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027: 3 Low-Cost Digital Tools To Start Your Business 2021

When you've got that sense of purpose and you know you want to run an online business, the number one pitfall that everybody falls into in the first few months is tech. That idea that you suddenly need online tools to actually enable you to do your job. At first, particularly if you’ve come out of corporate, you’re used to just having your email, your mobile phone etc., all good to go. Suddenly when you move online, you realise that without the right tools it's almost impossible.


Knowing which tools are the essential first ones to invest in - because the subscriptions sure do add up each month - and which ones are really going to do what you need them to do, can be such a minefield.

I remember when I first started out, I really wished that I had a tech advisor who could just say, look, these are the things you need to get your business off the ground first. Don't waste your money on the others, or perhaps you can invest in them later, but make a start here today.

So today I'm your business bestie.

I'm going to share the tools - the first ones that I started to use and the ones that I still rely on today. The ones that when you are first starting out as a coach or a course creator, the absolute ones you should consider investing in first.


First up is Canva. Now I had never heard of Canva before I became an online coach - I had no idea of its existence.

I had no reason to use it, but now I'm using Canva every single day. If you've not heard of it, it's literally a tool that you can use to create any designs that you want - from a logo for your business through to every social media post that you'll ever need to make. It really has so much in there.


For example, you can use their photography, so instead of paying for a different site to get great photographs, they're all in there. Likewise with videos or templates. Now the templates feature is absolutely brilliant, particularly if you're not a designer by nature. If, for example, you want to start doing your Instagram posts, you can literally choose templates that'll make your piece look gorgeous, in lots of different styles. It’s the same for Facebook or any of the other social media platforms and what it does is it sizes your posts to the size that you'll need for any particular platform, which is a such a useful feature when you're first starting out.


Something not everybody knows about but that is a brilliant feature, is that you can actually remove the background of any particular photo. A lot of us entrepreneurs need photographs of ourselves to use for different marketing and you can literally remove the background just with one click. Now, a lot of these features do actually need you to have the paid version, but you can start for free and access so many of the features and get a real feel for it before committing. When you are ready to invest, I believe it's something like 10 pounds or I think $13 a month, which really, considering how often I use it, is an absolute steal. I certainly wouldn't be without the paid version now; I use it for so many things.


A new feature that's really fun is that you can actually create a web landing page in Canva. Hopefully, your Instagram bio includes a link so people can click to find out more about you. Quite often we'll use Linktree to do that, but Canva has just released a new feature where you can create a webpage - a bit like a Linktree - that has all the different clickable buttons that you would want, but you can have it in your brand design. That's the beauty about Canva - once you pick things like your brand colours or your brand font, you can store them in Canva to instantly create posts and web landing pages and so on, that all look branded and professional with hardly any effort at all.


Canva takes care of your visibility and making sure that when you get out on social media you look fantastic, but you also have to take care of bringing people onto your mailing list and for this, of course, you're going to need an email service provider.


Now for someone literally just starting out for the very first time, I think that MailChimp is a great option.

The reason that I say this is because it's completely free for you to at least trial and that means that you can build a landing page for free in MailChimp and start collecting email addresses straight away. The landing page is where you'll put your lead magnet, exchanging it for somebody's email address and then of course you have to remember to nurture your email list by sending at least a weekly email.


Now, to learn a little bit more about getting your list-building off the ground, tune into episode 16 of this podcast, which is called First Steps to List Building. In the meantime, let's talk tools because MailChimp, whilst it is fantastic to at least get your foot in the door, when it comes to building your list, I found that quite quickly I didn't really enjoy using the interface.


I felt that the emails that went out whilst looking totally proficient, just weren't that lovely and so I quickly moved over to FloDesk.

This is a newer email marketing system that’s much less established. It was set up by a couple of women closely affiliated to Jenna Kutcher, and she's a massive fan of it. Indeed, so am I, as now I find that I can create emails that look really, really beautiful, and it's really easy.


