Must-Have Digital Media Tools: 2018 Edition
Every year, I update this post with tools that have been indispensable to my business, productivity, and well-being. Here’s my 2018 list. There are no affiliate links in this post and I have not been paid to recommend any of these services or products.
Zoom is my go-to online meeting service that I find exceptionally reliable; it’s like Skype, only better. I use it for client meetings, personal chats, online courses, and even to pipe in guest speakers for in-person events. It can record all meetings; once the meeting ends, the resulting file is downloaded locally or stored in the cloud (or both). I’ve found it nearly foolproof since participants can join on any device (including a phone), use video, or stick with audio only. Find out more about Zoom. You’ll find both free and paid plans.
2. Acuity Scheduling
Acuity + Zoom is how I streamline my client meetings and scheduling. Acuity is a full-featured appointment and scheduling service that allows anyone to book free or paid appointments with you. No more back-and-forth emailing to set up appointment times, and it hooks into availability on your Google calendar (among others). Acuity can be embedded into your site or shared as a link. Free to start and $15/month for most features you want.
3. Gravity Forms + Stripe for payments
Since I primarily sell services from my site and not products, I don’t need a shopping cart or fully featured e-commerce solution (such as WooCommerce). Instead, I use the premium plugin, Gravity Forms, along with Stripe payments. This allows people to buy specific service packages by completing a form, then filling out their credit card info. (PayPal is also an add-on option for Gravity Forms, among many others.) Learn more about Gravity Forms.
I resisted using Evernote for years, but since 2015, it’s become integral to my workflow. I use it to maintain a primary work to-do list, which then syncs automatically across all my devices (desktop, laptop, phone, tablet). Every day I use it for quick drafting—for blog posts, research notes, interviews, and conference talk outlines. Form letters and other pieces of writing or information that I use frequently (or even infrequently) get stored for easy copy-paste into email. Writers will find it useful for “composting” ideas, quotes, and book excerpts that might come in handy later.
If you’re the kind of person who has a million stickies on your desktop, or multiple documents where you’re dumping notes (then find it hard to locate what you’re looking for), then take a serious look at Evernote.
I couldn’t function on a daily basis without Dropbox, which is cloud-based storage of my work files, especially since I change machines so often. It syncs across my desktop, laptop, mobile devices, and I can also access it through any computer if I have login credentials with me.
6. Google Drive (and Plex)
I use Google Drive in addition to Dropbox as a cloud storage system, but specifically for those documents that I collaborate on where multiple people might need access. I also use Google Drive for storing and sharing PDF handouts or similar public links at conferences and events.
In 2017, I started using Google Drive in conjunction with Plex Cloud Sync, to create a private media server that streams my digital TV, movies, music, and more.
Paprika is an app where I store all my recipes. It helps me meal plan during the week, generate shopping lists that get sent to email, and categorize recipes according to my own criteria.
LastPass is a password manager that helps ensure you never forget a password again—or use bad password hygiene (making you vulnerable to attack). It generates strong passwords and stores your login credentials, securely and locally; whenever you go to a site that requires those credentials, it autofills them for you on a browser. You can get started for free.
9. Zippy Courses
Zippy is my preferred tool for creating and selling online courses. If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can buy the Zippy Courses plugin. Or, if that’s too technically complicated, they offer a fully hosted solution for an annual subscription fee. I see it as the most sensible and easy solution for anyone accustomed to WordPress sites.
Wave is a free, in-the-cloud accounting service that tracks income and expenses related to your business. All of my bank accounts (including PayPal) are hooked into my Wave account and allow me to see the entirety of my financial situation at a glance. It also generates invoices that clients can pay online by credit card and has payroll services if you need them. Accountants can be granted access to your profiles in Wave.
MailChimp is the email newsletter service I use, which is free until you reach 2,000 names. If you’re serious about online marketing, but are still at the beginning stages of building your business, you’re better off using this and not TinyLetter.
VisualHunt is my favorite tool for finding Creative Commons and public domain images to use in my online courses, blog, newsletter, and elsewhere.
I’ve been a sporadic gym member throughout my life, and in 2017 I found myself going much more regularly and enthusiastically when I began using the workout app Aaptiv. I was extremely skeptical at first, because I am not someone who likes personal training or coaching, and I’m pretty no-nonsense and uninterested in “motivational” talk surrounding exercise.
So I was surprised to find myself buying an annual subscription to Aaptiv, which is like having a personal trainer guide you during workouts. It’s been an incredible training tool for running (my goal is to run the Charlottesville 10-Miler this year), and it makes treadmill running actually enjoyable. No easy feat. If you’re a gym goer, it’s worth looking at a free trial.
What tools are part of your daily creative life or business? Let me know in the comments.
Also: Every two weeks, I send out Electric Speed, a free email newsletter about new digital media tools and resources I’ve discovered. Subscribe.