The right tools for your online business can change the way you do business for the better, can increase productivity, keep you organized, and even save you a ton of time. Sometimes the tool is super simple like a stapler that doesn’t jam that you frequently use or could be complicated and expensive as a super computer.
To keep your business running at peak performance, it may require a financial investment. Over 16 years of running my online business has taught me, putting a band-aid on or buying the almost perfect tool, only ends up costing you money in the long run. Cheaping out and not purchasing the right tool that does EVERYTHING you need it to, will only have you buying the tool you actually need down the road. Then you have spent money on the right tool and the one that wasn’t right instead of just the right tool from jump. Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow.
I have listed below the tools I use almost every day I could not do business without. I am not including my computers because that is pretty much a given, but in case your wondering I have a Toshiba Qosmio X70 laptop that I purchased especially for its 32 gb of RAM to run my Adobe programs smoothly. They are such memory hogs. They have unfortunately discontinued the line though as far as I can tell. I also have a iMac 27″ 5K computer that I just got not too long ago and also upgraded to 32 gb of RAM.
Dymo Labelwriter 4XL Thermal Printer
The Dymo 4XL thermal printer is what I use to print shipping labels. I know you’re thinking to yourself “#1 is a printer” but this little guy literally changed my life. When I started writing this blog post, it’s the very first thing that came to mind. Before this printer, I had been using a simple $50 printer with half sheet labels. It was a struggle, slow, and paper would jam all the time. It made shipments take so much extra time. Not to mention issues with the labels if they would get wet at all – the ink would run and the package would come up missing or undeliverable. Even though they were sticky labels, I was still having to tape over them to be sure there were no problems.
I was fed up and started looking for alternatives. The Dymo 4XL walked into my life about 6 years ago and I haven’t looked back. Since so many shipping programs like Etsy shipping labels & Stamps.com are already equipped to print to the 4×6 shipping labels, it made it so easy to set up. I was off and running in about 10 minutes. I know they say you’re only supposed to use Dymo branded labels but after the sample roll ran out, I purchased labels from HouseLabels on eBay and haven’t had any problems with the generic 4×6 labels.
The Dymo 4XL shaved so much time off packing shipments – literally hours over a month’s time. No more covering the labels with packing tape. The shipping labels come out clean and the tracking bar codes are nice and crisp. Best of all, no more covering them in packing tape. Because it’s a thermal printer, there is no ink to smear. No waterproofing necessary. The biggest takeaway is the reduced frustration. I can’t tell you how many times I cried in exasperation over paper jams and running out of ink.
Canon Powershot SX60 HS Digital Camera
When I bought the Canon Powershot SX60 HS digital camera, I was already a convert to this line of Canon cameras as I already owned the SX50 HS. I take a lot of close-up product pictures and needed really great macro settings.
Before the Canon, I was using a Minolta that was a struggle all the time to find the right settings, adjusting exposure, and balance. The SX60 (along with the SX50) both have this smart technology that chooses the correct setting for your photograph. It knows when I am shooting a close-up photo of a product or one at a normal distance and adjusts accordingly. Best of all, it reduces the post-processing in Photoshop. No more adjusting brightness or contrast. A tiny tweak here and there occasionally and they’re good to go.
There is nothing wrong with the Canon SX50 HS that I have but another feature that I love with the SX60 is it’s Wi-Fi Enabled. The Wi-Fi capability is why I upgraded. Don’t you hate it when you get all set up to take photos and sit down ready to go and you realize you have no idea where a memory card is. Now, I just leave a memory card in the camera and sync the photos to my laptop’s hard drive when I’m done.
There are a ton more features like it’s 65x optical zoom, 16+ megapixels, and it’s image stabilization but you can read more about that here.
Tabletop Lighting Set-up
Unfortunately the camera doesn’t do all the work, I use tabletop studio lights with trumpet style daylight compact fluorescent bulbs. I have been using the same light set-up since the early 2000’s and it has worked like a charm. Not being one to drag all my product outside for daylight pictures (Florida heat and humidity are just too unbearable), this is the next best thing. I use a cheap artist’s tabletop easel to hold some 12×12 paper for my backdrop and some matching paper for my base – keeping it as simple as possible.
Before this, I tried the cloud dome, the light boxes made of nylon type fabric for a while, and even making my own but just didn’t get the greatest lighting with those. I prefer nothing getting in the way of the lights.
When I need something quickly and don’t feel like getting out my full set-up, a year or so ago I invested in the Foldio folding portable photography set-up. It’s great for quickly getting decent product photos without too much hassle. I do find that I need to do a bit more Photoshop editing because there isn’t quite as much light but it is a lot easier to deal with when not photographing a ton of items. I just store it in a tote bag and hang it from the side of my desk. Nice & compact.
Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II Large Format Printer
The Canon Pro9000 Mark II was such a steal when I originally purchased it off Amazon (there is an updated version with wireless here). At the time, it retailed for nearly $800. It was on sale for some reason for $349 and there was a $200 rebate. So we purchased the printer for $149. It was an amazing deal and has been an amazing printer. The thing that drew me to the printer was the individual 8 ink cartridges. It’s a beast!
My husband uses it also for his button business and there are times when his printings are heavy on one color. With a standard couple ink color cartridge system, you would be replacing a cartridge even when the other colors weren’t fully out of ink. With the 8 color system, if you just run out of yellow – the yellow is all that needs to be replaced. It saves so much money and you get a better print.
Again, I know I should be using Canon branded cartridges but I am a sucker for saving money and found that the Canon Pro9000 MarkII cartridges (along with most other cartridges) were available on 4inkjets.com. Sometimes you get off brand ink and it really stinks but I have been nothing but happy with the quality of the cartridges from 4inkjets and have been using them for years. The color is spot-on and if you purchase using Ebates.com, often times you can get 40% cash back along with their standard coupon codes. I stock up on Black Friday for the year.
Erin Condren Life Planner & Notebooks
If you haven’t heard of EC Life Planners, you might have been living under a rock (or just a digital planner). No really, her planners are so popular right now. I know it isn’t electronic & know there are plenty of phone apps for this but I am more of a paper and pen, list making, planner person. I couldn’t function without a planner or a notebook. I have some anxiety issues and it helps to get things down on paper and make a plan or list for things to get done. Basically a brain dump so I can clear my head.
What’s cool about the planners and notebooks, other than their layouts, is that you can purchase new covers for them or create your own design to get made into an interchangeable cover. I like that because I can coordinate for the season or holiday or just when I feel like something new and fresh.
I actually have multiple Life Planners – for work, for life stuff/journal, and for our vegetable garden/home projects. A bit of overkill but it’s helpful for me to keep things separate. I know that planner decorating is all the rage right now. I do decorate my planner but more for functional decorating. I love check lists and customizing headers and pretty backgrounds.
The Life Planner I use the most is my business planner. I use it to keep track of daily to do items, social media and website stats, priorities for the week, appointments, things to get done and blog posts to plan. Also right now I keep track of college in it, but that is about to end in two weeks when I graduate.
Use this link to purchase your own EC Life Planner or notebook, sign-up for their newsletter, and you will get a $10 off coupon code to use on your first order.
Maybe this will help you make a decision if your looking to upgrade or purchase new tools for your business. In the coming months, I plan on sharing my favorite online tools, office supplies, and favorite programs to name a few.