Tools I use to run my business

WordPress

I’ve been using WordPress to run my websites for well over ten years now. I started building websites in my teens using straight HTML and CSS but over time I came across WordPress which is a content management system originally made for blogging. It’s wonderful for quickly building and deploying a website on your own without needing to pay one of those one-click website services that have come to dominate the industry in the last few years.

WordPress can be used either as an installation on your own server/host account like GoDaddy or SiteGround or on their own hosting service but I’ve never use that. I’ve used several website hosts over the years and generally it’s the one thing you don’t really think about until your website goes down. I currently use SiteGround to host my WordPress installation and GoDaddy to manage my domain names, of which I have a couple.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that you can download and install on your website. It gives you the ability to have a store directly on your website rather than on a 3rd party e-commerce platform like squarespace/shopify. The benefits of this are that you have full control over how your store looks and works without being nickel and dimed to death by those services. The con is if something breaks you have to fix it yourself. WooCommerce’s developers do offer support in some cases when things aren’t working right and there is a lot of documentation on the internet that can help you solve most issues you come across.

WooCommerce also has a marketplace for add-on’s you can install, from allowing your e-commerce shop to accept debit/credit payments or crypto, customized packing slips, and full service shipping stations so that you can purchase, print, and ship labels directly from your own website. Rather than taking all the customer’s data, the weight of their box, and anything else you might need over to USPS/FedEx/UPS and generating a label there you get the convenience and time saving of it all being in one place. One other nice feature is you can set the size of the labels your site generates which helps with this next tool I didn’t know I couldn’t live without until I had it.

Label Printer

Having a label printer is amazing. Before I bought one I would print my labels off from the laser printer as a full 8.5”x11” sheet of paper, cut the label out by hand, tear off four pieces of packing tape and stick them to the boxes and envelopes manually. This took about 10 minutes per package and I could easily spend a whole day boxing orders this way. After doing that for a few months I decided to look into label printers on Amazon and found one called a Rollo. It uses thermal activated labels to generate your shipping label so you never need to get ink for it and I ordered a box of 1000 labels for around $20. I have yet to run out of labels.

Something I like about using these self adhering labels is I can use them to seal my shipping boxes with confidence that they won’t open until my customer cuts the label. I’ve sent hundreds of boxes out without ever receiving a complaint about it. One $200 machine saves me almost 10 minutes per order.

StickerMule

If you have a product you are making or have had made and are packing them yourself you will need labels for their boxes. I have been using StickerMule for a few years now to generate the labels I stick on my yo-yo boxes. When I design the labels I do so with the idea that it’s going to need to be able to differentiate between different product variations. So I put checkboxes on the bottom of the label that I mark with a sharpie to indicate the different colors of yo-yo’s I’ve packaged. The boxes I use are black so I need a way to see what I’ve boxed up after the fact.

Printful

Printful is a print on demand company that can take your artwork and print it on a lot of different items. I mostly use it for making shirts, hats, cups, and sometimes prints of the work. With a print on demand source I no longer have to take several hundred/thousand dollars up front and premake shirts that may not ever sell. I can have the mock up available on my website and when the order comes in for a new shirt the Printful WordPress plugin communicates via an API with my Printful account and generates the order for them to produce.

They charge a separate shipping fee from my normal shipping and send the product directly to my customer. If I was brave enough to try it they also offer warehousing for your products and can be used to sell your own products directly as a fulfillment service. One day I may take this on if my volume increase to a point where shipping products myself is no longer viable.

Google Analytics

I don’t use Google Analytics as much as I once did, but when I was starting my website I installed their tracker to give me an idea of where my site traffic was coming from and even what they searched for to find my website. This can be helpful if you’re blogging to generate traffic to your site, as you will get an idea of topics to write about for your readers. These days I use the built in WordPress analytics from a plugin called Jetpack, which usually comes preinstalled in the WordPress package.

Traffic Generators

Social networks are where the eyeballs are these days, and so being on the various social platforms is the main way I get attention and direct it here in hopes that someone will learn from my tutorials or pick up a product and support my efforts. I use Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, Discord, and a few other platforms here and there to cultivate an audience of yo-yo enthusiasts that I can send to my website. How you use the platforms is largely dependent on what industry you’re in.

MailChimp

One problem with relying on the above platforms to generate traffic is they’re always changing the algorithms that determine who is shown the content you post to those platforms. You could be getting thousands of views on a video one day and the next all of that traffic gets cut off. You haven’t changed a thing or done anything wrong, but a line of code being adjusted kills that avenue for you to acquire new visitors to your website. Because of this I have a newsletter that I host on MailChimp. They give you a free account that allows you to have a list of a few thousand subscribers and you can email them several times a month. If you decided you didn’t like this platform you can export your list of email subscribers to a CSV file and import it to another service. I passively promote my newsletter using a widget on the sidebar of my website.

To be honest I should do a better job of utilizing the newsletter but because it’s my failsafe in case of a social network killing my traffic I try not to bother them that often. Generally I send an email out when I have a new tutorial/product or if something happens in the industry that I think they ought to be aware of.

That’s all for now

There are a lot more tools and techniques that I utilize to make this system work. I would be happy to dive into these more or less depending on if anyone finds this information useful. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments below.

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