Resource Guide: 101+ Free and Affordable Tools for Your Business


For the last part of Create Your Dope Biz series, we’re talking about the free and low-cost tools you can use to run your blog and business. From project and time management to creating content (PDFs, webinars) and web tools and resources for your website.

Most of these free tools are perfect for the bosses on a budget. And when it’s time to upgrade, you can purchase the premium plans. Prices are listed below and are subject to change.

Go ahead and bookmark this list and use it as a resource.

Note: There are too many apps to keep up with so instead of updating this post every few months, please check out Product Hunt to find your new fave tool. Thanks for understanding!

Over 100 free and affordable tools for your business. From project and time management tools to creating content and free stock photos for your blog.

Management Tools*
Project Management
Time Management
File Management
Email Management

Business Tools*
Scheduling
Accounting
Legal Forms
Communication
CRM

Blog and Social Media*
Social Media
Blog/Writing
Stock Photos
Newsletters

Create Content*
Graphics
PDFs (worksheets, checklists)
Video (webinars)
Audio (podcasts)

Website*
Web Host + Domains
Web Pages
Security/Privacy

Misc.*
Online Courses
Good Reads
Planners
More Resources + Tools


This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase or sign up using one of my links. Thanks so much for your support!

Management Tools

Project Management
Perfect for bloggers to organize your content, service-based businesses to streamline your client process, and students for your class notes and projects.

We’re going to start with my favorite tool: Trello (free, $9.99+/month). Picture Pinterest for your to-do lists and projects. So if you’re obsessed with Pinterest (don’t worry, you’re among friends), then you’ll love Trello. You can drag and drop cards. Add members/clients to your boards. Integrate with other tools like Dropbox, Google Drive, or Slack.

Here’s an Introduction to Trello as Project and Time Management Tool and some inspiration boards you can customize for personal or business tasks.


Trello

Trello to manage projects

Asana (free, $8.33+/month) is similar to Trello, so you can track projects and add members to your team, or clients for their projects. Read How to Use Asana to Organize Your Business.

Dropbox Paper is another way you can manage your projects and collab with teams and clients. A helpful tool for “capturing ideas and gathering quick feedback from your team. The flexible editor allows for text, task lists, code, file and app embeds, and images”. Watch the demo for using Dropbox Paper.

With Evernote (free, $34.99+/year), you can write, type, or record notes and have it synced to your desktop or mobile devices. You can create to-do lists and set reminders for anything you’re working on. Read How To Use Evernote: 21 Creative Uses.

Resources: Want to know if a project is worth your time? Take this Client Screening Quiz to help you choose. Read Project Management for Dummies by Stanley Portny. Even if you’re not a project manager, this can help you organize and schedule projects, plan and stay within a budget.

Time Management
Track time for personal projects or client’s projects. Stay focused and productive in everything you do. Also, automating = major key. And good for your skin. Don’t question me, just go with it.)

If This, Then That aka IFTTT connects with all of your apps and devices. You can link up with your Twitter account, for example, and save liked tweets to Pocket to read later. You can sync it with your Gmail account to automatically add all starred emails to Evernote. And those tasks are all called “recipes”.

Recipes for those fancy robotic, futuristic, George Jetson homes, for the small biz owners and solo bosses, and music lovers. Recipes to Streamline your Social Media and 60 recipes for to keep you healthy and fit..


IFTTT Features

Features for If This, Then That

Recommended reading: Automate your life with the help of these 2 books: Automate Your Routines Guarantee Results by Kathryn Jones. The Miracle Morning: The Not-So-Obvious Secret Guaranteed to Transform Your Life (Before 8AM) by Hal Elrod.

Zapier is like IFTTT, but has limited features with the free plan (only 5 2-step “zaps” and basic tools). You can integrate your apps and automate your processes and workflows. For $20 a month you can have 20+ zaps at once, set up 3 or more steps, and have access to all 500 apps.

Use Toggl to track time, set billable rates, share time reports, and share progress for you or your team. They have free and premium plans starting at $9 to $49 a month.

Pomello App is a combination of the Pomodoro Technique + Trello. Your to-do lists are now timed, so see how much you can accomplish in 25 minutes.

Now Do This is a really simple to do list you can use. You add each task on a separate line, click ready and after you’re done with that task, click done to move to the next. Dasit.

Workflowy is another simple tool. It’s a checklist and you can add hashtags to make your list searchable or @someone to filter your list.

Auto Text Expander is a Google Chrome extension. You’ll save time by creating shortcuts (or snippets) for those longer texts. Perfect for canned email responses or codes that you don’t want to type out every single time. In the gif below, all I had to do was type “@quote” and my blockquote snippet popped up with the whole HTML code. Voila!


auto-text-expander

Stay focused with some background tunes with Noisli, Coffitivity, and Brain.fm.

Resources: Productive Flourishing has free planners and ebooks to keep biz owners productive. Here are 50 Free Apps To Make You An Incredibly Productive Person, 32 Productivity Tips from Top Designers, and the Best Hacks for Working from Home.


Sign up for Streamline in 7 – Free email course

Learn How to Prepare, Organize, and Improve Your Workflow. Get 11 scripts, 7 checklists, and lots of tips to help you streamline your workflow. All delivered to your inbox.


File Management
Organizing, saving, and sharing files (pics, videos, PDFs). You can keep track and gain access from your computer, mobile devices, or cloud storage with Google Drive which starts you out with 15GB of free storage. For more space, upgrade to their $1.99/mo plan for 100GB or 1TB for $9.99/mo.

You can also use Dropbox to manage your docs for free or with plans starting at $8.25/mo for 1TB or $12.50 for unlimited space.

You can use Evernote again, for project management. You can create notes (written or audio) for your project or save blog posts ideas. You can save articles or images to read later or for inspiration. Plus, share those files with team members, family, or clients. You can choose from the free Basic plan with 60MB of new uploads per month, Plus plan with 1GB for $34.99 per year, or Premium plan with 10GB for $69.99 per year. And you can now sync Evernote and Google Drive together.


Evernote Plans

Evernote Plans – Basic, Plus, and Premium

With Backblaze you can backup unlimited data for $5 a month (or save money with their $50 a year plan). I use this to backup all of my files on my laptop. So if something happens to my laptop, all of my files will be in cloud storage. I can also locate it by using their Mapping system if it gets lost or stolen:

If your computer uses WiFi, the Backblaze application can see the identifier of the WiFi networks available to the computer. Backblaze then cross-references the WiFi network identifier against a location database.

Email Management
Unroll.me keeps your favorite emails that you actually read in your inbox, unsubscribes you from the ones you don’t read, and Rolls up everything else into one folder so you can read it later. It’s free and works for Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, and iCloud.

I use Inbox by Gmail to organize my emails into categories: Forums (for newsletters), Social (social media updates, Slack mentions), Updates (confirmation emails from webinars or conferences), and Finances (receipts from online purchases, updates from Wave or Mint).

Try one of these 17 Gmail Extensions that Make Your Life Easier.

Business Tools

Scheduling
Add important dates and sync it to other calendars like Google Calendar, set reminders to send to other parties, and more.

With Acuity Scheduling, you can “automatically send branded & customized confirmations, reminders & follow-ups—via email or text message—and even accept payment and tips via Stripe, Square, PayPal, Braintree & Authorize.net with the click of a button.” They have free and paid plans starting at $10 to $34 a month for advanced features.


Acuity

Calendar Management with Acuity

Calendly is similar to Acuity but beautifully designed and easier to use. No more email/phone tag, just set your availability (and blackout dates for holidays or vacations) and send the link to your prospects or clients. Their basic plan is free and you pay $8 for premium.

Alternatives: Quickly share your schedule on mobile with Freebusy or Doodle.

Accounting
Keep track of money coming in and out. Send invoices to clients and reminders when they forget to pay. Quickly take or send payments online or in person.

Wave lets you manage your personal (any bank account) and business accounts (Stripe or Paypal). You can create, send, and track your branded invoices. It’s free to use for accounting and invoicing. If you have employees to pay, use their payroll services which starts at $19 per month.

Read about Wave Apps Bookkeeping Basics for Freelancers and download their mobile app Wave Receipts to scan business related receipts and which automatically adds them to your Wave account.


Wave Apps

Wave Apps Dashboard

Mint helps you manage your money and budget. You can check your credit score, receive notifications from your bank accounts, plus get tips on saving money or how to improve your credit score. You can also check your score at Credit Karma.

