Introduction

It’s never been easier and cheaper to build a startup. What just a few years ago meant millions of dollars in software engineering salaries, infrastructure, and servers (yes, people used to buy their own big, physical servers and stack them in cooled rooms) you can now do virtually for free.

On the flip side, it’s harder and harder to pick the right tools from the vast options of free and paid tools.

In this short (compared to the 1999 NY phonebook), valuable (you tell me?) and fun (an entrepreneur, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar) article I will show you the tools and tactics I (and other entrepreneurs) use when building my startups.

As a bonus, even before we go into the tools, I will show you a trick that can bring you $30K in free credits and tools. Yes, you’ve seen it right. It’s $30 with a K. Most people don’t know about this one. If you have an app, submit it to FbStart, Facebook’s program for app developers. It might take a few weeks, even up to a few months to get your app approved, but once you’re in, you’ll get these great benefits 😉

I will also show you the meaning of life. OK, maybe not exactly. But some say it’s 42.

See the 12 tools to start your startup on a budget by @OviNegrean Click To Tweet

Hope this helps,
Ovi Negrean

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A hosting account from HostGator
Divi WordPress Theme
Send email newsletters with MailChimp
Collect emails with SumoMe
Make your sign-ups go viral with KickoffLabs
Find early users and beta testers on BetaList
Get great exposure on Product Hunt
Use Zapier to connect tools and do more with less
Tips for Google Docs and Gmail
Simple, beautiful scheduling with Calendly
What Photoshop? Use PowerPoint to build images
Outsource many tasks with Fiverr
This is not the end; it’s only the beginning

A hosting account from HostGator

No matter what your business is – a digital startup, a physical shop or if you’re a freelance service provider – you’re gonna need an online presence.

HostGator is one of the leading hosting providers that have a very good customer service and will support your growth. You can start with their cheapest plan and use a WordPress theme to build your website (more on that soon) and move to managed WordPress hosting when you grow.

And if you want to get a discount on their already low prices, use promo code Mixergy.

Alternatives

For the novice – if you just want a simple website that you can build yourself without any technical knowledge, use one of these:

For the somewhat technical – here are a few alternatives to HostGator:

For the tech wizards – you’ll need a computing platform that scales on demand:

Now go build your website.

Divi WordPress Theme

The days when only your 12-year-old nephew and expensive agencies could build good-looking, functional and easy-to-use websites are gone.

Now you can become a website builder yourself. Heck, you might even do that as a service and charge your aunt some cheddar. Her 12-year-old was never that good anyway!

Divi is one of the most advanced WordPress themes. It comes with many predefined designs, design elements (like testimonials, maps, or pictures, etc), and the best thing about it is that it has its Divi builder, which basically lets you build your own website by dragging and dropping.

And all this still within your WordPress install, which gives you power, flexibility, and the tens of thousands of existing free modules and community support.

After you play around with it for a couple of hours you’ll get the hang of using it. Plus there are many tutorials and videos to show you how to use it, so you’ll be an expert in no time. Take that, 12-year-olds!

It’s not a free theme, but being able to control your own website and not depend on an agency or somebody taking their afternoon nap is priceless.

Alternatives

Send email newsletters with MailChimp

You know what’s better than one customer (except having a million customers that spend money like rock stars, of course)? Having repeat customers.

And what’s better than having a lead (except still having that million customers that spend money like rock stars, duh)?

Nurturing them and turning them into a customer.

You can do both of these by using email marketing automation. And MailChimp is one of the easiest, and cheapest (free up to a point), way to get into this.

Many people visit your website, decide not to buy right away, but then forget about you and they never turn back. Such a lost opportunity. More on how to get those emails soon.

So once you have their contact, once they gave you permission to contact them directly, you can email them to let them know more about your product or service, and to give them valuable information or discounts that might nudge them to buy.

To turn a customer into a repeat customer, you can tell them about your other products or services, maybe give them a discount for a new buy or an easy way to share your product or service with their friends or followers. Remember: sharing is caring.

To turn a lead into a customer, you can use MailChimp’s automation features to add them to a lead nurturing sequence where, one by one, you convince them to buy, buy, buy. Kaching!

Just don’t send too many, or too few, emails. And never spam. Nobody likes a spammer.

Alternatives include Drip, Campaign Monitor, Getresponse, AWeber, Infusionsoft and much more. And if your list is really small, even a good old Gmail account will do for the start.

Collect emails with SumoMe

Now you know you should use some monkeys to send newsletters. Or something like that…

So how do you get people on your email list? Sure, you’ve added all the emails of your high school buddies, and even that ex that you sometimes stalk on Facebook, but that only got you so far. Now it’s time to go into list building mode.

SumoMe provides tools that are extremely simple to use that will help you grow your list.

But don’t just use their default template. Don’t just say: “Sign up for our newsletter” and a button that says “Subscribe”. People like signing up to newsletters just as much as they like going to the dentist. Sure, some will sign up for a boring newsletter. But if you’d like your sign-ups to go through the roof, you’ll have to be more creative than that.

