These are my favorite tools and services which I use myself AND like enough to recommend. I’m not going to recommend something I don’t like.
Many of these are free or offer a free service level so you can get started without having to pay when you don’t have passive income coming in yet. To make this list easier to scan, I have stated in bold whether each one is free or paid and other simple details.
I’ve also included my referral link which means if you sign up through my referral link I will get a commission and it won’t cost you any more than normal.
I definitely appreciate all of you who do sign up through my link!
My Recommended Hosting Company
Simple Setup / Great Performance
Low Cost & 90 Day Money Back
(My referral link for A Small Orange)
I have tried so many hosting companies over the years it’s not funny. Many of them promise big but don’t deliver when it comes to support or having a server that is powerful enough to handle any significant traffic to your website.
The best I have found so far is A Small Orange – which is a weird name but they have been a great company to work with.
A Small Orange can grow with you when your site gets more popular with plans starting at less than $3/mo all the way up to dedicated servers for when you need to scale in the future.
I could actually earn nearly 50% more if you sign up for someone else like DreamHost from my referral link instead. However I feel A Small Orange has better support and their servers have better performance so I think it’s a much better fit for most people.
After You Have Your Site Built:
Free & Paid Options
(My referral link to MailChimp)
Mailchimp is an awesome email marketing platform. You can have up to 2000 subscribers and send 12,000 emails per month on their free level of service. I use them for myself and clients.I don’t get paid as an affiliate, I just get account credit to use for their services. Perhaps after I get lots of signups I can talk to them about it…
Hosting Add Ons
FREE & Paid Options
(I don’t have a referral link to CloudFlare)
CloudFlare offers an easy to implement caching system. Combine this with any of the above hosting providers and you will instantly reduce front-end server load because CloudFlare will cache static resources and reduce the number of requests to your server directly. This results in increased site performance while also potentially reducing your cost if you run something like Jelastic which charges you based on your resource usage. They offer a very simple setup and a free level of service. I use their free level myself on a number of sites, while a few of my clients do use their paid level of service. I have been quite happy with them.
As an added bonus, the IP address of your site will be different on the “front end” so it may have some SEO benefits from that in addition to the site speed increase. I’ve found that with the sites in my CloudFlare account some of the IP addresses are unique from each other also.
Invoicing & Accounting
Free & Paid Options
(My Freshbooks referral link)
Freshbooks is by far the easiest method I have used for billing clients and time tracking. I don’t use it for some of their more advanced features. You can use them to email or snail mail invoices, take online payments and track all your income/expenses for your online (or offline) business. I have never had a problem with them and with the single question I’ve sent them I got a very quick support response.
Marketing & SEO
There was a time I had a ton of tools I used. Then I changed my philosophy and instead of obsessing with tracking everything minutely and spending money on a number of SEO tools, I decided to focus my attention toward just building a select few really awesome web sites. I hope this site will be one of them.
That being said, I will periodically add some marketing & SEO tools here if I feel they are useful again. Until then:
The only real marketing and SEO tool I use, which I use for both. I manage PPC campaigns for myself and clients, and use their keyword planner tool not only for SEM but also for SEO keyword volume research. Adwords is paid (but occasionally you can get coupons from signing up for other services) and the Keyword Planner Tool is free.
Paid & 60 Day Trial
(I don’t have a referral link to Basecamp)
Basecamp is a simple project management & team collaboration tool. I use it with my internal team, clients and even some of my clients’ contractors. It is nearly always reliable and does exactly what it says it will do. However, I find it a bit too simple, so I only use it mostly for archival and communication purposes.
(I don’t have a referral link to Google Drive)
I use Google Drive to share documents with contractors & collaborators and for basic online forms where I want the data in real time into a spreadsheet. There are some programming functions that some people have made very robust for automation, but I don’t get into that too much. Combine this with IFTTT and you can do things like suck the contents of an RSS feed into a spreadsheet and other more complicated tasks.
FREE & Paid Options
(I don’t have a referral link for Mandrill)
Mandrill is a different type of email service from Mailchimp which allows you to monitor your transactional emails. I use Mandrill for things like sending registration confirmation emails and comment notification emails from this site to people who have opted in to them and other custom applications with my clients, like order confirmations, shipment notifications and other custom applications. They manage the deliverability of emails coming from their server and offer statistics on your open and click rates. They have an easy to implement setup, offer an API for advanced users, and best of all allow sending of up to 12,000 emails for free every month before having to upgrade to a paid plan.
(I don’t have a referral link for Google Analytics)
Google Analytics is fairly ubiquitous and you have probably already heard of them. Of course I use Google Analytics to monitor web site traffic for nearly all my sites. Google offers – by far – the best free analytics program out there, and it is quite robust. I use them to measure not only traffic, but outbound clicks, conversion rates and web site events such as search refinements.
Other Important Stuff
Free & Paid Options
(I don’t have a referral link for Pandora)
Pandora online radio is awesome! I don’t know what I’d do without it reliably streaming music to my Mac or iPhone and car through the iPhone. I know some people like Spotify and last.fm and other services better, but I still prefer Pandora for its simplicity. It’s been working and I haven’t had enough of a reason to switch so I stick with it. I’m listening to my Reggae station as I type this.
What Do You Use and Like?
If you have tools you’ve been using that you really like, please tell me about them!