I’ll tell you a secret:
Running a business from a laptop…it’s really not that hard.
In less than six months, I cobbled together some tutorials and ebooks that I found online, and created a fully functioning web design business. This business has given me an income, a flexible schedule, and more professional satisfaction than I had ever felt in the past.
If you are already running your own business from a laptop, you probably know about most of these tools. Sift through my list, and you might find one or two new services for the first time.
If you’re just still stuck in a day job, or you are just starting out, take it slow. Come back to this page as often as you need. Build your empire piece by piece.
Poco a poco.
I’ve got 5 sections for you in this resources page:
- Digital Infrastructure
- Business Setup
- Email Marketing
- Social Media
I will update this page as I find new and valuable resources, so be sure and subscribe to my newsletter to stay in the loop.
These are the pistons that keep my engine running.
In order to run a business, you have to collect money. That means:
- sending invoices
- collecting payments
- keeping records
Well, actually that’s not true. YOU don’t have to do all those things. Signup for these services, and they can do it all for you.
You have to get money from your client’s bank account to your pocket. The easiest, safest, and most secure way to do this is Paypal.
Your clients can pay you with a credit card, with their bank account balance, or with their Paypal balance (if they have a Paypal account). Paypal supports multiple currencies, and they are universally recognized. Chances are, half of your clients will have Paypal already set up, and they will find it convenient that you are using it, too.
Simple invoicing. Bookkeeping and reports. Account management. The $19.95 per month that you pay for this service will save you hours of searching through emails for what you said to that old client six months ago; Freshbooks keeps all of your finances in order.
While you can use Freshbooks for expense tracking, or some really cool Profit / Loss reports, I personally only use it for generating invoices for my clients. Your Freshbooks account integrates with Paypal, and sends payments straight through to your account. You can create recurring invoices, pass through expenses to your clients, track your time and create timesheet reports, and more.
Create a Dropbox folder for every client, and share the link with them. Use one shared folder for all digital media, and you can collaborate on all your shared documents together.
Do you have a shoebox full of receipts? Replace that box with Shoeboxed.
Snap a photo of every business expense receipt, upload it to Shoeboxed.com from your smartphone, and recycle the paper.
This app will keep your desk (and your pockets) free of clutter, and give you an easy source to mine for all of your business expenses at tax time.
Incorporation – it literally means, to form into a body. To bring to life.
When you breathe life into your business, it is only as solid as you make it. Make a hazy entity, and it can be blown away like a puff of smoke.
Make your business strong, by incorporating wisely.
Created by fun and witty entrepreneurs, the Unconventional Guide to Law and Order contains everything you need to create, fortify, and protect your assets.
When it comes time to actually file the paperwork, get incorporated, and keep the annual filings in order, you can do it yourself – or you can hire people that specialize in it to take care of the papers for you.
If you are not on top of your paperwork, don’t put your business at risk. Let the pros at BizFilings handle it.
The only thing worse than getting sued is having to fork out a ton of money for legal fees when you get sued. Commercial liability insurance protects you against an irate customer or a scammy competitor. For online businesses, TechInsurance is the best.
Your business is not your busy work. (That’s the previous sections.) Your business is your vision, and the steps you take to get there.
The more time you can spend here, delegating the busy work to other services (or employees and contractors), the more you can hone your business.
Think about it: Richard Branson does not fly airplanes or sell records. He maintains the vision of Virgin, using tools like these.
More than ‘what do I want to accomplish,’ the Desire Map looks at goals through the lens of ‘How do I want to feel?’
Once you identify your Core Desired Feelings, you can take steps to feel that way, every day, regardless of your success.
“A small, dedicated army is better than a large, uncommitted mob.” – Chris Guillebeau
How are you going to build your digital empire? Who would gladly enlist to support your cause? What are the lands that you want to conquer?
The Empire Building Kit helps you to make all these plans, so you don’t have to backtrack, later.
OmHarmonics is a special type of sound that is engineered to bring you quickly and deeply into a meditative state.
I use their free 10 minute sample track every morning.
Blogging and social media are great ways to engage your customers, past and future.
But for product launches, service offers, and relationship building, nothing beats email. Nothing.
I use all of the platforms below – it keeps me sharp with each one, so when a client wants to work with their particular service, I’m up to date with the latest release and features. You may find that just one of them works best for you. Try them all out and see which test newsletter you like the best.
The premier relationship building tool, Ace of Sales allows you to quickly send elegant and beautiful emails and newsletters. With a large library of stock photos to choose from, you can send a winning email every time. I use this tool for my weekly client reports, and my clients love them. My weekly newsletter also goes through this platform.
One of the titans of email marketing, Mailchimp earned its place among the pantheon of top email providers by offering free accounts to lists under 2,000 subscribers.
Their signup forms are a bit clunky, but they have a very fun brand, and lots of great tutorials on getting started in content marketing.
For autoresponders, nothing beats Aweber. (Yet.) They have the best newsletter signup integration, and their dynamic list segmentation lets you create subgroups of your list based on their activity – clicking on your links, opening your emails, going to your website, etc. you can make sub-lists of your most engaged users.
Managing your own social media presence – and those of your clients – can be done extremely efficiently, if you set up the right tools.
Schedule posts in bulk, and have them delivered at predetermined intervals, with a ‘buffer‘ of time between them.
The free plan only allows you to post to a handful of social media profiles, up to 10 posts at a time. I find the $10 a month plan (for unlimited posting on 12 accounts) very reasonable, and a great time-saver.
For more complex social media monitoring, Hootsuite is the best.
More than just a posting tool, Hootsuite lets you monitor different ‘streams’ of social media content, and review these same searches and lists every time you open the app.
Free and paid plans available.
This is an oddball tool, but with the right client, JibJab can work wonders.
Get a photo of your prospective customer. Make a video of you and your customer dancing the tango, the Time Warp, or the Harlem Shake. Guaranteed to make you stand out.
For more resources and tools, my super-secret Web Design toolkit is available for free.
Many of the resources above can help you with just about any business that you can run from a laptop.
If you want to run a web design business from your laptop, answer a 7-question survey and I will show you all the resources I use to make websites at $125 an hour.