The Art of the WordPress Startup: Part 6

Startup Tools

This post is part 6 of a series on how to launch your startup on WordPress. Last time I talked about the mind-body connection and how you can leverage physical exercise to improve your mental edge and hence business performance. Today’s post was inspired by Matt Medeiros, with whom I did an interview the other day on his show Matt Report, talking about this exact series as well as WordPress hosting related topics. Matt asked me what tools I recommend or use on a daily basis and even though I mentioned a few while on the spot live, I realized there are many more in my kit and that a lot of people launching a startup on WordPress might benefit from. These are my personal recommendations and none of the links are affiliate driven. Yes, someone on the internet is offering you free advice without being paid for it.

Accounting

If you’re just starting out then you definitely need an accounting system of sorts. Previously QuickBooks would be the de facto choice, but nowadays there are many others most of which are newer and easier to use. If you’re going with the LLC route and keeping things pretty simple, then you should take a look at Outright which allows you to track your income and expenses, and more importantly creates your schedule C for you and even provides guidance as to what you should be paying for your quarterly estimates (assuming you live in the U.S. and hence those go to the IRS).

If you plan on creating a more formal company structure such as an S-Corp or C-Corp, then you should definitely check out Xero, which is neat in that it they help you find an accountant in your geographic region who is trained in their system and can be linked as the accountant to your profile. That way instead of passing papers or PDFs back in forth, you can both log in to one system and look at the exact same information.

Benefits & Payroll

Providing benefits can be a pain and thankfully there are better solutions now than ever before. On the payroll side, a recently launched startup ZenPayroll is making it both affordable and aesthetic for the first time ever. They are currently expanding across the country so hopefully you’re in one of the states they support. Even if you run a single-member LLC and it’s only you, with their pricing you can put yourself on payroll for $29/mo at current rates and have taxes taken out of your checks just like if you worked for the man.

If you’re looking to do more than just payroll, then Y-Combinator backed Zenefits is another great option (which also integrates with ZenPayroll so you can be a true Buddha). It helps you with all those other pesky things like managing health insurance, 1099s, worker’s comp, retirement plan administration, and more. In addition it can help with more HR type stuff like tracking paid time off, employee on-boarding/off-boarding, I9s and more.

Get the full 20 part series: “Art of the WordPress Startup” as an E-book.

Get it!

Billing

If you’re planning on doing recurring billing at scale, then I recommend checking out Recurly. Building your own billing system can take up a lot of time/effort, and it’s best to have really granular data on your subscriptions. How long does the average customer of Plan A last? How many invoices went initially uncollected last month? How many did the system capture by sending out an email reminder? In addition to answering questions like that, it will allow you to have nice pretty data to show in the event you go to raise capital or get acquired. No VC or diligence team wants to spend their time combing through your own homegrown billing system’s data, or worse yet, having to run calculations and figure out things you should have been tracking in the first place. Yes using a provider like this will cost you a small piece of your revenue each month. But this is one example where thinking big picture is probably a good idea. Penny wise, pound foolish, or whatever that saying is in the UK.

If you plan on selling or products or services in person, then I highly recommend getting a Square reader. And if you need to cut those all important things called invoices and you’re not in a subscription based model so Recurly doesn’t cover them, then get set up with Freshbooks and enter invoicing nirvana. It integrates with Outright (discussed above) as well as many other great web apps you’ll be using. It can do recurring or one-off, whatever you choose, and can even accept online payments within the invoice via their integration with PayPal.

Conference Calls

These suck in general to do but you might as well make them less painful for everyone involved. No, Skype is not a good solution if you’re going to be talking with serious business people. There are infinite things that can go wrong and you’ll look like a cheapskate trying to talk to the CIO of XYZ who thinks that Skype is for calling your grandma in Florida. So get setup with UberConference and start making conference calls like a pro, without making everyone download a bunch of crap to their laptop. You can actually see who’s talking and if you set it up right, their bio and information so everyone knows who else is on the call.

