Before I write even one syllable about what it costs ME to run my internet based businesses, let me explain something critically important.
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You don't need to spend as much as I do!
Not yet at least...
Eventually, you will be chomping at the bit to get your hands on the tools in my arsenal because they have amazing ROIs when utilized properly.
Once your business scales, you will want to expand the tools, products and services that you utilize.
But for now, if you are still getting your feet wet in the world of internet marketing, don't let the numbers I am about to share discourage you.
I started making good money without all of these fancy tools but found them to be tools of mass expansion as I could afford them. These tools took me from good results to great results.
When you're starting out, these tools might be more "luxuries" than cash driving assets.
At scale, they become the digital equivalent of a money press. (Covering my a$$, this is hyperbole...)
For each of the tools I mention below I will share with you:
- Why I use it. Details about why I'm using each tool and how I use them.
- When you should consider using it. The God's honest truth for when you should consider whipping out your credit card.
- How much it costs WITH a screenshot of my bill. I think it's fair I prove I'm actually using these because there are affiliate links throughout this post. Is this over the top? Yes, but so am I. I hate nothing more than when marketers push tools and services that they have no experience with.
- Free or lower cost options. Some tools have free alternatives that are not too much behind the paid options.
- Additional Notes. I am a man of many words and would like to add my 2 cents on a few, but not all of these tools.
Ok, let's do it, but first lets get some perspective for you and talk briefly about my business.
About My Business
You wouldn't buy a saw because a carpenter said it helped him make money, would you?
Of course not.
Understanding how my business is similar or dissimilar to yours will help you decide which tools to consider and which to ignore.
Here are some specifics about my business...
- 90% internet based. The only tangible side of my business involves a small bit of sales via Amazon FBA. I have a large following in the Amazon FBA community (it is where I started as an entrepreneur) so I get most of my tools relating to Amazon for free since I am a big affiliate for most of the good tools on the market.
- Brand focused. It is important that I share my thoughts and grow my brand. I am not "EntreResource.com" or "Micro-hustle.com," I am Nate McCallister. I try and avoid tools that automate too much and take me away from my followers.
- Content heavy. I get most of my traffic by creating high quality, search engine optimized content. This requires tools for creating and editing videos, basic designs, keyword research tools, opt-in forms, etc.
- Utilizes moderate amount of paid traffic. I spend about $10/day in Facebook ads but a lot more during large launches.
- Email heavy. Email marketing is my main form of communication and sales generation.
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The Tools I Use in My Business
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 it: 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.
- Cost. $290/year
- Free or lower cost options. Bluehost and Hostgator are quality options and less than half the price. Until you are over 10,000 unique visitors per month, these should be fine.
- Additional Notes: Never use free hosting. You aren't in control of your content.
- Why I use it: Clickfunnels is an integral part of my business and allows me to create landing pages for email opt-ins, sales funnels that create huge average earnings per visitor and membership courses.
- Cost. $297/month.
- Free or lower cost options. 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.
- Additional Notes: I haven't found quality free alternatives to Clickfunnels.
- Why I use it: 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.
- Cost. $119/month.
- Free or lower cost options. Mailchimp.com 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).
- Additional Notes: Convertkit is a perfect solution for bloggers. I have tested Aweber, Infusionsoft, Mailchimp AND Drip but prefer Convertkit.
- Why I use it: Scheduling social media posts
- Cost. $119.88/year
- Free or lower cost options. Manually or you can get creative with IFTTT.com
- Additional Notes: I don't use this nearly as much as Coschedule and Buffer. Yes, I have 3 tools that all do social media sharing but each has its unique pros and cons.
- Why I use it: Creating my editorial calendar and planning social media posts
- Cost. $648/year
- Free or lower cost options. Manually or you can get creative with IFTTT.com
- Additional Notes: Bloggers and content marketers will find this tool indispensable.
- Why I use it: This is my favorite tool for researching keyword opportunities before writing blog posts.
- Cost: $129/year
- Free or lower cost options. Google Keyword Planner is a good free option.
- Additional Notes: Free plan available.
- Why I use it: 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.
- Cost: $20/month
- Free or lower cost options. IFTTT.com will provide a number of free integrations.
- Additional Notes: There is a free plan.
- Why I use it: 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.
- Cost: $228/year
- Free or lower cost options. There are countless free themes online. This trumps them.
- 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.