First of all, offer them something of value. A ‘lead magnet’, also known as an ‘opt-in bribe’. Yes, online marketers come up with these crazy names. They’re marketers, after all.

So what lead magnet should you give out? An eBook (this one here is a lead magnet too 😉 ); an email series teaching something of value (try HowToStartup.co); or even just your top post or tips in a PDF. You get extra points for making some nice visuals to go with the opt-in form.

And extra points if you change the ‘Subscribe’ text on the sign-up button with basically anything else. Almost any text but ‘Subscribe’ will increase your conversion rate. See which one I use here.

Alternatives include Hello bar, Bloom (that works great with Divi) and Optinmonster.

Make your sign-ups go viral with KickoffLabs

You now have an email list (maybe with MailChimp) and a way to gather emails (maybe with SumoMe).

So how can you supercharge the email subscription? Get the people who just signed up to share your amazing product or service with the world. With social media, nowadays we all carry a megaphone in our pockets. I mean our cellphones, not literally a megaphone. Taking your megaphone with you to bed would be strange. Or would it? Hmm…

KickoffLabs has some great tools that turn the plain email signups into viral signups. Once somebody signs up to be on your mailing list (and maybe to get the wonderful lead magnet you created), they get redirected to a thank you page where all the magic happens.

Depending on the campaign you choose, they can get extra rewards for every person who signs up thanks to them sharing out your website. The tool takes care of this. It’s like magic.

So you can make it that if someone brings 3 extra signups, they get an extra lead magnet if they bring 10 they get a discount code, and if they bring 30 they get a romantic dinner with you. Or something enticing. I don’t know, just make it valuable. For them, not you.

You can even create a waiting list and only let in the people who shared and got most signups because of that. Be exclusive. Have a bouncer at your door.

If you want to do a giveaway, you can use them too.

Alternatively, you can use KingSumo (search for discount codes, you might find some online) or get the script that Harry’s used for their launch. Read more about it on Tim Ferriss’s site.

Find early users and beta testers on BetaList

Your product is almost ready to launch but you’d like to get some early users to test it and give you feedback. Your friends help, sure, but they might not know so much about your space and might not be in your target audience. So where can you find some beta testers?

Well luckily for you (and thousand of other startups), there’s BetaList.

You can add your startup here, and if it gets accepted it will be seen by thousands of early adopters that might be willing to try out your product and even give you some feedback on it.

If you’ve got the time, it’s free. But their ‘free’ waiting list is too large. So don’t count on that. Unless you’re willing to wait, like that time Santa “did not find your address”, you’ll have to pay a bit. But depending on your product, it might well be worth it.

Plus, if you’ve also decided to use a viral signups tool, the number of new users you might get will surely be in the hundreds.

Even if your product is not really in beta anymore, BetaList is a good tool to have in your launch toolbox.

If you’re looking for alternatives, or multiple sites to list your startup on, you can find them on Startuplister or Promotehour.

And if you want to spare yourself the pain and hours needed to submit in so many places, they’ll also do it for you. For a small fee. They’re not Santa. But they also don’t forget your address. So that’s an upside.

Get great exposure on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is one of the internet’s sweethearts. Thousands of product enthusiasts visit it daily to see what new, cool and exciting products they can find and try out. Being hunted and staying in the top of the daily rank list can bring hordes of new users to your product.

One of the advantages is that the Product Hunt crowd is mostly made up of early adopters, the kind who, if they like your product, will quickly turn into evangelists for it. They’re the ones you usually turn to for recommendations on the latest tools and gadgets. And to fix your printer. But don’t do that. That’s not cool.

But dominating Product Hunt is no easy task.

I created a massive guide to show you how I managed to get nugget in the top 5 on a day when Google’s Nest and PayPal had new products along with mine. And trust me, it was not easy.

You can read my ultimate guide to launching on Product Hunt here.

Dominating Product Hunt is like fighting an epic battle. You have to be prepared, have a good strategy, gather your troops, and fight till the end.

But if you make it out alive, prepare to feast in thousands of visitors and new users of your product. If not, well… At least nobody will steal your gold, or something.

Use Zapier to connect tools and do more with less

Once you’ve created your first Zap, a world of possibility unfolds. Tools you can connect. Workflows you can build. Tasks you can automate.

Zapier deals with the technical parts of hundreds of APIs and helps you connect them together. They take something that you had to build yourself, or pay developers good money to build for you, and make it easy to use. Some might even say it’s fun. Some.

So what can you do? Do you want to automatically add to a Google Sheet someone who signed up for your MailChimp newsletter? You can do that. Do you want to tweet when someone just sent you an email? You can do that. Want to send a physical postcard when someone buys from you? You can do that. Want to send a big guy to someone’s house when they unsubscribe from your newsletter? Well… not sure if you can do that with Zapier, but I suggest you don’t do that even if you could.

