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18 Tools And Resources You Can Use to Build An Online Business.

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Whether you already have a business or not doesn’t matter.

You are about to discover tools/resources you can use starting from today–even now, to build a digital or online business.

Why build a digital business?

Because it is the easiest and the cheapest to build. You can start with absolute zero cash. if you have a laptop and you are connected to the internet, and you have some ideas about a product or a service that can solve a problem a target market has, you can start your business now!

I know people who have not started their own business because they have not yet registered with CAC. That is silly. I know registering a company name is important, but you can’t let that get in the way of starting a business, especially a digital business. 

Some people are waiting to get huge financial capital when what they need is intellectual capital–at least to get started. 

I am not saying you won’t need to spend any money, you will, but not hundreds of thousands or millions of naira/dollar. 

The more your intellectual capital, the less the financial capital you will need to start an online or offline business. But our focus is on building an online business.

Your intellectual capital gives you the ability to create innovation and to see business opportunities where everyone else sees challenges and obstacles.

That is why I wrote this article; I don’t want a lack of money to be your excuse for not starting your own digital business or promoting an existing business online.

At least, you won’t need to rent a shop or an office. And you won’t need to register a company name with CAC, That can come later after you have a business that is generating cash flow.

If you already have a business, you probably know the importance of marketing online. If you are not already promoting your business in the digital space, you are missing a lot of opportunities to grow your business and make it as great as it supposed to be. 

But you probably don’t know where to start or what tools and resources are available to use to build a digital business.

You may think you need to spend 50k or more to build a website and you don’t know what tools or resources to use to build a landing or a squeeze page.

What about the best ESP (email service provider) to use for email marketing? All these and more are covered in this free ebook.

I have selected the best and free tools so you can start building a digital business today using the ideas you already have in your head.

No Excuse. No delay. You can start today!

Let’s start.

WordPress

We are all in the media business now. If you want to build a digital business, you will need to create digital media or content to attract, educate and convert prospects into customers. 

Your website/blog is your digital media platform. And its purpose is to attract people to your business so you can convert some into buyers.

If you don’t already have a website I recommend you use WordPress to build it yourself.

WordPress is a content management system (CMS) software developed in 2003 by two brilliant guys. It eliminates the need to learn how to write HTML or CSS or javascript. 

HTML and CSS are code scripts used by developers to build a website from scratch. But you won’t need to do that and you don’t have to do that. 

With WordPress, you can build a professional-looking blog/website without writing a single line of code.

With the help of templates called WordPress themes and add-ons called plugins, no one will know your site wasn’t built by a professional. Believe me.

You can hire a developer to build your website for you, but I am always in support of building it yourself because I believe you should understand your business more than anyone else. More so, if you are just getting started, you can’t afford to be spending money on everything. You have to have some skills and know-how to use some tools.

These are screenshots of websites I built using WordPress, without any prior technical skill.

The core software is built by hundreds of community volunteers, and there are thousands of plugins and themes available to transform your site into almost anything you can imagine. Over 60 million people have chosen WordPress to power the place on the web they call “home” 

Also, you will need to host your website and I will recommend Bluehost for this service.

Email Marketing

When it comes to selling and making an offer to a prospect, email is far better than other channels. 

A study shows that email is 3 times more effective than Facebook and Twitter combined (McKinsey and Company).

I see people on social media trying to sell to other people. That is funny because social media is good for connecting with other people and making friends not selling a product or a service. That doesn’t mean that when you make an offer some interested people won’t buy, but try email marketing and see how you have been cheating yourself and losing money all these while.

This is my honest and friendly advice to you: if you want to build a digital business, spend 80% of your time and effort building an email list.

It will soon be your most valuable digital asset. Believe me.

But you will need an ESP (email service provider) to build your list and send promotional or educational campaigns or newsletters to people on your list.

For this service, I will recommend MailChimp.

MailChimp is my favourite tool for building an email list and sending campaigns. because it allows you to build your list up to 2000 subscribers for free.

Small, medium and big enterprises alike are using MailChimp. Their service is awesome.

Let’s say you don’t have a website yet, you can host a page in MailChimp that allows you to collect names and emails of people that want to join your list.