Make your accountant (or yourself) happy and set up a PayPal Business Debit MasterCard account so you don’t mix up your personal and business transactions.

Quickly receive or send payments using PayPal.Me. Just share your personalized link: “paypal.me/yourname” to anyone and your money is deposited to your PayPal account. It’s free to the sender, but you pay the usual PayPal fees, 2.9% and 30 cents per transaction if you’re using the account for “Goods and Services”. The “Friends and Family” account is free if you’re depositing funds to your bank or PayPal account.

With a text-based app called Digit ($2.99/mo), you can quickly put money aside into your savings account depending on your spending habits or balance. (And you don’t even need to have a savings account from your bank.) Read more on how you can use this app to save for quarterly taxes. Calculate your quarterly taxes with Quarterly Tax Calculator Bot from AND CO.

Alternatives: For more accounting software, try Xero which starts at $9 a month and goes up to $70 a month. Use it for invoicing and quotes, track payment transactions, handle purchase orders, payroll, and inventory. AND CO ($9/mo) helps you go from proposal to payment in one spot.

Accept payments online or in person (from a mobile app or free reader you can attach to your mobile device to swipe credit cards) from Stripe, Paypal, or Square.

Resources: Get accounting and tax tips for your small business from Bench and Careful Cents.

Legal Forms
Templates, proposals, and contracts for business owners

Docracy is a collection of legal contracts and other docs. You can download, customize, and sign documents online for free99.


Docracy for Legal docs

Legal Documents from Docracy

Alternatives: Using those templates from Docracy, you can also get them signed online using SignEasy (free, $3.33+/month), HelloSign (free, $13+/month) or Shake by LegalShield. Try AND CO to create easy to read contracts for your new clients.

Bonsai (free, $16+/month) is perfect for designers, developers, photographers, writers, and other contractors. Send contracts or use the template and plug in your info, sign docs online, send invoices and accept credit cards or bank transfers.

Check out Proposify for proposals. You can design and create templates, send them for online signatures, track your close rate (and see how long your future client looked at the proposal), and integrate with accounting software like Quickbooks or Harvest. They have plans starting at $25 a month, but if you’re on a budget, you can take a look at their 24 templates for inspiration and then create your own on Canva or Google Slides.


Proposify

Proposal Templates from Proposify

Customize templates and send proposals to prospects with Bidsketch. Integrate with apps/software like Zapier and Freshbooks with plans starting at $19 to $149 a month.

To keep your online business legit, use these generators and add them to your site. Create your Privacy Policy and Terms of Use for free.

Patrice from Creative Genius Law has a free course called “Protect Your Brand in Cyberspace“. She goes over trademarks and copyrighting – how to name your products and services, protecting your brand and creative work from copycats.

Notarize is an online notary service. You can get your documents notarized online anytime from any state for $25.

Resources: The Collective Legal Guide For Designers (Contract Samples)

Stay Connected
Real-time messaging, video chats, group conferences, screen sharing with anyone, anywhere.

Slack is a real-time messaging app/software where you can set up channels (chat rooms) and categorize by departments, send direct messages to other members, and integrate with Google apps on your desktop or mobile device. They have a free plan and paid plans starting at $6.67 to $12.50 per user/per month. Learn how to use these 17 Slack Integrations to Spice up Your Team Communication.

Join.me lets you collaborate quickly with screen sharing, simple video conferencing, and unlimited audio for free.

Use Zoom.us for video and web conferencing. Up to 50 attendees and 40 minutes each meeting for their Basic plan. Paid plans start from $14.99 to $19.99 a month.

Invite folks to chat with you on Skype or Google Hangouts. You can video chat, text, and make calls for free.

Set up a Google Voice number and use that as your business phone instead of using your real number. You can forward all of your calls and messages (text and voice) to your phone.


Sign up for Streamline in 7 – Free email course

Learn How to Prepare, Organize, and Improve Your Workflow. Get 11 scripts, 7 checklists, and lots of tips to help you streamline your workflow. All delivered to your inbox.


Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Improve customer service and your workflow by using a CRM system. Track everything from when your prospect fills out the inquiry form to the end of the project where you can send emails to get feedback or referrals from your client. Plus, other tools for connecting with clients and team members.

Streak has a free plan and premium plans starting at $19 to $89 per month. If you’re just starting out, the free plan will probably be all you’ll need. You’ll have a CRM system, see when your email was opened, send emails in advance, have private inboxes or share with other team members, and snooze your emails to read later all in Google Apps for Work or Gmail account.


Streak

Use Streak to track leads, emails, and more

With 17 Hats, you can basically run your business and save a lot of time with this all-in-one tool. Send quotes, contracts, and invoices. Track leads, sync projects with your Google Calendar, plus track time. They now have a free Basic plan for up to 3 projects, and prices start at $25+ a month or pay $299 per year.

17 Hats  Adds Free Basic Plan


17 Hats

17 Hats Features

Alternatives: Sync your Gmail or Outlook with HubSpot CRM and see your project from beginning to end for free. Or use Zoho CRM which can be integrated with your Google Apps. Their Forever Free plan is great for up to 10 users and their premium plans start at $12 to $35 per month. Freedcamp is a free project management tool similar to Trello but with a CRM system for $12.99 a month.

For customer care, you can use Zendesk as a help desk center and connect with customers/clients in one spot with emails, social media, phone, or chat support. They have plans starting from $5 for “Essential” to $99 for “Enterprise”.


Blog and Social Media

Social Media
With Buffer, you can schedule up to 10 posts per profile for free with your Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and now Instagram. For $10 a month you can add Pinterest and schedule up to 100 posts per profile.

Hootsuite includes scheduling for up to 3 social media profiles and basic analytics for free. For their Pro plan, $10/month includes up to 50 profiles, bulk message scheduling, and an enhanced analytics report. When you sign up, use the dashboard to monitor your feed, check out your branded hashtag, or view twitter chats all in one window.

Alternatives: Coschedule is an all in one calendar for your blog and social media scheduling. For $15/month this includes 5 social profiles and $30/month with 10 profiles and bulk scheduling. Use Tweetdeck to view multiple windows like Hootsuite.

Crowdfire lets you keep track of your Twitter and Instagram followers. Find out who follows, unfollows, and inactive followers. You can also publish and schedule posts.

Resources: Best Times to Post on Social Media from Coschedule, Repurpose Your Blog Content from Melyssa Griffin

Twitter tools
Tweriod lets you know when’s the best time to post your tweets and you can easily sync with your Buffer account. You can also find or add Twitter Chats to join.

Use Twitter Analytics to find out your top tweet, mention, follower, and other stats. Create a custom link to track activity for free with Click to Tweet.

Pinterest tools
Boardbooster to schedule pins, contribute to group boards, test broken pins, clean up boards, and more. Free trial includes 100 pins, $5 for 500 pins, $10 for 1000 pins, and so on. Pingroupie to find group boards in any topic. Pinterest Analytics to see average daily and monthly views by demographics and interests. Increase engagement with Rich Pins and learn the Easy Way to Set up Rich Pins.

Instagram tools
Squarelovin to check stats, followers, and know the best time to post. Later to schedule and manage your posts.

Facebook Tools
Check your reach, page views, and messages for your FB Business Page with Insights. Find a Facebook Group to join or learn the 3 Reasons You Need to Host a Facebook Group.

Google Tools
With Alerts, you can monitor the web for content or check what other people are saying about you and your business. You’ll receive an email whenever your topic (or brand) is published. Find out what’s happening now around the world with Trends.

Use Analytics to monitor your sites and newsletters to gain insights and improve your business.

Resources: Learn Google Analytics for Non-techie Folks, 3 Google Analytics Features to Help Grow Your Blog and Business, and 5 Ways to Use GA to Improve Your Website

For easy to read Google Analytics, use Quill Engage. You’ll receive 1 basic GA report, weekly and monthly reports (every Tuesday and on the 2nd of the month) for free. For $20 per month, it’s up to 3 reports (Mondays and 1st of the month), up to 5 email recipients, PDF files to download and more.


Quill Engage

Quill Engage for easy to read Google Analytics

Blogging
Grammarly is a free grammar and spell checking app. Grammarly is free to use and can be used anywhere (e.g., email and WordPress post/pages) once you download their Chrome extension. You can install it to your desktop and use their app or in Microsoft Word. Prices start at $29/month, $59/quarter, and $139/year for advanced features.

