I do my best to keep this list up to date. The tools I use change over time as do their pricing and the plans I use. Whenever I change tools, I come here and make a note.
This list was last updated on May 16, 2018.
If you want to stay current or refer to this list in the future (when you are ready to upgrade your businesses tool arsenal) I recommend that you bookmark this article in your browser!
For each tool mentioned, I have explained:
1. Why I Use It
2. How Important It Is to Me on a Scale of 1-5 (5 Being Critically Important)
3. When You Should Consider Using It
5. Alternative Options
6. Additional Notes
You do NOT need all of these tools to make money online.
They are made to help you grow your business but do not dictate your success by any means.
What is critical to me may be unnecessary to you or too expensive for you if you're on a bootstrapped budget.
I am affiliated with some of these tools but I ONLY affiliate with a product after I have used it and decided that it was a great fit for my readers as well. These tools make me money and I hope that they do the same for you.
Please leave questions in the comments if you have any!
Here are all of the tools I have paid for in the last year to grow my internet business.
They are not all created equal and some are much more valuable to me than others. The commonality between them all: each makes me money or saves me time in some way.
Why I use WP Engine: Hosting is not an option for a blogger. You need to have high quality hosting in order to keep your blog up and running. Due to the amount of traffic I get, I pay for the higher end, WP-Engine hosting.
Level of Importance: 5 (Critical)
Alternatives to WP Engine: Bluehost and Hostgator are quality options and less than half the price if you are just starting out blogging or building a new site that won't have a ton of traffic. Until you are over 10,000 unique visitors per month, these should be fine.
- Never use free hosting. You aren't in control of your content.
- Customer support is world class and I've used it multiple times
- Some plugins may conflict but customer support has helped me solve these issues each time
Why I Use Clickfunnels: Clickfunnels is an integral part of my business. Although the price tag scares off a lot of people, when utilized properly, it isn't even noticable.
Clickfunnels allows me to:
- Create landing pages for email opt-ins
- Design sales funnels that create huge average earnings per visitor
- Split test different elements of my pages
- Host membership courses that have helped me earn over $100,000 selling courses with Clickfunnels although I have recently begun hosting my courses in Thinkific and using Clickfunnels on the front end. Click here to read more about how I do that.
- Sell physical products drop shipped from Amazon and other e-commerce platforms
Cost. $297/month (Plans start at $97/month)
Clickfunnels Alternatives: Thrive themes can emulate some of the features in Clickfunnels but will not handle upsells/downsells or provide you with the same level of customization and templates. Shopify is an alternative if you plan to have a full blown web store with a shopping cart and expanded functionality. If you are selling a single product with upsells and downsells, a digital product or course, I recommend Clickfunnels.
- I haven't found quality free alternatives to Clickfunnels.
- I have Actionetics (which allows more advanced features like emailing) but I don't use it often for emails.
- You can purchase domains and host them within Clickfunnels for under $20 (one time)
- Read more here about how to sell physical products from Amazon with Clickfunnels
Why I Use ConvertKit: Convertkit is my email service provider of choice. With nearly 10,000 unique email subscribers and various segments and tags, Convertkit makes me EXPONENTIALLY more than I pay each month.
Level of Importance: 5 (Critical)
Cost. $119/month (Discounted for Paying Yearly)
Alternatives to ConvertKit: Mailchimp is the closest free alternative but it is quite limited. I recommend starting with Convertkit (it is tiered pricing and will start at $29.99 if you're starting fresh).
- I have tested Aweber, Infusionsoft, Mailchimp AND Drip but prefer Convertkit.
- Click here to read my ConvertKit Crash Course
Why I Use KW Finder:This is my favorite tool for researching keyword opportunities before writing blog posts.
Level of Importance: 2 (Luxury, not Critical)
Free or lower cost options to KW Finder
Google Keyword Planner is a good free option.
Free plan available.
Why I Use Zapier: Zapier helps bring various tools together. By creating "zaps" I can link things that normally aren't integrated. For example, I can send all of my Gumroad orders into a tag in Convertkit.
Level of Importance: 4 (Necessary)
Free or lower cost options. IFTTT.com will provide a number of free integrations.
- There is a free plan
- There hundreds of thousands of possible zaps
- Getting creative with Zapier has helped my business tremendously and allowed me to do things that would have required hiring a developer if I didn't have Zapier.
Why I Use Thrive Themes: If you blog, you should consider using Thrive themes. This blog is designed with Thrive themes and this post was written with the Thrive content editor.
Thrive Themes allows me to:
- Create custom content templates to reuse in all posts
- Customize my blog posts as much as I want (far more than anything else I've used)
- Create powerful lead magnets
- Choose from dozens of pre-built templates for various design elements
Level of Importance: 4 (Necessary, but there are alternatives)
Free or lower cost options. There are countless free themes online. This trumps them all.
Additional Notes: The Thrive suite comes with many other tools that I don't utilize very much such as headline split testing, lead generation, testimonial gathering and more.
Webinar Jam + Ever Webinar (Webinar Hosting and Replays)
Why I Use Webinar Jam and Ever Webinar: WebinarJam is the service I use for hosting my webinars and Ever Webinar is the tool I use to make evergreen webinars (people can sign up for them after I've recorded them).
