Below is a list of sites, apps and resources that I enjoy reading, or use to find inspiration, manage websites, organise finances, edit and backup files and photos, connect online, and more.
Check it out and if you have any questions about anything mentioned, I’m more than happy to help you out, so ask away.
Courses and subscriptions
Fizzle is an online community for creative entrepreneurs and honest business builders (there’s also an amazing weekly podcast). There are a heap of courses designed to help you through every phase of building an online business or community, and a very active support forum for sharing successes, failures and bouncing ideas off like minded people. It’s a great way to keep yourself accountable, maintain focus, keep from feeling lost and helps to just get shit done. It’s $35/month to join which I think is totally worth it if you are an aspiring entrepreneur, and if you click through my link above I’ll get 10% off my membership fees and buy you a cocktail as thanks!
Make Your First Dollar
After 3 years of saying I want to work for myself, own my own business, make money online, or something/anything/everything along those lines, I finally decided to stop making excuses and just get started. So for a Christmas gift to myself in 2014 I joined Noah Kagan’s Make Your First Dollar Course, after following him online for the past few years and loving the way he goes about things (don’t think, just do: and keep hustling). I’ll update once I’ve gone through the course, and hopefully come out the other side with a legitimate business set to keep growing and expanding. The course costs $300 as a one time fee, and you continue on as a member of their online community for life.
I joined the Barefoot Blueprint in late 2014 . It’s a paid membership site focussed on personal finance and a monthly investment newsletter run by Scott Pape (Barefoot Investor). There is a heap of free information available via his website but I wanted to take the next step and start building an investment portfolio, taking advantage of member only insights, weekly performance updates, discounts, recommended shares, and a heap of specially prepared reports (investment guides, budgeting guides, etc). The membership is $297/year and I’ll update this at the end of 2015 on how much value I get out of it.
Smart Passive Income
Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast was my first real introduction to the idea of building a business online, and years later I’m still following his progress and straightforward tips. I’m also subscribed to his podcast for tips and interviews with other entrepreneurs.
Spencer Haws built Long Tail Pro (see below) and blogs about his portfolio of 200+ niche websites he runs as a full time business. He first got me interested in the idea of making money online with websites, and let to me buying my first two websites, Soap Making Advice and Aussie Green Thumb.
Derek Halpern publishes articles, videos and a podcast helping to break down the psychology of marketing and give ideas for optimising your blog layout and content accordingly. I’m also subscribed to his Insider podcast with interesting interviews.
A lot of what Scott Pape says on personal finance is practical, common sense advice and I couldn’t agree with it more. I’m a member of his Barefoot Blueprint (see above) and if you’re serious about getting your personal finances on track and looking to start an investment portfolio, it’s a really great place to start.
The Extra Money Blog
Sunil experiments with different ways to make money online and shares his opinion on what did and didn’t work for him. It’s no nonsense and way less annoying than most blogs just looking for shares, likes and counting the page views.
Noah Kagan was #4 at Mint, #30 at Facebook and shares his knowledge and tips on how to get out there are just get it done. I’ve taken Noah’s Make Your First Dollar course (see above) and highly recommend it.
I am an Apple fan (not fanboi*) and enjoy reading Jon Gruber’s blog, which also discusses general developments in the tech world, with a few cocktails and interesting sporting stories thrown in as well.
I love a good wine knowledge bomb and Wine Folly is keeps everything nice and simple, so you can actually understand what they are talking about.
Matt is a 30-something American who blogs about his stories backpacking around the world, and shares plenty of tips for how to travel cheaply and still have an incredible time (which I totally agree with).
The Planet D
Canadians Deb and Dave run one of the world’s most successful travel blogs, and focus on adventure travel opportunities. Dave is also a great photographer and the photos that they share in their posts are totally awesome!
The Professional Hobo
Nora is a full time traveler who gave up a career as a finance professional, and shares tips on how to travel in a financially sustainable way, plus has a really good series on financial travel tips.