Hemingway Editor is similar to Grammarly. The web version is free and $9.99 to download their software.

Hate typing? Use Talk to Text or Speech Recognition add-on for Google Docs.

Use Headline Analyzer to write better headlines for your blog posts. Title Generator creates over 100 titles by typing in any topic you want to write about.

Keyword Tool is a free tool similar to Google Keyword Planner. It helps you find keywords people are typing in Google search, Youtube, Bing, and Amazon. You can then use those keywords people search for and add them to your posts to improve your site’s SEO (search engine optimization).
You can use Yoast SEO plugin or SERP (for non-WordPress users) for SEO help.

Read How to Improve Your SEO Ranking and SEO Guide for 2016.

Use Copyscape to find out who’s copying your content on the webz. Reminder: Take this free course so you’ll know what to do if/when that happens – Protect Your Brand in Cyberspace.

Use Click to Tweet from Coschedule so folks can share your posts or quotes to Twitter. Like so… click to share with your peeps:

Resources: Coschedule, Buffer Blog, and ProBlogger for tips and resources for your blog and social media posts. Follow your fave bloggers and news with Feedly and Nuzzel.
Search for the most shared content with BuzzSumo. Get some Guest Blogging tips and learn How To Blog and What to Blog About.

Stock Photos
List of sites that offer free stock photos. Make sure you read the fine print to know if attribution is needed and if it’s ok to use for commercial or personal use. **Royalty-free images starting at $10.

Resources: Some more freebies – curated list of free stock photos and Free Stock Photo Sites for Your Presentation or Online Course. Plus some free stock videos.

Tools: Use Tiny PNG to reduce your PNG and JPG images and speed up your site. For mockups, use Smart Mockups or Graphic Burger. Create free mockups and templates for your ebooks with Adazing. Use Zoommy App ($4.99) to view and download over 10,000 free stock photos.


zoommy-app

Newsletters
Use one these email marketing tools to keep your readers updated behind the scenes.

TinyLetter by MailChimp is a free and simple way to send newsletters without all of that extra stuff.

MailChimp’s “Starting Up” plan lets you have up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 emails per month for free. The “Growing Business” and “Pro Marketer” have monthly plans starting at $20 per month for unlimited emails and extra add-ons like automation (perfect for email courses) and segmentation (target based emails).

With Mailerlite, you can send unlimited emails for up to 1000 subscribers for free. You can also create landing pages for your e-products and webinars for free. MailerLite has the same features as MailChimp, but less expensive and automation is free. See MailChimp vs. Mailerlite for comparison.


MailerLite

Newsletter Templates from MailerLite

Another tool I want to use in the future: ConvertKit. I signed up for a free 30-day trial courtesy of Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur and fell in love. insert heart eyes They have landing pages you can add to your website, “Broadcasts” for timed content (onboarding, launches, email courses) and more. You can check out their demo or sign up for their webinar for a walkthrough.

What they don’t have, unfortunately, is a free plan, so their paid plans start at $29 a month for up to 1,000 subs, $49 for up to 3,000 subs, and so on. All plans include unlimited forms, courses, landing pages, and emails. And you can integrate with tools like Zapier, Gumroad, LeadPages, and Shopify.

You can use Mailmunch or Privy to grow your mail list with fancy mobile-friendly landing pages and opt-in forms to collect emails, and check your stats. You can integrate with MailChimp, ConvertKit, and more. They both have free plans and plugins for WordPress. You can also use Hello Bar to add pop-ups, sliders, or site bars (see mine above the nav bar) to any website to turn visitors into readers or clients.

Resources: Find out How to Grow Your Blog and Email List, and for your new readers, use this template for your Welcome Emails.


Content Creation

Graphics
Canva, Snappa , and Gimp are free graphic/image editor. Canva and Snappa are great for beginners. Gimp is for advanced users and you can download the software to your desktop.

Read about how bloggers and creatives can use Adobe Indesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, and try before you buy with their free trial. Or check out 5 Alternatives When You Don’t Have Photoshop.

Sign up to get fonts, mockups, and all kinds of graphics and templates at Design Cuts and Creative Market.

Use Flat UI or Coolors to create your color palette. You can learn more about creating your brand here.

For fonts, use Google Fonts, or Femmebot and Font Pair for inspiration. For icons, use Font Awesome or Noun Project.

Use Placehold.it or Fakeimg.pl for image place holders.

For dummy text, try one of these 55 generators.

PDFs
Creating fancy cheat sheets and checklists for your ecourses, workbooks or slides for your webinar, or intro/welcome packets for your clients.

For my fellow non-designers, you can customize templates or create your own resumes, flyers, Kindle book covers, social media posts and email headers for free with Canva.

Google Docs is another free option to create presentation slides, graphics, excel sheets, and text documents.

Choose from one of these 50 Free Branding Templates Designed for Businesses to create presentation slides or use Venngage for infographics. Then show off and share them on Slideshare by Linkedin.

Tools: Convert documents to PDF, JPG, PNG, and TIF. Plus, merge docs into one file with PDF Forge or PDF Joiner. PDFescape is a free PDF editor and form filler. Use this to create workbooks so your readers/viewers can type their notes instead of printing them out.

Resources: How to Create Worksheets & Freebies for Your Online Business with InDesign, Apple Pages, and Google Docs.

Video
Create webinars to grow your audience, screencasts for tutorials.

Jing is a free way to share 5-minute videos or screenshots. For longer videos (up to 15-minutes), try Screencast-o-matic for screen and webcam recording. You can also publish those videos to YouTube. For $15 a year, you can create longer videos without their watermarks, record audio, edit, and add it to Google Drive, Vimeo, and Dropbox. Here are some tips to set up your own home studio for video production.

Use Webinar Ally to host your webinars. It’s a WordPress plugin that you’ll use with Google Hangouts on Air. It’s $27 for unlimited webinars on unlimited personal websites, no attendee limits, and 1 year of email support and updates. Developers can pay $97 to use on your sites and client sites.


WebinarAlly

WebinarAlly Plugin for WordPress

LiceCap is a free software that lets you create animated screen captures from your desktop and save it as a GIF. You can add these GIFs to your tweets, blog posts, or emails.

With CourseCraft, you’ll pay $49 per paid course that you create for unlimited attendees and uploads (they host it all for you), custom branding, quizzes, and forms. No monthly fees, just 5% plus PayPal/Stripe fees (2.9% and .30 cents) per transaction.

Use Teachable to create free or paid courses like Regina of by Regina. She created Scrappy Courses for infopreneurs, bloggers, and creatives. You can build your own school with courses that are viewable on mobile and the web. You can also create a community, add forums and quizzes with their free plan or paid plans starting at $39 a month.

Alternatives: Teachery has $49 per month and $470 per year plans with no transaction fees. With Skillshare , you can earn money every month just by teaching what you know. Create and sell online courses with Zippy, a WordPress plugin you can integrate with Aweber, Mailchimp, Infusionsoft, Stripe, and Paypal for $199 a year.

Audio
Create podcasts so your readers can listen on their way to work or add music to your courses with free audio tracks.

You can use Audio Jungle to add royalty free music and sound effects. Makerbook has a list of freebies from sound effects to full tracks you could use for your projects.

Learn how to make podcasts from Buzz Sprout. Upload and share them on apps like Soundcloud, Pod-o-matic, or Mixcloud. Here a few podcasts you can listen to for inspiration.


Website

Web Hosting
Read Beginner’s Guide: Creating and Launching Your Own Website to find out where to purchase your domain name and web hosting, plus choose between WordPress/Squarespace.

Web Pages
Create and learn what to say for the essential pages for your website.

Security/Privacy
Password managers, browser and website security, and two-factor authentication (2FA)

Use 1Password or Last Pass to save all of your login and credit card info, and any important details. You can generate passwords to improve your online security. 1Password has a 30-day free trial and $5/month after. LastPass has a free plan but for $12/year you can use features like syncing it to all of your mobile devices.

Have all your info in one spot with one those tools so your family or team members can have access to it if there’s an emergency (or you’re going on vacation). Read How to Prep Your Business for an Emergency.

Duck Duck Go lets you privately search the web for images, news, places, and articles. You download the mobile or desktop version and no personal info will be tracked or collected.

I use iThemes to secure my site and the Google Authenticator – Two Factor Authentication plugin to login. I add my username and password and they’ll ask for the access code from my Google Authenticator app from my phone.

