Resources Center

The Tools I Use In My Own Design Business

Business Resources

This my Resource Center where I share a curated list of the tools and services I use and recommend for building and optimizing your websites or blogs.

I have either tested, used, or currently use every recommendation on this page. Many of these resources have been crucial to running my business (or have been used for my own client’s designs).

Before digging into these, please note my disclosure:

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a commission. This commission comes at no additional cost to you. I do not recommend these for the small commissions, but because I truly use and believe they would be beneficial for your business as well. Please do not spend any money on these products or services unless you feel you need them or you feel they will help you achieve your goals.

WORDPRESS HOSTING – SITEGROUND
I have moved my business to SiteGround as my hosting provider. It made a significant difference to the speed and performance of my site. It also includes SSL which was an add-on with my previous host. I highly and quite happily recommend SiteGround to all my clients if they are thinking about self-hosting their WordPress blogs. Oh, and SUPER affordable.
THESE ARE THE OTHER BUSINESS RESOURCES I USE

WORDPRESS THEMES

I use primarily Divi for my web designs. I like Divi because it allows me to customize the website in any way I want (using some CSS), where I find other themes require a bit more coding to accomplish the same results.

 

EMAIL MARKETING

I use aWeber for my emai marketing, however, if not in your budget, start with Mailchimp (the free version is ok but does not come with automation, like sending a welcome message when someone opts in).

Both aWeber and MaiChip offer their own form designs to embed into your website. However, I have found that OptinMonster offers a bit more custom design flexibility, especially if your email marketing software does not offer forms you can design and embed.

 

GRAPHIC DESIGN

I use several tools for my graphic design and images and it depends on what it will be used for. If this will be part of a client logo or any type of brand asset, then I use (and highly recommend) Affinity Designer which allows me to create unique images from scratch.

If I am simply editing an image or creating blog images, social media images, etc… then I pretty much go with either PicMonkey or Canva. Canva mostly for creating perfectly sized social media shares (like Pinterest stuff) and PicMonkey for my blog images, cuz it optimizes them well and USUALLY I don’t have to compress them any further. They are also both free tools, although I personally use the paid version of PicMonkey.

 

IMAGES

I mainly stick to TWO places for images: If I need images for a blog post or social media, I do to PixaBay (free). If I need a unique image or one that will be part of a website theme, logo, or brand, then I definitely go with Adobe Stock (not free). It just has a huge variety and I want to minimize using an image that everyone else has access to (such as the good ones over at PixaBay). Adobe Stock images are professional and I can always find what I need, which is not always the case for free imagery. You can grab 10 free images from Adobe Stock via this link and check it out.

I also find some great photo images, vectors, fun fonts, and all kinds of creative goodness over at Creative Market.

 

ON SCREEN VIDEO RECORDING SOFTWARE 

I have actually been using a Mac forever and recently moved to PC (big difference, wow). On Mac, HANDS DOWN (and I can’t believe they don’t have a PC version of this) you should use ScreenFlow. Simply the best, IMHO, for Mac users.

Now that I am on PC, I invested in Camtasia: Actually available on both PC and Mac, professional video recording software, has been around for a while, and it works like a charm. I used Camtasia in my Corporate days so I am speaking from hands on experience here. You can grab a free trial of Camtasia here.

I also use the Blue Yeti USB Microphone to record videos. It makes a professional difference to the voice audio in my tutorials.

If you need more light for video recording, the Neewer Ring is the tool you want. It will highlight your face like a rock-star! Or if you are not quite ready for the big screen yet and just need a smaller on the go solution to shoot pics or quick videos from your phone, then try this SENWOW 36 LED Selfie Ring Light. I use it for pictures mostly for but $10 bucks, it’s worth having around!

 

CUSTOMER SCHEDULING AND INVOICING TOOLS

I have tried several options for these and have found that Acuity Calendar was the best fit for me. It allowed me to use the free version for MONTHS until my business grew and demanded a bit more integration flexibility (like syncing with my personal calendar for availability), and sending reminders. But honestly, the free version works VERY well. You can embed Acuity easily into your blog so customers can schedule their appointments right from your site, etc… it is very awesome.

For invoicing I use FreshBooks. You can try FreshBooks for free for 30 days here.

 

BOOKS I HAVE READ AND RECOMMEND

The Awesome Factor: An Inspiring Guide to Pursuing Your Passion and Starting Your Dream Business. Because I wrote it and I think it’s pretty good (plus a quick read) :-).

Big Magic: Truly inspirational about pursuing your ideas before they move on to someone else!

Vlog Like a Boss: I bought this for my husband and he loves it. If you are thinking about video blogging, grab this one!

GirlBoss: Nothing will get you on your way to starting your business NOW than this book. Amazing journey of perseverance and wit!

 

WHAT COMPUTER DO I RECOMMEND?

Aaaahh, well this is a biggy and I get asked this a lot! Frankly, it really depends on what you plan to use it for. Now a days you can get a pretty decent computer for a very reasonable price that can handle a lot of things. I prefer stand-alones, probably cuz I am an ex-Mac user and I loved my stand-alone iMac. I am using a PC now. I have a laptop in case I need to go work remotely or when I travel, but prefer to design on a larger screen. I work 90% of the time from my home office, so a desktop is a perfect fit for me.

My laptop is a ThinkPad Yoga, perfect for updating blogs, managing emails, social media and actually gaming (as my daughter uses it for all her games, like Minecraft).

My PC is an HP Pavilion All-In-One 27″. I love how smooth the keyboard is, the screen size, and how fast it opens programs. I do a lot of graphic design and it is very swift in rendering images without significant delay. Especially when I am editing videos. That takes a lot of working memory and this PC handles this task like a boss. Below are links to different HP Pavilions on Amazon with different screen sizes. Just click on the image to see them all.


HOW TO START A BLOG

This is my own course that I created for YOU to learn how to install your own self-hosted WordPress Blog. The installation and theme videos are completely free and will get you set up and running in under 30 minutes. Get access to the free How To Start A Blog video series here.

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