A peek into how someone else runs their online business might be exactly what you need to make your next entrepreneurial move.
One in six Americans are new entrepreneurs, according to a 2022 report from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) consortium. The report defines a new entrepreneur as someone who has been in business for 3.5 years or less.
If that’s you, chances are you’re still figuring out your software stack. In this meaty post, we’ll go through the top business management software options to consider for areas like web development, marketing, accepting payments, accounting, and more.
Let’s dive in.
List of Recommended Tools
- WEBSITE TOOLS
- Beaver Builder (Wordpress)
- Wishlist Member (Membership Plugin)
- SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Email Marketing
- VISUAL DESIGN
- VIDEO RECORDING AND EDITING
- Final Cut Pro
- CONTENT AND DATA MANAGEMENT
- Google Docs
- Google Drive
- Hello Audio
- CHECKOUT SOFTWARE
- OTHER TOOLS AND SYSTEMS
Best Business Management Software: What to Consider
Small businesses these days have to manage many different software tools. From quality accounting software to granular things like project planning and time tracking, it’s important that the tools you choose are the right fit for both your budget and team collaboration needs.
Some of the recommendations below are one-time purchases. Others are software as a service (SaaS), meaning that you’ll pay a monthly or annual fee to license the software for your own use. While expense management is important, sometimes it’s better to invest in the nicer tool in order to have better results—and fewer headaches.
When choosing software, take the following considerations into account:
- Project management. Will this tool help me streamline overall project management?
- Key features. What are the key features I need, and does this tool provide those features?
- A free trial. A 14-day or 30-day free trial can give you time to check out all the features of a project management tool without any of the online payments. Free software powers many businesses, and you may not need the paid tier for your inventory management or marketing campaigns.
- A unified business management suite. Do your tools all work together? Often, it’s not so much about picking the right business management software as it is picking a business management tool that complements your existing tech stack.
- Core business processes. Will this tool—free version or otherwise—improve project progress and help meet business needs?
- Budget. Is the ROI per month very clear? Often, this is more about time tracking and productivity just as much as financial reports.
Here are some tools to consider, organized by business function.
Your website is your welcome mat. It’s your business card. The good news is that it’s never been easier to set up or improve your website—there is education everywhere.
Here are some website basics.
Good for: Purchasing web domains.
Even if you don’t need a website, you can’t create a branded email address unless you have a domain. Using “email@example.com” for online business efforts is going to look amateur.
Fortunately, owning a branded domain only costs a couple bucks a month, and often even less.
Namecheap is a web domains marketplace. I bought domains like campwordsmith.com and heftymediagroup.com on Namecheap. I actually didn’t use them for years, I used GoDaddy instead, and then Bluehost. Then, after trying Namecheap and realizing the service was just as good, I decided to buy from them moving forward.
Despite the cheap-sounding name, Namecheap is actually a quality service with a clean, easy-to-use interface—and great prices, of course.
Good for: Hosting your website.
To review: You can have a website, but if it’s not being hosted, it ’s not actually on the internet. You need a service that will host your website for you. Like an Airbnb host… uh, kind of.
Siteground is where I do web hosting for campwordsmith.com, which is built on Wordpress. I moved to Siteground after spending several years with a different company, WP Engine. WP Engine is more fancy, but also rather expensive, and Siteground offers similar services for a much lower price.
Unless your website is getting hundreds of thousands of visits a month, you don’t really need a high-traffic hosting service.
Beaver Builder (Wordpress)
Good for: A Wordpress site that is easy to customize.
Don’t need a fancy site? I totally get it.
Tons of websites are built on Wordpress. The interface lets you build pretty much whatever you want and is free, but it can be helpful to invest in a building tool.
My company’s core offer, Camp Wordsmith®, has a portal built on Wordpress. It was built with a tool called Beaver Builder.
Beaver Builder has themes, plugins, and other drag-and-drop tools that make developing your Wordpress website a cinch.
Wishlist Member (Membership plugin)
Wishlist Member is the OG membership tool for Wordpress. If you want users to have different levels of access to your website content, you’ll want a membership tool. After using tools like Thinkific and SamCart Courses, I moved to WLM because I liked that there was a lifetime license option.
