Online Business Resources 101

Below is a curated list of the top tools and resources that I personally use or reviewed. They will help you start and grow your business no matter what your budget is. Keep it simple and focus on the outcome, not the tool.

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Planning

The fastest way to get results is to keep it simple.

  1. Decide what you want: Do you want an online job or online business. If you want a job, apply for jobs, if you want a business then start educating yourself on the right business models.
  2. Pick a business model that does not require product creation, storage, shipping and handling i.e. digital or information products. Once you know what you are doing, you can expand to other options.
  3. Use services like ClickFunnels to build your marketing pages. With click funnels, you won’t need to worry about hosting or what theme to use for your site. This is the one area most businesses struggle with and waste a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it.
  4. Pick a good email marketing provider to start building and growing your list (Your email list is your most important business asset. Start building your list as soon as possible)
  5. Outsource, outsource, outsource! Avoid wasting precious time doing everything yourself when you can get someone who is far more skilled and talented to do it for a very low hourly rate on sites like 99Design, upwork.com and fiverr.com
  6. Just get started! If you wait, the time will pass anyway.

Send me your questions.  I am here to help!

Using the right online business model is one of the most important steps but many skip this step because they are eager to get started or simply because they are not aware of the options. That is why many end up struggling for a long time before they see any tangible results.

CLICK HERE to watch this free training to learn about your online business options and how to pick the right one for you.

Having a plan will keep you focused on the right tasks. Keep it simple and focus on what outcome you want.

Simple Plan: I created this simple plan to help you get started. It is easy to use. You can fill it up online and email it to yourself.

Bplans – The largest online collection of free sample business plans. Also provides helpful tools and guides to help you better manage your business.

No matter which business you start with, you’ll soon find that one of the best ways to increase your income online is to focus your time on becoming an online marketing pro. 

If you are new to the online business world and still not sure where to start, I recommend you start with products that allow you to earn while you learn. Once you know how to generate leads and get customers to buy from you, you can move on and apply that knowledge to any industry, niche, services or products you like. VIEW MY TOP PICKS.

Your Websites

Once you have your online business model sorted out, you will need to register a few domain names even if you have no plans to build a personal or business website or blog just yet. A domain name, which is a web address like www.hwayda.com. Domain names can be used for:

  • An address for personal or business websites
  • An address that forwards to another location like an affiliate link
  • An address for marketing and sales funnels

Many web hosts allow you to register a domain but not all of them let you manage advance options. Choose a company that that allows you to register and control your domain even if you  don’t plan to host your website with them.  Some of the top names in the USA and Canada are Netfirms, Bluehost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy.

View tips on how to pick a domain name.

Once you have your own domain name, you need to decide where it will point to.

Your ideal hosting services will depend on what type of business you plan to build. That’s why it’s important to have a clear plan before you start. The type of business you want to build can determine which platform you use to host your business.

Some of the popular platforms include:

WordPress: WordPress is one of the most popular platforms for building websites. It has lots of plugins that work just like apps on your phone. The more features you want, the more apps you can add. Netfirms, Bluehost, Hostgator, and GoDaddy provide hosting with a variety of options but I use WPengine as it specializes in WordPress, has daily backup and is also more secure than other hosts. I use WordPress for most of my sites.

WIX: Easy to use click and drag type of website. Ideal if you only have a few pages. Cons, you cannot transfer the site to another vendor if you don’t like working with WIX. You’ll have to build your site all over again to move it. Wide selection of templates and logo creation tools. If you like to design, this could be a good platform for you.

Squarespace: Similar to WIX. If you like to use the click and drag method of creating a website, this is another option. It has less templates and more structured format than WIX. If you are a beginner having less distractions might work better for you.

Shopify: If you are building an eCommerce store to sell physical products, then Shopify is for you. Shopify is one of the biggest players for eCommerce businesses and they have great features and templates to make your store unique. They also have a large selection of apps you can add to your store that allow you to sell other people’s products and services using print on demand and drop-shipping. I use it personally for my eCommerce store.

Volusion: Another great platform for eCommerce but does not have a blogging feature. If you want to build a blog and store at the same time, go with Shopify. If you don’t care about blogging, check it out to compare.

There are many ready made templates and themes you can buy for your website so you don’t have to build everything from scratch.

ThemeForest  has a wide selection of ready made templates you can buy for your website and they support different platforms. I have bought many WordPress themes from there and also one for my Shopify store.

This website is currently using the AVADA Theme which is very powerful, responsive and very easy to use. I highly recommend this theme.

SEO which stands for Search Engine Optimization, can help the right people find your website by using keywords. Once they visit your site, you need analytics to see where your visitors are coming from and what they are interested in the most.