Why is Zapier so great? Because once you get the hang of it, you’ll see all sorts of things you can automate with it. You might even see that you can build your own personal tools with the help of a Google Spreadsheet and a well made Zap.

Make sure you’re subscribed to www.Ovi.co/subscribe, I might have some great tips about some automation I made in Zapier 😉

And as with any great service, there are some alternatives as well:

Tips for Google Docs and Gmail

Gmail. Google Docs. Ovi, you’re really not telling us something new!

Well, that might just be the case, but are you using them at their true value?

Do you store ALL your business related content on the Google Drive? So you can have them both as a backup and so you can easily collaborate with your team or customers?

Did you create procedures for your business? If not, it’s gonna be really hard, expensive and even dangerous for you to grow. So go ahead, create a Procedures folder in your Google Drive, and start creating Docs for the main procedures in your business so you can easily outsource part of your work. Use videos captures when possible to make things easier.

For Gmail I have 3 tips:

1 – Use Gmail with your business email without paying for Google Apps by adding your account to your regular @gmail account. You can do that from Settings -> Accounts and Import, and add your address either as a POP3 account or via Send mail as.

2 – Use Rapportive to see who’s emailing you.

Rapportive is a neat Chrome extension that will show you info about any email address. Either when you get an email or when you’re writing to somebody, Rapportive will see if that email is linked to a LinkedIn or Twitter account (among others) and will give you some great info about that person.

3 – Find out when somebody read your email with Streak.

Besides being a CRM that runs in your inbox, Streak gives you the possibility to know when somebody opened your emails. This can be invaluable in a sales environment.

Alternatives include DropBox, Box, and others.

Simple, beautiful scheduling with Calendly

If you’re a freelancer or do client work you’ll need to have multiple calls with your customers.

If you’re building a product you should be doing customer discovery interviews in the beginning and constantly gathering feedback all around.

The old way of setting appointments meant a full ping-pong game of back and forward emails about ever shifting availabilities.

Since the tools like Calendly came along, you just hook up your calendar to Calendly, set the time interval when you are available to do calls, and you’re done. When somebody wants to book a meeting with you, they can choose from your available timeframes, and book a meeting straight in your calendar. You can even set required fields they should fill in, like their phone, their business, and their need. And once it’s done you have a meeting booked in your own calendar, plus both of you get an email with all the details.

It’s simple and it just works :)

Alternatives include Schedule Once and Acuity Scheduling.

Oh, and if you’d like to book a meeting with me, you can do so here:

http://www.ovi.co/calendar/

What Photoshop? Use PowerPoint to build images

If you’re like me, and your drawing of a swan looks like it’s done by a 4-year-old, it probably means that you should not use the most advanced tools for your basic design needs. Why try to fly a plane when you can only ride a bicycle? But even more important: why ride a plane when you only have to go to buy milk, and you can do that by riding your bicycle?

If you’re an entrepreneur or an online marketer, you’re probably used to using PowerPoint anyway. But why use it only for boring presentations?

With PowerPoint, you can even create simple logos (the logo for Ovi.co was designed by me in PowerPoint), book covers, and social media images.

Even the cover for this ebook was designed in PowerPoint. All three versions – portrait, landscape, and square.

All you need are some nice images, a nice color scheme and a couple of tricks.

You can get great free stock photos from DashmoteUnsplash, Pixabay, Gratisography or Pexels.

To pick a color scheme I used Material Palette, Material UI, or Google’s color style.

And some of my tricks include: you can create a round image from a regular one by going to crop -> mask to shape, and then picking the shape you’d like; you can group multiple elements, and then right click it to save that element as a png picture, if you’d like to create a transparent image; transparency levels can be your friend; and when you’re done you can save any or all slides as images.

 A great alternative is Canva.

Outsource many tasks with Fiverr

Even though you’ve just learned that you can almost call yourself a designer because you know PowerPoint (ok, maybe don’t), you might think you want your logo to be something more in tune with your vision, that you can’t just whip up in PowerPoint.

Or maybe you need a voice over for your video and you’ve never liked how your voice sounds when you hear it recorded (I still can’t believe people still want to be my friends after they hear my voice).

Or you might need some small software tweaks done on your new WordPress site.

For all of these small tasks and much more, you can find a supplier on Fiverr.

And as the name suggests, the prices start from only $5. And many tasks stay at only $5.

It’s an easy, reliable source to get quick turnaround on many of the small tasks you either don’t know how to do or don’t want to do. After all, your time should be your most prized asset and when you can outsource a job you don’t like for basically the price of a coffee, you might want to do that.

There are many alternatives as well. From general ones, like Upwork and Freelancer, to more specialized ones like CloudPeeps or Growth Geeks.

This is not the end; it’s only the beginning

OK, it is the end of this big ass article, but it might only be the beginning of your entrepreneurial road.

I’d love to hear from you. Did you enjoy this book? Did you find it valuable? What tools, tips and tricks do you use? Do you have a good joke for me to use next? Anything.

So if you want, do contact me, and subscribe below for more goodies.

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