When you create your list and sign up forms, MailChimp will provide you with a Url to a landing page where people can visit and subscribe to join your list.

Here is a screenshot of a typical landing page.

There is so much more MailChimp offers but let’s stop here. Check them out and start building your email list

Building Landing Pages

Welcome.ly

In case you don’t know what landing pages are; they are pages that are designed to get people to take a specific single action that you want them to take. Which means it is free of clusters and distractions of typical web pages. It focuses the attention of people on one single action. 

No navigation menu, no sidebars or other distractions that can diffuse people’s attention. An example is a sales page. A sales page is a page where you sell something just as the name implies. You want to sell a product or a service and you are asking for no other action.

Another example is a squeeze page. A squeeze page is used to offer something valuable in exchange for people’s email addresses. Like the page where you got this report.

A landing page is one of the most important pages you will have to create in your digital business venture. 

There are several resources and services that you can use to create a landing page. You can even create one from your WordPress website depending on the theme you use. The more popular services are Leadpages, Thrive leads, Instapages and so on.

But am not recommending any of that now because I want to keep up with the theme of this article; which is to select the best and free tool possible for each category. 

The above-mentioned services are great but they come with monthly subscription packages some as high as $49/month. And you know the exchange rate at the parallel market is going up every month.

For you to get started building your digital business, those services are not an option. You need something free and that can get the job down.

I find a cool tool that makes creating a landing page so easy you start feeling like a tech guru. And it’s free too. This cool tool is one of the Growth Tools Free resources built by Bryan Harris and his team.

The name of this particular resource is Welcome.ly. With Welcome.ly you can create a single home page that you can use to build an email list. It’s very easy to edit and customize.

You can also integrate Welcome.ly with Mailchimp and other email services to collect, store and manage contact’s email addresses.

Here is an example of a landing page you can build using Welcome.ly.

This is awesome. Now you can build and host a landing page for free. Thanks to Growth Tool’s Welcome.ly!

Landing pages are an important element of a sales funnel. If you are going to build a successful digital business, landing pages are a must-have. One of the most important uses of a landing page is to build an email list and an email list is important to your digital business.

Money is in the list.

Creating Forms

The importance of forms in a digital business can not be overemphasized.

When you need to learn more about your customers or prospects, survey forms are what you need to create. When you need to collect emails and other relevant information about your prospect, registration forms come handy.

One of the most important activities in building your digital business is focusing on getting to know who your customers or clients are.

You want to know what they want or need, what other services or vendors they are using that is similar to yours. The more you know about the people that your product or service helps the better for you.

The first on the list of tools you can use to create survey forms and other forms is Google forms.

Google Forms

if you have a Gmail account, google form is just one of the free tools that Google made available to you.

I see people chase after shadows online and spend so much money on tools that don’t help them start or grow their business while a free tool is available to use. I have seen where a free tool is even better than a paid one. 

An example of such a tool is Google forms. Before you pay for any tool or software, check the Google web store for free alternative tools.

You can use Google forms to create survey forms for marketing purposes or as a landing page to collect email and other information about a prospect.

Once you finished creating your form, you will get a link that you can share with your audience or your list or on Facebook to collect prospect’s emails. You can set up the responses to be added to a spreadsheet in Google sheet–another free tool from Google.

If you use google forms to collect emails you can export the CSV file and import them into your favourite ESP like MailChimp or Mailerlite to send email campaigns to the list.

Popup By Supsystic

This is yet another awesome WordPress plugin. if you are already using WordPress, check out this powerful pop-up opt-in form plugin. you can do so many cool stuff with this plugin: you can create slide-in forms on your website, exit intent pop-ups, on-click pop-ups (my favorite), a Facebook page like pop-up (so people can like your Facebook page directly from your blog/website).

Here is a screenshot from my website.

You can also use this plugin to set up a content upgrade.

A content upgrade is a pdf version of your best-performing blog post. It could be a summary or an expanded version of your blog post. The purpose of creating a content upgrade is to use it to collect emails from your readers. The link to download a pdf version will be embedded within the post so that when readers click the link a form will pop-up for them to fill and they can get the content upgrade.

