Tools for the New Paradigm Online Presence
A curated list by the Spiritual Software Engineer
Updated: May 2021
Goolge Analytics – free, but you pay with your data. I still use this one, just because they are really good and what they do.
Mamoto – is free but you need tech skills to install.
Full disclosure: I am getting out of Facebook and friends. Moving to Telegram, MeWe, and other alternatives. But if you still plan to use Facebook, read on.
I do social media once a week. My motto is to empower those who visit Inelia’s page. I rarely see anything else on social media. I have saved links to go straight to the pages I want to, so I avoid seeing what “the algorithm thinks I should see”.
For this to work and still be active throughout the week I use scheduling tools.
TweekDeck – by Twiter for Twitter
Facebook Creator Studio – by Facebook for Facebook and Instagram
YouTube uploads have a scheduling feature when posting videos
Buffer – you can use one tool to post everywhere – I have some issues with this platform
Hootsuite – similar to Buffer above, you can post from one place to multiple platforms. Used to have a clunky interface, I have not looked at it in the past 2-3 years.
TailwindApp – I use this for Instagram. The reason I keep using them is because of their analytics capabilities, but most of all they have a feature to suggest “relevant hashtags” that I find very helpful. This is a paid service.
MailChimp – as long as you don’t talk about vaccines you’re fine. Otherwise, you will get kicked out. Make sure you export your list once a week so you don’t lose your subscribers. This is a really powerful tool, but they did not choose our paradigm.
SendInBlue – has a nice free plan that can get you started. The interface is a bit slow, but I use it for personal projects where I am not sure if I will make money.
AWeber.com – next best from AWeber. It does the job, but not as easy to integrate with a website like MailChimp is.
There are other alternatives here, but in my mind, they are for medium to large businesses, not really for startups.
I use my own tools here. But here are some guiding principles.
You need to backup:
- your content – keep copies of what you write/create/record on your computer as well – not just online
- your email subscribers – export your list once a week and keep a backup on your computer
- your website – do a full backup 2 – 3 times per year. If you have your content backed up and your list then you can rebuild the site even if you lose it completely. For more active businesses you need to backup more often.
The location of your backup is important. If you backup your site and store the backup on the site server, that will also be lost if your site is hacked or the server crashes. Backups should not be kept next to the original data. Ideally, you store the backup data, encrypted in a cloud storage service. See next.
Cloud services for backup
Cloud services allow you to share files across devices and, important for me, allow me to work on my stuff on any computer that has an internet connection. It is like a portable “hard drive”.
Google Drive – It’s Google, so privacy is an issue
Dropbox – This is the one I use with a good experience so far.
OneDrive – Microsft – well, it’s Microsoft.
NextCloud – I hear good things about it, related to privacy, but I have never used it
This is relevant mostly for WordPress. All other website builders generally feature a drag and drop upload feature.
FileZilla is your friend here. I have been using it on Windows for more than 15 years, and I see they have a Mac version as well
This is relevant only if you want to have a WordPress site that you would like to host on your server. If not, skip ahead.
SiteGround (affiliate link) – this is the one I use and recommend to everyone. They are not the cheapest, but they have good support and that is a must even for someone technical like me. Also, their email function is working properly. (UPDATE in May 2021: I have had some trouble with their support lately, but their performance and speed are still the best I could find, so I am still using them.)
Stay AWAY from these guys. Despite being voted “The BEST of 2020” by CNET.com, they offer really bad service and support.
- HostGator – used to be a big fan of them, but they lost their ways
- BlueHost – really bad
- GoDaddy – really bad
- Site5 – we used to be really good, but no longer an option
- Dreamhost – bad
All these options are very cheap, but that means they had to cut corners. You will pay more in time lost and having to hire a dev since their support is non-responsive (or incompetent).
If you want to build a business and not a hobby, do not buy a “shared hosting plan”. You will share the server with other people you have no control over and that will affect your reputation and the performance of your site. So make sure when you budget your business that you include the costs for good hosting.