- Why I use it: WebinarJam is the service I use for hosting my webinars. Webinars are one of my biggest list building and sales generating assets. Ever webinar is a tool that allows me to create "evergreen" webinars that can be played on automation without appearing like replays.
- Cost. $299/year for EverWebinar and $397/year for WebinarJam
- Free or lower cost options. Google hangouts, Belive.tv, YouTube Live, Facebook Live.
- Additional Notes: 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.
- Why I use it: This is the tool I use to analyze my websites and make sure that my SEO is on point. I am able to identify "low hanging fruit" and generate a ton more traffic.
- Cost. $99/month.
- Free or lower cost options. None that I have used.
- Additional Notes: You won't see the full benefit from SEMRush until you have a blog that has a good amount of content.
- Why I use it: Typeform allows me to survey my audience and obtain valuable insights that I can then use for improving my content or products.
- Cost: $240/year
- Free or lower cost options: Google Forms
- Additional Notes: 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 it: I use this for booking appointments with clients and students.
- Cost: $108/year
- Free or lower cost options: There are a number of free tools. I have always used Youcanbook.me so I can't say much else.
- Additional Notes: It isn't a perfect tool and there is a slight learning curve, but youcanbook.me is a solid choice for scheduling.
- Why I use it: Buzzsumo lets me find killer topics for blog posts and social media shares.
- Cost: $948/year
- Free or lower cost options: Google Trends.
- Additional Notes: This is certainly an "advanced' tool. Most bloggers won't be able to justify the costs right away. Additional note: I split the cost of this membership with another content marketer.
- Why I use it: This is my custom accounting provider. Bench manages my books for me and gives me nice reports each month so I can see what I'm making and where I'm spending money.
- Cost: $250/month
- Free or lower cost options: 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 (each sale I send them counts as one free month, as shown in the invoice above).
- Why I use it: Freshbooks allows me to create and send professional looking invoices to clients and students.
- Cost: $323.46/year
- 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.
- Why I use it: Buffer is another social media scheduling tool like Coschedule and Hootsuite.
- Cost: $102/year
- Free or lower cost options: IFTTT.com
- Additional Notes: It really is overkill to have Buffer, Hootsuite and Coschedule. I like them all so keep paying for them but you really don't need to do that.
- Why I use it: 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.
- Cost: $119.40/Year
- 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.
- Why I use it: Fancy hands is a service that allows me to request 5 basic tasks per month. This is like Fiverr but more organized.
- Cost: $29/month or $359.88/Year
- Free or lower cost options: None
- 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.
- Why I use it: Edgar helps me schedule my evergreen content for constant, scheduled syndication across social networks. If I died, Edgar would make sure my content lived on and was shared each month.
- Cost: $49/month
- Free or lower cost options: IFTTT.com
- Additional Notes: Edgar helped me increase my traffic AND saved me a ton of time but unless you have the energy to fill it with good content AND have good content to fill it with, you should hold off.
- Why I use it: 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.
- Cost: $980/year
- 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
- Hootsuite --> $119.88/Year
- Coschedule --> $648/Year
- KW Finder --> $129/Year
- Zapier --> $240/Year
- Thrive Themes --> $228/Year
- WebinarJam --> $397/Year
- EverWebinar --> $299/Year
- SEM Rush --> $1199.40/Year
- Typeform --> $240/Year
- Youcanbook.me --> $108/Year
- Buzzsumo --> $948/Year
- Bench.co --> $3,000/Year
- Freshbooks --> $323.46/Year
- Buffer --> $102/Year
- Canva --> $119.40/Year
- Fancyhands --> $359.88/Year
- MeetEdgar --> $588/Yeah
- 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).
Tools allow me to scale my business WITHOUT adding employees. Tools allow me to get more out of each hour of my day. Some tools are making me money while I'm asleep. God...bless...America! To ignore the power of tools and to shy away from investing in them is going to stunt your growth as a solopreneur at the highest level.
Are each of these tools created equal? No, I definitely get more from Convertkit and Clickfunnels than I do from tools like Youcanbook.me or Buffer for example, but they have all saved me time, energy and made me more than they cost each month (or year).
The goal of this post isn't to get you to go out and buy all these tools (if you do feel compelled to buy any of them, I'd greatly appreciate if you'd click through the links in this post so I can earn a commission) but to show you what it looks like behind the scenes of what I do.
Leverage the tools available to you. As digital entrepreneurs we have the luxury of growing our businesses without adding employees or massive warehouses. Find the tools that are a good fit for your business and start using them!