A Resource from T.Marie Hilton's Clerical Advantage Online Technology Services
This resource includes the hardware, devices, apps, and services that I use for my own business, in providing services for clients and in some cases, in my personal life. Here they are, your recommendations from a geek girl.
*Some links below are affiliate links, meaning I use it and like it enough to share it with others and in return, I may receive a small compensation that could allow me to replace my cinnamon toast with avocado toast at no additional cost to you.
Computers & Other Hardware In My Office
I use two computers due to the nature of my business, a desktop and a laptop.
Desktop Computer: I recently replaced my 5 year old HP desktop system with a gaming system. It seems a bit counterintuitive since I’m not a gamer, but I needed the higher end graphics card to handle the graphics work I do on a daily basis.
Laptop Computer: Because I often work from places other than my home office, I needed a reliable laptop that is able to run my graphics programs as well. I purchased my Macbook refurbished directly from the Apple Certified Refurbished website. It was re-boxed and like new when I received it and has been a real workhorse on the go for me.
Printer: I run a paperless office, so a printer isn’t an absolute necessity, however I like having one on hand in case a client needs me to print and mail something. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s the reason there is a printer in my office.
Phone: I haven’t had a ‘landline’ for my business since 2008. I’ve used an iPhone for my business phone since 2013. The longer I’ve been using an iPhone, the more useful it’s become for my business. I don’t update my business phone quite as often as I update my personal iPhone. Yes, I have a separate line for my business. I used to use the same phone for both, but in the interest of work-life balance I purchased the second line two years ago and haven’t looked back.
VTechnology Backlit Typewriter Mechanical Keyboard – I love the click and feel of a mechanical keyboard. Since I do a ton of typing, having this makes it a bit more fun.
Echo Dot –I find myself using Alexa more frequently in my office during the business day. From asking about my daily schedule to listening to music and podcasts, my Dot is quickly becoming a relied upon piece of technology for my office.
iPad Air 2—Although this wasn’t strictly a business purchase, I have found myself carrying this along more and more on those days when I’m required to be out of the office for meetings, conferences, trainings, etc. It lightweight, easy to carry and gives me access to some of the programs like Word & Powerpoint that a client might need me to access in a pinch. In fact, showing a client or potential client a Powerpoint presentation regarding my services has been a great visual selling point in the past. The Air 2 isn’t the newest iteration, and an iPad Pro with Apple pencil is definitely on my wish list, but more for my artwork than for my business.
Amazon Prime—2 day free delivery. Recently I can often get 1 day delivery for free. Even though I'm a paperless office, there are still office supplies I need. Batteries for cordless things, like my mouse for one. I can't imagine my business without Prime.
Software and Software as a Service That I Use
Office365—This is Microsoft Office in monthly service format. You pay monthly and you have access to the latest version of all the Microsoft Office programs. You can install them on your devices as well as getting online access to them, so if you’re working from a computer other than your own you can still log into your account and use the program you need. I subscribe to the Business Premium level. The most used programs from this suite? Outlook, Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.
Adobe Creative Cloud—Another software as a service option, this one not only gives me access to Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop and Illustrator, I also get apps like Photoshop Sketch, SparkPost, and Capture for my iPhone and iPad.
Dropbox—Although it has a free level, I pay monthly for Dropbox Professional not only for 3 TB of cloud storage of my files but for collaboration tools like Paper and Showcase as well as the ability to watermark my work and use Smart Sync to save space on my computer drives.
Avast Anti-Virus and VPN—Avast has a great free anti-virus option, which I started out with. As my business grew, however, it became important for me to get serious about protecting my computers (and thus my clients) so I use the Premier level and their VPN (virtual private network).
Other Subscriptions I Rely On
Adobe Stock—Because of all the work with graphics that I do, having a subscription to a stock photo service is a must. Again, I pay monthly for a set number of stock photos. I have the 10 images per month level because I supplement with some really stellar free stock photo sites that I will share later.
*Freshbooks—My choice for billing and invoicing. I’ve used Freshbooks since 2008 and I love it. It makes billing and invoicing quick and easy. With so many of my clients retaining monthly services, the fact that I can create recurring invoices that automatically get sent at the right time every month is a time saver. And the ability for my clients to pay via credit card, PayPal, Stripe or bank draft makes it flexible for them too. They can even choose to auto-pay each month making their life easier too. It includes a time tracking feature for those who need to keep track of time spent on projects and allows you to quickly and easily turn those entries into invoices. On top of all the functionality, they also have stellar customer service as well. You can even try it for free. *My praise of Freshbooks is sincere, that's why I am also an affiliate (because I love it). That means if you sign up through one of my links I’ll receive a small payment. Which means I might be able to purchase a Starbucks Iced Cinnamon Dolce Latte instead of a Dunkin’ Donuts Cold Brew at no additional cost to you!