Between Wordpress and Wishlist Member, the only thing I pay for each month to maintain my client portal is the web hosting.
Good for: Advanced website development.
This website is built on Sanity.io, an exciting new CMS, and the ReactJS library.
If you want a site on Sanity, it’ll be a custom project, and you’ll need to work with a web developer. After being online for seven years, I was ready to ramp up my website game. Sanity.io’s clients include Nike, Shopify, Figma, and Condé Nast.
Search Engine Optimization
If you plan to be online for the long game, it would behoove you to work search engine optimization into your small business processes. Here are the free and paid tools I use.
Good for: Measuring your website traffic.
If you have a website, but don’t yet have a free Google Analytics account set up, you should do that today. Google Analytics will measure all your site traffic and where that traffic is coming from.
Google Search Console
Good for: Overall website growth monitoring.
The Google Search Console is another free tool provided by Google. Whereas Analytics is more about monitoring traffic, Google Search Console is more about the overall health of your website at a high level.
For example, if your website looks bad on a phone, that’s going to hurt you in search engine results, no matter how much content you create.
Good for: Clear instructions on how to improve your SEO.
SurferSEO is a software company specializing in AI-assisted SEO research tools. You can audit content and get keyword suggestions. SurferSEO does not write content for you; rather, it uses AI to see what other blogs or articles are on the internet for the topic you’re writing about, then gives you recommendations on what words or phrases to incorporate into your writing.
A great email marketing tool is incredibly important. Even if you’re not sending newsletters consistently, having a list of users you can reach whenever you like is very powerful.
Good for: Powerful email marketing.
My business and brand are primarily powered by email marketing. With ActiveCampaign, I’m able to write beautiful emails and segment my subscribers on a very granular level. ActiveCampaign is also the better option for product-based businesses that also deal with supply chain management and targeted messaging.
Trusted by over 180,000 business owners, ActiveCampaign is the gold standard for email marketing. There’s also a mobile app. Read my in-depth overview of the tool here.
Good for: Simple email marketing.
While I don’t use ConvertKit personally, I’ve used it for clients in the past. ConvertKit is a great alternative to ActiveCampaign that has fewer features, but also slightly lower price points.
Brand-new creators and million-dollar business owners alike use ConvertKit’s simple interface. If you’re just getting started and don’t need to get really specific with your email marketing just yet, it’s probably the better option.
Good for: Really simple email marketing.
I like to spotlight Flodesk for email marketing as well, because it is an email service provider that is woman-owned and operated.
The even better part? One flat price, no matter how big your list gets. Flodesk falls short on automations and systems, but if you have a lot of email subscribers and don’t want to break your budget, it would be a good tool to check out.
Good for: Accelerating list growth.
Leadpages is a landing page software tool. While it isn’t an email marketing tool per se, landing pages are very important for list growth. Leadpages gives you several tools to help you grow your list, and you can also use it to create sales pages. Read my in-depth review of Leadpages here—there are a bunch of freebies, too.
Good design adds credibility to your work, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. Most of my designs are produced with the following tools, most of which are free.
Good for: Graphic design for non-designers.
With well over 50 million users, this software company struck gold when it made design simpler for all of us. Canva still doesn’t hold up against professional tools like Photoshop or Illustrator, but for most of us it’s more than enough. In recent years, Canva has expanded to include functionality for presentations, PDFs, video animations, and more.
Good for: Free stock photography and video footage.
A free stock photos website can be very helpful. Pexels is great for grabbing both photos and videos that are 100% free and royalty-free. You have an option to tip the creator when you download their asset, too.
Video Recording and Editing
From recording your screen to staring down the camera, there’s no escaping the fact that video is the content modality of the future. Fortunately, there are tools that make recording and editing videos easy—even if you have no previous editing experience.
Good for: Screen-recording and editing videos, quickly and easily.
If you are trying to communicate how-to information by recording your screen, Loom is a fantastic tool to know about. The web-based tool has a browser extension, and lets you record your screen with just a few quick clicks, making it great for tutorials.
