The tools I use to run my business in 2018
They might help you too

michelle

Welcome to maybe the most important page of my website!
Why is it important?

Because rarely to do I have a 1-2-1 session with someone or answer questions during training where I don’t suggest someone looks at one of the resources I mention here. These are the tools I use right now to run Custard and Bear and/or ones which I’ve used to build the business since 2011.

They might be right for you, they might not – but they will certainly suggest that as you grow you’ll need support in accountancy, email marketing, general admin and video editing.

They are in A-Z order as I couldn’t rank them in the order of my favourite; that would have been just too traumatic! At the end of the list you have a list of the books I’d recommend to help you get started and fall in love with your marketing and business in general.

Next to the name of each tool I have given you the areas it helps with, followed by my description of why I love it. These aren’t reviews or demos (you’ll find them over on my YouTube Channel) but my ‘from the heart’ overviews.

I also give you the price.
I update this page a few times each year so if you spot a price change I’ve missed do let me know/

I then end with a link to visit the website and some of them are affiliate links. This means that if you follow the link and make a purchase I will receive a commission. Sometimes this is a one-off and sometimes it will be a recurring income for as long as you’re signed up. This costs you nothing extra.

This is called Affiliate Marketing and is a great way to earn some passive income; it’s not ‘easy money’ but it is certainly a sensible way to make money and I’m glad I can introduce you to it via my Resources Page.

As you can tell from the descriptions I genuinely have experience with this tools and resources and that’s why I recommend them, not because they give me money. Please do not spend any money until you’ve done your research and are happy a product is right for you.

$15 per month (about £8/9) per month

In January 2017 Acuity Scheduling saved my life.
Saved.
My.
Life.

My work is made up of lots of 1-2-1 mentoring sessions with clients (an average of 10 paid for sessions and 4 free sessions) and meetings with organisations I’d like to speak and train for etc. So let’s just say I have twenty meetings a month; can you imagine trying to sort my diary out when you also consider I work from home and have 3 kids and a self employed husband who needs time for his meetings.

My life was mostly made up of endless to-and-fro chats like this;
“Are you free here…?”
“Nope, what about…?”
“Ah no, can you do this date instead…?”
“Er, sorry…”

Acuity made all of that magically disappear. Poof.

I keep my Google Calendar up-to-date. Religiously.

And then give clients a link to book their session (I have a range of lengths and a mix of free and paid-for) and Acuity shows them my available slots. They book, we both get a confirmation email and the meeting is put into my Google Calendar for me. The client is in control if they need to cancel or reschedule.

I can also set up one-off classes and courses.

It’s less than a tenner and simply the best bit of money I spend each month. Ever.

To visit Acuity just click below, sign up for your free trial and watch your life be transformed.

Visit Acuity Scheduling and get your diary in order. That's an order!

$30 per month

The money is in the list; the email list that is.

Okay, admissions first.
I started building my list and sending emails to my list (i.e. doing email marketing) using Mailchimp. It’s easy to use and creates visually lovely emails and is free up to a certain level of subscribers. Plus you can create basic sign up forms and landing pages.

If you’re new to business and/or email marketing then Mailchimp is the no-brainer place to start. They don’t currently have an affiliate scheme so this advice is genuine and honest; I’m simply sharing as it’s what I started with and it’s what I recommend to clients because it’s good, not because it earns me any affiliate cash.

But, also being honest, I hit my limitations with Mailchimp as I wanted to segment my subscribers and funnel new subscribers more powerfully and I couldn’t do this in Mailchimp. (It’s been a few years since I used Mailchimp now and I know they’ve introduced a stack of new features so it’s definitely worth having a look to see how it will help you achieve what you need. However, once I signed up to Convertkit I didn’t look back).

I had followed Pat Flynn (one of my online marketing heroes) for a while and on one of his webinars he interviewed Nathan Barry, founder of Converkit and I was hooked.

Convertkit was much simpler in email look – it’s predominantly text based – yet so much more powerful than my previous tool. I signed up and started to capture emails for the launch of my workbook, #FacebookThirty; I created a welcome sequence and follow up sequence and I made sales!