WordPress.com – you can create a website for free, but with some limitations and not able to use your own domain. See this as an example of this working:
https://laurabruno.wordpress.com/ (UPDATE May 2021: I no longer recommend WordPress for people starting out, because it is too technical, too easy to mess up, too hard to get the site to be fast)
WIX – they say you can create a free site (but I did not find the option yet). This used to be bad, but right now it looks really, really good. They have evolved! – See this example. (I think that on the free plan you need to keep the Wix brand at the top). If top performance is important for your business, then look at Squarespace instead.
SquareSpace – more professional than WIX in my estimation. I know good examples of businesses built on Squarespace. Better overall performance. Integrates with Shopify for an online store.
Kajabi – a great “all in one platform” if you’re selling your knowledge: courses, videos, tutorials. The great thing about it is you just pay them and they handle email, hosting, security, subscriptions, payments. I am a student in Kajabi powered sites and I like the experience. I have not used it myself to build a business and if I were to choose it I would inquire about the possibility to export my data and move elsewhere if I want to. In other words, I need to make sure I own the business I build and I can use the email list I build without restrictions.
Landing pages – These can be a powerful idea when you’re just starting and you need to keep an eye on your budget. Ideal for simple tests, for building an email list, for getting feedback on a service you want to launch. Instead of building a full website, instead, you have just a page that is hyper-focused on one goal. This hyper-focus is a good thing. Look for tools that offer analytics so you know how well your page is doing and that they work on mobile. Both AWeber and MailChimp allow you to build simple landing pages with their paid subscriptions. For more options look into dedicated services.
Teachable, Shopify and Etsy – if you know you are going to teach something, or sell a product. These are built to help you get your business going and take away the problems with setting up payments and configuring a store and so on. If you are really serious about starting a business these are the ones I would recommend.
A note about Etsy:
Unlike Teachable and Shopify where you can build a business, Etsy is a good place to start, but it is not enough just by itself. Mainly because on Etsy you are building their brand and not yours, and you are also in instant competition with the entire Etsy audience. That is both good (there is an audience!) and bad (as it may be hard to get known).
I think it helps to learn how to think about choosing a theme before I actually tell you which theme to choose 😁.
Since this tools set is focused on building a business, this means your theme needs to support a store, in this case: WooCommerce. It also needs to be mobile-friendly (it is called: “responsive”). It needs to play well with social media. And it needs to be fast/high performance.
Some readers will notice that I did not say it needs to be “pretty”, and that is on purpose, as we are focusing on the customers and making their experience a good one while using the website.
I almost never choose a theme based on the colors or the images or the layout with one very, very rare exception: the theme matches the criteria above and it’s a perfect fit for what I have in mind!
I much rather prefer a theme that is easy to customize than one that is “ready-made” but almost impossible to change after you install it. This is because as you grow and you get to know your audience better, you want to be able to make incremental changes to how your website looks, or even a complete redesign, without having to purchase another theme.
UPDATED May 2021: Because of big performance issues with Divi I no longer recommend them. What I now use is the pro theme from GeneratePress. They are blazing fast and play nice with other performance-related plugins.
I am no longer recommending anything else. Why? Because as of May 2021, Google uses our site speed as a factor in their ranking algorithm as well as how nice the pages load and function on mobile devices. So it does not matter how pretty and well designed your site is, if it’s not fast and it’s not mobile-friendly it will not matter.
Unless you can afford to hire a good performance-oriented developer, just get GeneratePress.
There are a few WordPress plugins that I install all the time on any new WordPress project:
- WP Forms – for contact forms and other intake forms. (If you care about performance stay away from Contact Form 7)
- WPS Hide Login – helps with site security by hiding the default login page
- All In One WP Security – for securing your WordPress install against hacking. Please note that on projects where I need top performance I am no longer using this plugin.