Final Cut Pro
Good for: Professional-level video editing.
If and when you’re ready to go pro with video, I recommend either Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere Pro. Since I work on a Mac, I prefer Final Cut Pro.
I had this software for years and didn’t get much out of it. Then I took a college course on it, where I had to learn nearly every keyboard shortcut and submit assignments each week. Now I love it. But like many other pro-level tools, investing in some formal training isn’t a bad idea.
Good for: Video conferences and hosting webinars.
Zoom has become synonymous with remote work. The company had been around for years, but absolutely exploded when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, forcing millions of workers to collaborate virtually.
You can host calls with Zoom meetings. You can also host your webinars with Zoom, which I recommend, but you’ll need to purchase the webinar add-on monthly feature to enable this functionality.
Content and Information Management
It’s important to keep yourself and your data organized. If you have information in many different places, it can be hard to ever start developing momentum. These tools will help.
Good for: Incredible, time-saving data management.
It’s official: I am obsessed with Airtable, and investors are too. The software company offers spreadsheets on steroids, and it integrates with just about everything.
If you’re ready to get your data and systems incredibly streamlined, Airtable is for you.
Good for: Writing content.
Google docs is a free tool that integrates with many other platforms. Although most developmental editors still work in Word docs, Google docs has the edge since it’s cloud based. I can add charts, leave notes or comments, and even pre-make different Google doc templates. Real talk: I wrote this blog in a Google doc.
Good for: Organizing your thoughts on the go.
Notion is where I keep my punch list of tasks to complete. It’s more for personal organization, and not so much for business. Notion also has a nice built-in tool, Notion AI, that lets you tinker with emerging technologies in private. Check out my in-depth overview here.
Good for: Transcriptions and subtitles.
Otter.ai lets you upload audio or videos and get machine-generated transcriptions that have a partial AI audit. I like this tool because I can still listen to the original audio I uploaded, but the AI’s first pass usually results in fewer transcription errors. I work in Otter when processing interviews.
Additionally, you can export both transcriptions and subtitles of the same audio separately. Other tools (Rev, ahem) charge you twice for this. Otter gets the job done for me.
Good for: Organization of records and large files.
I’ll keep this one short: Google Drive gives you a lot of online storage for free. If you’re not on the Google ecosystem, please just create a free gmail account and go with it!
Good for: Hosting videos.
You can certainly host videos on YouTube. But if you want to punch things up a bit, Vimeo offers a more heightened video experience, better embeds, and actually allows for in-video pop-ups whenever you want.
Good for: Getting articles seen by more readers when you don’t have much site traffic yet.
If you like to write articles, but feel stuck in the mud with getting users to find them and read them, you should look into Medium. The open-source blogging platform is a great way to grow your audience.
Good for: Private podcast or audio feeds.
Did you know you can do podcast episodes privately, just like emails or courses? Yup! A new software company called Hello Audio specializes in this functionality. If you’ve ever wanted to offer something like an audio course, this is the software for you.
Good for: Social media scheduling.
It’s good to batch content when you can. Batching helps you think more strategically and publish better content. I think Later is the best tool on the market; you can schedule multiple platforms at once, and using a link-in-bio tool is important on social media.
Later has one of the best link tools, linkin.bio, built directly into the platform.
Make it as easy as possible to accept payments. You’ve done all this hard work to message and market your offer; let’s not have it fall apart with the finish line in sight.
Good for: Checkouts and taking payments.
ThriveCart is the best bang for your buck when it comes to checkout tools, and it’s not really up for discussion. The reason is that ThriveCart is a one-time lifetime payment. Pay once, use the tool as much as you want. ThriveCart also has a lot of integrations with other tools, making it easy to automate your sales process.
Good for: More advanced checkout funnels to maximize revenue.
I used SamCart for 2021 and 2022, then moved back off of it for 2023. The reason was that I didn’t need SamCart’s more advanced checkout funnel features anymore.
If you’re working in ecommerce, or selling lots of smaller products, however, you should look into SamCart. The reason for this is that SamCart lets you have as many “bump” offers on your checkout page as you want, whereas ThriveCart only allows for one bump.