Use Sucuri’s free website malware and security scanner to check your site. And if you ever get hacked, use their Website Malware Cleanup and Repair service to clean up your website. Plans start from $16.99 to $41.66 per month/site.

Related: 6 Things You Can Do to Secure Your Online Business


Misc.

Online Courses
For my fellow lifetime learners, you can learn a LOT on the web. Take “TMI” to another level. Plus it’s a great idea to start a hobby so find something non-business related below.

Learn design (logo, web, graphic, interior), photography, web development, music, and cooking classes at Skillshare. Their free plan gives you access to 600 courses that can be viewed on your desktop or mobile device. To view all of their 5,500+ premium courses offline, their paid plan is $8/month. Start off with a free month here.

Resources: The Ultimate List of Free Courses

Learn languages like Italian, Portuguese, Irish, Russian, Spanish, and French (what I’m re-learning now) with Duolingo. It’s a free app you can use on the web and mobile. You’ll be able to read, listen, and speak with quizzes. And you can add a badge to your Linkedin account to show your progress.

Creative Bloq has courses for aspiring photographers, game or app developers, copywriters, web or graphic designers, and more.

Aquent offers free courses for designers and developers. They’re self-paced and taught by experienced pros. After you finish a course, head over to their job search page to find local or remote opps.

SoloLearn is a free mobile app and game that lets you learn C++, HTML/CSS, JavaScript, Swift, and other programming languages.

Learn how to code, build your portfolio, and help nonprofits with Free Code Camp. It’s an open source community that helps you become a software developer. Or try Code for Social Good to “improve your skills and the world”.

Tools: Brackets, Sublime Text and Atom are free text editors for your projects to create sites or apps.

Resources: 25 Websites Other Than Social Media To Upgrade Your Life, Become a Web Developer with these 100+ tools and resources. Skillcrush for tips and courses to help you become a web developer/designer.

Tools + Resources
Find free software from I Love Free Software or alternatives to the apps and software I listed at Alternativeto.


And that is all, my friend. If you found this post helpful, share this post with your folks. Pls + thx.

Note: There are too many apps to keep up with so instead of updating this post every few months, please check out Product Hunt to find your new fave tool. Thanks for understanding!


This post is the last part of Create Your Dope Biz series. See you in the next post.

8 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Blog and Biz


And we’re back with Part 4 of the Create Your Biz Series. Let’s do a quick recap before we get to growing your blog and business. So far:

You’ve figured out what you want to do and who you’re trying to attract by finding your niche.

You know where to find and attract ideal clients. You know how to keep them happy and coming back for more. And for the bad ones.. insert Do Not Enter sign.

You created your fly brand and style kit and created graphics on Canva (or Photoshop if you’re fancy).

Your mobile-friendly and user-friendly site is up and running. And you have a few blog posts published + over 200 ideas to keep you occupado all year.

And to avoid burnout and overwhelm, you have your self-care plan in place. So when drama ensues, you can say “Back off, yo. You’re messing with my chi.”

Way to go, kiddo.

As we continue on, we’re going to connect with like-minded folks so you don’t have to handle your business all by your lonesome. Here are 8 ways you can grow your blog and business.


8 Ways to Grow Blog Business: Connect with like-minded folks so you don't have to handle your business all by your lonesome.

Find + Create Your Tribe

What are the benefits of finding your peeps? You can get answers to your 50-11 questions from people who’ve been there and done that. You can share your struggle stories or hear from others. And you can share your small + major wins to inspire others in your community.

Read Why You Need Business Besties and How to Find Them by Devan Danielle and the 7 Tips For Finding Your BBFs (And Why You Need Them):

It’s time for you to find some BBFs, my friend. Either best blog friends or best business friends, whichever you need. People who understand how important spikes in blog traffic, how exciting repins are, and how meaningful things like guest posts and blog comments are.

Your BBFs are going to be people like you, who “get” you, even if they’re not in the exact same niche or line of work. They are crucial to your success because if you don’t have others to celebrate with, to bounce ideas off of, to plan, scheme + dream with, then your creative growth might get a bit stunted. No one likes that.

– Regina of byRegina.com

Find out Why You Should Join (or Start) a Mastermind Group from Erin Flynn. Join one of these 6 Slack Groups for Women and network without leaving your desk.

Connect offline at local Meetups or try these 25 Ways To Build A Local Following.

More resources: For my fellow coders, find out where to volunteer, join other diverse coder groups and meetups. Join with other coders or 100 Days of Code and spend an hour a day coding to grow your skills.


Join a Facebook Group

From the Freelance to Freedom Project, join the Freelance To Freedom Project Community. This group has 6,000+ newbies, part-timers, and seasoned freelancers.

Caitlin Bacher’s has 15,000+ members in For Love + Money where can build a business and make money doing it.

Laurence Bradford’s group called Newbie Coder Warehouse has 4,100+ self-taught coders/programmers.

The Foxley Rockstars is “for kick-ass designpreneurs who are ready to take the fiery business bull by the horns, hunt down those big dreams of theirs and bitch-slap them into reality.” What she said. Join 3000+ freelancers and entrepreneurs to get tips to grow your business.

Swap skills, spaces, and objects in OurGoods FB group with 800+ creatives in NYC.

More groups to check out: Savvy Business Owners by Heather Crabtree, Booked Out Besties by Betty Means Business, Millo Mastermind by Millo, and Tech Ladies®, plus 10 Extraordinarily Empowering Facebook Groups for Women


Chat on Twitter

Ambitionista for dream-chasing ambitious women in their 20s and 30s. – Every Monday at 8pm EST

Chat with other self-taught coders on Code Newbies. – Every Wednesday at 9pm EST

And here are 16 Twitter Chats to Find Your Creative Tribe from Krissany of Ambitious and Twitter Chats for Creativepreneurs from Kayla Hollatz.


Grow Your Blog + Email List

Try a few of these 29 Ways to Give Back to Your Blog Community and learn The Difference Between Growing an Audience and Community (and Why Both Matter!) by Kayla Hollatz.

You can read about Creating Your Own Community With Your Blog by Jennifer of The Blog Market.

Choose from one of these 23 Ideas For Your Email List Opt-in Freebie from Lisa Butler. And once you have a few freebies to share, learn how to set up Mailchimp from Melyssa Griffin’s tutorial: How The Heck Do You Use Mailchimp? A Full Tutorial (With Video!) For Sending Your First Newsletter.

To make sure your readers receive your newsletters/emails, use your domain’s email address instead of your Yahoo or Gmail account.

You can use plugins like MailMunch for Mailchimp to create opt-in forms to match your brand. Make sure to add them Eh.Very.Where. – home, about, contact, end of blog posts, sidebar, and footer.

More reading: 70 Smart Tips To Instantly Boost Your Blog from Marketing Insider Group.

Freebie: Use this Blog + Social Media Stats spreadsheet to keep track of your growth.

Create + Promote Products

Create ebooks or workbooks to show off your expertise and problem-solving skills, and avoid feast and famine by following this Guide to Creating e-Products from Nora Conrad.

You can create worksheets with Google Docs, Apple Pages, or InDesign. Allison Haag from Teachable has video tutorials for all three: How to Create Worksheets & Freebies for Your Online Business.

Tool to use: PDF Escape is a free PDF editor and form filler. If your readers can’t print out your worksheets, they can easily type their notes in the fillable forms.

Read The Truth About Passive Income: What it is, what it isn’t, how to make it, and the systems you need to make it work from Mariah Coz.

7 Ways To Promote Your Products For People Who Hate Self-Promotion:

If you, A) want to build a business and B) want to make money from that business, you gotta get over all of those things real quick.
People have followed you online because they want to hear from you. If they like your free blog posts and your weekly emails, they will probably be all about whatever product you’ve just launched. Don’t deny them the opportunity to work with you or advance their skills. Because that’s what you’re doing when you don’t promote – you’re making sure they miss out.

– Sarah of xosarah.com

Try one of these 75 Ideas To Market Your Business On A Small Budget by Kamila Gornia or 10 Introvert-Friendly Offline Marketing Ideas by Erika of Olyvia.co.


Start Guest Blogging

Start with the Beginner’s Guide to Guest Blogging from Brandon Gaille and learn the 10 Tips for Writing a Guest Post from Haute Notes.

Join Melyssa Griffin’s Online Business BFFs Facebook group to find folks looking for guest bloggers. You can also find one for your own blog and have them follow the Content Guidelines For Guest Posters.

