Here are the services, tools, and products I’ve selected after hundreds of hours of trial, error, research, and customer service calls. I entrust my own business with these solutions, and I highly recommend them because they’ve made my life easier, improved my business efficiency, and provided the best value.
Note, I’ve included some affiliate links below, but rest assured that I only recommend services & products I use myself.
Last updated December 2018
- Hosting: A2 Hosting is my web hosting due to their fast speeds, great customer service, and green servers. Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s a comprehensive review of A2 from WPKUBE.
- Domain registrar: NameCheap offers competitive fees, affordable rates, and simple, user friendly control panel. Also, since May 29, 2018, Namecheap has offered free lifetime privacy protection on all domains purchased through them, which is a huge bonus if you don’t want your contact info visible in public WHOIS records. I used to use GoDaddy, but no longer prefer them due to their aggressive upselling tactics and somewhat distasteful advertising.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Attracta offers a simple interface to optimize the SEO on your site.
- Content Management System (CMS): WordPress.org all the way. I’ve tinkered with Wix, SquareSpace, and others. I was on New Rainmaker for a year (steer clear!), and eventually came back to WordPress. WordPress is by far the most robust, and the wide adoption means you’ll never be short of developers or resources. I use WordPress for this site, CareerRelaunch.net, and ilumity.com.
- Themes: Themeforest is a great place to find solid themes for your WordPress blog.
- International payments: Monito allows me to find the most affordable way to transfer money abroad
- Receiving payments online: BrainTree is the back-end payment solution I use on this site. A bit tricky to set up, but once you’re up and running, it’s fantastic!
- Receiving individual payments: PayPal is the industry standard, and many of my clients find these to be the simplest, most straightforward way to pay me.
- Accounting: QuickBooks Online is where I manage all client invoicing, payments, expense tracking, and accounting.
- Media host: Blubrry– media host with seamless Powerpress integration in WordPress, stats, and affordable rates, not to mention great customer service.
- Audio recording software: Adobe Audition (former Cool Edit Pro) is the software I’ve used for years, going all the way back to my news anchor days. Love the ease of use and amazing versatility of the program.
- Music: Although I commissioned an independent musician to compose the Career Relaunch theme song, I often use AudioJungle to find other royalty-free tracks for my projects.
- Virtual Notebook: Evernote is my where I save ALL my ideas, project notes, lists of favorite things, article ideas. I use it as a virtual business card holder, idea repository, resource database, and content planner. Syncs seamlessly across all my devices, and even works offline.
- Saving stuff from web: Pocket (Read It Later, Inc) allows you to easily save articles, videos, and other web content.
Managing virtual teams
- File sharing: DropBox is my virtual drive of choice. Simplifies document sharing with clients and freelancers. Gone are the days of emailing large files. Great for working on shared documents with a virtual team. I prefer it over Google Drive and definitely over Box. Find it easier to share, edit, and replace files.
- Project management: Trello has transformed how I organise workflows and tasks, helping me stay visually organised and focused across projects with my virtual teams. I love the visual, pin-board style system it offers. Also works seamlessly across my desktop & mobile device.
- Collaborative docs: Paper (launched in early 2017), I prefer this over Google Docs. I find the interface cleaner, more intuitive, and easier to set up for sharing.
- Email: Office 365 Exchange is my main business email provider. Robust, industry standard, and no issues of my emails being flagged as SPAM. To use Office 365, you need to have your own domain (like josephpliu.dev.radixweb.net). If you aren’t ready to commit to a domain and just want a professional-looking email so you’re not sending someone to your Gmail, Hotmail, or AOL (please no!) account, check out this article from Cloudwards on the Best Email Hosting Services.
- Finding someone’s email: I still find emailing to be the most effective form of outreach (vs. social media). I typically turn to Clearbit Connect or Prospect.io to track down an email. Check out my full article on 4 Free Tools to Find Someone’s Email.
- Newsletter: Mailchimp offers an affordable, simple newsletter management service. I actually shifted away from Mailchimp to AWeber a couple years ago, which was a BIG, time consuming mistake. Mailchimp is so much more user-friendly and affordable. In recent years, the service has become much more robust and versatile too.
- Scheduling meetings: ScheduleOnce is my meeting scheduling platform of choice that I use with all my clients, teams, and podcast guests. It allows people to suggest meeting times directly in a calendar that shows my real-time availability to avoid time-consuming, back-and-forth emailing to find mutually agreeable meeting times. I considered YouCanBookMe, Calendly, and Assistant.to, but found ScheduleOnce to offer the most versatility at a reasonable price.
- Audio conference calls: Uber Conference is a simple way to set up a conference call without having to worry about calling into phone numbers or setting up PINs. All you need is an internet connection.
- Web Conferencing: Zoom (incredibly simple & versatile), Appear.in (one-click web conferencing & screen sharing), and FaceTime (iOS & MacOS only) are my go-to platforms for reliability and ease of use for audio & video web conferencing. I used to use Skype, but as of Aug 2018, I’ve shifted to Zoom because Skype has become too finicky for my tastes.
- Legal documents: Docracy offers free legal document templates and an easy online signing system that I use for legal contracts and legal forms used for my podcast.
- Trademark searches: Trademark247 is where I do quick trademark searches, especially when advising clients on potential personal branding ideas. Much easier than trying to navigate the US Patent & Trademark Office’s antiquated database.
- Personal blogging: Medium– aside from publishing blog posts on my own website, I also share articles on Medium in my Career Relaunch and Personal Branding publications.
Things I Never Leave Home Without
- Mug: My trusty Zojirushi mug keeps drinks hot or cold for hours. Best insulated mug I’ve owned. Hands down.
- Music: iPod + JVC Marshmallow earbuds– if I ever want to be in my own world, or block out noise during a commute, this combination is perfect.
- Phone: iPhone– I’ve been an Apple loyalist since 2007, the year the iPhone launched. It integrates seamlessly with my MacBook and forms the digital hub of my life. I can’t imagine myself ever switching to Android, although I know a lot of people who love their Android devices too!
- Business cards: call me old fashioned, but I always carry a few with me. My business card provider of choice is Moo.com. Get 20% off your first order using this link.
Need more help running your business?
If you need more personalized guidance on navigating the mechanics of starting your own business, I also offer 1-on-1 consulting to help guide you step-by-step through the strategy and logistics of defining, building, and marketing your personal brand.