Australian couple Caz and Craig share opinions, tips, and really honest stories about their 10+ years traveling the world and advice on traveling with a young family.
Olympus PEN series cameras
Increasingly I find that my smartphone camera is good enough for quick pics on the go, but once you blow them up onto my massive 11″ laptop screen they don’t look so good. All my best pictures (remembering I am an AMATEUR) were taken on an Olympus PEN E-PL2 which I took overseas with a 14-150mm zoom lens. The PEN cameras have a heap of great lenses you can upgrade to, are easy for non-photographers (i.e. me) to use, and you can gradually step it up to more manual control as and when your skills and experience improve. The newer models have built in wifi and GPS, which would be so handy for uploading quickly to blogs, instagram, etc, and I would suggest getting one with a viewfinder – I didn’t, but I’m regretting it now – so you can more accurately see the image you’re about to capture.
There is no point taking a heap of photos and just storing them on your hard drive. I want to edit my best pics to print and hang around the house, but I’m only an amateur and don’t want to pay an ongoing subscription to use Adobe’s Photographer cloud apps (Lightroom and Photoshop, $120 per year). So I bought Pixelmator for $30, the Mac’s best rated Photoshop alternative and use it combined with Apple’s Photos app (for file storage). It’s got a heap of pro features and more than enough photo editing tools for me to play around with. You can apply the usual edits to colour, saturation, contrast, etc or muck around with a heap of special effects. There’s heaps of tutorials on their website and they are always pushing app updates with new features, so it’s only going to get better over time.
There are so many apps that offer the same features for basic photo editing on the Mac – I tried out a few of the more popular options and Fotor was my favourite. You can create collages, add borders and filters as well as make the standard edits to your pictures (contrast, brightness, etc) with a simple interface, and only costs a couple of bucks.
ColorStrokes is a simple app designed with one purpose, which is selective colour photo editing. It’s fun to play around with and create some more unique images that really stand out, like this one which always bring a smile to my face. It costs about 5 bucks.
TriggerTrap dongle + app
TriggerTrap offer great value dongles that connect your iOS or Android device to your camera (via a free app) and act as a remote trigger for your camera. The great thing about it is it adds a lot of features by taking advantage of your smartphone sensors – capture pictures through sensing motion, sound, distance intervals and much more. Despite all this, it is a lot cheaper than most other ‘professional’ triggers on the market.
The standard camera app in iOS devices is pretty awesome, but for 99 cents Camera+ takes it to the next level, offering full manual options on shutter speed, ISO, white balance and aperture, as well as a heap of other camera features and really good photo editing options. If you want to take great photos, this is the app to get.
There are thousands of photo editing apps available for smartphones, but a lot of them are shit. Snapseed is one of the best, and the favourite one of many I’ve tested. The interface is easy to use, there are heaps of editing options, and when you export your photos after editing, it keeps them at full resolution (a lot of apps will export images at a lower resolution, which sucks). It’s also on Android and available as a web app through Google+.
Mextures is a cool app that allows you to add a variety of different textures to your images, inspired by light leaks and other analog imperfections of cameras from days gone by. It’s a nice alternative to the rise of the shitty filters made popular by apps like instagram (where you can find me, here!). The interface is a bit more confusing so it’s not so easy to just pick it up and use it – unfortunately – but it’s a really powerful app that is fun to muck around with, once you get used to how it works.
Over (iOS + Android)
Over is a really well designed and supported app designed for adding text to your images. There are a heap of font packs available (lots of free, and some paid) and easy sharing options as well.
Flag (iOS + Android)
Flag is a kickstarter funded service offering free prints of your photos delivered worldwide each month (supported by ads on the backs of the photos). As well as this there are paid options for larger prints, canvases, etc at great prices. It is due to launch in January 2015, and I am waiting impatiently having backed it almost a year ago!
