6 Simple Things That Can Help You Secure Your Online Business


You’ve probably heard about the Equifax security mess a few months ago. It’s happened to Yahoo, Target, and HBO. Hackers are busy finding ways to gain access to your personal info or attack your website.

If you’re a solo boss on a budget, you may not have the same resources as the big dogs like hiring a cybersecurity pro. But there are some tools that can help you keep your info safe, website secure, and desktop (and other devices) protected from attacks.

secure online business

This post contains affiliate links, this means I receive a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase using one of my links. Thanks for your support!

You want to prepare for the worst-case scenarios? Make sure you take the time out today to secure your online biz so it can keep going + growing without a hitch. Here are 6 things to help you do that.

Use a password manager

No need to remember 20+ passwords when you’re using a password manager like LastPass (free or $24/year).

After you save your accounts/profiles to your LastPass account, alls you have to do is sign in using just your email and one master password to gain access to your vault (where all your usernames and password hang out). When you sign up, you’ll have access to your vault whether you’re on a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.

Using the same email and password combo for all your accounts? If your G Suite/Gmail account ever gets hacked, the hacker can try to use the same password on your social media, bank accounts, or WordPress website.

Let LastPass generate a strong password that’s hard to crack and it will save this info for you. A strong password will have at least 8 characters including upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters (!@#$).

Related: How to Create a Secure Password You Can Remember Later: 4 Key Methods (Buffer)

Do remote work privately

Whether you’re using public WiFi at Starbucks or a coworking space like WeWork, it’s a good idea to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to keep your info secure.

Companies like Private Internet Access ($6.95/month or $34/year) lets you hide your IP address and browse the web without ads or trackers getting your info (IP address, location, what kind of device you’re using).

One account can protect your laptop, phone, and tablet when you sign up and install the app on your browser and iOS or Android device.

Related: How to Safeguard Your Data From Searches (The New York Times), Privacy 101: Why You Need a VPN (PC Mag), Worried about companies spying on your browsing? Here’s what you can do (CNN), The Best VPN Services (MakeUseOf)

Back that thing all things up

All of your hard work can be gone just like that. You don’t want to start from scratch if your device is lost, stolen, or damaged. So add your files, photos, and apps to the cloud storage. Backblaze ($5/month or $45/year) has unlimited cloud storage for your Mac or PC.

Just download the app + it will copy everything on your laptop to the cloud. You’ll have a full backup of your laptop where you can get access to your files from your iOS or Android. And when you make changes or add a new file, it runs in the background and autosaves it for you.

You can also locate your computer if it’s lost or stolen. And if you need to restore a backup, Backblaze can send you a hard drive with all of your data so you can upload everything to your new device.

Tip: For a mini backup solution, don’t forget to save your important files (contracts, proposals, client list) to Dropbox or Google Drive. Check out 101+ Free to Affordable Business Tools for other tools you can use for your business.

Secure accounts + get notifications

Many accounts like Gmail or banks offer something called Two-factor Authentication (2FA). This lets you take an extra step to verify that it’s you.

For example, logging in to your Capital One account with your username and password, the app will ask you to enter a 6-digit code (sent via email or text) to gain access to your account.

Some social media accounts will send you a link to the email or phone that’s linked to the account. Clicking that link will confirm it’s you and then takes you to the page you’re trying to view.

Look under security settings on your profiles to set up 2FA or use Google Authenticator. You can also sign up for email alerts so you’ll know if someone is trying to log in to your account.

Update your desktops + mobile devices

To protect your computer from viruses and malware, make sure you install any updates for your operating system (Windows or Android), anti-virus software, and enable firewalls.

If you’re on a Windows device, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Defender then Security Center to keep your desktop protected.

For your Android device, Lookout takes care of malware scans on your apps, protects your data from threats, backs up your contacts, and locate your device if it gets lost or stolen (must turn on your location settings).

For Mac users, go through The Ultimate Mac Security Guide: 20 Ways to Protect Yourself for tips.


windows defender

Keep your website up and running

Just like your desktop and devices, your website needs to be protected and updated. Hackers can find ways to hack into your site and install malware that can send your visitors to another site, add spam links, and mess with your Google ranking.

Use plugins like BackWPup or Updraft Plus to back up your website. You can save a full backup (database, theme, plugins, posts, settings) to Dropbox or Google Drive. And choose from one of the 12 Best WordPress Security Plugins of 2017 to Keep Your Site Secure.

If your username is “test”, “admin”, or domain name (yourwebsite.com), you can change it to a username that’s hard for hackers to figure out or your email. Use LastPass to generate a strong password. And after you back up your site, you can delete that admin, test, domain name account.

Tip: Create an Editor account for when you or your writer need to publish a blog post, for example. So only you and your web developer will have access to use your Admin account for tech updates. After you backup your site, go to Users to add or delete a user.


add delete users on wordpress, secure online business

Related: The Ultimate WordPress Security Guide – Step by Step (WP Beginner), How to Improve Your WordPress Website + Get it Client-ready.

