Taylor Davidson · Tools I use to run a solo online business

Here's how I run a solo business on the web

Here are the important tools I use to run Foresight and make a living by running a solo online business.

I’ve been building things online for over a decade and all of these tools are valuable parts of the infrastructure behind my business. (Yes, a couple affiliate links are included, but these are tools I actually use to run my business). Enjoy. [1]

##Ecommerce: Gumroad

gumroad.com - Free + % of transactions

I’ve tested every ecommerce product out there, and everything has pros and cons, applicable usecases, and infrastructure requirements. I’ll just say this: given that I sell digital products and that seamless digital product fulfillment, ease of use, management of taxes and VAT, and that I build my site using a flat-file CMS called Statamic, and do all site design, development, and deployment myself, Gumroad works for me. I’ve used Gumroad for over $230k in sales, so it’s been an important part of my business. Other options to check out include Selz, Paddle, and Snipcart, as well as the hosted services like Shopify and of course, the payments platform Stripe. One way to see a ton of different ecommerce platforms is to look through the list of ecommerce solutions that use Stripe.

##Newsletter: Mailchimp

Mailchimp - $0 +

I’ve used Mailchimp for years and it’s a key part to making my business run. Yes, there are other email service providers, and I’ve setup and managed Klaviyo and others for clients, but Mailchimp is a powerful, easy to use platform that probably has a lot of features you aren’t using. Learn more about how to make Mailchimp a source of revenue here

##Livechat: Drift

drift.com - $0 to $50/month +

Livechat is a great tool to interact with potential customers and ask questions that people have about Foresight’s models. It’s a great way to connect and answer questions easily. I believe the email questions you get in your inbox are the tip of the iceberg of what people are really thinking, and anything you can do to learn more about what people want to understand - and answering their questions quickly - is critical to running an online business.

##Marketing and Data Management: Zapier

zapier.com - $0 to $15/month +

Zapier is a critical part of my business infrastructure. As a non-developer, Zapier allows me to create integrations between services and manage the data flows that run my business. Set it and forget it, Zapier works in the background automating all the tasks that I used to spend hours doing back in the day. I use Zapier to move people between Mailchimp lists, to update data in Mailchimp based on ecommerce purchases (to kick off autoresponders), to send sales notifications to me in Slack, and many more data management functions.

##Time Tracking and Invoicing: Harvest

getharvest.com - $12/month +

I track how I spend my time because I want to understand the return on my investment into creating products, marketing, customer service, and other activities. Harvest is also great for tracking and invoicing my client work, and it’s easy to use to track time, issue invoices, and get paid.

##Analytics: Google Analytics

google.com/analytics - Free

Free and easy to use, it’s easy to get started with Google Analytics and it’s well-worth the investment of time to really learn how to use GA to answer questions about how people use your website.

##Analytics: Google Tag Manager

google.com/analytics - Free

Tag Manager is the next level way to use Google Analytics and many of these web services. Tag Manager is a great way to reduce the code bloat on your website and manage analytics tools through Tag Manager instead of always pasting lines of code on your site. I use Tag Manager to create my Google Analytics events: instead of littering my site with manually-coded tags, I create rules for events in Tag Manager quickly and efficiently. Useful for solo businesses, but really powerful for medium and larger businesses as different teams touch websites and code, making it easier for marketing teams to launch analytics and for engineering teams to manage site changes.

##Analytics: Google Webmaster Tools

google.com/webmasters - Free

Free, Webmaster Tools helps you understand critical issues with your site and communicate key aspects of your site to Google. If you’re running an online business, understanding how the web works is important to making your site perform.

##Hosting: Media Temple

mediatemple.net - $20/month +

I don’t use Wordpress so I don’t need a hosting service optimized for Wordpress; I just need reliable service and fast, friendly, really helpful customer service. Media Temple has run all of my sites for years.

##Video Hosting: Vimeo

vimeo.com - $7/month (Plus) +

I know there are many platforms to use to create and sell courses, but for my video course about financial modeling I’ve created my own using my website and Vimeo Plus. I use Vimeo to host the videos and keep them private except for certain domains, and then I use Statamic to run a members-only part of my site only for purchasers of the video course.

##Scheduling Assistant: x.ai

x.ai - $0/month and up, use discount code TAYLORDAVIDSON

I use x.ai for scheduling calls and meetings, it’s like having an always-on, 24/7 assistant to handle my schedule. There are many services that make it easier to schedule meetings, but I like the simplicy of scheduling a meeting just cc’ing Amy (or Andrew) on an email chain. Clara is another similar service, but I like using X.ai and for the price, it’s well worth saving hours in email chains scheduling calls.

##Research Assistant: Wonder

askwonder.com - $75 per research request

Wonder is like having an on-call research assistant. I’ve used it to help me understand market sizes, gross margin ratios for specific industries, and other detailed questions that have helped me and clients make business decisions. It’s an efficient service that’s well worth the price.

Questions on tools, drop me an email anytime.

  1. Expanding on The Entrepreneur’s 2016 Gift Guide, and thanks to Paul Jarvis for the idea. ↩︎