It's not the most high-tech of all the email service providers. In fact, when you get more and more advanced, I could see an argument to move on to one of the others. That said, I think that there's a lot of opportunity for using FloDesk at least the first year or two and because it looks so clean and easy to use, it's actually really pleasurable. I find that I really enjoy dropping in every week and writing the email to my mailing list - I love putting the links in, I find it easy to add images, it just looks lovely. Indeed, if you're on my mailing list, take a peek in your inbox and have a look for one of my emails.


The bottom of it actually says ‘if you like this email and you want a FloDesk account click here’ - I'll also put a link in the show notes [Here's the Link click here], because like most of these online tools, they do offer an affiliate program. I'm an affiliate for FloDesk and what that means is if you do like the look of it, you can get 50% off if you click on my link and you want to pay for it. It's actually low cost at the moment, but I hear that in the future they're going to be increasing the cost because it's been in beta for quite a while. If it’s something that you're thinking is right for you, you probably don't want to delay it for too much longer.


My third and final tool for today is one that I actually can't live without much - like the first two I mentioned - and this is my scheduling tool, called later.com.

What I use this for is to basically schedule and batch my social media posts for both Instagram and Facebook. Now, if you're starting to gear up and get your social media in place, which I hope you are, perhaps you've got to a place now that you're consistent and you're posting every day. You may be thinking this is taking out way too much of my time and actually some days I just don't want to, I'm busy or I've got a day off and I don't want to post in real time. Scheduling and batching removes all the pain from that. What it does is give you an opportunity to take just once a week, or perhaps even less frequently, to create all the posts that you're going to want to put out over the next timeframe. It works really well with Canva. You can produce your images in there and then upload them straight into later.com.


Now later.com isn't the only one of these systems - there are a few different ones that do the same type of thing, but when I first started to trial them, I just found that later.com connected to everything really easily and I had problems with a couple of others. Therefore, by default, I just started using later.com, but I have to say, I’m actually really, really happy with it. They consistently do upgrades, so things are moving forward all the time. For example, until recently you couldn't actually adapt the photo that you had saved for a post, but now you can, and I like the fact that they're constantly improving it.


Literally what you do is upload all your images - they could be photos, videos, quotes, whatever it is you want to use - and then you literally write your caption. You can even put your hashtags in there and save them. Of course, if you're into Instagram, you probably know that hashtags are important. You may not be quite there yet, but this tool really helps you because what you can do is start to save groups of hashtags and then simply just click on a button and they get added to your post. You don't want to use the same list of hashtags every time so you could save five or six different lists. For example, I have one that I have for productivity posts, one that I use when I'm talking about accountability and so on.


The great thing about this tool is it just posts automatically for you. You can literally choose for it to send the post to both your Facebook business page as well as to your Instagram automatically, and boom, it's there. If you don't want it to go automatically without you being aware that it's being posted, then you can tell it to notify you and it sends an alert to your phone from which you click on a button and confirm it can post now. Therefore, if you want to get in with the engagement at the same time you're completely in control.


I think that this is a really important tool probably within your first three to six months and no later, because being consistent in social media is so important and this tool literally just enables you to show up for your business, but in a much more considered way - a way that you can manage, because as a new entrepreneur, you're going to find out quite soon that it can be overwhelming and we have to use the online business tools in order to make it easier for us. When - particularly ones I've mentioned today - they're all under $20 a month in order to access this convenience, it is absolutely the first thing you should be doing.


The tools I've shared with you today are the first ones that I would recommend to anybody starting their online business, but there are of course so many more in the market.

What I'm going to do is put a list together on a Google spreadsheet of all of the tools that I'm finding exciting at the moment that I'm using. You can just grab that if you want a shortcut, and you just want to know what kind of tools are out there, what does she recommend, what’s she using - just click on the link in my show notes and you can just grab that list and start clicking away and exploring.


Also, if you'd like to explore about how you can work with me and progress your business with my help, please do drop into the show notes and grab yourself a 30-minute free strategy call. You'll get linked to my Calendly where you can drop some time in that works best for you where we can talk one-to-one about how we could work together.


I hope you're subscribing to my podcast, but if you haven't hit that subscribe button, today's the day. Make sure that you're getting notified each week about my business tips and advice. Of course, as always, have an action-filled week. Speak soon. Bye.


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