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These are the tools that run our business. Most are free (we are frugal!), and some have paid versions.
An * is next to those that we pay for.
We make the recommendation based on personal experiences. Everyone's business is different, it is up to you to determine what is best for you. Some links have affiliate links means we get a perk when you sign up. There are no additional cost for you to sign up.
Website & blogging: Wordpress, Squarespace*. We used to build everything on Wordpress, while we still love the SEO power of Wordpress, we now use Squarespace for the Staged4more site. It cuts down the amount of time for us to develop the theme and update the sites. It is also easy to use. While we sacrifice some functionality and SEO capabilities, time saved and beautiful styling more than make up for it.
Writing: Grammarly*: a great tool to help you proofread. We use CoSchedule* to help us get organized with our blogging content. We also use CoSchedule* for social media scheduling once the blog is published.
Data: Google Analytics, Crazy Eggs*. Google Analytics is free and there are TONS of tutorials out there on how to maximize this tool and how to measure your web traffic. Crazy Eggs is a heat map tool that shows you physically where people click on your sites. Crazy Eggs used to be free but now is subscription based.
Email: Mailchimp. Mailchimp has both free and paid versions. Mailchimp is great when you are first starting out, and it’s free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. This is plenty for most home staging company. We now use ConvertKit*, which is a better fit because of the nature of running an online school.
Form & survey building: Google Drive, Wufoo, typeform. Our current fav is typeform. It is beautiful and easy to use. There is also a pro version (paid) that lets you take payment. It's pretty nifty. We’ve also started using Airtable, based on Cindy’s business coach’s recommendation. We use the free version of Airtable, but there is a premium, paid version as well.
CRM: Capsule* We've tried MANY, paid & unpaid, including ones that are incredible expensive like Infusionsoft and ACT! by Sage, or popular ones like Highrise. Capsule* was the most easy to use and most affordable. You can also DIY this by using Airtable.
Business cards: We love how good moo.com* makes us look, especially that we can turn our business cards into mini portfolios by uploading our project photos.
Watermarking: Visual Watermark*. We used to use Photoshop for this. Even though we can batch edit, it didn't look great and still time consuming. We ended up invested $30 for the commercial license for Visual Watermark and it was money well spent! It batch watermarks (with a variety of templates), resizes, changes file names and embeds metadata for copyright. We highly recommend it.
Sound recording: Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone
Instagram planning: We use *Planoly and we love how easy and visual it is to plot out the feed! Not to mention you can save groups of hashtags to save time on looking and typing out hashtags each time you post a new post.
Social media scheduling: We now primarily use CoSchedule* to schedule and repost our updates.
Cover your ass with Small Business Bodyguard*. SBB came highly recommended and it just so happened we were dealing some drama with an unethical individual who had stolen our images (cropped out our watermarks and all). Rachel at Small Business Bodyguard* made it super easy to understand all the important legal issues that are important to small business owners, especially creative individuals. I also love the checklists and templates, which we use frequently in our business, even though we have attorneys on our speed dial locally.
We LOVE Alex Tooby’s free Instagram course. Alex also has a series of courses on Instagram, ranging from hashtag research, stories, and building influences by using Instagram. You can check out her full Instagram course offering here.
Zoom*: this is great if you need to do online face-to-face meeting. We prefer this than Skype, which we also use. You can also record the call in the cloud or locally on your computer.
UberConference: really easy to use, free international conference call, free call recording, and you can see who is calling from where, which is pretty nifty.
To do & project management: Asana, 17hats*, trello*. We use 17hats to run everything client related, since all the workflow, templates are already set in the program. We use trello for archiving and brain dump. The cards and kanban method work very well for this platform. We do pay for trello, which is worth it for us for the amount of files that we store in trello. Asana is also great and you can use the free version. Our virtual assistants use Asana to keep us on track and focused on tasks.
Calendar: Google Calendar
Inbox clean up: Unroll.me cleans up my inbox, while sanebox* helps me manage and prioritize emails. I used to have hundreds of emails in my inbox, sandbox helped me tremendously in managing them. It also trains itself. If you have a pretty unruly inbox, we recommend sandbox.
Brain dump / organize my brain: Workflowy. This is probably hands down one of our favorite free tools ever.
Scheduling: Acuity Scheduling*: We use this to schedule our podcast and appointments. You can set up questionnaires for clients to fill out before your appointment. You can also take payment for the appointment, have clients upload pictures, etc. It also syncs with your calendar. We use the paid version, but because of our Squarespace plan, we don’t pay for Acuity. Squarespace includes it as part of their perks.
Proposal: Harvest was our FAVORITE tool before switching over to 17hats*. 17hats* allows us to access our invoices everywhere, so our project coordinator Anita, who is based in LA, can contact clients and view details of their work agreements & proposals. We can run reports any time and see what client history and account receivables. It's truly made our life SO much easier. Some of our 6-Figure Floor Plan students have recommended HoneyBook for an alternative to 17hats.
Time tracking: Harvest
Payment processing: Stripe* is our default payment processor for all the online transactions we do via Squarespace and 17hats*. (Once client has accepted the proposal via 17hats, they can pay immediately with their credit card, which is processed by Stripe. Because it is a third party processor, we do not store any sensitive client information. This decreases our liability.)
People Biz Inc.* has kept us focus and helped us evolved. Business coaching is crucial in a business's growth. We highly recommend their Leading Change & Leading Change Mastery programs.
Start Up Tool Kit: A great resource on various phases of starting your business. Even though the company is based in UK, most of the advices are universal.
American Express Open Forum: We love our American Expresses. They truly build their card benefits with businesses in mind. They also have a great forum designed for small business owners to share their resources and challenges.
Recommended reading by People Biz. This is a very comprehensive list of books recommended for entrepreneurs
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