- Yoast SEO – the free edition – gets your website ready to be indexed by Google in a fairly easy way. When you generate money with the website it is worth geting their PRO version.
- WP Mail SMTP – a wpforms product – I will install this if the website cannot send email. It allows you to configure in a much more flexible and advanced way how email is sent and also to do tests. (Do not use Easy STMP as it has security problems)
- WooCommerce – if you plan to make this a business this will be the plugin to use to sell things. This is a powerful tool, but rather hard to configure, and the free version, while it works, it lacks many of the things that make an excellent store. If you lack the tech skills you will be much better off building your store on Shopify.
- EasyDigitalDownloads – this is an alternative to WooCommerce if you are sure you will sell only digital products. Since there is no shipping required, a plugin optimized for digital delivery can do a much better job than a plugin that needs to be more general.
LIVE Streaming: Events, Webinars, Workshops
Workshop – means you need live interactions from your participants.
Webinar – means you are talking to people, but they cannot talk back, at most they ask questions via text chat
Events – You LIVE stream something that you do – like a webinar, but maybe you don’t stay in front of the computer if you’re streaming a Yoga glass (for example).
Zoom – workshops, webinars, events.
- PRO: easy to use, most everyone knows how to use it by now, good quality for the streaming
- CONS: you need to pay for meetings longer than one hour, and if privacy is a concern, they don’t do very well, even if they claim “end-to-end” encryption
Google Meet – workshops, webinars, events
- PRO: easy to use, good quality, integrates seamlessly with Google Calendar, and it’s free
- CONS: it’s Google, you need a google account with them, so you get all the related privacy issues.
Facebook Live, YouTube Live, InstaTV – webinars
- PRO: free (just as Google is free), easy to set up, it’s “trendy”, people in your audience will get notified about you without having to do anything special
- CONS: comments are very hard to manage, especially in a solo operation, does not look very “professional”
Slack – instead of communicating via email, it is more effective to use a tool like Slack. This way you can organize the communication in channels of interest, and get notified about only the important stuff, and also be able to search your older messages. You need to have been part of a team with more than 3 people to understand the power of this tool. It’s free with some limitations, after a while you can no longer search older messages unless you pay. The paid version is not cheap.
Discord – is like Slack, but it was designed for gamers. The big advantage is that it is free (last time I checked). The biggest drawbacks are the name itself and being game-oriented, which can be a put-off when you want to do “work”.
Circle.so – a new kid on the block, shows promise and it is more intuitive to use than Slack or Discord.
Telegram Groups – it’s like Whatsapp but NOT from Facebook, so for now it has better privacy. It will work for small teams and small projects, but if your team grows you will need to move to Slack or Discord.
ManyCam – the paid version – is what I use to record my screen, to create “picture-in-picture” images, to color correct my image, to LIVE stream to YouTube and Facebook at the same time. This is a very powerful and versatile app and if your business requires teaching through video, or doing live casts it is worth the time and money invested in learning this tool.
There are free alternatives, but I find that a paid software not only saves you time but also makes you look more professional.
Video Editing Tools
Video Editing is a complex process, but I will focus here on cutting, trimming, adding intro and outro, and logo overlays.
DaVinci Resolve – is the tool I use most often. The free version is powerful enough for what I need it to do. The UI is pretty complex, and I suggest watching a YouTube tutorial before trying to work with it so you don’t feel lost. The good news is that once you learn the process for your workflow, it’s pretty easy and fast.
HitFilm Express – is the tool that I used before Resolve (above). It is somewhat simpler to use, but it lacks some more advanced features that I needed. This also has a complex user interface, but there are tutorials about it.
Note about video: video is a complex system to present media. It has the visual component, but also the audio track and it can have subtitles. Videos can have hundreds of formats, each with its own settings and parameters and that can be utterly confusing. If you plan to work with video it is worth the time and the money to have someone teach you a process for what you need, or else you might get lost in the hundreds of options available. Resist the urge to become a video editor, unless that is actually your business. Hire help or buy focused tools. You will make your money back.