Google Keyword Planner – Search and analyze keyword ideas for your Google ad campaigns, or just use to help you brainstorm and optimize your content for search.

SEO Site Checkup – Comprehensive search engine optimization tools for your site, plus a free diagnostic test.

WordPress SEO by Yoast – If you plan to use WordPress for your website platform, make sure to install  this plugin. It helps you improve your SEO, write better content and fully optimized your entire WordPress site.

Google Analytics – Web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic, giving you valuable insights on your readers and customers.

Pingdom – Website speed test that measures your site’s load time and provides suggestions for improvement.

Marketing Automation

Designing highly effective and converting lead capture pages/squeeze pages and sales pages are key to grow your mailing list and boost sales. Top resources to create your sales pages are:

ClickFunnels: ClickFunnels is one of the most popular tools on the market right now. It is easy to use and has various levels you can choose from to fit your business needs. Comes with 14 day free trial.

LeadPages: Easy to use online platform that allows you to create sales pages, pop up optin boxes and make any link into a registration box. It is very affordable too.

Kartra: Kartra is a very powerful platform that has many advanced features you can’t find on other platforms. If you needs something more power that can allow you to create sales pages, build a membership site, have an email list and a CRM at the same time, Kartra is for you.

OptimizePress: OptimizePress is a WordPress theme that is specifically designed for marketing purposes. It allows you to create a membership site and also create custom marketing and sales pages. It also comes as a plugin. So if you have a different theme on your site, you can still add the plugin to create one off sales pages that you send your ads to.

To grow your business you will need to build a relationship with your clients and prospects. One of the best ways to do this is by emailing them on a regular basis and keeping them up-to-date on what is going on in the industry and what promotional offers you have for them.

When you are new, the best options to start with are AWeber and MailChimp. They are both supported by most hosting services, platforms and apps. As your business grows, you can look into more advanced platforms that offer more advanced customer relationship tools and other features.

Branding & Design

Create Your Own Logo Online

There are many tools that allow you to create logos online. The platforms use generic shapes that you can add text to and create a logo on the fly. This is a good option if you want something fast but don’t mind if it looks like other logos. With so many icons and fonts to choose from, your logo can still unique.

CANVA: Canva is one of my favorite online graphics tools. It’s FREE to join and you can design your logo and so much more. There is a large section of templates to choose from with some free and paid elements to bring to your logo to life. You can get most of your design work done there for free. You only pay if you want to download designs that use stock images or if you want to upgrade to save customized templates for your team.

TAILOR BRANDS: Create a beautiful, unique logo for FREE. Enter a few details about your business and our online logo maker will design the perfect logo for your brand. Once your logo is ready, you can use the same site to create your company style guide, business cards, presentations and more all using your logo and custom colors.

LOGO MAKER: Create & design your logo for free using an easy logo maker tool. Choose from hundreds of fonts and icons. Then just save your new logo on to your computer!

SMASHING LOGO: Create your own and unique logo in minutes. Very intuitive platform that generates more ideas based on the ones you choose as favorites.

LOGO JOY: Artificial Intelligence makes it fast & easy! Only pay if you’re 100% happy. Very Easy To Use. 100% Ownership Rights. No Design Skills Needed.

NOTE ON LOGOS: Make sure to get a “Vector” file format which is scalable and editable. If you only get a JPG, PNG or GIF, you will not be able to edit the file or print it in large format. 

Outsource

To get something more unique and customized you can hire a designer on platforms like upwork.com, Freelancer.com and fiver.com. A designer will be able to manipulate the font and icons and create something unique to you.

If you use a designer, make sure to get a signed release for transfer of copyright. If you don’t get a signed release, they will still own the design and can come back and ask for portions of your profits if the logo appears on any merchandise you sold. Make sure to get a legal release!

That’s why I like to use 99Design for logos. With 99Design you can put on a competition for a logo and you will receive multiple design options to choose from. Depending on how much you bid, you can get as many as 50 to over 250 designs to choose from… all custom made for you and you only pay for the one you end up buying! 99Design has all the legal paperwork in place allowing the designer to sign over the legal copyright of the design to you.

There are many sites dedicated to rights managed and royalty free images.

  • Royalty free means you can buy a photo once and use it as many times as you like for many applications.
  • Rights managed has a restrictions on the amount of use and geographic location. If you want an image that not many people are using, you can pay more and get a rights managed images.

Below are some sites that offer both options.

When you are starting out and have a limited budget, you might be tempted to just pick images from google and other search engine sites to use on your blog, presentations and other marketing materials.

DON’T!

Unless you have a blog that is for personal use and you are using the image in an editorial format to report on a topic, all images used in your business need to have the proper licensing that allows you to use them for commercial purposes.

