The Best Business Tools for Small Businesses and Online Business Owners

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Hi, I'm Stepfanie!

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As a web designer and SEO strategist, these are the best investments I made in 2022 for my web design and SEO company. This list compiles the best business tools for small businesses from marketing platforms to CRM systems and even the best service providers to invest in—I promise you’ll love them as much as I do!

Whether you’re just starting your online business, or you’ve been a small business owner for years, knowing who and what to invest in can be overwhelming.

Is this software or marketing program really that great? Will this service provider actually help me grow my business? Is this course truly worth the hype?

I get it—I’ve been in your shoes many, many times as a small business owner.

I outsourced and invested a lot in my business this year. Some things I’ve invested in for my web design and SEO company were a slam dunk, home run, 10/10…while some were quite underwhelming.

But I’m here to save you time and avoid the stress of figuring out what platforms, tools, and service providers are actually worth investing in for your small business. This list contains all the hype AND all of the value.

Service Providers to Invest in for Your Online Business

Website Copywriter: Sara from Between the Lines Copywriting

If you’re subscribed to my weekly newsletter, you know that I’m Team BTL and a huge supporter of Sara and all that she does. Not only is she one of the most talented copywriters out there, but she also has a personality that shines and an understanding of SEO (which makes my SEO-loving heart oh-so-happy!)

I worked with Sara not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES this year. Investing in someone once is a big deal, but you know they are the real deal when you continually go back to them without thinking twice.

Investing in a copywriter to handle all things website copy and launch copy allowed me to focus on my zone(s) of genius while Sara worked her magic with words. I was able to focus on transitioning my website from Squarespace to Showit, fine-tune my course content, and not have to stress about how to write about myself.

If you’re looking for a done-for-you option, Sara has a ton of copywriting services to fit all of your copy needs—from website copy to launch copy and even email marketing. If you’re an aspiring copywriter or a copywriter who wants to take your business to the next level, be sure to check out her copywriting mentorship program.

And if you’re more of a DIYer when it comes to copywriting, Sara has no shortage of resources for you! Be sure to check out her signature copywriting course, Site Series. And don’t forget to go through her in-depth blog posts, sign up for her free copy resources, and subscribe to her amazing weekly copywriting newsletter. She has no shortage of knowledge to share!

Trademark Attorney: Chandler from Lethal Legal (formerly Chandler J. Law)

Filing a trademark for my business was something I knew I needed to do, but it kept getting pushed down on my to-do list every single month. Once I started creating my SEO course, protecting my business and IP went from an “Oh I’ll get to this at some point” to “this needs to get done NOW!”

Trademarks and copyrights are absolutely not in my zone of genius. Could I have figured it out? Probably. But time is the most precious asset we all have so I knew right away that investing in a trademark attorney like Chandler was a must.

Thanks to Chandler’s legal expertise, I now have multiple trademarks submitted to protect my business…and all I had to do was fill out a quick questionnaire.

Chandler also takes the time to explain all of the legal jargon and trademark processes in simple terms which I greatly appreciate, because again, not my zone of genius.

So whether you’ve been in business for any amount of time or you’re thinking of starting your web design and SEO company, DO NOT wait to protect it!

Chandler is an amazing resource to have for your business whether you’re looking for DFY trademark services like I did, or you want to learn the ins and outs yourself by taking either her LLC in 123 course, or you can join the waitlist for her trademark course. Chandler also has DIY contract templates (which you also need for your biz and website).

Platforms and Tools for Your Online Business

Kajabi: Turn Your Knowledge Into Income

When it came time to decide where to host my SEO & content marketing course, the decision was really quite simple: Kajabi.

Kajabi allows you to “turn your knowledge into income.” You’re able to create and sell online courses, memberships, coaching, and even digital products.

Getting Kajabi set up for my course was a breeze! It easily integrates with Stripe to collect one-time or subscription payments and it connects to Flodesk through Zapier to make post-purchase emails beautifully on-brand. With Kajabi, you’re also able to create discount codes, and set up affiliates—the list goes on and on!

Knowing the platform can grow with my web design and SEO company is something that was extremely important to me. The platform isn’t cheap, but it is absolutely worth the investment and more. If you’re curious about all that Kajabi offers, you can test out a free 30-day trial of Kajabi on me!

Circle: All-In-One Community Platform for Creators and Brands

As I was creating the lessons for my course about SEO, I knew without hesitation that I wanted to have a community aspect to the course…and that I didn’t want to use Facebook for it.

