Over the years I’ve become familiar with a variety of tools, utilities and services that really streamline working online. Some of them took me a while to find as they were not ‘obvious’ to me when I really needed them. So I thought, it may be really helpful to share what I use. I will be updating this section as and when I find something really useful. For now, these are the resources that I use almost every day. If you have a suggestion, please do drop me a note, I would be quite interested.
In the interest of being open and honest, some of the links (albeit less than a handful) on this page and on my website are affiliate links. This means that I will receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) if you choose to use or purchase that specific product or service. In fact, in some cases you may even get a discount on the purchase price. I will only recommend products and services that I use myself and trust and in most cases the products or services are FREE. As someone entering this working online world, you shouldn’t be paying for much…just the bare essentials to get going.
These are some of the tools and resources, most of which I use almost every day.
The first thing every freelancer should do – get yourself online.
Bluehost. Every freelancer out there should have their own website showcasing their own portfolio. Bluehost really makes it easy to get up and running with most things being just a single click. e.g. setting up a wordpress website to showcase your talent. It’s great for getting started. It comes with minimal expense, great infrastructure and you get a free domain name. I’ve created a walkthrough to take you through the process from start to finish which can find here.
DigitalOcean.This is targeted at developers. I use this for staging as well as a few of my live sites. They are well priced and offer a great fast VPS service. It takes less than 60 seconds to get a machine running. I would highly recommend them to any techie that wants to run or test almost any online application. If you use the link above, you will receive free $10 in credit, that’s 2 months usage free.
Getting stuff done and find online jobs
- UpWork.com (previously oDesk). From Graphic design and logos to web development and personal assistants. If it can be done online, you will probably find someone here to do it for you. As a freelancer or business, this is a fantastic site to find work as well as get things done. I use this service quite frequently as it saves me a lot of time and I usually get stuff done fast and at a reasonable price.
- Elance.com. Almost identical to UpWork. Note that UpWork and Elance have now merged and it seems that Elance is the more prominent face of the company.
- Genesis Framework. One of the best WordPress frameworks out there! It is by far one of the most secure, fast and saves on development time as most of the legwork is done for you. So if you were going to custom design or develop your site, I would recommend using Genesis as the base framework. Most of my sites are built on this framework.
- Grammarly. Currently one of the worlds best automated proof reading, plagiarism, spelling, grammar and overall document reviewing service. I use this all the time to review guest posts for this site and for StrongWhispers.
- NameCheap – If you are building a portfolio of domains, I’d recommend NameCheap. One of the more secure registrar’s around. They offer two factor authentication which generally is a must nowadays.
- ShareASale. A great Free resource for businesses which to market their products via an affiliate program or for someone wanting to earn some money referring other products. Quick and simple to use.
- Commission Junction. Another affiliate program company.
- ProBlogger: Secrets for blogging your way to a six-figure income by Darren Rowse
- The $100 Startup: Reinvent the way you make a living. Do What you Love, and create a new future by Chris Guillebeau
- Moonlighting on the Internet by Yanik Silver
- How to Lead by Jo Owen
- Overcoming the Five dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
- Team building activities for busy managers by Brian Cole Miller
- Quicktime. If you are using a Mac, Quicktime will easily record your screen activity and voiceover and it’s FREE!
- Yeti Blue Microphone. One of the best microphones I’ve used. Ideal for screencasts and podcasts.
- Google Keyword Planner. This is a tool found inside Google Adwords. It is an invaluable tool for anyone doing anything on the web. It is free to use so check it out. It really helps understand search trends and even gives you ideas of what people are searching for.
- Google Trends. Another free to use Google research tool to let you know what is happening on the internet. What are people doing. What are they searching for. It now even gives you historical trends.
- WordTracker is a simple to use quick tool that gives you a simple indication of search volume as well as related keywords. For someone starting, their free program is perfectly fine.
- Bing Keyword Tool. Similar to the offering from Google but using Microsofts statistics inventory. It’s free to use and offers really good insight into search behaviour.
- Google Adsense. This is the counterpart to Adwords. Adsense is a revenue generating platform. It allows you to create and place various advert placeholders on your site which Google will automatically populate with relevant adverts. If someone is interested in an advert and clicks on it, you will earn some cash. Don’t click on your own adverts or face being banned!
- Google Analytics. Fantastic stats and more recently with realtime updates. You can actually watch traffic on your site as it happens. Great for understanding your audience.
- Google Webmaster. A great tool to monitor how your site is being indexed by Google. It also gives you an indication of search keywords for which your site is listed and the search position. A great tool indeed.
- Alexa. (Free/Paid depending on what you want to use). The free option allows you to view the estimated statistics of most websites out there. The more traffic the better the stats. The paid option is if you want Alexa to record your traffic more accurately and display the real stats to the world. You can gather these stats for free with Google Analytics but the data is private for you to view and not for the world.
- Pingdom. A nice utility I’ve been using for a short while which allows me to test my website speed. Remember site loading time is a factor that Google and other search engines take into account when deciding how your site ranks.
- LoadImpact. I recently came across this site when I was trying to evaluate the load capabilities of the VPS I was using for WorkOnlineBlog.com. It allows you to easily load test your website in a matter of minutes. The Free version allows you to spawn up to 250 virtual users for a 5 minute period. With a good graphical output inclusive of page loading time I find this a fantastic tool. It can do higher user counts if you want to use their paid service.
- Parallels. This I use every day! Being a Mac user, parallels allows me to virtualise many different environments for software testing and development. I even use it as a staging area for my sites.
- Visual studio. A great development tool for Microsoft technologies. Free Express versions are available that allow you to develop almost any application. (See Bizspark & Dreamspark for access to a great variety of Microsoft technologies. Especially useful for a student or a startup)
- StrongPasswordGenerator.com. A really simple tool to help generate strong passwords. Passwords are created within your browser so rest assured that even the StrongPasswordGenerator people don’t know what it is.
- Google +
Discussion and comment platform
- Disqus. A free discussion platform that makes your WordPress site look great.
- Adobe Creative Cloud. This is a subscription based service but gives you access to Adobe’s creative tools. I mainly use Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator. Worth every penny.
- FastPicSizes.com. Being frustrated with certain buggy services out there. I had one developed to suite my requirements and decided to share it with everyone.
- MailChimp. (Free for first 2000 subscribers). Easy to integrate into a WordPress site and even easier to generate great looking email campaigns.
CMS (Content management system)
- WordPress. I use this for almost all my sites.
- Genesis Framework. Almost all my sites that are WordPress driven are built on the highly secure and robust Genesis Framework. Good documentation and very flexible.
- TextMate (Mac) By far one of the best text editors for OSX. Version 2 which is in beta is Free and quite stable.
- Notepad++ (PC). Just like notepad but much much much better.
It is really important for many of us in this online working world to have a version control system in place. I use subversion for my software projects and even for documentation. It allows me to track my changes between versions and recall specific versions I sent to clients at specific points in time. Really really important and as useful. You can set it up on your own machine for free and don’t have to pay for a service to do it for you.
- Cloudforge. For those of you who would rather someone else take care of the dirty work, these guys are great!
- Tortoise Client (Windows – Free)
- Versions (Mac – Paid)
File sharing and collaboration
- Google Apps. Great for collaborating online, creating documents, file backup and storage and email handling.
- Dropbox (free and offers 2 factor authentication). A simple and easy to use file sharing facility.
- SuperDuper. I’ve been using this software for many years now. It saved me loads of downtime when computers or hard drives failed. I can generally recover from a catastrophic hard drive failure in about an hour.
Browsers (All free)