Convertkit is really best for people who sell online products and market via email – trust me, email marketing is SO not dead. Seriously – people read their emails on the loo so where else do you get such intimate access to your customers?!

At £28ish a month (it fluctuates as Convertkit is American so I pay in dollars) it’s the most expensive tool I use but it pays itself back over and over again. To try it out for yourself follow the link, watch a few demos and get signed up.

Convertkit does what it says; gives you the kit to convert your email marketing into sales. Go try it and start converting!

£ varies per product

It was love at first sight when I came across Lizzy,  the ‘God’dard of email marketing

Full disclosure on this resource…
I’m a very happily married straight woman, but I like really love Lizzy and her fun, irreverent, common sense approach to online marketing. Specifically email marketing.

When Lizzy said she was off to San Francisco for the ‘Lesbians that Tech’ conference I loved her all the more – that sounded so cool, way better than the bog standard conferences I tend to end up at with their equally as bog standard names! And then (yes, there’s more!) she sold coaching spots whilst she was in San Fran for $300 a pop – at this point I knew she had a place in my heart forever.

She is also a Brit, which is a breath of fresh air as the online marketing world is heavily dominated by Americans.

If you use, or plan to use, email marketing then you have to sign up to Lizzy’s emails; she advises on product launches, affiliate marketing, all of the tech stuff you need to think about and more. Lizzy’s own emails break the mould of what you should be doing with your email marketing; this girl makes her own rules and the rest of us follow…

If you’ll be using Convertkit then it’s the law to follow Lizzie.

She probably knows more about how to use Convertkit on a day-to-day basis than Nathan Barry (the guy behind Convertkit. We’re not on first name terms btw, despite this being my second mention of him, but he did send me a Convertkit tshirt after I watched one of his webinars, yay!).

Lizzy’s Guide to Affiliate Marketing gave me the nudge I needed to update this very Resources Page.

If you want to be a fangirl like me then hop over to Lizzy’s website, sign up and have a nosey at the products.

Go and get to know the 'God'dess of email marketing; Elizabeth Goddard

£20.52 per month

Because your finances don’t have to be a freaking nightmare 

Back in 2012 during my first year in business I charged for my time (I still do for much of my work) and I was stressing over figuring out how to invoice accurately for it. I was using Excel and making a right hash of it and it was probably taking me as long to invoice as it was to do the work for the client in the first place!

Then a new accountancy software start-up appeared; it was recommended to me and I signed up for my 30 day free trial. I’ve never left.

Freeagent tracks expenses, allows you to invoice etc; it does all the stuff you would expect. But it also tracks and invoices for your time, which is simply GENIUS. There is literally a big red button that you use to record the time you’re spending on a project and at the end of the month you click a few buttons and voila, you have accurate time-for-money invoices.

It’s totally hassle free and I remain totally loyal to Freeagent. There is now even an app so you can record expenses etc on the go.

For those of you who don’t charge for time and want to use a cloud based system for your accounts then I can recommend Xero. I don’t personally use it and haven’t linked to it, but it comes highly recommended by my own accountant, Oxley Pratt in Consett, Durham.

But if Freeagent sounds perfect for you then click the link below and sign up for your free trial.

If it's time to ditch the rubbish record keeping then it's time to sign up to Freeagent

$29 for a 3 year licence

Because if you haven’t heard yet; video is the future of your marketing

If you’ve seen any of my ‘walk-throughs’ where I show you how to do something via showing you my screen then I’ve recorded this with Screencast-o-matic.

I just stumbled across Screencast-o-matic years ago and used the free version for donkies; but then decided that for $29 for 3 years it was daft not to upgrade.

I love that in 2018 the guys have upped their game with extra features and regular emails on how to get the best out of the software.

I’m also not the most natural video editor, my brain doesn’t work in that linear fashion! But I find the Screencast-o-matic editor nice and easy to use and end up editing most of my videos in here. I use PC so don’t have imovie that comes with apple and I’ve struggled to find a PC editor that suits my erm, fluffy brain, better than Screencast-o-matic does.