YouTube had some video editing capabilities that most people will find good enough when they start.
Image editors for Social Media
I use Photoshop for my Social Media posts, but it’s unrealistic to expect someone to learn this tool unless they are passionate about it. Seriously, unless you’re into photography, learning Photoshop can be a massive waste of time better spent focusing on your business.
Therefore the tool I recommend now is Canva. They make it super easy to create images for social media, providing templates and the correct sizes that you should be working on. And the fact that you can collaborate on your designs is a big plus!
PRO Tip: If you like someone’s presence on Social Media reach out and ask them what tool/process they use. You will find some gems.
Free High-Quality Images
Unsplash – This is the place I use most often.
Pixabay – This is the place I go to when I can’t find what I need on Unsplash. Be careful with Pixabay, I have had complaints with images from them that were not actually free to use.
Your own photography – if you’re so inclined and have a good enough phone, your own images can go a long way, since they will be unique and feel more authentic. However, taking good pictures is a skill in itself so balance this with your need to look professional.
Once you have a business that is working and the branding becomes important, you will want to invest in paid images, since almost everyone is using Unsplash these days. Look at places like Shutterstock, Dreamstime, iStock.
Fiverr – many vendors, you need to shop around to find someone who is a good fit. A lot of them are really bad. My own experience with Fiverr is: don’t go for the cheapest option, and be ready to hire 2-3 people for the same job, and chose the one that is the best.
UpWork – unlike Fiverr where you search for a vendor, on UpWork you post a job and allow vendors to find and bid for your project. Because the payment method was blocked in Romania I could not use them, but from other sources, I hear the quality of work is better than Fiverr.
99Designs – this is targeted specifically towards design: be it logos, websites, or brochures.
Hire a consultant for a strategy session. It is worth spending an hour with someone competent to draw a map for you to follow. You will save both time and money.
Using images that are way too big for your website can slow down the loading time, especially on mobile. While performance optimization is a long and complex discussion, you can get to some low-hanging fruit, by properly resizing your images.
The tool I suggest is here is “Image Resizer” because it’s super easy and a 1, 2, 3 step process. I don’t personally use this tool very often because I have similar options in Photoshop, but the advantage of this tool is that is available everywhere and it works and you don’t need to learn anything.
I don’t like OptIn popups but the data suggest that they work in getting people to subscribe to your newsletter.
The providers I have used are:
Mailmunch – they have a free plan (branded), and they integrate easily with WordPress. I just noticed that in their paid plans you have landing pages and email marketing. That could save you some money when you first start testing things online.
OptInMonster – they don’t have a free plan, but they come highly recommended as a mature product. Unless there is a clear indication that this is a better fit for you than MailMunch, I would not use this one.
There is some tech required to record and edit the audio file for your podcast and that is not what I am addressing here.
I am talking here about the place that will store your audio files, and podcast information and will allow you to link it to podcast syndication platforms like iTunes or Google Podcasts.
Transistor.fm – is the tool that I recommend. It is not free, but it’s well worth the money. I have tried to “do my own thing” and host the podcast files myself, but it takes so much time to do it right, that it’s best to pay someone to do it for you in a professional way.
PayPal – everyone knows about PayPal. Some customers don’t trust PayPal and in the past, there were issues with accessing your funds. To be fair I’ve seen no problems in the past 2 years with access to funds.
Stripe – is the main PayPal competitor and worth checking out. As far as I know, they allow for a smoother and more customized checkout experience which will influence your cart abandonment rates.
SquareUp – I have not used this one but it comes highly recommended.
Things to keep in mind:
- Is this tool available in your country?
- How do they help you with your tax documents?
- How fast can you access your money?
- How do they process refunds (is there a fee)?
- Do they have an easy checkout experience?
- Do they accept credit cards?
Let me know if you have questions about any of these or you’d like more specific details.