Case Study

Essential Tools When Running an Online Business

By Joel Klease · Updated 14 October 2020

After spending many years running my own businesses & helping clients run theirs I have come across many tools I consider indispensable. Some of these are money-saving, some are time-saving, and others will help you get better visibility within your business to make better decisions.

I have compiled this list of useful online services and will continue to add to it over time as I find ones that can help your business grow.

Money & Accounting

TransferWise

Price: Free

TransferWise is a service which allows you to transfer money between different currencies at low exchange rates when compared to banks and PayPal. They also provide you with a free borderless account & debit card, allowing you to receive & hold currencies without fees, and pay for goods and services using your held currencies.

Here are some example use cases:

  • Pay an offshore supplier in their local currency to avoid your bank's high conversion rate
  • Pay for online subscriptions using money held in your borderless account (eg. USD) to avoid your bank's high conversion rate
  • Receive money into your borderless account from an offshore client in their local currency, avoiding fees between banks
  • Transfer money from PayPal into a borderless account to avoid PayPal's high conversion rate
Visit TransferWise

PayPal

Price: Free

If you're accepting payments of any kind on your website, then you'd be a fool not to include PayPal as an option. Almost everybody has a PayPal account, and it is about a 50/50 split with credit card payments on my e-commerce clients websites.

As a seller you get their Seller Protection, fraud prevention, the ability to sell in & receive multiple currencies, a personalised PayPal.me link, and more. This is with no monthly fees - they make their money by taking a small percentage of each sale (around 2-3%).

Visit PayPal

Stripe

Price: Free

To accept credit card payments on your website there are a lot of technical and security considerations to think about, and that's where Stripe comes in. Stripe will allow you to easily take payments from almost any credit card and currency and pay it into your bank account within 1 or 2 business days.

Like PayPal, Stripe doesn't have any monthly fees or setup costs - they take a small percentage (2-3%) of each sale for their services. They have great support for developers, included fraud detection (which has saved me a few times!), and integrate with almost any web app/service.

Visit Stripe

Wave

Price: Free

If you're just starting out with your business it is highly recommended to track your expenses and income. Wave is a completely free cloud-based accounting solution which has a great user interface & most of the features you'll need to track a small business.

You can send invoices to clients, send auto-reminders, and even import receipts with their free phone app. If you choose to enable credit card payments, they take a small percentage (2-3%) of invoices that are paid via card, though you don't need to use that feature.

Visit Wave

QuickBooks Online

Price: Plans from $20AUD/month

If your business requirements outgrow the capabilities of Wave, QuickBooks Online is a great step up as it offers many features for a growing business. These include payroll, multiple currencies, detailed reports, and much more.

Additionally, it has an API which you can integrate with other services, or when using Integromat where I have automated accounting processes to save lots of time for e-commerce websites.

Visit QuickBooks Online

Analytics & Reporting

Google Analytics

Price: Free

In order to make better business decisions you'll need to know metrics about your website such as how many visitors it gets, where they are based, what pages they land on, how they are interacting with your checkout, and much more.

Google Analytics is a free tool that allows you to find out these statistics & generate reports based on them which you can then use to make business decisions off real data.

Visit Google Analytics

Metorik

Price: From $16.70USD/month

When running a WooCommerce store you'll need to easily segment data & generate reports about customers, orders & products to make better business decisions. Metorik is a great service with a clean interface that allows you to do these things and more, and can be a great sidekick for any WooCommerce store.

You can use Metorik to send automated emails using their Engage feature, export customer, product & order information to spreadsheets, and it even integrates with services like Google Analytics, Zendesk, Slack, and more.

Visit Metorik

Social Media

Later

Price: Free, with paid plans from $7.50USD/month

Depending on your brand, using social media channels like Instagram may be an essential strategy to keep engaged with your users. To help with that, Later has made it easy to schedule content for your account by making a desktop-based dashboard in which you can schedule content to auto-post using their calendar view. This will allow you to manage your content in batches - once a week, for example - freeing up time during the week to focus on other tasks.

Visit Later

E-Commerce Tools

Easyship

Price: Free for <100 shipments/month. Paid plans from $49AUD/month

Any business that sells physical products will know that shipping is a huge cost in both money and time. Easyship is a great service that offers a range of couriers at competitive rates and a dashboard to manage shipments from.

It's easy to use - just enter your order details (package weight/size) & destination and choose from a list of shipping providers based on their pricing & delivery time. You can even connect it with your checkout (WooCommerce, Shopify, etc) & send tracking details to customers - awesome!

Visit Easyship

Web Hosting

SiteGround

Price: From $6.99/month

There are many hosting companies on the internet and it can get overwhelming with many options. SiteGround is a great value shared hosting provider with amazing 24/7 support. If your website is just starting out or doesn't require a server with high resources then SiteGround will be a great option. Their support team has won awards and can help out in the case of any server issues.

Visit SiteGround

Cloudways

Price: From $10USD/month

If your website has grown past what shared hosting can provide, Cloudways is an awesome managed cloud hosting option with amazing value plans. It's what this website is hosted on! You get your own cloud server, no lock-in contracts, and you can install as many websites as the server will comfortably run, making it a great option.

Visit Cloudways

Other Essential Tools

Integromat

Price: Free, with paid plans from $9USD/month

I use Integromat to save time & money by automating tasks throughout mine and my clients businesses. It's a service that allows you to let one webapp/service talk to another one, with a whole bunch of possibilities in between. It's similar to IFTTT or Zapier, though allows for much higher flexibility and a lower price point - they even have a free plan!

Here are some example use cases:

  • Send a customised email or SMS to a customer after placing an order on your website
  • Automatically post from your Instagram to your other social media channels
  • Create a sales receipt in your accounting software when an order is placed on your website
Visit Integromat

G Suite

Price: From $8.40AUD/user/month

When speaking with clients about email I always suggest they keep their hosting and email providers separate. Luckily for everyone, Google has a low-cost, high-security option with their G Suite range.

As well as email, you'll have access to their online document suite (Google Docs, Sheets, etc) and 30GB cloud storage, which is great for collaboration.

Visit G Suite

1Password

Price: From $2.99USD/month

If you're anything like me, you have accounts and login credentials for many different online services. And if you're anything like how I used to be, you use the same password for many (or all) of these websites. The issue with this is that if one of those sites gets compromised then there's a chance your password is in the hands of people with questionable ethics - and if you're running a business this could be very concerning.

To solve this, 1Password is a service that create a different password for each login and keep them in one place - you don't even have to remember each one! Just install the browser extension or phone app and you'll be on your way to tighter security.

Visit 1Password

DocHub

Price: Free (paid plan from $4.99USD/month)

When opening accounts there's not much more annoying than having to print, sign and scan documents. Luckily for us, DocHub has solved that issue with a browser-based tool where you can upload, fill out and electronically sign - all in one dashboard! Since discovering DocHub I've not had to deal with the annoying scanner even once.

Visit DocHub

Conclusion

Hopefully there are some tools on this list you haven't used yet. Do you have any services you personally can't live without? If so, let me know via the contact form so I can check them out!

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