Luckily for you  there are now a lot of resources online that allow you to do just that. Search for images that fall under “Public Domain” or “Creative Commons”. In many cases the photographer might require some sort of attribution and link to their public profile. There are many new sites that allow you to get images for free with no limitations on how you use them no attributions are required. Some of these sites include:

When choosing images, check the license to see if you need to add attribution.

When creating images for your business, you might need to edit some photos.

GIMP – The internet’s favorite open source, cross-platform image editor.

PicMonkey – Photo editor, collage maker and graphic design tool all rolled into one.

Video & Audio

iMovie: If you use a Mac, you can download iMovie from the app store. It’s affordable, easy to use and has some common video editing features to do the job.

Microsoft Photos: If you are on a windows platform, you can create and edit your videos using Microsoft Photos. It is free to use for window users.

Camtasia: Camtasia allows you to record screen captures and record yourself speaking at the same time. This is the ideal tool for creating online courses. It also has advanced features that allow you to import other video and add visual and audio effects.

Adobe Premiere Pro: If you want to do more advanced video editing, you can turn to Adobe. This is the program I use to edit my videos. It is also what many film studios use to create movies.

Wirecast: Wirecast is a live video streaming production tool by Telestream. It allows users to create live or on-demand broadcasts for the web.

There are many video hosting services to use for business.

YouTube: YouTube is one of the most common video platform. It is a great resource for vlogging and sharing video with the masses. If you will use it for sales videos, make sure to have monetization off. You don’t want ads showing up before your video otherwise your viewers might get distracted, click on the other ads and not learn about your offer.

Vimeo: Vimeo is a great platform and has great features that are ideal for business marketing and sales pages. You can customize the player, have a clickable call to action at the end of the video, integrate with your email list and only allow certain videos to embed on specific sites. This is a great way to restrict someone from sharing your video on another site.

Wistia: Wistia is a step up from Vimeo. It has similar features to Vimeo and ideal for hosting videos you’ll use for online courses or marketing funnels.

When working on your marketing and sales videos, you might need some filler stock videos and B-roll.

VideoBlocks.com I use videoblocks for most of my video fillers. For a very low annual fee, you can have access to thousands of royalty free videos to use for business applications. They also have newer videos that have additional fees. START here and you can expand your search as your needs grow.

VideoHive: Excellent video choices for a low fee. If you can’t find what you need on VideoBlocks, turn to VideoHive for a large selection to fit any business category.

Pixels Video: Large selection of free videos to use for business applications. If can’t find any free options, they link you to some paid videos from Shutterstock.

Shutterstock: Wide selection of paid for video clips you can use for your business.

Adobe: Adobe is one of the resources film makers turn to. Prices range from $80 – $200 per video clip.

When working on your marketing and sales videos, you might need some filler stock videos and B-roll.

Audacity – Record and edit audio files for free. Use it for podcasts recording, sales videos and online training programs.

Creating videos for personal and business use is easier than ever. There are so many online tools and resources that allow you to click and drag, add some text and some music and you’re done!

Magisto: Make outstanding social videos in minutes with the power of Magisto’s smart video editor.

Animoto: Create slideshow and marketing videos in your browser.

Renderforest: Create online videos and animation in your browser. No need to download any software or spend hours looking for graphics and music. You’ll find everything you need on the platform.

Waymark: Create video ads in your browsers and share them on your website, emails, social media and paid advertising.

Lumen 5: Transform articles into videos in minutes. Enter your text and the platform will break it up into segments that you can add images and video to, add music and share…

Promo: Create promo videos for your ads and social media with a few clicks. Stock video and audio files at your fingertips. All you have to do is select your media, add text and export and your videos are done!

Rawshorts: Transform Text into Animated videos. Ideal for creating explainer videos.

Copywriting

Writefull – Free App that provides feedback on your writing by checking your text against databases of correct language usage.

ProWritingAid – Analyzes your writing and produces reports on overused words, writing style, sentence length, grammar and repeated words and phrases.

Hemingway – Web-based app that makes your writing bold and clear. Enter any text to see where you can simplify your prose.

Title Generator: Not sure what to use for your webpage, blog, article or email headline, check out this free online title generator.

Grammarly: This free grammar checker instantly eliminates grammatical errors and enhances your writing. Grammarly is trusted by millions every day.

Thesaurus.com: A thesaurus allows you to find similar words to the one you have in mind. This comes in handy when you are stuck using the same word but want more variety and impact.

Readability: Writing for the web is different than writing a technical book. Your paragraphs and sentences need to be shorter. When in doubt about your content, use tools like readability to check your web pages. You’ll get a sense of how easy to difficult your page is.

