These days, unless you have brick & mortar store or restaurant, there are very few businesses that can’t be operated online with the right tools. Here are the most critical tools and software I use to run my business while traveling the world as a digital nomad.
If pressed, I could run my business online using only these tools.
Cloud Storage: Dropbox
There are plenty of cloud storage tools out there, but I’ve been a customer of Dropbox since they were in beta, and I literally don’t know what I’d do without them. I store 95% of my files on Dropbox, which comforts me knowing that if I loose my laptop in Laos I can instantly access my critical docs and be set up on a new system in a matter of hours. I can also seamlessly access nearly every file I’ve ever created from my phone, iPad, laptop or friends computer.
Email & Word Processing: Google Apps
I have both a personal and business account with Google, and use Gmail for 80% of my communications and Docs/Drive for word processing and spreadsheets.
I use Calendly to schedule calls with friends and family, and consultations or meetings with new clients – it’s super easy to set up and eliminates all the back and forth of finding a time that works for everyone. I also use Accuity for coaching clients, because it’s better for tracking packages and allowing for recurring scheduling – but Calendly makes it really easy to offer instant booking.
Nearly all of my client calls and consultation meetings are taken using my Zoom room. Video is great for feeling connected to your client and more “in the room,” although audio only calls are also available. Video conferencing takes a little getting used to – sometime you talk over each other – but with a little practice it gets easier and you’ll still feel connected to people you don’t see regularly. Zoom is particularly great because you get a standard link you use to kick off a call instead of a constantly changing meeting ID or having to place a skype call.
VOIP: Google Voice & MJ Connect
When I left the states, I ported the cell phone number I’d had for 15 years to Google Voice for $20, and now people can call me no matter where I am. With a $10 subscription to Magic Jack and a forwarding number, I can call anyone in the US via hangouts just like a regular phone call, and even get text messages. As long as I have a SIM card with data or Wi-fi, there is no issue with missed calls.
I hacked together my first WordPress site in 2008, using online tutorials to teach myself how to set it up, modify PHP and make it look reasonably how I envisioned. I’ve gotten a bit better at the tools, and now there are millions of articles and companies devoted to helping people with WordPress – and you can build a nice site without learning how to code. It’s my top choice for building a website unless you are a startup that needs custom dev. Even then – you should probably run your marketing site in WP for rapid iteration and content management. 🙂
Financial and Security
Passwords: One Password
If you are one of those people that use the same password for everything, you know you’re playing with fire. Instead of worrying how you’re going to remember your password, invest in 1P and save yourself. I currently have 685 logins saved in 1P, which I can access from my browser or phone. As long as I don’t lose my master password, I wont get locked out of another site again. 1 Password also stores secure notes, identification information and credit cards – so I can make a purchasing using any of my cards with the browser extension.
Want to take payments online? Stripe or Paypal are the easiest solutions to setup, and Stripe made it possible for me to take credit cards over the phone when talking to a client, for a low per-transaction fee. I’m not sure if it’s still the same, but when I set this up Paypal required a Pro account for the same service.
Security: Strong VPN
I’ll be honest and admit that 95% of the reason I use Strong VPN is to watch Netflix or Comcast while abroad, but it’s a good idea to have for securing your network when on public wi-fi and for accessing financial sites in the US. The setup wasn’t too difficult and works on multiple devices so I’m always covered.
Bookkeeping: Quickbooks Self-Employed
If you’re a US based freelancer or service provider who needs to pay IRS quarterly taxes, this will save you a lot of hassle. It’s also great for keeping track of your personal vs. business expenses when you’re still working on a side hustle vs. a full-blown business. If you’re boostrapping, it’s going to be very important that you know if that meal you charged to your account was for biz or personal use. Quickbooks makes that pretty easy and incorporates nicely with other intuit products.
Web + WordPress
I’ve tried a ton of webhosts in the last couple decades working as a web designer and webmaster. I moved all of my personal AND client WordPress sites to SiteGround in 2016. I’ve had virtually no downtime, and their customer service is phenomenal. It’s really world’s apart from others the best WordPress hosting I’ve personally used – without destroying your budget.
Domains & Domain Management: Namecheap
I collect domains like some women collect shoes. If you have the same entrepreneurial nature, you might consider consolidating all your domains under one manager. For years I bought domains from my host, but then I would switch hosts and still have to maintain logins to route DNS servers… just a bit of a mess. Namecheap is, well, cheap, and also has good customer service & a nice interface for managing domains. (P.S. I’ve let a few domains expire so I’m now down to less than 20 – all of them are managed by Namecheap).
WordPress Theme: Divi by Elegant Themes
I’ve been an Elegant Themes customer since 2011 and after testing quite a few premium themes, I’ve decided Divi is the best WordPress theme. This site uses Divi because it is one of the most versatile and configurable themes or frameworks I’ve ever used that is still very easy for anyone to use. Divi ships with pre-made layouts or you can build from scratch. And again, their customer service is excellent – which is always worth paying for.
WordPress Training: Website in a Week by Rebecca Lutz
I built my first WordPress site from scratch around 2009 and have been learning slowly for years. I wish I had had a course like this one then that would have saved me literally 1000’s of hours. A lot of my clients ask me about building a WordPress site and for awhile I was planning to create a course on how to build a WordPress site. Thankfully, I met Rebecca Lutz and found out she’d already created the course so I don’t have to! She’s done a truly fantastic job, and you can try it free for 7-days.
Want more? Visit http://katebagoy.com/tools for a complete list and a PDF download of more than 100 tools.
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