This a great way to add more subscribers to your email list. If you do guest blogging, you can ask the blog owner to set it up that way so that when people read your post they can also get the pdf version and be added to your list.

And It doesn’t necessarily have to a pdf version of a blog post, it could an e-book or lead magnet that you want people to download for free to grow your email list.

Here is an example:

File Hosting And Sharing

My laptop once crashed and I did not have a backup. I lost every important file.

The experience left me devastated.

Today I don’t have to worry about that kind of incidence because there are cloud software and resources that allow me to store my files in the “cloud” and access anywhere and on any devices.

But you can do a lot with these tools than just storing up documents in the “cloud”, you can also use these tools as a hosting and a file-sharing platform.

You can use them to share documents with a colleague at work or host a pdf file you want to deliver to those that opt-in to get your ebook.

While building your digital business, you will need to host and share files with people, These tools will more than sufficient.

My laptop once crashed and I did not have a backup. I lost every important file.

The experience left me devastated.

Today I don’t have to worry about that kind of incidence because there are cloud software and resources that allow me to store my files in the “cloud” and access anywhere and on any devices.

But you can do a lot with these tools than just storing up documents in the “cloud”, you can also use these tools as a hosting and a file-sharing platform.

You can use them to share documents with a colleague at work or host a pdf file you want to deliver to those that opt-in to get your ebook.

While building your digital business, you will need to host and share files with people, These tools will more than sufficient.

Google Drive

Again if you have a Gmail account, you already have this feature as part of your free account.

Google Drive offers you 15 GB free space for each account that you have. I have two. Don’t say I am greedy.

And you can get a link to every file that you can share with people to download and read.

Dropbox

Like Google Drive, Dropbox also allows you to store and share your files with others. But their free plan only gives you 2 GB free space. If you want to get more than 2 GB with your free account- up to 15 GB- you will need to invite your friends to sign-up for a free account using your link.

There are other cool features in dropbox that I have not yet explore. If you are already using Dropbox, you will agree with me that this tool is cool.

Box

Dropbox offers 2GB free of space, Box offers 10 GB. For now, that is the only difference I know about the two software. There may be other features that differentiate the two software, but what is obvious is the difference in the amount of free space they offer.

The box can do as much everything that Google drive and dropbox can do.  

Box offers additional storage space with google drive and Dropbox

Content Creation

Content is the lifeblood of the internet. Until you create something people can engage and interact with, your digital business will not take off.

If you going to build a thriving digital business, you need to create content that builds trust and credibility amongst your prospects. These contents could be in the form of blog posts, ebooks, special reports, videos, images, online courses, infographics and so on.

You can choose whatever content formats are okay for you and your audience, but you can’t escape creating content. This content over time will become a digital media asset that continues to attract and nurture your prospects.

What is even more important is the success it will bring to your business and the audience (customers) it will bring to your business. I always say that, when you build an audience, they will build your business.

Your content is your intellectual property, it is your value proposition, it is the reason people will choose to do business with you.

Your free valuable content demonstrates your expertise, it reveals your fundamental belief system and helps you form a strong bond with the people whose problems and challenges your products or services can solve.

Well, enough on content, let’s look at the tools.

Canva

When I discovered this free resource, all my frustrations about creating images, fliers, kindle book covers, ebooks, ebook covers, and more fizzles out.

Canva is simply the easiest tool to use to design any kind of content- especially all kinds of images and ebooks.

And the beautiful thing about Canva is that it is free to use. except they have premium images and icons that are $1 each. But they have tons of free images and templates and icons that you can use to design just about anything.

With Canva, your imagination is your limit.

Now you don’t need to be a graphic designer to be able to use Canva. If you have never designed anything before, try Canva and see for yourself- how easy it is to use the platform.
.
Go to canva.com and sign up for free.

This is my dashboard with some e-books and images I created using the free platform.

I use Canva and another free resource called pixlr.com to create a 3D e-book cover.

Now I am not saying you shouldn’t pay someone for such services, especially when you have other activities you should be focusing on in your business, but It is good sometimes to be able to do cool stuff like that by yourself.

