Tools + Plugins I Use To Run My Business

Monday, November 7th 2016 Business

There is a lot of information out there on the web about how to run a business, and not a day goes by where I don’t see another article on another site telling you about the top 50 plugins you need for your WordPress site, or all of the investments you should make in subscriptions that will help your business run smoother. Every time I see one of these articles though I wonder two things:

Am I doing something wrong? Are these people insane?

I use 14 things to efficiently and effectively run my business, and that includes plugins. Realistically I could probably utilize one or two more things to make things a little easier on myself but overall my setup is pretty simple, and I like the fact that I don’t have to worry about $400+ in monthly bills just to keep everything afloat. I know it can be daunting seeing all of these freelancers, and ‘preneurs’ telling you how much money they have to spend a month in order to just run their business – so I wanted to show the smaller side of things, and how I run my business for under $100/mo.

I’m going to skip out on the obvious things like domains ($28/yr because I have a .co) and hosting ($11/mo with Dreamhost*), because those are things most people are going to need regardless, so they’re expected expenses that don’t really change much from person to person.

I’m also going to leave out the amount that I spend on stock photos, because they vary too, and what I use/need might not match up with what you use/need. Not to mention there are a ton of freebies out there nowadays, and spending money on stock isn’t something you need to do.

So, let’s get started with the essentials outside of WordPress:

Note: Anything marked with an asterisk (*) is an affiliate link. I do not share these lightly. If something has an affiliate link it means that it’s a product that I have used extensively and trust.

Business Needs

  • Pancake App (one time payment of $149) * – Pancake App an extension that I use to send out my invoice and contracts, and collect payments through Paypal. You install it directly on your domain and you can brand it so everything is one easy and cohesive experience for your client.
  • Paypal – Paypal takes roughly 3% of every payment I get, so I’m not paying out of pocket for this, and it’s never the same fee – but Paypal is a huge part of my business, and so I think it should be mentioned.
  • Creative Cloud CS ($50/mo) – This is my subscription from Adobe that includes Photoshop, which is the main item I use from it. I was finding myself needing InDesign and Illustrator every now and then so I upgraded from my $20/mo plan to this so that I have the entire Adobe arsenal at my fingertips if I need it. Additionally, if you’re a student, you can get Creative Cloud for only $19/mo, and individual Adobe products for a discounted rate, check that out here. Some workplaces and schools also offer the program free for current employees/students – can’t hurt to ask.
  • Firezilla (Free) – This is the FTP client that I use to upload files to mine and client sites, unfortunately it’s only for PCs.
  • Skype (Free) – I use this mostly to communicate with the primary developer I work with, Ashley, but sometimes with other clients.
  • Slack (Free) – I use the free plan for slack to keep in touch with those that I work with + to keep files for projects all located in one spot that we can all easily access.
  • G Suite / Gmail ($10/mo, $5/per user/email) – This of course, is for my branded emails: +
  • Google Drive (Free) – I use this to store and save my blog posts, as well as any files related to them or my site, so that I can access them anywhere.


  • CoSchedule ($19/mo) * – CoSchedule is a really awesome tool that’s primary focus is to act as an Editorial Calendar, but the thing that I love the most about CoSchedule is something called ‘social templates’. Basically, it allows me to create templates that tell my posts where to post to (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, G+), and all I have to do is to apply a template to a post and my posts have scheduling for the next 2+ months, without me having to do anything extra. There’s even a WordPress plugin for it so I can manage everything from my dashboard without having yet another site to go to. (There will be another post on this in the future, trust me.)
  • BoardBooster * ($10/mo) – Right now I’m using BoardBooster purely to loop my pins so that there’s always something active/being sent out. There is talk of Tailwind (straight from Tailwind, that is) getting some of the same functionality, and with it being officially affiliated with Pinterest + because of it’s analytics, etc I’ll probably be switching when they do. Tailwind is also $10/mo when you pay annually.
  • Tweetdeck (Free) – I use Tweetdeck to help me manage Twitter – it’s a better interface than Twitter itself, and it allows me to have columns and such for different lists that I want to keep a better eye on.


  • (Free) – This of course, is what I use to run my site on. It provides my platform for my entire site as well as my blog.
  • Gravity Forms ($40/yr) – Gravity Forms is what I use to create my fancy shmancy contact form. It has all the built in capabilities seen to have conditional fields, and control what pops up for visitors depending on what they input into your form which let’s me gather the right information from the right people! (Note: You can technically use Gravity Forms for free, but you don’t get any support or software updates if you don’t pay the yearly fee.)

Overall my payments to run my business for one year comes out to:

  • Creative Cloud: $50/mo
  • Google for Business: $10/mo
  • CoSchedule: $10/mo (paid yearly)
  • Boardbooster: $10/mo
  • Monthly: $80
  • Gravity Forms: $40
  • Yearly: $40

So dividing out Gravity Form’s yearly fee, I’m spending $92.33 a month to run my business, and then a one-time payment made in 2015 for Pancake that came out to $149.

Additionally, on the off chance that worked slowed down so much that things got desperate and needed to cut a few corners, I can drop my Creative Cloud membership down to the Photography plan, which is only $10/mo, saving me $40/mo and equaling my monthly payments out to $52.33.

Running a business shouldn’t break you, and it’s completely possible to run a business without having to worry about a huge bill every month to do so.

Tools + Plugins I Use To Run My Business

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