The extra bumps on my cart were more than covering the additional cost of SamCart when I was using it.
Other Tools and Systems
These remaining tools didn’t quite fit into any of the categories above, but I’m still obsessed with them for saving time and effort.
Good for: Automations and integrations between different software tools.
Think of Zapier as digital glue: It’s the tool that helps you stick other tools together. With Zapier, you can set up automations, saving you huge amounts of time from month to month. Zapier uses a freemium model, so you can try it out for free, then move up to a paid plan later. Highly recommend!
Good for: Voice communications with clients or team members.
Voxer is an app that works like a walkie-talkie. I prefer Voxer to other tools like voice texts or WhatsApp because Voxer will transcribe voice memos for you. You can listen to voice memos at up to 4x speed, drop in links or media, and generally use the tool to your advantage.
Good for: Appointment scheduling.
Instead of doing all this back-and-forth with clients or coworkers to set up a meeting time, just use Calendly instead. The app has a free tier and a super-sleek interface, and integrates nicely with other tools. You can even take payments through Calendly if you have a Stripe account.
Good for: Payroll.
If you plan to pay contractors, employees, and/or yourself regularly, you’ll need a payroll tool. Fortunately, Gusto is designed for solopreneurs and small business owners who may not have any employees at all yet.
What I like about Gusto is that it helps you make your taxes squeaky clean. If you worked with contractors or had employees, Gusto will generate all of the necessary tax paperwork for these workers, which is one less thing to think about.
➡️ Learn more about Gusto here. This link includes a $100 Visa gift card from Gusto if you end up purchasing a plan—some terms and conditions apply.
Good for: Self-employment 401(k)s and other retirement plans.
By the time I was five years into self-employment, I was like “Oooh, yeah, I need some sort of solution for retirement planning.” That’s where Guideline comes in.
Guideline helps you set up legal retirement plans for your business, even if your business is just yourself.
Good for: Business compliance services.
CorpNet is a great service to consider if you want help with business compliance filings, such as operating agreements, annual reports, or name changes. When I moved my business from Texas to California, Corpnet did all the transfer paperwork for me, and advised me on what state rules would be different.
The nice thing about CorpNet is that it’s service-based, so you just pay as you go when you need help.
Good for: Bookkeeping.
I have been using Bench for my accounting and bookkeeping for years, and love it. I never think about keeping receipts anymore; my accounts are connected to Bench, an accountant checks my numbers each month, and I can log in and look at my balance sheets whenever I want.
The best part of this service is that they give a year-end “tax package” at the end of the year; just hand these spreadsheets to a CPA and they’ll get your taxes filed quickly and cleanly. Bench also added an upsell tax service last year.
Good for: Finding contactors and/or virtual assistants.
Your time is valuable. When possible, consider outsourcing work to virtual assistants or other skilled specialists.
Upwork is an online freelancer marketplace. It differs from Fiverr in that, on Upwork, you dictate the job you want done, whereas on Fiverr the freelancer takes the lead and offers a catalog of services.
This is another area where good writing comes in handy. Part of working with a virtual assistant successfully is setting them up with clear instructions.
Good for: Keeping your passwords and overall online business secure.
Passwords leak all the time. If someone got a hold of your password right now… how many tools of yours could they log into and wreak havoc on at once? If the answer is more than, well, one, you’re reusing passwords too much.
1Password encrypts all your passwords for you so that you can have a different, secure password for every login. Any password manager takes time to set up, but once you’re on one, you’ll never go back.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are Some Good Project Management Software Options?
I prefer Airtable, personally. Other popular tools include Asana, Trello, and ClickUp. Be sure to choose a tool that lets you see projects and/or data in many different ways.
What Is a Good Customer Relationship Management Tool?
I suggest using Airtable and ActiveCampaign as your one-two punch for customer relationship management. A CRM should track customer activity and interactions, and make data easy to read. Airtable will give you the data, and ActiveCampaign will give you engagement records.
Ramp Up Your Business Software Game Today
It’s a jungle out there! Figure out what online software tools are the right fit for you, then start incorporating them now so you can reach your goals faster than ever before. ◆
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