Learn How to Guest Blog Like a Boss by Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur. This post will help you get guest-post gigs without being a recognized “blogger” (even if you’re new), build your email list, build relationships with other bloggers you want to collaborate with, and grow your blog and audience.


Listen + Create Your Own Podcasts

Check out one of these podcasts to get you inspired + motivated:
1. 5 Podcasts For Boss Lady (Women) Entrepreneurs from Megan Nicole Designs.
2. 9 Podcasts for Lady Bosses to help you work smarter and play harder by Nesha Woolery.
3. 18 Expert Podcasts For Women Online Entrepreneurs from Erika of Olyvia.co.

Coders can listen to Dev Chat for weekly discussions for developers or the Best Podcasts for New Coders and the best tools for listening to them from Free Code Camp.

Follow these tips to learn How To Make A Successful Podcast from Joe Donovan.


Hire Your Dream Team

Go from team “doallthethings” to do some of the things and let others handle the rest. Here are 5 Ways to Outsource Work When You’re a Perfectionist and 9 Ways To Feel Less Stressed As An Entrepreneur by Melyssa Griffin.

Read #3 in the 4 Secrets to Being a Happier Business Owner from Jessica of Love Plus Color and then follow if you feel me.

Follow Luvvie’s tips on Firing Myself and Ending the Empire of One:

FIRE YOURSELF. Outsource some of your life. Because you know what won’t be cute on a tombstone? “Her grind was impeccable and she did it all by herself.” We have no one to prove anything to. Especially for those of us who have established ourselves for over a decade. What other receipts do we need to show? We are usually Type A, perfectionist types who do not know how to let go of reins.

It is time. Let them go. Build your team. Find your helpers. Get some more sleep.

If you’re something like a control freak (I’m not judging.), watch Marie Forleo’s video and Learn How To Delegate in 5 Steps.

Find web designers/developers, photographers, copywriters, coaches, or business consultants from One Woman Shop or in one of the Facebook groups above and start growing your team.

For bosses on a budget, join barter communities like Our Goods or The Barter Babes to exchange services:

Barter Babes exists to help bold, ambitious bosses embrace entrepreneurship with confidence and a community of like-minded girl bosses behind them. Our online platform connects you to women locally and virtually who are willing to exchange their services and talents to help empower you and your business.


Have more tips for growing your blog and business? Share your thoughts below. And don’t forget to share with your buddies on Twitter + Pinterest.


This post is Part 4 of 5 for Create Your Dope Biz series. The last post of the series will have a detailed list of 101+ tools (free to low-cost) to help you streamline your workflow and keep you productive (and sane). 101+ Free to Affordable Tools for Your Business.

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat

Beginner’s Guide: Creating + Launching Your Own Website


In the last post, you researched and developed your business plan, figured out how to price your products and services, and found out how to find and attract your ideal clients. It’s about that time to tell other folks on the world wide web who you are and how you’re going to help them by creating and launching your website.

We’re going to create + launch your business website and turn it into a reader and client-attracting, problem-solving and money-making machine.

This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase or sign up using one of my links. Thanks so much for your support!

How to create + launch your business website. Buy a domain name and web hosting, choose between Squarespace or WordPress, create a brand + style guide, and add the essential pages you'll need for your dope biz

Your Online Home*
domain registration
web hosting
WordPress/Squarespace

Your Brand + Style*
branding yourself
creating style guide
finding images + themes

Your Site*
essential pages + what to say
privacy policy + terms of use

Your Blog*
blog’s purpose
200+ blog post ideas
create content schedule


Your Online Home

You’ve found your perfect niche, claimed your blog/business name on social media, created an actionable business plan, and priced your services. Now all we need is a home for your new business.

Since we’re setting up new + important profiles, the first thing we need to do is sign up for a password manager account. We want to keep our info secure and passwords hard to crack. So those same usernames and passwords you use all over the webs won’t cut it, dollface.

Using password managers, like LastPass, you can save all of your accounts and passwords in one spot (which makes it easy to fill out web forms). Lastpass is also a password generator, so it can create a strong password with numbers or characters (!@#%). All you’ll need is your email and one master password to get access and that’s it.

Tool: Use How Secure is My Password to find out how easy it is or how long it would take to crack your password.

Domain name
This is sorta like your home address. When someone types your link in the browser’s address bar, they’ll be sent to your website.

For your business website, instead of using www.nameofsite.wordpress.com, we’re going to change it to www.nameofsite.com. It’ll be easier to remember and look professional on your marketing material (biz cards, flyers, etc).

To buy a domain name, you can get one from a web hosting company or from Namecheap which is $13.57 per year ($10.69 + $2.88 for WhoisGuard to protect your personal info).

You can also try Google Domains which is only $12 per year and WhoisGuard is included. And if you decide to go with Google Domains, use Google Apps for Work account for your business emails ($5 a month). Instead of using yourname@gmail.com, you can switch over to name@yourwebsite.com. This will also make you look professional and manage your emails easily since you’re still using Gmail’s interface.

Tips: Remember to use NameChk to see if your domain and usernames on social media are available.
And keep your domain name and web host companies separate. If your website is ever down, you’ll still have access to your emails to keep in touch with prospects and clients.

Platform
The most popular platforms are Squarespace and WordPress. There are a few pros and cons to using either one, but it all depends on you and your business needs. Ana of The City Sidewalks talks about those pros and cons of using Squarespace or WordPress.

I’m not familiar with Squarespace, but you can learn more from Elle & Company Design. I do know Squarespace can handle the web hosting and domain registration for you, so you can just skip ahead to the styling and branding section.

If you’re #TeamWordPress, watch this video to know the difference between a hosted WordPress.com + self-hosted WordPress.org. (TL;DW version: Free but with limited control on WP.com. You need a web host and domain to use WP.org but you have more control, like adding plugins.)

Web Hosting
Your digital office space. Your 24/7 business card. Your one-stop shop and #1 marketing tool. And you have hundreds of companies to choose from, but think about the following questions before you make a purchase:

Is there 24/7 customer support? How fast do they respond? Will my site be up and running 99% of the time? Can they handle a blog with heavy traffic? Is it extra for e-commerce shop? It was $50 when I first signed up, but how much will after a year?

If you decide to go with WordPress, make sure your host is compatible with it. The following hosts are perfect for beginners and non-tech savvy folks. After you set up everything, all you’ll have to do is log-in from your WordPress dashboard since they both have the one-click WordPress install feature:

Siteground’s StartUp Plan: $47.40 1st year / $119.40 after
siteground-hosting

Inmotion Hosting’s Launch Plan: $71.80 1st year / $95.88 after
inmotion-hosting

I’m using Siteground’s Startup plan for hosting and Google Domains for my domain name since privacy is included. (I mean.. why pay extra just to keep your name and address private when Google Domains handles that for you for free?)

Tip: If you’re not ready to purchase hosting, register your domain name with Namecheap or Google Domains and forward it to the site you’re currently using. (e.g., forward your .com or .net to yoursite.wordpress.com or any other site until you’re ready to purchase hosting.)

More reading: Choose from this list of the best web hosting companies. And learn why you should avoid EIG-owned companies like Godaddy or BlueHost.

Copy this done-for-you Trello board to help you with your website launch.

Your Brand + Style

Using this Branding Toolkit from Naya the Creative, we can add it to your style guide to make your brand stand out.

But first, a few words about branding from Luvvie of Awesomely Luvvie (quote from Blavity’s EmpowerHer Conference):

Your brand is your voice, logo, site, slogan, and how others see you when you’re not in the room. It comes with expectations + emotions. So be authentic and accessible. And keep your visual brand consistent.

Style Guide
Think about your target audience and how you want your site/brand to look and feel. Use the following resources to help you choose.

More resources: Take a look at the Extensive Guide To Website Design from the Blogger Network. Download their free eBook on learning how to use Canva. Use Frontify to create your style guide with your fonts and new color scheme.

Images
Instead of going through hundreds of sites to search for the perfect pic, download this app called Zoommy App for $4.99. It’s a round up all the free stock photo sites all in one spot.

Search by color, landscape or portrait, and people or things. You can download any photo to your desktop and use it for your blog, Pinterest, or Instagram posts.


zoommy-app

More resources: Use The Stocks – “the best royalty free stock photos are delivered now along with videos, audios, icons, fonts and colors.” Follow my Pinterest board for more tips on Visual Marketing.