Enter, Circle.

Circle was created for creators and brands as the all-in-one community platform (and more).

I was able to experience Circle as a member of Squarestylist’s Standout Squarespace course—and I instantly fell in love with it. Not only is Circle easy to use and navigate, but it makes connecting with fellow course students and asking questions in real time so simple.

Circle is like the best of Facebook groups and Notion combined into one powerhouse of a platform. If you’re thinking of creating a course for your business or you have one that you’re looking to revamp, I couldn’t recommend Circle enough as a community platform.

Loom: Video and Screen Recording

This was another no-brainer platform that I invested in for my business this year. Whether it’s sending website tutorials, providing context to go along with website mockups, to creating course content, Loom has had my back through it all.

You can easily organize your videos into folders for various projects, clients, or courses that you have for your business. You are also able to trim and edit videos right in the platform which is a huge timesaver.

I first used Loom’s free Starter Plan to get a feel for how it works. It does have a limit on the length of videos you can record so if you’ll need to record videos longer than 5 minutes, I recommend the Loom Business Plan.

Dubsado: Business and Customer Relation Management (CRM)

I bootstrapped things for a while when I first started my web design and SEO company. But it got to a point where spending time manually sending proposals, contracts, and invoices was not a good use of my time.

After quite a bit of research and testing out a few different CRM free trials, I officially decided to invest in Dubsado for my business—and it has been life-changing!

Dubsado allows you to automate the seemingly time-consuming tasks of delivering proposals, contracts, invoices, and project questionnaires through automated workflows. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds!

Now, there is a bit of a learning curve to get started so absolutely take advantage of the 3 free client projects that Dubsado offers as their trial period before paying for an annual subscription.

I truly cannot believe how much time I’ve gotten back each month thanks to Dubsado. I could be using even more features of Dubsado but even just implementing some of the basics has been a game changer for me and my business!

Notion: Plan and Organize…Everything

I don’t like to pick favorites…but Notion might be my favorite platform that I invested in for my business this year.

There’s nothing I love more than organization, lists, spreadsheets, and a good brainstorming session (maybe to a fault).

Thanks to Notion, all of my loves are together in one place. I’m pretty sure I have Notion open all of the time, every single day—I use and love it that much!

Notion recently updated their pricing plans and tiers so their free plan now includes even more! This is a win-win for you…and an incredible business tool without needing to spend a dime on it!

I use Notion for everything from planning my weekly marketing newsletter content to social media content, creating launch plans for The SEO Blueprint™, brainstorming blog post topics, lead magnets, literally anything and everything. I cannot recommend Notion enough!

Marketing Tools for Small Businesses

Canva Social Media Templates from Tonic Site Shop

This was very much an unexpected investment this year but it was more than worth it—I mean, it did make the list of top investments this year!

Could I create my own social media templates? Abso-fricken-lutely.

But as I said before, time is our most valuable asset. And as I was prepping to launch my course I realized that having social templates would make creating all of the launch & sales content THAT much easier.

I was instantly hooked. They made creating content a breeze because the shell of the graphic was already there—all I had to do was change it to match my branding and add my info to the graphics.

And since one of my goals for 2023 is to be consistently active on social media (no more posting for a couple of weeks and then disappearing for months), I know these social templates from TONIC are going to help make that goal extremely attainable.

They have content, sales, and marketing Canva template packs & bundles, as well as a stories & Reels cover pack—all your social graphic needs are covered!

That’s a wrap on the best investments I made this year for my web design and SEO company. I promise they are worth the hype AND the investment for your small business.

And although this list was only a spotlight on the investments I made this year, I couldn’t let you go without sharing a few more of my favorites that I’ve been using for a few years now and still recommend…

Flodesk for on-brand email marketing and automated email sequences (use code THESMCOLLECTIVE for 50% for life!!)

Tailwind for scheduling pins for Pinterest (use that link to get a FREE month!)

Canva Pro for designing social graphics and well, really anything!

Adobe Creative Cloud for branding design and website wireframes.

Social Squares for premium stock photography.

For even more platform and service provider recommendations, check out the resources page or send me a message on Instagram—I’m always here to help!

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Hey there, I'm Stepf—Google Superfan & Passionate Educator

And the showit website designer and seo strategist you’ve been looking for

Through strategic Showit website design and done-for-you search engine optimization, I work with innovative and creative business owners like you to build magazine-worthy websites that effortlessly attract your ideal client—so much so that they’ll never want to leave.

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