Business Tools I Use and Recommend
Hi, I’m Indigo Dutton. I’ve been in business a long time, and most of that time my business has been helping others with their businesses. Whether a sole proprietor just starting out from their living room or a Fortune 500 corporation, it’s been my responsibility to help others know what they need, and know how to use it.
In the process, I’ve used, evaluated, and recommended lots of different business resources. In this recommended resources guide I’ve decided to share my perennial favorites with you. Please bookmark this page to check back, as I gradually add all my top recommendations.
Wherever I’ve been able to, I share a free solution that I like. I also use affiliate links when I can find them, but only recommend what I actually use myself. I hope you enjoy these resorces as much as I have.
The Best Content Creation Tools I’ve Found
Canva for free graphic creation
The go-to resource for creating your own graphics. Make those cool pictures with quotes you see for yourself in just minutes. Free to use. Some graphic elements cost $1 for each use. There are also paid plans available.
This is one I use A LOT! Every FB ad, every video thumbnail, every graphic social media post, pictures for my website, for emails, for landing pages, for just about everything. While I do have other more powerful visual editor software from Adobe, I use this far more often. If you haven’t tried it yet, do yourself a favor and give it a spin.
COST: Free with paid extras
Pros & Cons
- You can do a lot with only the free option
- Comes with all the needed image dimensions for various online needs (Facebook cover, Pinterest graphic, Facebook ad, etc.)
- Is integrated with lots of others tools on the internet, like content sharing apps.
- The text elements with shapes/borders as backgrounds are inflexible when resizing. The aspect ratios are fixed. For example, you can’t take a text element formatted with a square background shape and reduce the height to turn it into a rectangle. You have to add a shape element by itself, then add a text element by itself (that has no shape include), then overlap them.
PiktoChart Infographic Creator
Did you know that infographics get shared more than any other type of graphic element? Even more than those pictures with quotes (Quotepics). They can contain a lot of information presented in a way people can easily take in. The only reason not to have at least one for your business is that you don’t know how to make one yourself and think it would be too expensive to hire a graphic designer to make one for you.
I used to have my infographics made on Fiverr, which was affordable at around $15-20 per graphic. But I had to wait several days, and sometimes as much as a week, to get my graphic. And if anything was misspelled (usually in the original text I sent to the designer… oops), it was days more to get it fixed.
I still use Fiverr for some things, but not for infographics anymore, now that I have Piktochart!
COST: Free; paid plans starting at $15/m
Pros & Cons
- It gives you a wide variety of infographic styles you can make even within the free option
- You can also use it to create fancy Powerpoint/Google Slides presentations or flyers
- You can easily create custom bar charts by typing in your numbers and letting it generate the chart for you.
- With any DIY graphics tool, you have to be able to visually conceptualize the ideas you’re trying to convey. If you aren’t good at that, you may be better off just getting it done for you by a professional designer on Fiverr.
Grammarly free grammar checker
Originally when I signed up for this free service I installed the Chrome browser plugin. I found that most of the places I write online, I don’t want to be held to proper grammar. Notably Facebook and Twitter. So I turned off the browser extension.
How I’ve wound up using it is that when I write something formal (which could be an article for someone else’s publication or a blog post on my own site) I upload it to the tool to check it before I submit/publish it. It is incredibly helpful for that, much better than native spelling and grammar check.
Depending on how you write, you may like using the browser plugin. For example, if you write your blog articles within the blog tool (Squarespace, WordPress, Weeble, etc.) then you’d want the browser plugin to save you a step. I write in MS Word then copy and paste into the blog tool, so for me there is an extra step no matter what. However you use it, you owe it to yourself to at least give the free plan a try. See how it matches the way you write.
COST: Free; paid plans starting at $11.66/m (paid annually)
Pros & Cons
- It’s free to use and catches more grammar errors than other free tools.
- The browser plugin is very convenient, especially if you like to write directly online
- If you write academic or other specialized types of documents, the paid plans are savvy to the rules of those grammar games, so will give you tailored recommendations.
- Sometimes I find it a bit overly aggressive with its suggestions. I just don’t always agree with it. But I suspect this will vary from person to person.
Camtasia best of class video editor
Other than Canva, this is the tool I use the most in my business. That’s because I make a lot of videos for online course lessons, video ads, or replays of online workshops. Anytime I want a polished looking final product, I use Camtasia to at least spruce up the opening and ending of the video. Usually I also like to use callouts to make the part of the screen I’m talking about more obvious to the viewer. (This feature will be a big hit with your students if you create online courses!)
Below is a 10 min. video I made showing you how to get started with the tool. I think it is enough for you to download a free trial and start playing around in it knowledgeably and see if you like it before investing in it.
And it definitely is a business investment. I have made back what I paid for this tool so many times over. I literally have a return of over 1000%, given what it has allowed me to do without any video editing training and only using my own laptop for recording everything.
I do have a nice iRig microphone though, which the below video is recorded on for noise canceling of my background environment. I bet you can’t even tell my neighbor was doing yard-work right outside an open window across from me. That was another great investment. It allows me to record without worrying about what other people are doing around me.
Pros & Cons
- It’s pretty affordably priced for a one-time investment, given how much money it allows you to generate off it
- As you can see in the video below, it’s pretty easy to get started. You can make things pretty pimped out or just keep it simple (using no more features than I demo in the how-to video) and still have your videos look professional.
- It can take kind of a long time for it to produce the final video after you’re done editing. I understand the newly available upgrade compresses a lot faster. I’ll update this after I upgrade and see for myself.
- It doesn’t have a subscription plan where you pay a little at a time indefinitely, and some people prefer that over a one-time larger payment.
See how Camtasia works in this brief video on my favorite editing tool
Creating content is a key aspect of growing any business’s online presence and attracting new customers and clients. Now that you know the “best of class” tools to use, let’s take a look at how you can meet some other key marketing needs every small business has. Click the ‘Continue’ button below to discover the very best free and great-value-for-the-money resources I’ve found for finding and sharing relevant social media content in less time.