Themes
When choosing a WordPress theme, make sure to check the ratings, comments, and the date it was last updated. And since most of your viewers will be checking out your site from their mobile device, make sure your theme is user and mobile friendly. When you find the perfect one, try the demo version before you install or buy it.

For Squarespace users, here’s a Step by Step Guide for Choosing the Right Theme.

There are free themes you can use on WordPress.org. Or, you can try these beautiful WordPress themes from StudioPress.

More resources: Creative Market has a wide selection of fonts, logos, themes, photos, graphics, and templates you can choose from. You can get all the goods you need to build a brand and a website.


Your Site

The following sections are some essential pages you’ll need for your site. Your main goal on any page or blog post is to create a call to action – that one thing you want your visitors to do after they’ve read your content.

Do you want them to sign up to your newsletter? Get in touch to work with you? Ask questions or share their thoughts on your last post? Whatever the goal is, you’ll learn what to say on these pages to attract the right crowd.

Tip: If you already have content but want to revamp/redesign your website, read about how to improve your website and get it client-ready

Coming Soon Page
The first thing to do before you start working on your site is to set up a coming soon page. When people visit your site, the Coming Soon page will be the first thing they’ll see.

First, choose a launch date and give yourself a little wiggle room just in case there are some last-minute changes before launch. Next, give a little info about yourself and what your blog and business.

This will also be the perfect time to collect emails so you can keep subscribers in the loop. Here’s a Mailchimp tutorial from Melyssa Griffin when you’re ready.

Mailerlite is another option to use for your email list. Why use Mailerlite? Automation is included and you can send unlimited emails for up to 1000 subscribers for free99. So, if you plan on giving a 3-day email course for your launch, for example, that’s all free, buddy.

More reading: Try one of these ideas to prepare your visitors for your launch: 11 Ways to Create Hype Around a New Launch from Elle & Company Design.

Don’t forget to sprinkle some flavor from your style guide + branding toolkit. And for your background image, choose a pic from Zoommy App or The Stocks.

Tools: For WordPress users, try IgniteUp (see image below) or Easy Pie Coming Soon.

If you’re Squarespace user, go through this list to find the perfect Coverpage.

coming-soon-demo

Legal
If you plan on collecting emails, using Google Analytics to track visitors, or providing products and services, you’ll need a Privacy Policy, Disclosure Notice, and Terms of Use on your site. Find out more here from Jackie of Jade Oak.

That disclosure notice I used up top is required when you’re using affiliate links. Whether you’re getting paid or receiving something free, display your notice in the beginning of your page or post. Check out Blog Disclosures – What You Need to Know from Jade Oak:

Besides it being the law, making disclosures shows your readers you aren’t being shady and trying to hide anything. Being transparent and upfront will build trust with your readers since you aren’t hiding your relationships or vested interest when you recommend something. – Jackie

More resources: Use Iubenda to create your privacy policy for free. Carrie Dils shows you How Affiliate Programs Work. And learn Why You Should Use Nofollow Links on affiliate links from Free Borboleta.

Home
Here are 5 Things Your Business Homepage Must Include from Talented Ladies Club.

About
Tips from Twelve Skip on Creating an Interesting About Page aka the most visited page on a website. Here’s 11 resources to help you write your about page.

More resources: Tips from In Spaces Between on How to Write Your About Me Page:

An unforgettable About page has to be more than a biography or a bulging list of qualifications and your biggest achievements. It has to give your reader an insight into who you are, what you blog about and – importantly – why they should stick around for more. – Rachel

Start Here
You can have a Start Here page instead of an About page. Learn Why You Need a Start Here Page from House of Muses.

Contact
Learn How to Optimize Your Contact Page to Get More Leads and Sales from Nick Reese.

Work With Me/Services
Learn the 5 Steps to Writing an Irresistible Sales Page from Yes and Yes. And What to Include on Your Services Page from White Oak Creative.

More resources: Courtney Johnston from The Rule Breaker’s Club has 11 short (less than 6 minutes) videos you can watch that’s all about creating your Sales Page. Check out her YouTube channel for more info.

Copy Blogger will hook you up with all the tips and tricks so you’ll know exactly what to say. Check out this post about 16 Call-to-Action Formulas That Make People Want to Click from Hubspot.

Copy this done-for-you Trello board to help you with your website launch.

Your Blog

Purpose
What’s your blog’s purpose? Learn How to Define Your Blog’s Purpose:

Having a clear purpose for your blog will give you FOCUS. Your content will be stronger, your goals will become more defined, people will know what you’re all about and you can develop a tribe of readers. – Allison

Post Ideas
Elle and Company Design has 50 No-Fluff, Content-Rich Blog Post Ideas and Regina from ByRegina.com has 51 Types of Blog Posts to Help You Grow Your Reach. And, Arianne of Aeolidia has 260 Blog Posts Ideas for Creative Businesses.

Tools: I know you’re thinking, “That’s over 300 ideas!! Where am I going to put these ideas, Marjy?” I got you, sweet cheeks. You can use Evernote or Trello and save all of your ideas in one spot.

Process
Alisha Nicole has a great blog post writing process you can use, plus a free worksheet to help you out. Learn how to Write Blog Posts in 30 Minutes or Less: The 5 Question Method by Krista of Blog Beautifully. Also check out how I create and organize content for my blog.

Try one of these 101+ Blog Post Title Templates or use CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer so you can increase traffic and improve SEO. And while you’re over there, subscribe to their blog. So many great posts and freebies to help you and your blog/social media grow.

Use Grammarly to check for grammar and spelling errors.

Create Content Schedule
Here’s some tips on How to Create a Killer Content Calendar:

Content calendars help plan, organize and schedule every single piece of content you publish online. It’s the place where all of your social media posts, your blogs, your newsletters, your videos, podcasts and your graphics strategically come together to grow your business. – Kimberly Ann Jimenez

More resources: Editorial Calendar for WordPress users. Use the Editorial Blogging Calendar if you’re not on WordPress. It also comes with a free template.


Any thoughts, comments, or feedback? I’d love to hear it in the comments. And if you find this post helpful, make sure you save it on Pinterest or click to tweet below. Thanks so much for reading, folks!

This post is Part 3 of 5 for Create Your Dope Biz series. Next post will be on finding your tribe, your clique, your crew – no need to do this on your own, darling. And adding other dope doers to your team. Read more here: 8 Things You Can Do to Grow Your Blog and Biz.

How to Turn Your Idea Into an Online Business


In last the post, we talked about how to handle your mental + physical health while running an online business. There were tips from bloggers + entrepreneurs on handling self-doubt or burnout, creating a schedule to work and play, and avoiding comparisons from 6-figure income reports. If you haven’t already, check out 20+ Self-care Tips for Solo Bosses.

Today’s post is all about creating a business/action plan to keep on moving, using a perfect formula to find your niche, and pricing your services. Plus, you’ll learn basic tax and legal tips to keep your business legit, and how to find and attract the right clients.

How to Turn Your Idea Into an Online Business: Learn about creating a business/action plan to keep on moving, using a perfect formula to find your niche, and pricing your services. Plus, basic tax and legal tips to keep your business legit, and how to find and attract your ideal clients.

Business Ideas*
freelancer or entrepreneur
turn idea into plan
from full-time to boss

Find Your Niche*
formula for perfect niche
name your blog or business

Business Plan*
create an action plan
sole proprietorship or LLC
licenses and permits
taxes and finances

Pricing Your Services*
hourly or project-based
what’s your value
charge what you’re worth

Find Ideal Clients*
attract and find your clients
keep the good ones coming back
spot and let go of the not-so-good ones


Business Ideas

The Whats and Whys
Why do you want to start freelancing? What’s your ideal day as a solo boss? What’s your definition of success? Why now? What do you need to do today/this week/this month to get started + live the good life?

Can one of these 6 Signs You’re Meant to be an Entrepreneur motivate you and give you that push you need to leave the cubicle life behind?

Facebook status update from 2009 says thinking of a master plan. This 9 to 5 isn't for everybody.

From 2009 to 2016 (+ 3 states later) – I was fired. Had to break my lease to move back home. Went from job to job and settled for minimum wage. And that led to stress, anxiety, depression, and a lot of hospital visits. With all that going on, I figured there has to be something better than this. And with nothing but time on my hands, I created my dream job.

All that to say: if it has crossed your mind and you know you want to do more, get started on your backup plan now so when you’re ready to take the leap, you can throw up the deuces with ease. Plus, this is the perfect time to start with all of the tools and resources available now. So, moving on…

From Idea to Business
Go from “I have an idea” to “I have an online business” with one of these 10 business models.

