, and tracking the results of your e-mail marketing. This is my top recommendation for anyone just getting started out. These guys take all the hard stuff and do it for you, in the background. They make sure you stay off the spam lists, and they make sure your e-mail gets delivered. They’re also relatively inexpensive. You can get started for about 20 bucks a month.

1 ShoppingCart – This is the shopping cart system that I have used for taking online orders and automating product delivery since about 2004. Not only is it a shopping cart, it also features integrated e-mail marketing functions, handles shipping, taxes, and a lot more. This system is relied on by many online marketers, and the folks who own it have worked hard to keep updating it with the features we need to run our businesses. Highly recommended.

Woothemes.com – WordPress themes that are stunning to look at, attractive to search engines, and completely easy-to-use. I’ve worked with a lot of websites that are built using themes from this company, and this is my number one recommendation for you if you are just starting out. I also highly recommend these themes to you even if you’re a seasoned pro.

iThemes.com – For many years, the only WordPress theme I used was built by the folks at iThemes. They’re still building very solid, reliable, and beautiful WordPress themes. And they are reasonably priced.

MarketSamurai – For doing market research, and finding those profitable keywords for your website to focus on, this is the software you need. It runs on all computers (Mac, PC, and even Linux) and while it is simple to use, it is also very powerful.

The Lifestyle Business Segment

Stu McLaren returns as our “lifestyle business correspondent”, and this week Stu is sharing his thoughts on how frustration can be the source of million-dollar product ideas.

Special Announcements

I will be making an appearance onstage at James Malinchak’s “Big Money Speaker Bootcamp” December 6-9 in LA. I’m super-excited about this event! I don’t know if you saw ABC’s hit TV show, “Secret Millionaire”…  James was featured on the show. At the Boot Camp, he shares his strategies and tips on how to become a Big Money Speaker.

I’m attending the Platform Conference in Nashville. If you do business online, you MUST attend this conference that helps you “get noticed in a noisy world.” It’s being put on by Michael Hyatt and Ken Davis. My friends Stu McLaren and Carrie Owensby Wilkerson are speaking. I’m also looking forward to meeting  Jeff Goins, Cliff Ravenscraft, Pat Flynn, Ken Davis, John Saddington, Michele Cushatt, and Andrew Buckman. Unlike most conferences, there’s not a single speaker I’m not excited to hear and to meet. Get a ticket while you can!

Would you like to have me speak at your event? Click here to visit my speaking page and get details on my availability.

Your Feedback

Do you have an idea for a podcast you would like to hear? Do you have a question that you like to ask me? Please send me an email.

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Call in your questions or comments to our new, fancy “request line” at (509) 713-2679

Question: What online business tools could you not live without in your business? Leave your tips in the comments below.

 

Ray Edwards is a world-renowned copywriter and communications strategist, writing for some of the most powerful voices in leadership and business including New York Times bestselling authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) and Tony Robbins. Ray is a sought-after speaker and author, hosts a popular weekly podcast, and blogs at RayEdwards.com.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://www.Stu.me Stu McLaren

    Great podcast Ray. I excited to hear you’ll also be in Nashville for Michael Hyatt’s “Platform” conference.

    RE: Tools – I couldn’t live without http://www.Followup.cc. It’s a simple email tool I use every single day that helps me keep my inbox clean without forgetting people I need to get back to.

    Another one I use daily is http://www.BufferApp.com. It helps me schedule my social media messages.

  • Anatoli

    Hi Ray. Love your podcast. I can`t agree with you that God always want us to be healed. God didn`t heal Paul and Timothy. They were God`s people but God had a different plan about their life. The Bible says: So the Lord said to him ( to Moses), “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the Lord? Ex. 4:11. What do you think about that?

    • http://rayedwards.com Ray Edwards

      Jesus healed every person who came to him, without exception. He set the standard for us to follow: “Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” Matthew 10:8.

      While the OT passage you quote is indeed the inspired word, it must also be viewed with an awareness of (a) its context, and (b) the fact that it was spoken under the Old Covenant.

      As to Paul, there is no conclusive proof that his “thorn” was a physical ailment. That term is used for some other purpose everywhere else it appears in Scripture, which seems suggestive. Even if Paul was indeed sick and not healed, that is not proof of God’s will for healing.

      The Bible clearly says it is God’s will that NONE should perish (remain unsaved)… yet many clearly do.

      God’s will is NOT always done on the earth; yet we are CALLED and COMMISSIONED to change that. Jesus taught us to pray that God’s “will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”

      Does every sick person I pray for get healed? No. Not yet. But my failure to produce the result does not change my assignment, nor will I create a theology that “explains” why I’m not seeing what I think I should. The target Jesus established was that we should “lay hands on the sick, and they will recover”. I keep aiming for the target, I stay clean from condemnation if I seem to fail (it’s not my power that heals people), and I never blame the sick person for a “lack of faith” or “hidden sin” or any of that garbage.

      And many people I pray for DO get well. More than can be explained by natural means. So I keep on praying.

  • http://www.jasonjnicholas.com Jason J Nicholas

    As a beginner in the website/blog world, I am just beginning on this exciting journey. At this point I don’t have any tools that I regularly use, but I do have two online business resources that I highly recommend – Ray Edwards and Michael Hyatt. I regularly follow both of your podcasts and the information is invaluable. I use the downcast app to be sure that I never miss a podcast. Thank you for all that you do.

  • http://www.TheChristianBusinessCoach.com Sonya Ramsey

    Hi Ray. As always, you delivered a great podcast. After listening to this episode, I now picked up a few new tools to use. I was looking for an app I felt comfortable using for my passwords. It’s been a few days since I’ve been using LastPass, and I absolutely love it! I’m now going to do some research on iPowerPay.com. One tool you may want to check out, if you haven’t already that is similar to Opt-in Skin (which I have), is Hybrid-Connect. I like the fact that you can create the Opt-in form as a landing page too.

  • http://www.coppercoincoaching.com Ryan Eidson

    I’ve used MailChimp for over a year now. I was split between MailChimp and AWeber when I was making the choice. At that time I had email coming in from people using both of those systems. I went with MailChimp because of no cost of entry. However, I see that most in the Internet marketing space are using AWeber. The mailing service is indispensable.

  • http://www.rcthomas.com Thomas Osthus

    Thanks for sharing the Tools that you use. I’m going to be starting my own blog in the next month and it’s super helpful to see what tools people like you and Michael Hyatt are using. This really helps me out to get started off on the right foot.