The Only 4 Tools You Need to Run Your Side Hustle
(*psst* if you into easy listening on the go, make sure to listen to the post on Soundcloud)
You know what phrase I really hate?
Whether you’re talking about a relationship, “but what do you mean you’re not ready for a relationship?”It’s complicated.
Or trying to figure out how to run a business “But how can a CTA help with the know, like & trust factor plus get you your ROI?”
Actually that one just sounds complicated.
And what I hate even more is that I’ve found myself using the very phrase that I hate.
So while sipping my evening tea (okay wine) I thought, are some things truly meant to be complicated?
And if so, does business have to be one of them?
(Uncomplicated relationships we’ll save for another time - as in once upon a time with unicorns and mythical creatures).
I mean as a side hustler I have enough going on in my everyday life and I’d prefer not to overcomplicate the business side.
So, I sat down, wine in hand, and mapped out what was truly essential in my little business that would carry over as it becomes a bigger and better business. And I arrived at 4 necessary business systems.
But before we go there, a quick definition.
What Exactly Is a Business?
For the sake of uncomplicating things, let’s keep this simple, shall we?
I define a business as a series of systems that work together to support and promote your products and services.
Business Systems can make it easier to:
Create products, content, & other offerings
Market to & communicate with others
Receive payments & assist with bookkeeping
Provide a means of support & balanced growth
**I should note that my definition of a business is separate than that of a brand - so we’ll that topic for another post on another day.
I refuse to believe that you have to be constantly busy to be a successful business owner. That's why I’m trying to find ways to manage the madness, still have a passion for what I do, and continue to grow and innovate.
Hence my need for...
The 4 Business Systems
For making products, working on projects, & producing consistent content.
For communicating with clients and customers, using social media, & managing marketing.
For accepting income, handling bookkeeping and taxes, & paying business expenses.
Individual systems that support you, your community, and your business through continuing education, coaching, legal considerations, regimens/routines and more.
These systems act as the foundation for your business. They also provide support for your brand and without them it’s easy to get overworked, stressed out, and overwhelmed.
Now that you understand the general idea behind each system (and trust me in the future we’ll dive into the business systems more), let’s talk about what you really came here today to hear about. The only 4 tools that you need to your business.
A Tool For Each System
Let’s set the record straight. Anytime I use the word tool it will be with a positive connotation (remember we’ve already left the complicated relationship stuff in it’s own far off and away land).
That out of the way, there is at least one essential tool that corresponds with each business system. As your side hustle begins to grow you can add more tools to your business toolbox in order to scale it and maximize your time, but for now these tools are the essentials:
A DESIGN TOOL (Creation System)
AN EMAIL PROVIDER (Communication System)
A PAYMENT & BOOKKEEPING PROVIDER (Monetary System)
A WEBSITE PLATFORM/HOST(Support Systems)
A DESIGN TOOL
A Creation System
For designing branding collateral like logos and graphics (such as blog post images and social media templates).
Also for creating any resources for your audience and customers (such as PDF guides, checklists, workbooks, eBooks, videos, podcasts, and more).
AN EMAIL PROVIDER
A Communication System
For communicating with your clients and customers in a professional way.
It’s also necessary for growing your audience (by connecting with them through email) and for delivering content upgrades or lead magnets (which we’ll also talk about at a later time).
A PAYMENT & BOOKKEEPING PROVIDER
A Monetary System
For booking keeping, receiving payments (via all major credit cards), and creating invoices for clients.
This is also essential for handling your business expenses as well as handling your money in ways that will actually benefit you and your dreams.
A WEBSITE PLATFORM/HOST
To act as a homebase for your business - both for you and for your audience. It’s often the place where you sell and market your products and services.
Secondly, your website is the face of your business - aka - the visual representation of your brand. It’s also the way for you to prove your value by showcasing free and beneficial content in addition to your products and services.
Now that you know about the only 4 tools you need to run an online business, when it comes to choosing your tools there is a difference between being cheap and being wise.
Let’s talk about that...
Start Small but Start Smart
I’m starting small (and as of writing this I have a relatively small side hustle) but 3 of the 4 tools that I’m choosing to start with cost money to use on a monthly basis.
Because as my side hustle grows and expands I don’t want to waste time and energy learning new tools by constantly “upgrading”. I’d rather start with products that I can grow with and that will grow with me.
Plus I’d rather get the learning curve out of the way now, if there even if one.
Essentially I want to set systems in place now that will set me up for success in the future.
This way when things really begin to take off, I can focus my time on:
improving my products and offerings
connecting more with others and building a community
exploring and creating more of the things that I love and what others are asking for
And from a less practical standpoint you could also put it this way “play at the level you want to be at”. Though I’d argue that adopting that mindset is practical in and of itself.
The Business Tools That I Use for Each System
In case you’re curious, which if you read this far I’m sure you are, here are the business tools that I keep in my toolbox and really don’t plan to change anytime soon - if at all (even when I plan to turn my business into a company one day).