Money-making Ideas
No clue on what you should do? Figure out what you love to do and how to get paid for it. You can become an Event Planner or Notary Public if you’re a people person. Start off with editorial services like copywriting if you’re a wordsmith. Or maybe pet sitting if you’re good with Fido and Heathcliff. Try those or one of these 51 ideas from Entrepreneur.

For my fellow techies, here are 14 businesses you can start with tech skills, like podcasting, app development, or tech blogging.

Are you still a full-time employee? You can try one of these 101 side businesses while you work.

More resources: Learn how to become a web developer with these 101+ resources. Learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript. Build your portfolio with passion projects or volunteer your services to charity organizations. Find freelance gigs and connect with others at meetups or networking events.


Find Your Niche

After you figure out what you want to do, it’s time to organize and figure out your biz name:

Niche
Mariah Coz of Femtrepreneur created the “Perfect Niche Formula” to get you started. Take your skills and knowledge you’ve gained from school or work + your obsessions and passions (find your passion here) and then create something for a specific audience (e.g., college students, personal trainers, or new moms).

For example, I took my 10+ years of administrative + customer service experience, my web/tech obsession and created Client Care and WordPress services for creatives + non-tech savvy bosses.

Another formula from Elle and Company Design: find a need in your industry and use your strengths to Create Your Own Niche.

Figure out your strengths and how you work by taking one or all of these tests:

How to Fascinate
Your hidden talents, your highest worth, your unrealized potential – the best parts of you might not have been obvious to you before. But now they can be. And with that knowledge, you can use your Fascination Advantages to grow your life, your team, and your career.

Plum
Vetted by science, the Plum assessment can credential you for your priorities and identify your strengths. All it takes is approximately 20 minutes to find out what your strongest behavioral traits are, the types of environments you’re best suited for and more importantly, take steps to apply for jobs that offer you the perfect environment.

16 Personalities
Take our Personality Test and get a ‘freakishly accurate’ description of who you are and why you do things the way you do.

Business Name
Now we move on to creating your perfect name for your blog or business with Melyssa Griffin. Use her worksheet to figure out your goals and what your brand will be about.

After you have a few names under your sleeve, it’s time to check if they’re available on the web. Save yourself some time by using Namechk to see if it’s available on all social media accounts and domains for free. Just type your chosen name and voila!


search-names-on-namechk.com-

Register Name
If you’re not using your name (Pics by Chicks instead of Jamie Smith Photography), make sure you register at the US Patent and Trademark Office to protect your name and brand by applying for a trademark.


Business Plan

Choose one of these 3 plans then remix, add, or delete as your business grows:

  1. Mini Plan – Answer these 4 questions from Kidal of Lera Blog: What are you offering? Who you’re going to sell it to? Why would they buy from you? How are you going to reach them?

  2. Medium Plan – Try Alexandra Franzen’s 75-word business plan answer those 5 questions.

  3. Master Plan – Or, from Regina of ByRegina.com, develop a Creative Action Plan to help you make ish happen.

A Creative Action Plan (CAP) is a document that you add to and access regularly that contains action items in 10 key areas of your business so that you always have steps you can take to move forward. – Regina


Now for the boring but required parts of your biz. Please note: I am NOT an attorney or accountant, nor do I play one on TV. Please hit up a professional to get the best advice for YOUR business. Thank you kindly.

Sole proprietorship, LLC, or S Corp?
Most freelancers start out as a sole proprietor and move on to LLC. You can learn more about choosing the right business structure at Freelancer’s Union.

A single member LLC offers the major legal advantage of protecting your personal assets from the creditors of your business. By setting up an LLC, you also avoid paying both personal and business taxes on your freelance income. As a “pass-through entity” all the income and expenses from your LLC get reported on your personal income tax return as the business operator. – Jonathan Medows of CPA for Freelancers

Employer Identification Number (EIN)
Apply for a free EIN online so you don’t have to use your social security number on any business-related forms.

Licenses and Permits
Find your state from this list on Small Business Administration and apply for business license/permit if it’s required for your business.

More reading: “Do I need a business license or permit for online or home business?” from CT Corporation.

Legal
Learn how to keep your blog + biz legal with a Privacy Policy and Terms of Use on your site. Read more info here about blogging legally.

Find contracts and other important documents for small business owners, designers, developers, photographers, and freelancers. Tailor it or ask an attorney to go through it for you.

More reading: You can get legal tips from Creative Genius Society and Small Business Bodyguard about running a creative business.

Taxes
Check out Quickbook’s Complete Guide to Taxes for the Self-Employed.

Bloggers making over $400 a year can learn the ins and outs about blog taxes.

Find out what you can deduct next tax season from Fast Company’s Freelancer’s Guide To The Complicated Mess Of Tax Deductions.

More reading: Tax tips from CPA for Freelancers and the ultimate guide to protecting credit in a freelance and gig economy.

Finances
Separate your personal bank account and open up a business account to keep your funds in order and your accountant happy. (A deposit may be required to open an account.)

Or, sign up for a debit card for free from Paypal Business and use it for business purchases and receive payments for your goods and services. (No deposit required.)

Use Wave Apps for free as your accounting software to keep track of what’s coming in and out of your personal and business accounts. Watch a tutorial from Wave to see how easy it is to use.

Use Mint to keep track of your savings, retirement, and budget. And read about Your Ultimate Budget Guideline from Learnvest.

Use Credit Karma for free to keep track of your credit score. (No credit card required.)

Insurance
Find your health, life, dental, and liability insurance company from Freelancer’s Union.

Pricing Your Services

Pricing your services is probably one of the hardest parts when starting your business.

If your prices are low, you ask yourself: “why am I still broke AND tired?”. But high prices make you feel like: “Geez Louise, ain’t nobody got funds for that?”.

Take some notes from Julie Harris Design on How to Charge What You’re Worth:

When you’re really good at something and you absolutely love doing it, it’s only natural to want to turn it into your profession, hence why you became an entrepreneur in the first place! But – often, for passion-focused businesses, we often feel afraid, or unworthy to charge for the products or services we provide when it’s something that we already love doing in the first place. This is particularly true for artists or service based businesses.

There’s a course from Double Your Freelancing about Charging What You’re Worth. It’s a free 9 lesson e-course you should definitely check out.

How to Charge
Are you going to charge by the hour or per project? How about trying value based pricing or retainers?

More reading: What is Your Value? by Amelie Lamont or How to Offer Retainers from Creative Class. Learn the pros and cons of value-based, fixed, and time-based pricing.

Once you know which pricing model you’re going to use, find out your hourly rates with Motiv’s Freelance Hourly Rate Calculator or use Creative Live’s How to Calculate Your Freelance Hourly infographic. Designers and developers can use Bonsai’s tool to compare your rates with other creatives in the U.S.

Elle and Company Design has a No Fuss Formula for Pricing your services.

And here are 2 posts on why you should charge what you’re worth – Pricing Happiness: Why You Should Charge More by Arianne of Aeolidia and Why You Should Charge More and Not Feel Bad About it by Alisha Nicole.

More reading: Check out more Freelance Resources on Pricing from Erin Flynn.


Clients

You have your biz name and plan, plus you figured out your pricing, now it’s time to find your ideal clients:

Attract
5 Ways to be Authentic to Build Trust and Be Lovable Online from Wonderclass.

Find
Find Your First Clients by Regina. Or, use this 3-Step Guide to Finding Clients Who Are a Good Fit for You and Your Freelance Business from Creative Class. Find tips on attracting more clients by Getting Referrals From Clients and Friends from Nesha Woolery.

Keep
Learn the Best Tips on How to Delight Your Customers. And from Bidsketch, here’s how to Keep Most Valuable Clients Happy.

Set boundaries
Find tips from Kim Lawler on how to keep all parties happy by Setting Boundaries.

Spot + Let Go Bad Ones
Learn how to Spot Bad Clients and watch out for the 15 Signs You Need to Let That Toxic Client Go.

More reading: Levo’s Beginner’s Guide to Getting Clients You Want.


Do you have any thoughts or questions for me? Share them in the comments below. And don’t forget to click to tweet and share with your folks or save it to Buffer for later. Thanks for reading!

This post is Part 2 of 5 for Create Your Dope Biz series. Next post will be on which platform to use (Squarespace or WordPress), branding, styling with fonts + colors, what to blog about, and how to blog legally. Read Beginner’s Guide: Creating + Launching Your Own Website.

