While building an online business, you will likely come to the realization that while many of the tools out there that bill themselves as free are good up to a certain point, there are some things that paid tools or paid versions of tools are simply better at. It is important to avoid paying for things you don’t need, and paid subscriptions can quickly get out of hand if you let them, but below are 5 tools that are worth investing in for your online business.
Online Legal Services
No matter if you run an offline or an online business, you are going to need legal services at some point. Whether it is to incorporate, to draft a partnership agreement, to transfer assets, or any number of other common business activities, having access to legal services providers is crucial. Anyone who has ever used an online legal documents service like LegalZoom, however, knows that you don’t always need to look for lawyers to get many legal documents drafted.
What’s more, there are several alternatives to LegalZoom to choose from. Legal Zoom is the oldest and also one of the most expensive online filing services, but the good news is that over the last several years, a variety of competitor services have hit the market. It is important to understand that certain documentation you need to draft and file as an online business owner will require legal expertise and should not be something you create on your own.
Whether you choose QuickBooks, FreshBooks, or any of the other accounting software on the market, investing in accounting software as soon as you start taking orders and selling your products or services is a good way to stay on top of your accounting, taxes, and finance. If you would rather outsource your bookkeeping, there are plenty of options for that as well.
Many online business owners, and especially first time owners, let their accounting get away from them because it is easy to dismiss or forget small purchases and sporadic sales when you start out. Not only can these add up over the course of a year, but they can quickly grow out of control once your business really starts to take off.
Pro Version of a Web Builder
While a website is sometimes not a necessity for online businesses–there are plenty of purely online businesses that get by on word of mouth and a couple of social media profiles–most serious online operations rely on a well-made website. Hiring web developers to build a custom website represents a major cost, and one which many new online businesses simply can’t bear. The good news is that it is entirely possible to build a great-looking website, from the ground up, without any prior coding knowledge, all on your own.
The catch is that this takes some time, and while it will likely cost you far less than what you would pay a freelancer or team of developers to do it for you, there are still some costs involved. If you aren’t coding a website from scratch, you are using a web builder. Popular web builders like Elementor come with both a free and pro version and while the free versions have a lot of great features to get you started, if you want to create a truly dynamic experience for your visitors and a competitive modern-looking website, you will likely need to upgrade to the pro version.
An online business is in the difficult position of having to create relationships with customers without ever being able to meet these people in person. Doing this requires an ability to glean an intimate understanding of what visitors and customers want from data alone. A CRM, or customer relationships management software, provides you with a long list of analytics and synthesized data that you can use to learn how to better connect with and market to your customers and leads.
Google Workspace, formerly called G-Suite, gives online businesses a custom email as well as access to collaboration tools such as chat, drive, meet, sheets, slides, docs, Gmail and calendar. The custom email aspect is particularly important and there are many reasons why it is important to have a personalized business email account for your online business. This extends to anyone you have working for you who also interacts with clients and customers.
eCommerce and Payments Software
If you are planning on taking payments from your customers online, you are going to need to invest in an online payment processing platform like WooCommerce or Shopify. The premium versions of payment plugins and software integrate seamlessly into your website, are regularly patched and upgraded, and are used by millions of online businesses around the world. If you don’t know which payment platform you want to use, sign up for a free trial, create your store, make it available to the public and try using it from the shopper’s view to see what it will be like for your customers.
Hootsuite is a social media management platform and if you are doing business online you are going to want to take your social media presence seriously, including carefully monitoring how and where your brand is mentioned. Hootsuite, like many freemium platforms out there, allows you a lot of great functionalities for free, but if you upgrade to their premium service, you get things like content scheduling, automated replies, competitor analysis and analytics across all social media platforms.
The adage that you have to spend money to make money holds true both offline and online and there are services out there that are worth paying for that provide real value for businesses operating online. It can take some time separating the wheat from the chaff and you need to do your due diligence before signing up for that monthly or yearly subscription, but ask any successful online business owner how many services or digital products they pay for and the list will likely surprise you. The above tools are just some of the ones that are worth investing in as you start and grow your online business.