Every once in a while I like to take a look at the tools I’ve been using recently because, stealthily, apps and services creep into daily use almost without our noticing.
And that makes sense. Software continues to morph into different forms. We’ve moved to apps, and to “software as a service.” The ubiquity of cloud computing and high speed internet access has also pushed lots of software to a browser platform or to subscription models of various kinds.
One can easily lose hours exploring the ever-expanding universe of internet apps, book marketing sites, and specialized tools for different industries.
Our tools also reflect the different directions we grow in, and that makes sense. I’ve gotten much more involved with internet marketing and e-commerce, and the tools I use reflect that.
Finally, I also find I think differently about the tools I use, and that’s reflected in the categories into which I’ve placed the following entries. They are where I’ve been spending my time these days.
Microsoft Word—I still spend quite a bit of time in Word, almost all on business documents and correspondence. At one time I build PDFs in Word, but these days it’s most useful as a universal format for incoming manuscripts and other documents from editors and clients.
Scrivener—Every time I start a project that’s the least bit complex or taking place over a period of time, I turn to Scrivener for its amazing organizational tools. I also love being able to move research files in all kinds of media into Scrivener, it makes writing a completely different experience.
IA Writer Pro—At one time I did 90 percent of my writing in Writer, now it’s probably about 10 percent. I still love its stripped-down interface that forces me to focus on the writing and nothing else. And I’ve learned how to use the Markdown language, which is native to Writer.
WordPress—This is one of the oddities, in my opinion. Over the years, despite trying many new word manipulation tools, and learning to use Scrivener on my writing projects, I’ve gradually found myself doing more and more writing in the WordPress editing window.
I use the “Text” display where you can see all the HTML codes, it seems like the most natural environment, and it appeals to my desire for a low-distraction writing environment, with a monospaced font.
I’ve got the JetPack plugin installed on my blog, so I can use the markdown syntax within my posts, or mix it with WordPress’s own editing tools. And it has the added advantage that I don’t have to copy or export the file from another application.
Adobe InDesign CC / Adobe Photoshop CC / Adobe Illustrator CC—The big change here isn’t the software, which continues to get better with each iteration, with better ebook output and more versatile workflow management tools. No, the change has been the move away from boxed software and endless upgrades to the Creative Cloud subscription service. Now I get the entire suite of tools (if I need them) for one monthly fee, with updates automatic.
LeadPages—This is a brilliant idea, well executed. These pages are the typical ones you would need when marketing online: squeeze pages, landing pages, registration pages, sales pages. They are pre-designed and very easy to customize within their framework. We use them for webinar registrations and product sales pages, and LeadPages makes it incredibly quick to get their good-looking pages up and running.
Optimize Press—I’ve been using this versatile software for years in its previous form. Now, it’s even more capable. You can install it as a theme on your WordPress site and use it to easily create structured membership sites or sites to deliver training products. Or you can install it as a WordPress plugin and use it to create all the same kind of pages you need for marketing. In addition, James Dyson and the Optimize users continue to release new templates all the time. We’re relying on Optimize more and more as both my sites get ready to be revamped. (More on that later.)
e-junkie—When you sell products online you need a shopping cart system of some kind to provide digital delivery and credit card cashiering services, and e-junkie is probably the easiest, least expensive option out there. It’s been around quite a while and has affiliate tracking, too. Once you start to grow, their fees grow, too, and there are limitations that may or may not impact the kind of business you do. But for most authors, it’s a great, low-cost element in an automated marketing system that can be earning money for you 24 hours a day.
PayPal—The largest payment processor online and all things considered, fairly easy to use. I’ve used PayPal for all of my online business for years, and it has become something of a utility for doing business online. PayPal makes money on transaction and processing fees, and they have branched out into mobile payments and a new type of business loan that can be very helpful for entrepreneurs.
Quickbooks online—An old school invoicing and customer management tool with a low subscription price and some ability to transfer information to the very popular business accounting program. I use it for my client work and consulting business.
Bench—This completely online accounting and bookkeeping firm is a new approach to the fairly staid business of accounting. It works if you’re comfortable doing financial business online, like uploading documents, reviewing reports, and dealing with a “team” that’s assigned to your business. I find the service solid and it solved a persistent problem for me.
Learn Scrivener Fast—Because Scrivener is so useful, I still need to keep Joseph Michael’s endlessly useful course nearby, because I’m still not going to remember all that stuff. And why should I, when it’s available in such bite-size pieces?
Blog Mastermind 2.0—I’ve been working my way through the new Blog Mastermind 2.0, and the way Yaro Starak has reinvented the training program is really sensational. It’s easier to understand and right up to date. Right now I’m partway through a course in Podcasting that’s just one of the bonuses that comes with the course. This is blockbuster training for anyone who wants to really make an impact online, and the training that started me as a blogger.
Product Launch Formula—The premier training program for online entrepreneurs, from the fellow who invented the modern product launch. I keep learning from the PLF community, have attended live events several times, and recently spent 3 days in Colorado in a mastermind. Jeff Walker has his finger on the pulse of internet marketing and what’s working today. This was undoubtedly for me the most important training decision I’ve made so far in my career online.
Evernote—I’ve relied on this cloud-based jack of all trades storage bin and document collector for years. What happens when you do that is you get more and more integrated into the program. I’m now on the Pro level (paid) and rely on Evernote to keep everything I throw at it—text, documents, screencaptures, photos, scans, audio clips, web pages, whatever—organized and instantly retrievable. What have I thrown at it lately? blog post drafts, recipes grabbed off the web, the schedule and parking information for a writer’s conference on Saturday, an Expedia travel confirmation, a photo of the label from some fish oil pills, my son’s eyeglass prescription… it just never ends. And Evernote’s new document scanning does the best and easiest job of capturing documents.
AWeber—When I got started blogging everyone recommended AWeber as the email provider with the best deliverability, so I signed up and have been with them ever since. Every year email becomes more important to every enterprise I’m involved with online, and I count on the mail list creation and analytics tools they offer. Although the AWeber interface is just now getting modernized, and large lists do encounter higher monthly fees, I have no plans to move.
Mail Chimp—Another great email provider. And a great place to get started since your account is free until you gather 2,000 names. An easy to use interface and the ability to import lists gathered elsewhere are why I use MailChimp for ad hoc lists generated during promotions.
Bluehost—My sites have all been running on Bluehost for the last five years. They are one of the leaders in supplying hosting for WordPress sites, and are recommended by WordPress.org. They have a variety of hosting plans, and I’ve used everything from the basic $6.95 a month (check in, they often have discounted rates) up to their “virtual personal server.” Fairly reliable, but with a big-company mentality, their online support is usually readily available and helpful.
wpengine—A “managed” WordPress hosting platform, with much more hands-on management than you get at a huge host like Bluehost. As my blog and business have grown, I’ve had to adapt, and in the very near future I’ll be making quite a few chancges to the infrastructure of this blog. One of the crucial resources I’ll be relying on in this transition is wpengine, and I’ll be writing a lot more about this in the next couple of weeks.
Well, those are the tools I’ve been using the most recently. I still rely on utilities like MindJet MindManager, my favorite mind mapping program, Gmail to collate my various incoming streams, and lots of others.
What do you rely on these days? Have anything to recommend? Let me know in the comments.
Note: There are many affiliate links in this article, and that’s because I actually use all these tools and services, and that’s why I recommend them.