Cost-Per-Click

If you’re going to be managing serious CPC campaigns on AdWords, then I highly recommend downloading the latest copy of AdWords Editor by Google. This powerful software runs locally on your laptop/desktop and lets you do changes at scale with ease. Need to adjust 1000 ads at once in various ways? Done. Need to quickly scan 1000 ad groups? Done.

If you want to get nice pretty monthly or quarterly reports on your AdWords campaigns (among other things), then check out Raven Tools. If you’re running an agency of sorts you can white label their stuff and your clients will think you’re a genius.

Credit

If you truly need some startup equipment such a laptops or monitors, then I suggest looking into the Barclaycard offered by Apple. It allows you to get $2K or more in items with 0% interest for 18 months. During that time you just make the minimum payments which are typically pretty small. I don’t advocate running up debt for non-necessities, but if you truly need a monitor or laptop to help get your work done and have better immediate uses for your cash (e.g. marketing budget), this might be a viable option.

And while we’re talking about credit, as a founder make sure to keep your credit score in top shape. That means you should be monitoring it fairly frequently with something like Credit Karma. It’s like FreeCreditScore.com without the awful commercials and bait-n-switch tactics. It really is free. They make money sort of how Mint.com does.

CRM

Ah, the dreaded CRM. Well guess what, it’s time to stop using Excel, Zendesk, or whatever other crazy workaround you’ve been using for inbound leads. Getting a CRM is one of the most important things you can do to increase your closing/tracking of inbound leads. Here at Pagely® we use Close.io which is run by a really nice guy named Steli Efti who personally helped us come on board, and they’re another Y-Combinator alum. They also have an API you can do cool stuff with.

Email

Google Apps. It’s the only logical choice in my mind. Yes they got rid of their awesome free plans, but their service is well worth the $5/mo per user or whatever they’re charging these days. And keep in mind one “user” can have multiple email aliases, so the pricing is even better than it sounds. Think of a user as a mailbox and an alias as an address.

Email Marketing

You’re going to be building a mailing list right? Well I personally find MailChimp to be the most robust email marketing solution and I’ve tried them all. You may not think of Atlanta when you think of killer startups, but ATL delivers on this one.

Legal

If you’re looking to pursue a trademark then I recommend starting with a search on Trademarkia. From there, you can decide whether to use their services or hire an independent IP attorney. Each has its own advantages/disadvantages. LegalZoom and Rocket Lawyer are other resources but much like Trademarkia, just know that they should be considered a resource and not the only resource. One service I haven’t personally tried but have been meaning to is newly launched Lawdingo. They instantly pair you up with a lawyer they’ve vetted and make the connection so you can begin chatting and cut to the chase without spending hours reading Yelp reviews or trying to find a phone book that hasn’t decomposed.

If you plan on getting contracts or documents signed, then you probably want to check out places like DocuSign, EchoSign, and HelloSign. Oh, and if you need an inbound fax number for those pesky old-timers who insist on faxing you agreements, get a free number from eFax. That “free” page is hard to find on their site and you have to know it’s there to find it. It’s like the secret menu at Olive Garden or In-N-Out. And if you need to send outbound faxes for some crazy reason (and once a year you might), I highly recommend HelloFax.

Need to buy something really expensive like that swanky domain name you’ve been saving up for? Use Escrow.com and you’ll be able to sleep at night. I’ve personally wired them tens of thousands over the years and they always do a great job. You pay them, they hold the cash in Escrow, and the seller gets paid when you notify them you’ve received the goods (or vice versa if you want to sell something high-end like office equipment). Need proof? Warren Moon recently was scammed out of $200K trying to buy Miami Heat tickets. If he had only used Escrow.com, as the tickets never arrived.

Mobile Apps

If you’re planning on having a mobile app, whether free or paid, then you should definitely hop over to App Annie and see if their reporting tool is something you’d benefit from. As far as marketing and more detailed analytics, there’s also MobileDevHQ whom recently dropped their pricing.