Vivino is a free service (web + smartphones) for tracking wines that you have purchased or tasted, your review scores and tasting notes. It also compares this to others’ notes and profiles the wine, the grapes, the vineyard and the region. Over time it builds your personal taste profile and has powerful analytics on wines that you do or don’t like. You can follow friends or wine industry experts for their tasting scores and recommended wines and see what wines are trending in your area, by price point. If you have a large wine cellar you can upgrade to a paid account for tracking all the wines you own (lucky you).
Pepperplate is a free recipe manager (web + smartphones) which I used when traveling to track any strange regional dishes we came across that we liked, or bookmark recipes from popular chefs (like the amazing lamb bun I had at the Hand & Flowers for my 30th birthday!). You can auto-import recipes from a lot of popular websites, or manually add your own. It’s handy.
I wish I could travel with just a tablet but with the amount of photos I wanted to take, I had to be able to manage them efficiently, so I needed a laptop. I’ve had an 11″ Macbook Air since 2012, it fits into my backpack, isn’t heavy to carry around all day, has an awesome battery life and doubles as a TV for watching movies, True Detective, etc.
Macpac travel packs
My backpack of choice for my trip through Europe and Africa was the water proof Macpac Gemini Aztec 75, with a 60L main pack and a 15L daypack. The pack had a big zipped opening and and was easily stuffable. It was nicely padded and comfortable to carry for long periods at a time. It copped a fair amount of abuse (particularly in Africa!) and looks as good as new – I can’t wait to pack it and head off overseas again.
In general I think you should limit the amount of gadgets you own and travel with (no I’m not taking the piss!) but carrying a separate ereader was amazing for my partner and I as we were traveling. The Kindle Paperwhite has a built in adjustable backlight so you can read comfortably in all lighting conditions, and the amazon digital bookstore is the best currently available. As an added bonus, when one of us is using the Kindle, the other can still read books on the free Kindle app on iOS or Mac.
Brown Dog Gadgets solar charger
Brown Dog Gadgets launched a range of folding USB solar cells on Kickstarter and I backed a 5W model with a USB battery charger included. The solar charger folds down to about the size of a Kindle and generates enough power to charge our smartphones and Kindle on the road. The battery charger doubles as an LED torch (and light for tent) and holds about 1.5x an iPhone 5 charge. It was INCREDIBLY useful in Africa.
Iosafe hard drives
The iosafe range of hard drives are water proof, fire proof, theft proof, even bullet proof! I carried the 1TB rugged portable hard drive through Europe and Africa for 2 and a half years with no problems whatsoever, primarily to back up all the photos that I was taking, (which I also backed up through Crashplan to the cloud – see below).
Bluffworks is a small US based company (with worldwide shipping) that make great looking smart/casual pants for men with heaps of sizing options. They are cleverly designed and have useful features like phone pockets, internal zipped passport pockets, lightweight, wrinkle free materials and for those with long legs (like me!) you can buy them unhemmed so they don’t sit half way up your shins – nice!
Transferwise is the cheapest and easiest way to send money internationally. I used to use PayPal to send myself money from the UK to Australia and the process and fees always pissed me off, but Transferwise is a lot cheaper, faster and easier to use. I love it! If you click through this link you will get your first transfer for free as well.
Gumroad is a super easy way to put a product up on your website for sale, and especially suited for information products like ebooks. Fees are low, it’s simple to use, they make frequent payments and there are a lot of sharing options for your website and social sites like Facebook, Twitter etc.
PayPal is basically the default online payment processing system, so it seems silly not to mention. I have never been a real fan but it’s a necessity for making and receiving payments online. I would always use Transferwise if possible though.
There are a few major blogging platforms you can choose from, some free and some paid, but WordPress is the only one I would use. It offers total flexibility, is widely adopted, actively supported, easy to use and has a heap of third party plugins you can use to customise your site in any way imaginable. You do need to bring your own domain and hosting plan, so isn’t quite as easy to set up as other options such as Squarespace or Tumblr, but it’s fairly straightforward and I can help you get started if need be (get in touch).