Turn on your alerts so you’ll know what’s going on behind the scenes. Also go through your security settings on Jetpack to handle login attempts and spam comments. And for extra security, use Google Authenticator to log in to your account.

After backing up your site, always keep your plugins and theme updated (and delete the ones that you’re not using). Some web hosts like Siteground automatically updates to the latest version of WordPress. And having a backup helps so if the latest update messes up your website, you can restore the last update to fix the problem.

If you’re having problems logging in to your dashboard, scan your site with the Sucuri SiteCheck scanner. It will check the website for known malware, blacklisting status, website errors, and out-of-date software for free.

If you’re hacked you can follow the directions to clean up your site or use their service to do it for you.

There’s also WP Fix It and they can clean up + secure the site to prevent future infections.

Related: 7 Signs Your WordPress Website Has Been Hacked (Domain Name Wire)

Learn how to manage your WordPress website from WP Beginner, WordPress, or Sucuri and get tips on site maintenance.

For the tech-intimidated, hire a dope developer that can take care of all of that for you.

If you’re handling sensitive info like credit cards, you can get a SSL certificate which will encrypt any personal info that’s being transmitted on your website. Learn how to How to Install an SSL Certificate or use Let’s Encrypt. Some web hosts like Siteground offer free SSL for your site.

Tip: Try Hover or Google Domains to keep your contact info private. Prices start at $12/year and privacy is included. And use the password generator to create strong passwords for your web host and domain name accounts.

Most important thing to remember: Backup then update.


Bonus Tips
Keep clients + team members in the loop
Let’s not pull an Equifax and wait until months later to tell your customers/clients. Notify your clients, team, and contractors ASAP. Let them know about your security issues and what steps they may need to take to protect themselves (reset passwords, close accounts). You want to keep your data safe but if you have access to SSN/Employee IDs, credit cards, and contact info, you should also let them know what’s going on.

Know what’s going on around the web
Sign up for emails from your web host, WP Beginner, Small Business Administration, Inc.com, and Private Internet Access Blog. Sign up for Google Alerts and get notified when someone posts on WordPress security, cyber security, or whatever topic you’re interested in.

Privacy on your browser
Is Chrome your default browser? Click the 3 dots that are under the close button (X), go the settings, and click Advanced on the bottom of the page. Then go through the options to make changes to your privacy settings – turning on settings for “Send a “Do not track” request with your browsing traffic” and “Protect your and your device from dangerous sites”. Want to keep your searches private? Use DuckDuckGo for your search engine.


Things happen. Things get hacked or get stolen. You want to prepare for the worst-case scenarios so make sure you take the time out of the day or on your next break so your business can keep going + growing without a major hitch.

Want to add a security tip? Share your thoughts below!

Photo credit: WOCinTech Chat

6 Free Tools to Help You Onboard New Clients Faster


Now that you’ve revamped your website to get it client-ready, it’s time to plan out + create your onboarding system – the steps it takes to turn a new lead into a client.

Instead of winging it every time a new lead comes knockin’ on your digital door, create your process now so you can stay consistent and look professional when working with clients.

In this post, I’ll help you set up and organize your process with some free tools (for my fellow bosses on a budget). There’s also a free Onboarding Toolkit with a done-for-you Trello board for your projects, 3 email scripts, and resources so you’ll know what to do after they pay their first invoice.

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!

Learn how to automate your onboarding process using free tools like Trello, Bonsai, Zapier to keep you stress-free and impress clients. I'll also share how to create a contact form on Google Forms and set up canned responses with Gmail.  Photo credit: CreateHer Stock

Contact

Goal – To get the info you need from your new lead with a Hire Me form using 17 Hats, Typeform, or Google Forms.

How to create one with Google Forms
I use Google Forms because it sends me an email notification to my G Suite account and I can use canned responses when it’s time to reply to the new lead’s email.

Creating Google Form
Go to Google Forms and sign in with the Gmail account to want to use and click create a new form

Add your questions to the form – name, email, link to site, list of services they can choose from, what they need help with (their struggles), and budget

After you create your form, click the responses tab and turn on “Accepting Responses”

Above that, click the 3 vertical dots and check “Get email notifications for new responses”

If you want all responses on a spreadsheet, click “Select response destination”, then “Create a new spreadsheet”, and name your spreadsheet

On the top right corner, you can change the color of the form and add your branded image. Click Preview to see the front end of the form. Make sure you test out your form while you’re there. You should get an email notification and a new entry on your spreadsheet (if you created one).

Click Settings next to Preview and in the Presentation tab, add a thank you message in the “Confirmation message” section. (e.g., “Thanks for your interest. I’ll reply to your message in 1-2 business days.” or link them to your Intro packet/page.)

Once you’re finished creating your form, click Send at the top right corner. Send via email or copy the link and add it to your canned emails or intro/welcome packets. To add the form to your site, click Embed, then copy and paste the code into any page on your website.

Related: How to create an intro packet (Erin Flynn)

How to create a canned response in Gmail

Inside your Gmail account:
Go to Settings > Labs > Canned responses and click enable

Compose new email then copy and paste your script into the message box

Click options next to the garbage can > Canned responses > Save new canned response and name the script (e.g., “Intro email”)

Here’s an example email you can send:


Hi [Client],

Thanks so much for reaching out to me about your project.

