What Do I Use?
I have been wanting to make this post since a long time… This page is a detailed write-up of what tools, softwares, hosting, platforms I use, how I ended up using them and why I recommend them.
When I started 3 years ago, after 10+ years of working as corporate game/software architect and went full-time into creating websites, I had no idea I would end up building marketing funnels, marketing automation and conversion focused websites. As cheesy as it sounds, it felt like my calling. I naturally gravitated towards this area.
And I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning. As a matter of fact I still do sometimes 🙂 (not ashamed to admit it)
But I learnt a lot of lessons that stuck with me. Those lessons are the ones that help me run a good business today, enables me to work lesser and lesser hours, travel around the world and yet deliver higher and higher value to my clients as time passes by.
What is the secret to working lesser and yet delivering higher value to clients?
Two secrets actually – process and tools.
Over time I learnt to see patterns among my clients’ requirements, challenges and business goals. I then built a process that helps me deliver great websites and make 99.99% of my clients very very happy. This is pretty complicated. I will soon make a free course on it.
The other part is tools. Choosing the right stack of tools – online platforms/services, softwares, plugins, themes etc. is crucial to developing your business. Whatever business it might be.
And without further adieu, I present my toolset that helped me help my clients run their business smoothly.
1. Web hosting
This is the most important of it all. I cannot stress the importance of a reliable web hosting company for your peace of mind. If you don’t, you will end up spending hours of your precious time dealing with bad support service, slow website that loses visitors even before they can see your page.
There is nothing worse than having your website slow/hacked/down and not knowing why it happens. Even worse is dealing with unresponsive web hosting support who just following pre-written scripts like robots.
I have felt helpless so many times, when dealing with clients who bought into bad web hosting companies. Nowadays the first question I ask a potential client is about their web hosting. I refuse to develop on their live website if its on a bad host.
Instead I always spin a staging server on my semi-dedicated GoGeek hosting on Siteground. Once the site is developed, I simply migrate and deploy on the client’s server.
My advice on webhosting – Avoid the following – BLUEHOST, DREAMHOST, HOSTGATOR, A2HOSTING, GODADDY or any other cheap hosts. Seems like common advice – “Avoid cheap stuff. You get what you pay for”
But you might be asking..
Why are they so famous, then?
- Answer: One reason is Affiliate marketing. When someone recommends bluehost, they give you a unique link to access bluehost website. When you click that and buy a hosting package, they get paid. Truth is, all companies online provide affiliate commission to increase their customer acquisition.
- Many products I recommend on this page are affiliate links too. But, I recommend products that I only truly believe in and have been using for a long time (usually 6 months to 2 years+)
- But the problem is that, all the low quality web hosting companies give extremely high affiliate commission and sell their products at low prices. Then, combine this with the fact that, around the web there are people who call themselves “affiliate marketers”. Yes, there are people who live off earning just by making people click on their links. They make blogs with articles that are long and filled with screenshots. Just to make it look legit and authentic. They don’t give a shit about their readers. They don’t care about building a brand, or any type of long-term benefits.
Its like hot models who star in a triple-cheese burger commercial. They sell it to you. They don’t eat it. They don’t know what the fuck is it made of. They don’t care about the viewers who watch that ad.
My meme creation. So proud.
Important: I don’t think all affiliate marketers are like this. I do know a few who live their life my principles and only sell the tools that they use and love honestly.
What Web Host do I recommend?
Siteground. I’ve been their customer for 2 years now. Best support, speed and cPanel tools. I bought their GoGeek plan after a client of mine recommended it to me.
For Starters/Medium size businesses
For Geeks/Power Users – I use this.
Siteground GoGeek Plan ($11.95/month first term, $29.95/m later)
2. Email Marketing/Automation Platform
I don’t have as strong opinions like webhosting here. Many clients use mailchimp. Its easy for beginners. They aren’t really free if you want to do anything useful with it. Their basic plan is 10$/month if you want to send out any kind of auto-responder sequence.