Un-Suck It: Un-Suck It is a free web app that allows you to convert words that don’t flow well in your copy (like business jargon) and replace it with fun words that do.

Publishing

CreateSpace: – Self publish and distribute your books, DVDs, CDs and video downloads via Amazon.com. Recommended if you want to know who is buying your products. Create your own account so you can track sales.

BookBaby: Self publish and distribute your book in print and digital format at most major book outlets. Great distribution channel and you get paid royalties on each sale but you won’t know who is buying. Great for branding and international reach.

iBooks Author – Create and publish books for iPad and Mac. Features drag-and-drop templates and support for movies, audio and widgets, making it a great option for a multi-sensory and interactive experience.

Free PDF Creator – Create PDF documents from any Windows program including Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

Social Media

Buffer – Manage all your social media postings on one platform.

Hootsuite – Manage your social media profiles, view analytics, content scheduling in one place Has great training resources on best practices for social media.

Later – Schedule and manage your Instagram posts. If you only use Instagram, this tool will be enough. If you use more platforms try Hootsuite instead.

Productivity Tools

Google Keep – Quickly capture what’s on your mind and get a reminder later at the right place or time. Speak a voice memo on the go and have it automatically transcribed.

Evernote – Capture, update and share your ideas across any device.

Dropbox: Dropbox allows you to save your files in the cloud so you can access them anywhere with an internet connection. They also allow you to share files with other team members and clients. You get 2GB of storage for free. Advantages, you can sync to your desktop. You can save and open any file type including Adobe products.

Google Drive – Cloud storage and file backup for photos, docs and more, plus real-time document and spreadsheet sharing and editing. The first 15GB of storage is free. A must have with any gmail account. I use it for shared documents when collaborating with teams on content creation. Does not support Adobe products which means you have to keep uploading and downloading files every time you want to make an edit.

WeTransfer – Transfer files for free up to 2GB. Great option if you have large files that cannot be emailed.

As you sign up for many platforms and services, you’ll start to have too many passwords to deal with. That’s when you need a password management system.

1Password – Save your passwords and log in to sites with a single click.

LastPass – LastPass remembers all your passwords, so you don’t have to.

Outsourcing

To build and grow your business, you’ll need guidance and support. There’s no way you can learn all aspects of the business and do them yourself. If you do, your business is not likely to grow.

Hire contractors to help you. Some of the more common outsourcing sites include:

Upwork.com: Ideal for long term contractors. You can find part-time and full-time contractors at a variety of prices and levels of expertise. I hire most of my contractors on upwork.

Freelancer.com: Very similar to upwork and used by many companies around the world.

fiverr.com: Fiverr is idea for one of projects. I would use it for quick graphics, video and audio edits.

99Design: 99 Design is my go to place for any custom logo design. They operate on a contest basis. You host a contest and many designer submit ideas you can choose from. You only pay for the one you like. This is a great option if you are not sure what you want and want to explore different design ideas. They are perfect for logos and also have branding packages, app and web design.

Collaboration and Teamwork

17Hats – All-in-one system for project management, client booking and financial tracking. 17hats gives you a suite of functions to go from a sales lead to information-gathering to proposal, contract, and finally, invoicing and payment.

Asana – Asana helps you coordinate all the work your team does together. So everyone knows what needs to get done, who’s responsible for doing it, and when it’s due.

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Streak: The CRM that lives inside Gmail. Track team workflows and client communication from start to finish. All from your inbox.

Slack – Messaging app for teams.  When your team needs to kick off a project, hire a new employee, deploy some code, review a sales contract, finalize next year’s budget, measure an A/B test, plan your next office opening, and more, Slack has you covered.

Skype – Free video calls, voice calls and messaging.

Zoom – Video conferencing, web conferencing, webinars and screen sharing.

Google Hangouts – Connect with friends across computers, Android, and Apple devices. Have fun with photos, emoji, and even group video calls for free.

GoToMeeting – Easy online meetings with HD video conferencing.

Boomerang Calendar – Simple calendar scheduling, built into Gmail.

Vyte.in – Hands-off Google Calendar scheduling tool.

Calendly – Eliminate email and phone tag by allowing anyone to schedule a meeting by picking an available time in your calendar.

Timeneye – Easy, stress-free time tracking tool for teams and freelancers. Save time, manage your projects, monitor your team and increase your productivity in just a few clicks.

Hubstaff – Time tracking for teams. Takes regular screenshots to measure activity levels and manage your remote team. You can even pay your employees and invoice clients from your account.

When working with clients or contractors, you’ll have to sign some contracts.

DocuSign – Send, sign and approve documents from anywhere.

HelloSign – Legally-binding electronic signatures.