You have to start somewhere with video, you really do, it HAS to be part of your marketing habits. So being able to record screencasts AND have a video editor all rolled into one makes perfect sense.

Pop over to Screencast-o-matic using the link below and give the free version a whirl, who knows you might be the next YouTube sensation.

Stop stressing over your voice and what you look like and just start making videos already!

Obviously all of my recommendations have amazing real people behind them; some of my online heroes! But you will buy ‘virtually’ and probably never met these folk.

However, I have a small selection of people to recommend who are very real to me, very special to me and are also physically close to me in distance. I’m based in Consett, County Durham in the UK and these suppliers are also based in that area.

You don’t necessarily need to be based in the north east of England to work with them, but I did want to make clear that these are small, lovely, businesses who I work with directly on my home turf.

 

OXLEY PRATT : ACCOUNTANCY
Jackie Oxley has been my accountant for over five years and we have known each other much longer! I remember Jackie back when she started Oxley Pratt well over 10 years ago, working from her front room and she now has the most amazing offices and the best team of staff.

I used to work from Jackie’s beautifully restored building in Consett and adored my ‘fireplace office’ until my health and home-life forced me back to my home office in the loft.

Sign up to get our joint Small Business Bookkeeping Tips – they will make your life so much easier in just 10 simple steps (plus we throw in some tips for saving for your tax bill).

All Custard and Bear website visitors can request a free consultation with the Oxley Pratt team; just say I sent you. For each referral who becomes a client of Oxley Pratt I will have one month’s payment deducted from my annual direct debit. And of course make you sure you get a free 1-2-1 marketing mentoring hour with me too.

Jackie has full discretion as to whether you can have your free session; which isn’t intended to sound arsey! But the team want to make sure they can indeed help you and if they aren’t best placed to do so they will tell you. And that is simply why I love Jackie; she’s soft as clarts (north east saying!) but straight talking; she won’t muck you around.

http://www.oxleypratt.co.uk/

 

WIDE-EYED DESIGN : WEB DESIGN, SEO, HOSTING & MAINTENANCE
Helena has built all of my websites since the year dot; from fully coded sites through to the WordPress you see today. We have figured out lots of stuff together; testing various plug-ins and the like and we like to send each other very long emails.

I don’t really get affiliate bonuses from Helena as such as we’re pals. So I tend to get paid in thank you tea and cake – which suits me fine!

http://www.wideyedesign.com/

BOOKS TO GUIDE, ADVISE & INSPIRE

Books are hugely personal; so what I recommend might not be for you and that’s cool! It’s all about finding a voice that resonates with you. So if you buy a book and it doesn’t quite click with you why not pass it onto a business pal who might love it and use it to take action in their business?

Below are a selection of books which are mostly business related, along with a smattering of ones about building your self-worth and confidence. Remember, ‘The Queen Eats First’ and once you believe that (and can action it in both your personal and business life) is when you’ll see the biggest shifts in your business.

Some of the books have a fuller review in my blog and I link to these where there is one. And I’d LOVE your views on the book so pop me a message to give me your thoughts and let me know how they have helped you.

NOTE TO MOBILE USERS: The Amazon images/links stack up above each other; just scroll to the bottom of the stack and you’ll find the reviews.

GET RICH, LUCKY BITCH; HOW TO RELEASE YOUR MONEY BLOCKS AND LIVE A FIRST CLASS LIFE – DENISE DUFFIELD THOMAS

My review of the book

RISE OF THE YOUPRENEUR; THE DEFINITE GUIDE TO BECOMING THE GO-TO LEADER IN YOUR INDUSTRY AND BUILDING A FUTURE-PROOF BUSINESS – CHRIS DUCKER

My review of the book

The 6-Minute Diary | 6 Minutes a Day for more Mindfulness, Happiness and Productivity | A simple and effective Gratitude Journal and Undated Daily Planner | The perfect gift – URBestSelf

My review of the book

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy – Sheryl Sandberg

My review of the book

My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired – Benjamin Spall & Michael Xander

My review of the book