You will be adding more skills to your skill-set if you learn how to do cool stuff by yourself.

You see, when you don’t have a lot of money and you want to build an online or digital business, the best place to start is to learn how to do some basic stuff on your own; like web design using WordPress, writing content, and basic designs like creating ebook covers and so on.

Then, when can afford to pay for the more expensive design you can do just that.

When you are just getting started your focus should be on marketing and getting your first customers or clients and not on expensive technology that will drain your energy and your pocket.

That is why I put together these free tools/resources for you.

Google Docs

Also, you can use google docs to write and create your text documents and convert them into downloadable pdf format.

Google docs have some cool features that make it so an awesome service to use. Features like text-to-speech and article research tool. 

Productivity

It is easy to be busy, it’s incredibly hard to be productive. Productivity requires discipline, It requires focus, It takes a plan.

But some tools can help you get organized and productive:

Evernote

When it comes to building a digital business, being organized is crucial.

You know ideas rule the world, but only ideas that are documented and put to work that will rule the world. Evernote allows you to capture ideas, inspiration, and insights and organize and store them in an accessible location.

You can access your documented ideas and thoughts on your phone, tabs, and laptop making it a perfect tool for finding and storing content ideas, marketing research and so on.

Anytime ideas struck, I open Evernote on my laptop or phone and make the idea my prisoner forever.

Evernote has a chrome extension called Evernote web clipper. it helps you clip articles from websites and blogs and saves it for later reading.

I use Evernote every day.

Pocket

Well, ideas don’t just jump on people from nowhere.

Content ideas are not created in a vacuum. Ideas have their roots in knowledge and insight gathered over time. Which means you must be a reader and an observer. You have to constantly update your knowledge by reading articles and books about your industry. 

But sometimes you will find more articles than you can read at a time, so you need a place to save and organize them for later reading.

I use Pocket for this purpose. Pocket has a chrome extension and app that you can install on your phone and laptop. And you can view saved articles from any of these devices.

Grammarly

If you are going to build a digital business, writing is something you can’t escape. The best you can do is to employ someone to do it for you. Content is a must for digital business. 

But just as you can’t walk without moving your head so you can’t create your first draft without some grammatical and spelling errors here and there. Grammarly is what you need to correct those nasty errors.

They have a free and a paid plan. Start with the free plan. The free plan will help you correct minor errors in your writing. Sometimes you will forget to put a comma or you will use a singular verb in the place a plural verb, Grammarly will clean them all for you. 

For example, in this report, Grammarly found and corrected 156 errors. 

If you think my grammar is bad, wait until you create your first draft and run it through Grammarly!

It is not easy to write and edit at the same time. Experts advise that you should not edit while you write. Leave all the editing till you finish your first draft.

Why? Because the idea and insight you want to share are more important than pursuing grammatical correctness.

But people won’t take you seriously if your writing is full of typos and grammatical errors. You know there are so many grammar cops who are ready to pounce on your work and point out all the misspellings and grammatical missteps. So watch out.

And that is why you should get Grammarly asap.

You can install the Grammarly browser extension on your laptop. Once you do that Grammarly will start to follow you everywhere you go in the digital space and correct any error your free plan allows it to correct

Awesome Screenshot

That is exactly what this tool is: awesome! 

The awesome screenshot is the tool I used to capture all the images I used in this report. 

You can use Awesome Screenshot to capture and annotate web images like the image above.

It is a Chrome browser extension. To install it on your browser, just go to Chrome web store and type ‘awesome screenshot’ in the search field in the top right corner. Once you see it, click on install and it will be added to your browser extensions bar.

Conclusion

Here is the caveat: Spending too much time on technology is not good for your business. Businesses are meant to serve people and make their life better.

Take one tool at a time that serves a business objective and master that one tool before moving to the next. We indeed need these tools in building a digital business but we should not allow them to get in the way of serving people.

Every successful business starts with psychology, not technology. That is, taking the time to understand the people- which is also the market you want to serve and focusing on helping them get the result they want.

If you find this post useful or you know other tools that I have not mentioned that are useful in building an online business, leave a comment below

 

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