So let’s shake things up a bit and start with my tool for the Support System:
A WEBSITE PLATFORM/HOST (Support Systems)
Squarespace is a website platform and hosting company all in one.
With Squarespace I can choose from a variety of templates already included in the price, plus fully customize my site by adding images that I use as buttons and icons. This allows me to give my site a truly custom look (just take a look around my site).
Squarespace also allows me to drag and drop elements to create unique layouts for each page. They have a feature called blocks that allow me to insert images, videos, audio clips, social media links, divider lines, image galleries, buttons, custom code and more anywhere on my site!
There are many other features that I love about Squarespace, which I’ll talk about in the future, but what I most love is that they are a website service that will grow with me and one I don’t need a website developer or coder to manage.
The most popular website platform is Wordpress.org. Unlike Squarespace who provides the platform and the hosting, with Wordpress you must choose and pay for an outside source, like Bluehost, to host your site. In addition to a hosting provider, you’ll most likely want to purchase a decent website template or even hire a designer so that you end up with a professional looking site that suit your needs.
I want to mention that Wordpress is the most popular because it is the most powerful. With the aid of a developer you can virtually create anything you can imagine with Wordpress, which is why most big name companies use it as their base. I personally started out on Wordpress and even designed sites for others on it. But in the end I chose Squarespace because of the ease of customization, the aesthetics, the price, and it’s potential for growing with my business.
(or THE ADOBE SUITE)
A DESIGN TOOL (Creation System)
InDesign in the design powerhouse in my opinion, because in addition to creating your graphics and digital products, you can also use it to create simple logos and icons as well (though I typically use Adobe Illustrator for that).
If you have no interest in learning more about design or sharpening your skills, you could of course start with a free option for handling these tasks. You could use Canva for graphics and social media images and iPages or Word for making simple PDF’s.
When it comes to design tools I would say start with whatever feels best for you. But, if it’s something you have an interest in learning more about then start with the Adobe Suite and get the learning curve out of the way now (and if you’re interested in learning more about InDesign click here).
Wave + Stripe
A PAYMENT & BOOKKEEPING PROVIDER (Monetary System)
A payment system that is relatively free to operate, I love it! I use Wave for my general bookkeeping and for providing client invoices as well.
It also syncs with my bank account so I can categorize my business expenses for taxes (word to the wise: as soon as you can separate your business bank account from your personal bank account if you haven't’ done so already!)
Wave also connects to my payment processing provider, Stripe. In addition to working with Wave, Stripe is the only payment processor that Squarespace connects with if you plan to use Squarespace to sell your items online.
If you’re not concerned with selling through Squarespace (because you get paid via invoices, or you use another service like SendOwl), then another payment processor option is Paypal, but I have a biased for Stripe.
Also, remember when I said relatively free? Well with any payment processor (like Stripe or Paypal), whenever someone makes a purchase there is a fee that is charged. It’s usually a percentage like 2.9% + .30¢ for each individual payment received.
Why do you need a payment processor?
Because that’s how your clients and customers are able to pay with a major credit card or debit card. A payment processor makes it easier and more convenient for them to make a payment and thus, purchase from you and work with you.
Think about it. How many things in this day and age are you willing to pay for if the provider doesn’t make it easy for you by allowing payment with your credit or debit card? When was the last time you paid for something online with a check that you had to mail in?
AN EMAIL PROVIDER (Communication System)
I use Convertkit^ for building an email list and for delivering the “content upgrades” that I like to create.
I chose to use Convertkit specifically for three reasons:
I can have a different form for each content upgrade that I made, and since I’m an info product designer I make a lot of them.
I can segment the people on my email list into their particular interests. For example, I currently have two audiences - travelers and side hustlers. Rather than send them the same information, I can cater to them depending on why they wanted to connect with me in the first place.
I can use their sequences function to create email courses to help others take action. If you haven’t noticed by now I like to write long detailed posts, but I’m also all about having people take action (hence my daily action task at the end of each post). Because of this I soon hope to create mini courses to break down the content that I want to share into smaller steps and bites and Convertkit is the platform to help me do just that.
^I want to note that links to Convertkit^ are affiliate links because I recommend them, and sometimes you can hustle in simpler more passive ways with companies that you use and trust.
BEFORE YOU GO...
Not one to ignore the obvious...
I’m completely aware that there are so many things that you can add to your business to make it better - heck I have things like online file backup and I’ve recently to added a email opt-in lightbox provider to the mix. But when it comes to getting started these are the only 4 things that you need in place: a website platform & host, an email provider, a design tool, and a payment & bookkeeping provider.
Your Action Task for Today:
Your task for the day is to sign up and download the Side Hustle Starter Tools Checklist.
And once you've done that, determine if you have a tool for each system and, if you don’t, use the tool comparison chart that’s included to fix that.
Remove the idea that a side hustle has to be complicated from your mind right now. And then prove it to yourself today by ensuring you have the 4 tools you need to properly run it.
Until the next time we sent complicated matters to distant far away lands...