Whether you use WordPress, or not, SumoMe by AppSumo is the first plugin you need to install. It’s free and amazing. You add functions from a free app store (always growing) to help grow your email list, add social share buttons, create social links, track which posts are popular, track where people are clicking on your site, add contact forms and much more. It’s super easy to set up and has good reporting built into it as well.
For buying domain names, there are so many options available, but for me Godaddy is the best option. You can chase the lowest possible price and save a couple of dollars, but for ease of use I would rather manage all my domains from the one place. Godaddy have been around for a long time and have a very good reputation, plus when I’ve had any questions they are always quick to respond and help me out.
When starting out you will need a basic web hosting plan and since I got started in 2010 I’ve always used Hostgator. Their prices are very competitive, their user interface is easy to understand and they have very friendly and helpful customer service. They have a live chat feature which I’ve used plenty of times to answer my questions almost immediately, which is awesome. They offer one click install for WordPress and other popular content management systems, as well as automatic software updates when available. There are other companies with similar offerings, but Hostgator has been great for me and I would always recommend them.
There are thousands of themes you can add to your WordPress site to customise it and make it your own, including thousands of free themes and thousands of paid themes. You can
have a great time waste a heap of time looking through them all to pick your favourite, which I did (again, and again) at first. But eventually I purchased the Thesis Theme, which has a ton of really powerful features and is super customisable. I now use Thesis for any website I create, so I don’t have to waste time searching for new themes every time.
Canva is a great way to quickly and easily design hi quality graphics for your website, with a huge selection of shapes, images and text to choose from, plus professional pre-made templates. It’s so easy to use, saves you a heap of time and the results are awesome.
ImageOptim is a handy little free tool for reducing the file size of images before uploading them to your blog. All you do is drag and drop your file into the app, and it will compress the file automatically. No need to save a new copy, edit the file or choose any options – just drag and drop, then upload to your site. Simple as that!
Hello Bar is a free tool you can add to the top of your website with a line of text and a call to action, with options to customise where, when and how it is displayed. You can use it to drive traffic to a newsletter optin page, an ebook sales page, or wherever you want – see an example on this website. It has a paid option to use on multiple sites and unlock other features.
There are a number of major email marketing platforms available, but starting out Aweber and Mailchimp are the two you will likely be tossing up between. I’ve used them both and definitely prefer Mailchimp. It is completely free to start out with, cheap to upgrade when needed, and very easy to use (Aweber starts at $20/month). They have great newsletter templates but are lacking a bit in optin form templates, and you can easily manage multiple lists if you have separate websites, or want to separate segments of your email list. Plus, they have awesome customer service team which is a bonus.
Surveymonkey is an easy way to set up a free survey, which can be added to your website or emailed to your list subscribers. It’s a good way to get some feedback to an email course you have delivered, or a new product/service you have launched. There is a premium service offered, but I have never had the need to use it.
Backup and Security
Crashplan is easy to use computer backup software – I tried a few different products, but this was the easiest and best overall. They offer both free and paid accounts and a variety of backups: on-or-offsite as well as cloud storage options, with a simple interface and set-and-forget service.
1Password (Mac), also available on iOS
1Password is an app that generates, stores and manages all of your online passwords, and automatically fills them in for you when needed. It also securely stores your banking and credit card details, encrypted notes, and more. It lets you know when there are website vulnerabilities, when passwords are duplicated or should be updated, and takes all the stress and hassle out of remembering passwords and other sensitive data.
Keyword research and analysis
Longtail Pro is a keyword research tool developed by Spencer Haws that can be used to research potential keywords for niche websites or searching popular topics for blog article ideas. It’s got a familiar excel based interface and has a lot of features built into the search functions, such as filtering by the number of local monthly searches for keywords and analysis of the top 10 google results for keywords searches, with ratings for Page Authority, Domain Authority, Google Pagerank and so on. Although it’s marketed for building niche websites I think it’s an awesome tool for bloggers looking for article ideas.
Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer is a free research tool by MOZ analytics which will give a host of relevant SEO details about your website. It’s particularly useful if you are looking to buy a website, to analyse the page and domain authority, and check the back link profile to see if there are natural links being generated to the site, or potentially problematic links. You can only search a few sites per day before being promoted to sign up for a premium account, but personally I would just return to use it again the next day, for free!
Quick Sprout Backlink tool
The Quick Sprout Backlink tool offers a similar website analysis as the Open Site Explorer, but each service focus on different SEO elements for analysis. I would always check a website through both free services to get a wider overall picture of the health/state of the website.
While there are a number of analytics programs you can install on your websites, I just stick with Google Analytics which is free, comprehensive and easy to install, especially in WordPress. I then use a free iOS app Fishead Analytics to track my stats (traffic etc) on my iPhone, just to make sure there are no major problems, and to see how new blog posts are performing.
(I also track my Google Adsense performance with Fishead Adsense).
Apps and Utilities
Feedly (all platforms + web app)
The best Google Reader replacement service – follow all your favourite blogs and websites in one spot. Free to use good sharing options and can save straight to Pocket (see below) for reading later. Has a paid option that seems ridiculously expensive and doesn’t offer (me) any interesting features.
Pocket: (iOS, Android and web app)
A great free tool i use every day to save articles from anywhere on the web for reading later. You can then add tags to filter content and archive for reading at a later date. Also have a paid option which has some great features, but is a subscription service which is bloody annoying, and quite expensive.
Clipgrab is a free Mac app that you can use to download any video or audio file from the web, such as downloading videos directly from YouTube. All you do is copy the link and press go. Easy!
Caffeine adds an on/off button that will stop your monitor going to sleep – perfect for watching movies or any other time you might not be active on your computer, but want to be able to view the screen.
Transmission (all platform)
Free, easy to use bittorrent client (if you need help picking one).
Unroll.me (web app)
This is a free email service which takes all the newsletters and other subscriptions you have accumulated over the years, and compiles them into one email, delivered to you daily. It helps clear your inbox, and saves you heaps of time – a quick scan through the email and you only open what you actually want to read.
These are the bits and pieces I’m currently involved in:
Gigging on Fiverr
In 2015 I’m trying to focus on properly testing some online revenue streams, and building out a Fiverr portfolio is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages. I did put up a heap of poorly thought out gigs in 2012 that’s earned about $20 in lifetime revenue, so this time I’ll be setting the bar a bit higher.
Our Hobart apartment on Airbnb
We are experimenting with renting our apartment out on Airbnb for short term stays, as opposed to the more traditional long term lease (which we have had for the past 3 years). It’s a 6 month experiment to see how it goes – you can check out our listing (and book!) below.
A private, quiet & sunny 2 bedroom apartment in North Hobart, 2 mins walk to the famous restaurant strip and 20 mins walk to CBD! Relax with breakfast, washing machine, cooking gear, coffee machine, computer desk, printer, internet, TV & lounge suite.
Soap Making Advice
A soap making hobby site that I helped market through social media and SEO, and then bought outright – my first online business, and first profitable online business!
Aussie Green Thumb
I purchased AGT as my second website while traveling in Europe, and continue to work on adding new content around gardening tips, advice on Australian native plants, and covering all aspects of gardening and green living. I’m focusing on adding new content regularly, providing free ebooks, and reviewing gardening products and services.
Shaun King Massage
A website I have set up for my friend Shaun, who runs his own remedial massage therapy business in North Hobart, Tasmania. This is my first website set up for a client (albeit for free!) and was part of challenging myself to get out of my comfort zone and take some initial steps towards building an online business.
Atlas Mountains Guide
A blog I’ve set up after meeting Ibrahim, a ripper young Moroccan mountaineer and guide in Imlil. He was keen to set up his own website so we have teamed up to try generate some extra business for him – check it out if you’re heading to Morocco!
Watch this space… I’ll update as and when needed.