Motivation

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or down in the dumps, then hop over to either Matt Report or Mixergy (or better yet, both) to get some inspiration. Watching videos is more fun than reading books and you’ll often learn things that founders wouldn’t reveal in print form, since it’s off-the-cuff. Both Matt and Andrew do a great job and each caters to a specific type of audience, with Matt being more on the WordPress focused side and Andrew on the general startup space. You’re better off watching ten different hour long founder stories via video than spending ten hours with one founder’s book.

Office Space

Unless you’re going to be meeting clients on a daily basis or absolutely need space for your team to work beyond say your local co-working space, renting an office isn’t typically necessary during the beginning phase. Another thing to keep in mind is that a dingy unimpressive office is almost certainly worse than no office, so I recommend waiting to rent/buy until you can afford something you’re proud of. Your potential customers don’t want to show up to a rat hole, and neither do your employees. In the meantime, if you need to meet with current or potential clients, get yourself a Regus Businessworld membership so you can rent their Class A conference rooms on the fly. You’ll have the same view and location as those on other floors spending thousands per month with long term leases, and you’ll just be paying for the room by the hour and be on your way when you’re done, client impressed and contract in-hand.

Retirement

If you’re planning on flying solo and never hiring employees, then I highly recommend looking into Fidelity as they are one of the few that allow you to run a SEP IRA as well as a Solo 401K. I won’t get into the details of the tax advantages that allows, but let’s just say that having both in your arsenal maximizes the amount you can put away and minimizes your tax liability. I say “flying solo” because the Solo 401K is designed for companies without employees, otherwise you’d need a general 401K and have to comply with ERISA rules which sound scary.

SEO

If you need to find all the broken links on your site (and who doesn’t) then you should checkout Integrity if you’re running a Mac. It is a simple free program and does just that. Those of you on Windows should check out Xenu’s Link Sleuth which does the same thing. If you want to go a little more advanced with spidering tools, then you should download a free copy of Screaming Frog SEO Spider which has a few extra bells and whistles, and is available for Mac, Windows, and even Linux. If you want to reliably track your organic rankings, then something like Authority Labs would be an excellent choice.

Social Media

If you’re going to be managing a bunch of social media profiles (and you probably will), then you’ll want some way to reliably blast your message out to all 3 or 4 of them at once. The cheaper option would be something like HootSuite and a more polished option would be something like Sprout Social. There are many other types of social media tools out there, but this section is focused mainly on tools to simply blast out your message in a bunch of places at once and track the results of that action.

Support

Maybe not the sexiest of tools, but one you’ll probably be spending a fair amount of time with. Here at Pagely® we run Zendesk while others swear by Freshdesk. To each their own.

In closing, I’ve said it all and have done the best I can, so hopefully I earned your pageview with this one. I’m sure I left some categories or particular tools out, but hey, nobody’s perfect. Leave a comment below with any tools you recommend that the readers should check out and I’ll give them a look myself if I haven’t already.

Full Series — Click here to see all articles in this series.

4 Comments

  1. Sean O'Brien
    Sean O'Brien

    Thanks for the kind words Caitlin. We did not hire any outside help for this series. I wrote it myself as director of sales & marketing here at Pagely®.

  2. Abraham
    Abraham

    With havin so much content and articles do you ever run into any problems of
    plagorism or copyright infringement? My website has a lot of unique content I’ve either authored
    myself or outsourced but it seems a lot of it is popping it up all over the web without my permission. Do you know any methods to help prevent
    content from being ripped off? I’d genuinely appreciate it.

  3. roses lyrics Seether
    roses lyrics Seether

    Right here is the perfect site for anyone who wishes to understand this topic.
    You know so much its almost tough to argue
    with you (not that I personally would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh
    spin on a subject that has been discussed for many years.
    Great stuff, just great!