Webinars are one of my biggest list building and sales generating assets so I don't mind paying
Some of the features you get with Webinar Jam include:
- Stream to Facebook, YouTube or to Webinar Jams own platform
- Charge for webinars
- Engage with viewers
- Share screens + annotate screens life
Level of Importance: 3 (Important but there are many alternatives)
Webinar Jam + Ever Webinar Cost: $299/year for EverWebinar and $397/year for WebinarJam
Webinar Jam + Ever Webinar Alternatives: Google hangouts, Belive.tv, YouTube Live, Facebook Live.
- WebinarJam is FAR from perfect. Sometimes, I down right hate it. For the price and ease of integration with Clickfunnels, it is still my platform of choice.
- There are many alternatives (higher and lower costs) but for now, I'm happy with Webinar Jam
Why I Use Typeform: Typeform allows me to survey my audience and obtain valuable insights that I can then use for improving my content or products.
Level of Importance: 2 (Luxury with free alternatives)
Free or lower cost options: Google Forms
- Typeform forms look amazing and you will get more features (like billing through stripe) that you won't get with free services like Google Forms.
- If you just need quick, raw data, Google Forms is fine.
Why I Use YouCanBook.me: I use this for booking appointments with clients and students.
- Share or embed schedules anywhere
- Add custom branding elements
- Create custom follow up emails
- Charge for time
YouCanBook.Me Alternatives: There are a number of free tools. I have always used Youcanbook.me so I can't say much else.
- It isn't a perfect tool and there is a slight learning curve, but youcanbook.me is a solid choice for scheduling.
- Having a professional scheduling service like this is important if you have a consulting business or regularly meet with clients.
Why I Use Bench.Co: Bench.co is a web app/service that assigns me to an accountant that manages my books. They track my revenue, expenses and categorize them to make tax time much easier.
Alternatives to Bench.co: Mint.com
Additional Notes: I hate everything to do with accounting. I GLADLY pay Bench.co to help me out. Their referral program helps me out a lot.
Freshbooks (Billing and Accounting)
Why I Use Freshbooks: Freshbooks allows me to create and send professional looking invoices to clients and students.
- Create recurring payments
- Create professional looking templates
- Pay employees
Level of Importance: 4 (Important)
Free or lower cost options: Basic free tools exist.
Additional Notes: Freshbooks makes my invoices look clean and professional. I don't use all the cloud accounting features since I use Bench.co.
Buffer (Social Sharing Automation)
Why I use it: Buffer is another social media scheduling tool like Coschedule and Hootsuite.
Level of Importance: 3 (Nice but not 100% necessary)
Free or lower cost options: IFTTT.com
Additional Notes: It really is overkill to have multiple post scheduling softwares. Since Buffer supports Instagram sharing, it is my default automation tool
Why I Use Canva: Canva is my go to tool for design work. I am far from an expert designer but Canva really keeps me in check and makes sure I don't create design work that is too horrible.
Level of Importance: 4 (I use it daily BUT there is no shortage of alternatives)
Free or lower cost options: Buffer.com/pablo, Getstencil.com and others.
Additional Notes: Canva has a free option. It is almost mandatory to have some sort of design tool on hand. This is a no brainer.
Fancyhands (Administrative Tasks)
Why I Use FancyHands: Fancy hands is a service that allows me to request 5 basic tasks per month. This is like Fiverr but more organized.
Level of Importance: 1 (Almost a total luxury)
Cost: $29/month or $359.88/Year
Alternatives to FancyHands: Fiver.com is close but requires regularly re-ordering.
Additional Notes: This is far from a perfect service. Some gigs are great while others are just horrible. With some practice, you can really get a lot out of this service though. Clarity is king.
Ahrefs (Keyword Research)
Why I Use Ahrefs: Ahrefs has taken the place of SEMRush as my SEO tool of choice. Ahrefs helps me monitor keywords and how I rank as well as find the best possible keywords to target.
Level of Importance: 4 (I use it daily but there are competitors that come within about 85% of the functionality and accuracy).
Free or lower cost options: Google Analytics
Additional Notes: If you're choosing between SEMRush and Ahrefs, I recommend Ahrefs. It is better in almost every aspect I tested.
Total Yearly Costs!
The total costs for all these tools is...drumroll please.....
- WP Engine --> $290/Year
- Clickfunnels --> $3,564/Year
- ConvertKit --> $1428/Year
- KW Finder --> $129/Year
- Zapier --> $240/Year
- Thrive Themes --> $228/Year
- WebinarJam --> $397/Year
- EverWebinar --> $299/Year
- Typeform --> $240/Year
- Youcanbook.me --> $108/Year
- Bench.co --> $3,000/Year
- Freshbooks --> $323.46/Year
- Buffer --> $102/Year
- Canva --> $119.40/Year
- Fancyhands --> $359.88/Year
- Ahrefs --> $990/Year
Thats a lot right?
Well, in a bubble yes, but these tools are on pace to help me earn a lot more... here is what my year is looking like as of the end of May 2017...(report courtesy of Bench.co).