They also work with WooCommerce and send cart-abandonment emails and few other WooCommerce automations. They have two official wordpress plugins for it which are buggy and not really maintained well as seen from their ratings.
If mailchimp seems like your cup of tea, go for it.
But the true power of email marketing automation can be achieved only by a tag-based system. Many companies offer it, like ActiveCampaign, Ontraport, Convertkit and the more complicated and powerful Infusionsoft.
All of them are good in their own ways and I have used ActiveCampaign extensively for few clients. I wish their UI is better, and they provided better ways to create and edit automations.
All being said my favourite email marketing automation platform is Drip from LeadPages.
They give you a truly 100% free plan with all features for upto 100 subscribers. Plus they give you automated tools to prune your list off inactive subscribers. If you don’t make money with 100 kinda-active subscribers, you’re doing something wrong. Their platform is so well designed for newbies and power-users alike. UI is responsive and intuitive.
3. WordPress theme
Like everyone I started with Themeforest trying one theme after another. Over time I realised very few can rely on their online business while using themes on Themeforest. They are bloated, slow and need a lot of effort to get high SEO scores. On themeforest, the theme vendors often oversell their capabilities.
Plus their update system is so cumbersome, when wordpress releases a new version, it takes a while before the theme vendors release new version. Plus the root of all evil is this – feature creep/bloat. Themeforest sellers are not focused on positioning/niche etc. They simply keep adding features and turn their product into a monster.
So bottom line – please… pretty please, don’t buy themes on Themeforest. Plugins are okay.
Next I used Thrive themes. I spent a lot of time trying to customise their themes. Even a simple font change will often require custom CSS, as the wordpress customiser is not complete (at least not when I last used one of their themes, including for the site you are reading this on)
This is my rule for any of the thrive themes – use it if you rely only on content and no branding/look and feel etc. When I mean thrive themes, I do not mean their plugins. I mean their themes only. Its great for beginners who should focus on content and make a few sales, then you can focus on branding, visuals etc.
So where did I finally end up finding my true love theme?
At good old Genesis from StudioPress with Dynamik 🙂 It is a threesome.
I’ve read about Genesis framework often, but like a noob I was put off by the fact that it required coding to customise them. But not anymore with Dynamik.
I don’t have to explain why Genesis framework is amazing. There’s proof all around the web. The top marketers rely on it for their sites. Its hard to understand what is the difference between a framework and a theme. Its kinda like engine and chassis. But I suggest don’t go focusing on that.
Why Dynamik Website Builder?
Because its fucking awesome thats why 🙂 It lets me build custom child theme on top of genesis framework starting from their templates. Everything is customisable from fonts, spacing, margins, widgets, padding, colors. All using simple dropdown boxes.
Above all I never touch code 🙂
It is not cheap – Genesis is 59$ and Dynamik is 99$. Both of them come with unlimited site licenses. So its perfect for someone like me who can build sites for clients who want to reflect their brand and colors.
4. Visual Page Builder, Popups, Scarcity Automation, Quiz Builder, A/B Testing, Testimonials, LMS + Free Membership etc.
This is where Thrive themes shines. Especially at their price point. I use all their plugins – Thrive Leads, Thrive Architect, Thrive Ultimatum, Thrive Quiz Builder, Thrive Comments, Thrive Apprentice etc. But not their themes.
If you have read my blog, you know I have a love-hate relationship with Thrive themes as a company. My advice to make my relationship work is this – “do not update their plugins when they release a new version. Wait until they iron out their bugs and then update” (perhaps after 4-8 weeks)
(Disclaimer: This page has affiliate links. If you click on them and buy their service I get a commission. I recommend only the products I love, use and trust on a daily basis unlike full-time Affiliate marketers. You don’t get a different price because you click these links. In fact you may get discounted prices if you go through them)