20+ Self-care Tips for Solo Bosses (+ free download)


For the first part of Create Your Dope Biz series, we’re starting off with what should be in every freelancer’s or entrepreneur’s business: self-care plan.

There were some ups + downs when I first started (and restarted) and I didn’t know what to do with myself. And with only a background in winging it, I was thisclosetothrowinginthetowel.

Once I took a step back to figure out the whats, whys, and hows, things started to fall in place (mentally, physically, and all that good stuff). So, here are some tips to help you when self-doubt or overwhelm sneaks up on ya.

You’ll now have a plan so you can keep running your biz, creating your best work for your clients, and have your health + wellness in order.


Your Mindset*
handle anxiety + stress
perfectionism ruins lives
celebrate wins + avoid comparisons

Time to Work and Play*
take breaks and days off
mix, mingle, work at a co-working space
avoid multi-tasking + long hours at the desk

Move Your Body*
keep your body moving and heart pumping
find 101 ways to relax
less caffeine + more sleep

For Your Spirit*
benefits of meditation
spend quality time with fam + friends
volunteer your time to non-profits
find your tribe so you’re not alone


Get Your Mind Right

Change Mindset
There will be some “I’m not good enough” or “I’m not ready” moments in the beginning and it can be Toxic to Your Business. Repeat one of these 50 positive affirmations and don’t let bad thoughts ruin your mojo, yo.

You’re Not a Fraud
Find out how to stop feeling like a fraud or fight imposter syndrome and repeat after Luvvie:

I worked hard for this. I don’t have to be the best. I am enough. Since I’m here, then it is no accident. I walk away knowing that I need to keep doing what got me in that room, and I need to keep doing it well.

– Luvvie of Awesomely Luvvie

Less Stress
Learn How to Keep Work Stress, and Burnout at Bay from Square Up. And, how to handle anxiety from Creative Class. Learn How to Take Care of a Burned Out Designer from Kevin Whipps of Creative Market.

Clear Your Head
Too many ideas, thoughts, or projects running through your head? You can clear your mind by taming those ideas or answer these questions from ByRegina.com and to stick to the script.

Good Enough > Perfect
Dedicated to my fellow (or semi-recovering) perfectionists: done is better than perfect. By the time you perfect your craft, the next big thing is happening. So just launch/do it/start already!

Wake Up Excited
How do you become a morning person? Create a self-care routine:

I think the number one reason we have trouble getting out of bed in the morning is that we don’t have anything to look forward to.

– Catherine of Blissful Mind

Clear Your Head
Do a brain dump in the morning or at night and let it all out. I write everything down at night since ALL of my ideas want to come out right when I’m trying to go to sleep.

Celebrate Your Wins
All of them. Whether big or small, write them down in your Passion Planner or add little notes to your gratitude jar. Then in the future, go back and read your notes to keep you motivated. And treat your losses as lessons learned and keep it moving, boo.

Self-promote
Don’t be afraid of self-promotion (video). And learn how to build self-confidence from Bidsketch:

Being confident also inspires confidence from others, which matters whether you’re looking for a business partner, client, or romantic relationship. How are you supposed to get others to believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself?

Avoid Comparisons
No need to look at OPP – other people’s profits. Be patient + mind your *own* biz. Remember why YOU started + YOUR definition of success.

The “6-figure suck-in” really refers to the super annoying trend to publish income reports that are misleading, to title your courses and resources in a way that implies an unrealistic promise, and the wave of people caught feeling like they NEED to make 6-figures or NEED to reach a certain income amount in a certain time or else they’re failures.

– Regina of byRegina.com

More reading: Learn the 6 Emotions That Plague Highly Sensitive People Trying to Grow a Business and read 50 Thoughts That Can Motivate You to Do Anything from Entrepreneur. Read 23 Tips for Creating the Life You Want from Jessica of Pig and Dac.


Take Time to Work and Play

Set Hours
Instead of working long hours sitting and staring at the screen all day, set a schedule to work a certain amount of hours. I set mine from 10-4pm so I don’t disrespect my neck, wrists, and eyes for the love of code, Facebook, or Pinterest. (Don’t Judge.)

One Task at a Time
Have time blocks to focus on one and only one task. Choose between 30 to 90 minutes to do that one thing. Try the Pomodoro Technique. And then..

Take a Break
Take a bathroom break from all that water you should be drinking. Take lunch breaks at a table.. away from your desk. Here are some healthy recipes to keep you going. Try one of these 50 Ways to Take a Break.

Step Outside
Yes, you’re gonna have to put pants on for this, but if you ever get bored with your workspace, hit up the library or Panera Bread (why? mac and cheese + free wi-fi). Try a co-working space like We Work (see pic below) or find another co-working spot near you.

wework-workspace

Time Off
Take a day or two off and do something fun. Learn a new language on Duolingo. Take up knitting. Woodworking. Cha-cha sliding. Netflix, plum wine, and chilling. You deserve it.

Avoid Multi-tasking
Install apps like Pocket or Evernote and save those links to read later. I doubt you need 10 tabs, google AND Twitter open at the same time.


Move Your Body

Easy on The Eyes
For your eyes, download F.lux Software for free to help you sleep better at night: “It makes the color of your computer’s display adapt to the time of day, warm at night and like sunlight during the day.”

Get Moving
But first, consult with your doctor before you do try these. Please + Thanks.
Greatist has plenty of exercises you can do at home or at the gym. (After you consult with your doctor, of course.) My favorites are Bodyweight Exercises and Home Kickboxing Workouts.

greatist-workouts

The Right Time
Know when to be creative, work out, or pamper yourself during *that* time. Start keeping track so you’ll know when’s the right time to handle your business.

Relax Yourself, Girl
Please settle down, sleep early, and wake up refreshed with one of these sleeping apps. I use the SleepCycle app for Android Tip: put it on Airplane mode to avoid late night strolls on Facebook. Read Levo’s 101 Cheap Ways to Relax.

Less Caffeine
This is a personal tip but after spending 2 days under hosptial arrest, I now know iron deficiency anemia and a lot of coffee do NOT mix. So drink more water and less coffee, pretty please??

More reading: Find out the Common Health Problems of Freelance Designers and How to Deal With Them.


Feel Good Inside

Meditate
Benefits of meditation: reduces stress, feelings of anxiety, depression, anxiety, and increases energy. Before you go into work mode, just 5 minutes in the morning can brighten up your day. Use apps like Stop, Breathe, Think or Headspace to help you concentrate.

Reading is Fundamental
Remember those articles or posts you saved to Evernote or Pocket? Or read some dope posts on GOOD Magazine or on Feedly.

Listen to Some Tunes
Stay focused and productive with apps like Noisli. Listen to the best podcasts for new coders or 9 podcasts for lady bosses. Try some instrumental tunes on Youtube, Pandora, or Spotify.

Volunteer
Become a SCORE Volunteer. Share your expertise with fellow business owners and make their dreams come true. Learn How to Focus on Work When Unstable Politics gets you down by helping non-profit organizations from programs like Hatch, Taproot, and Catch a Fire.

catchafire

Write it Down
Find out 5 Ways to Use Your Journal For Self Care from Jennifer of Simply Fiercely. Try online journals like Journey or keep it old school with The Five Minute Journal.

Quality Time
Create time for your friends and family:

Know the value of your loved ones, always create time to spend quality time with them. Not everything is about working. You should recharge yourself and refresh your mind from time to time and spending time with friends and family is perfect for that. Thus, do something other than working and call your loved ones.

– Ceren Cubukcu

Don’t Do it Alone
Last, but not least: Get answers to your 5011 questions from people who’ve been there and done that. Join Facebook groups or Twitter chats to mix and mingle with other bloggers and business owners. And share your struggle stories and small + major wins to inspire others. Please believe there are plenty of people around the globe that want to hear that they’re not alone.


Want to share your tips with fellow freelancers and entrepreneurs? Share your story below. If you found this post helpful, make sure you click to tweet and share with your folks or save this pin to your boards. And while you’re over there, follow my Pinterest board for more self-care tips. Don’t forget to download your freebie!


This post is Part 1 of 5 for Create Your Dope Biz series. Next post will be on how to create a business/action plan, find your niche and clients, pricing your products and services. Plus, learn basic tax and legal tips. Read about How to Turn Your Idea Into an Online Business.

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