My entrepreneurial focus over the past few years has been in the online and eCommerce space. After almost 5 years of hard work, my team and I have developed some of the key resources for those looking to launch a business. I have included a list of products and services that I personally use to help me make money online.
I often get asked what tools I use to run my online businesses, what I recommend and what I really think about certain systems… so it’s time for me to share with you my favorite online business resources.
These recommendations will save you time and frustration, and make you money in your business if you put them to good use. For many of these I’ll earn a small commission if you sign up, but I don’t recommend anything I haven’t used or gotten a ton of value from personally.
WEBSITE & BLOG CREATION
In order to build a website you need to have a domain name (like UyoOkebieEichelberger.com) and a hosting account (this is where your website lives).
Domain Name Registration: NameCheap
I bought my first domain using another company when i first launched my lingerie brand. However, someone referred me to NameCheap and I haven’t looked back since. Personally, I find their prices to be a bit cheaper (thus the name), the customer interface to be pretty intuitive and offers free email services (if you decide not to use Google Apps or Outlook). Ummm, a no brainer, right?
We use either BlueHost or HostGator (they are basically the same company) for hosting of our non-eCommerce sites (more on this later). They provide great customer service and we have never had any issues with them. Click this link to get hosting for only $2.95/month – limited offer for March 2015 only!
Website CMS (Content Management System): WordPress
Wordpress is probably the easiest and most powerful blogging and website content management system on the market today. There are other older CMSs (e.g., Drupal), as well as newer ones (e.g., SquareSpace). But WordPress is the Queen B of them all. First of, it is FREE and there are thousands of themes, plugins and widgets (free and paid) that can be used to customize your WordPress site.
WordPress & Other Themes: ThemeForest
As I mentioned above, I’m a huge WordPress fan. In order to give your site a customized look and feel, stop by ThemeForest and check out the themes and plugins available.
Site Performance: Google Analytics
As an engineer (I studied Computer Engineering in Undergraduate School) (a helluva engineer), I obsess over data, I can’t help it. If you have a website, there is some important data that you must know, including who is coming to your website, how long they stay, where they came from, and whether they joined your list, bought your products (or not). Google Analytics provides you all of this data and more for free!
ECOMMERCE OPERATIONS, SALES & MARKETING
When it comes to starting an online store, there are many things to take into consideration. One of the most important parts of the puzzle is which platform to use to power your e-commerce site, what applications to support your site with maximizing marketing strategies, sales and even shipping.
Shopping Cart: Shopify
I am a huge fan of Shopify. When I started my first eCommerce business, our site was built on WordPress and we used WP Commerce for our shopping cart. However, after hearing a lot of buzz, we decided to give Shopify a spin. What a great decision! Shopify has quickly becoming my favorite e-commerce platform. The user interface of the admin panel is simply gorgeous. This powerful eCommerce solution is great for anyone – from the novice to the eCommerce guru.
Shipping Software: ShipStation
We use ShipStation for all of my businesses. It seamlessly connects to most eCommerce shopping carts to provide an easy to use shipping fulfillment software. The thing I love most about ShipStation is the automation it provides. This allows our fulfillment team to get orders out the door speedy fast.
Label Printer: DYMO LabelWriter 4XL Thermal Label Printer
This thing is a must have for small business owners that ship products to customers. When paired with a shipping software like ShipStation, the 4XL lets you print of gobs and gobs of shipping labels in a jiffy. Total life saver!
Email Marketing: MailChimp
I started with MailChimp and have not found a reason the try any other service. I know some like Aweber and other providers. But IMHO, MailChimp is hands down the best email marketing system available right now. Easy to use, not too expensive and it syncs with 99% of all eCommerce platforms.
SOFTWARE & TOOLS
Managing a successful eCommerce business also means you have to get smart about finding easy-to-use and inexpensive software and tools that allows you to be as efficient as possible.
File Management: Dropbox or Box
I pay for both of these services. I use box for my businesses (I prefer some of the features it has for this reason) and I use Dropbox for personal (As a mom, I feel like I always have 1000s of pics and videos on my phone).
Password Management: LastPass
Given all the passwords I have to use and the importance of making those passwords secure, a password manager is a convenient program to have. It essentially keeps all of your log-in info secure and can automatically log in to any site once you’ve entered the information once, so you don’t have to memorize all of it. Seriously, you are trying to run a business, who wants to remember all of that, right?
I’m a big fan of the 4 Hour Work Week and one of the big takeaways from the book is the idea of leveraging global labor arbitrage to be more efficient. For that reason, we leverage several different resources for outsourcing various tasks.
Upwork (formally oDesk): Great place to find freelancers from around the world. I have used Odesk to find virtual assistants, bookkeepers, graphic artists and more.
99Designs: I used this site to create my first logo for You! Lingerie. It allows you to create contest based design.
Fiverr: You can get a bunch of stuff done for only $5 using Fiverr. I generally use this for quick task like illustrations and graphics.
As an entreprenuer you have to feed your brain with good books. There are a ton of great books out there. However, whenever anyone ask me for the most influential business books I have ever read, these are the ones I always refer to
The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich: I mean, really, who doesn’t want a business where they can work only 4 hours a week, live anywhere and join the rich? I enjoy the tips that Tim Ferris, #1 New York Times best-selling author shares in this book and actually apply some of his lessons to my life today so that I am always working smarter, not harder.
The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It: This book by Michael Gerber pretty much tells how to get your business to run without you. It shows how to work on your business, not in it. It teaches you how to systematize so that your business could be replicated over and over again. I heard about The E-Myth from several mentors of mine and finally decided to read it so I could learn how to work on my business, not in it. I have implements several of his ideas within my businesses and still working towards this 100%.
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead : I really enjoyed reading this book by Sheryl Sandberg because i felt like she gets the challenges of becoming a successful female leader while we are all trying to balance our careers, motherhood, sexism in the workplace. She shares many other powerful messages that is full of personal vulnerability and first-hand anecdotes.