WebinarNinja—After trying out a lot of webinar platforms, both for myself and for my clients, I’ve settled on WebinarNinja for doing webinars, online presentations, and live classes.
AudioHero—Music and sound effects for videos isn’t always easy to find. You have to be careful regarding copyright infringement or it could land you in hot water. Getting my music via AudioHero not only gives me quality tracks to use but makes sure I steer clear of copyright issues.
RelayThat—For creating branded images across all the social media platforms you can’t beat RelayThat. It allows you to apply your branding and keep your images consistent no matter what size image you need. It allows your blog posts, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram images remain recognizable no matter what platform you are posting on without creating separate images for each. It’s a new tool in my arsenal, but one I see becoming very important.
Additional Seriously Loved Software
Camtasia—Even though my Creative Cloud subscription comes with Premiere Pro for video editing, it’s got a steep learning curve. Before I subscribed to Creative Cloud, I purchased Camtasia. It’s a user-friendly screen capture and video editing software. I use it to create tutorials for my clients and how to videos for YouTube.
KeePass Password Safe—People ask, “How do you keep track of all the passwords?” Here’s my answer. A password safe. I’ve been using KeePass for years. Not only does it keep track of my passwords, it helps me create truly secure new ones.
GetColor for Windows and ColorPicker for Mac—These two tiny programs are critical when I’m trying to match colors in a website build or custom graphics. Bonus, both are free.
Online Tools I Use on the Regular
Free High-Quality Stock Images and Videos
Pixabay, Unsplash, and Pexels—I use all three of these sources of high-quality stock images. In fact, I always check these sites first before I resort to using one of my Adobe Stock images. Nine times out of ten the perfect image for a blog post, meme, social media post or website can be found on one of these three sites.
Social Media Posting
Later and Missinglettr—I don’t schedule my social media posts very often, I’m more of an impulsive poster. However, there are times when I’m running a sale on my best-selling virtual assistant course or have an upcoming online class or webinar when I need to schedule posts. For that purpose, I’ve found that Later works well. It’s not as robust as Buffer, but it suits my purpose. And for recirculating some of my older blog posts there is nothing like Missinglettr, which lets me set up a campaign that will allow me to share older posts automatically for up to a year. It’s a great way to get your content back in circulation.
Mailchimp—Every business needs a mailing list and mine is no exception. My choice for email marketing is Mailchimp. It’s simple to use, integrates with loads of other services and has a free level that is great for those just building their list.
Online Meetings and Communication
Zoom—Video conferencing allows us to have business meetings anywhere. Zoom has a free level with some limitations as well as paid subscriptions that allows for larger groups or longer meetings. Bonus: you can record your meetings.
Slack— Messaging for business teams allows for instant text communication with file sharing for collaboration.
Online Tools I Use Occasionally But Recommend To Others Often
Canva* and PicMonkey—If you don’t need the power of Photoshop like I do, but still need to create great graphics, Canva and PicMonkey are great online alternative. Canva even has a great Mind Map option now, alleviating the need for a separate mind mapping program.
Box, OneDrive and Google Drive—Dropbox is my cloud storage of choice but there are other solid options out there. I have worked with all three of these myself and /or with clients and they are also great options for online file storage.
The Website Side Of Things
WordPress—If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time at all you know that my choice for creating great websites is WordPress. That’s WordPress.org, a website framework. Don’t get it confused with WordPress.com which is a blog service.
GoDaddy—GoDaddy is my go-to for purchasing domain names.
*Siteground—After using other website hosting services like Hostgator and GoDaddy, I’ve settled on Siteground as my preferred hosting service. I use them for my own websites and recommend them to my clients as well.* Yup, I’m a Siteground affiliate too. If you signup through my link, I’ll probably be able to buy Lindt chocolate instead of Hershey's. No extra costs to you though.
*Beaver Builder—I’ve been using Beaver Builder to create gorgeous websites on WordPress since the Headway Theme stopped updating and supporting the theme. It’s my choice because of its flexibility, solid coding and stellar support. * and yes, again, I’m an affiliate. You know the drill...I get a little something and you don’t pay extra.
Wordfence—My choice of security plugin for WordPress
*Backup Buddy—My choice for backing up and restoring WordPress websites.
Gravity Forms—My choice for building a vast array of forms on WordPress websites
OptinMonster—I’ve recently begun using OptinMonster for several clients to create high converting popups and I’m impressed. Enough so that I’m totally comfortable making it my recommendation for popups on WordPress websites.
Keep watching this resource page for more of my recommendations from a geek girl. Feel free to contact me if there is something online tech or small business tech related that you are looking for recommendations on and I’ll do my best to help you out!