I’m looking forward to learning about you and your business & how I can help you [benefit of working with you].

I’ve attached an [info sheet/intro packet/getting started guide] so you can learn more about me and my process. Please review it & let me know if you have any questions.

My next availability is the 1st week of June and if everything looks good in the [packet/sheet/guide], there will be a link to my booking calendar so you can schedule our first call.

Thanks again for reaching out and I’ll talk to you soon.

P.S. I loved your last post on [blog post] and I agree – you should [whatever you agree with]

Your Name

[attach PDF or link]


Whenever you want to use a script all you have to do now is:
Compose new message
Click options next to garbage can
Select canned responses
Under Insert, click the script you want to use


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Use tools like Calendly, Acuity, or Freebusy (see image below) so clients can book an appointment. You can sync any one of those tools with your Google Calendar when you sign up using your Gmail or G Suite account.


Connect

Goal – Ask + answer all the questions to make them comfortable and see if you 2 would be a great fit for each other. You can use tools like Zoom for video calls or Google Hangouts for phone or video calls.


Related: 7 Things Your (Potential) Client Needs to Hear You Say Before They’ll Hire You (Carrie Dils), 5 Questions You Should Ask Your Clients Before Every Web Design Project (Shopify)

Copy this done-for-you Trello board to start onboarding clients.

After your call with your future client, thank them and let them know what’s going to happen next in an email (e.g., sending an invoice and agreement, then a welcome packet with details of the project).

Related: 10 Reasons to Package Your Expertise (Betty Means Business), Never Write a Proposal Again: 7 Reasons Having a Signature Method (Rule Breaker’s Club)

If it’s an estimate or quote (or your prices are not listed), gather everything you need (from their social media accounts, blog, industry + use their answers from the contact form and phone/video call) to create the best proposal.


Coins

Goal – Make it easy for them to sign your agreement and pay you with AND CO, 17 Hats, Dubsado, or Bonsai.

Using Bonsai for everything
Out of all of those listed, Bonsai is my favorite. You can track projects, send proposals, edit agreements that are made for freelance designers, coders, and photographers.

There’s a client portal where they can view and accept proposals, make payments (Stripe, ACH, Paypal), e-sign agreements all in one spot. You can also message each other and attach any docs like your welcome packet.

Note: And of course, all good things come to an end. Starting July 2017, Bonsai will be a paid-only service (no more free forever plan). Plans start at $9 for sending contracts + proposals OR invoices + time tracking. The next plan is $19 for all of those features. If you’re still interested, head over to read more about Bonsai pricing.

My favorite part of Bonsai is it integrates with Zapier – a tool you can use to automate all the things.


How I use Zapier with my fave apps
After I create an invoice and send it to a client, automation with Zapier starts as soon as the invoice is paid. A paid invoice creates a new card to my Client Projects in Trello.

Related: How to Integrate Bonsai with Zapier

This new card created in Trello adds a new event/project on my Google Calendar. That new event creates a new project folder in Google Drive. I have a template folder that I can copy, so all I have to do is drag and drop it into the new folder that was created. This is the folder I’ll share with the client so they can upload or download everything they need for the project – proposals, welcome packets, a copy of the agreement, and all of that good stuff.

The only problem when using Google Drive is I can’t drag and drop folders so I use their free desktop app.

Related: How To Organize Google Drive for Your Business (Elle and Company)


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No worries if this doesn’t make sense. Zapier has you covered with a step-by-step guide to creating your zaps. Just create a sample project/invoice/response or whatever you need to test out your zap. The best part about all of this is you only have to set this up once and you’re good to go.

Recap

Contact – get to know your new leads with 17 Hats, Typeform, or Google Forms. Let them book appointments with Calendly, Acuity, or Freebusy

Connect – ask and answer questions to see if it’s a good match with Zoom for video calls or Google Hangouts for phone or video calls

Coins – collect those dolla dolla bills, y’all with AND CO, 17 Hats, Dubsado

Choose from over 750 tools to automate your workflow with Zapier

Simplified onboarding process. Stress-free you. Happy clients. Referrals from those happy clients. More happy clients because of your consistent workflow. Money-making + Plum wine sipping you.

Don’t forget to copy this Trello onboarding toolkit.

What’s Next

You’re not finished just yet, sweet cheeks. There are a few more steps you can take to simplify your workflow even more.

Once you get them through the door, keep it going by taking your new lead turned client from here to project handoff. Keep reading if you want to know more.

Free Email Course

This email course will give you actionable tips to help you organize your client workflow in 7 days (or less if you’re a binge expert). You’ll get a list of tools and resources, plus:

Done-for-you Trello board to manage your projects, clients, and checklists so you’ll know what to do next

Learn how to automate your main tasks with free tools

Templates you can use to create proposals and scripts so you know what to say and when

Click below to sign up for Streamline in 7

Photo credit: CreateHer Stock

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.


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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.

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