Running your WordPress site over HTTPS is no longer optional. Not only is it more secure (everything is encrypted, nothing passed in plain text), but it also builds trust, is an SEO ranking factor, and provides more accurate referral data. Performance issues tied to encryption have been fixed for the most part thanks to HTTP/2 and Let’s Encrypt has changed the entire industry by providing you with an easy way to get free SSL certificates.
For some businesses though, one of the most important reasons is that web browsers such as Chrome and Firefox are cracking down on those not running over HTTPS and showing stricter warnings. That’s the last thing you want your visitors to see!
We have an in-depth guide on how to migrate from HTTP to HTTPS, and a very common problem website owners encounter afterward is “mixed content warnings.” Today we’ll show you a few different ways you can fix these on your WordPress site.
A mixed content warning appears in a user’s browser when the WordPress site is loading both HTTPS and HTTP scripts or content at the same time. You can’t load both as they are completely separate protocols. When you migrate to HTTPS, everything needs to be running over HTTPS.
Below are some examples of what happens in the browsers if you don’t fix these warnings.
Chrome Mixed Content Warning Example
Here is an example of what happens in Chrome when a mixed content warning fires on a WordPress site. According to NetMarketShare, Chrome currently leads in the pack in terms of browser market share, being used by over 60% of the web. So the following warning is most likely what most of your visitors would see.
Chrome mixed content warning
Firefox Mixed Content Warning Example
Here is an example of what happens in Firefox when a mixed content warning fires on a WordPress site.
Firefox mixed content warning
Microsoft Edge Mixed Content Warning Example
Here is an example of what happens in Microsoft’s Edge browser when a mixed content warning fires on a WordPress site.
Microsoft Edge mixed content warning
Internet Explorer Mixed Content Warning Example
Here is an example of what happens in Internet Explorer when a mixed content warning fires. As you can see, IE is probably one of the worst because it actually breaks the rendering of the page until the popup is clicked. Thankfully, Internet Explorer doesn’t hold that much of the browser market share anymore.
Internet Explorer mixed content warning
What Causes Mixed Content Warnings?
We’ve found that the most common time mixed content warnings appear is right after someone migrates their WordPress site from HTTP to HTTPS. HTTP links simply get carried over and this causes mixed content warnings to start firing. Another reason could be that you just added a new service or plugin.
Here are some additional examples of what might cause a warning:
Images have hardcoded URLs (http://yourdomain.com/image.png) that point to HTTP. These could be within a post, page, or even a widget.
Your linking to HTTP versions of external scripts. (Hosted jQuery, Font Awesome, etc.)
You have embedded video scripts using HTTP instead of HTTPS.
How to Fix Mixed Content Warnings
Follow the simple steps below to fix your WordPress mixed content warnings. This assumes you have already done the following:
We’ll be using our development site (wpdev.ink) in the examples.
The first thing you need to do is find out which resources are still loading over HTTP. Browse to the page where it’s happening and launch Chrome DevTools. Remember, it might only be happening in certain areas of your site, not globally.
Windows: F12 or CTRL + Shift + I
MAC: Cmd + Opt + I)
You can also open Chrome DevTools from the tools menu.
Launch Chrome DevTools
There are are a couple places you can check which resources aren’t loading over HTTPS. The first is the “Console” tab. Note: You might need to refresh the page after you have Chrome DevTools open for it to properly load everything.
Below we can easily see that there is an insecure image being linked to an HTTP version of the site and a link pointed to an HTTP hosted version of jQuery.
Chrome DevTools mixed content in console
You can also look in the “Security” tab. It will show you the non-secure origins and you can click to “View the request in the network panel.” Note: You might need to refresh the page after you have Chrome DevTools open for it to properly load everything.
Chrome DevTools security
And last but not least, you can view the requests in the “Network” tab. Note: You might need to refresh the page after you have Chrome DevTools open for it to properly load everything.
Chrome DevTools network
If you aren’t using Chrome, or just want a quick summary of the errors, you can also use a free tool like Why No Padlock. It scans an individual page and shows you all of the insecure resources.
Why No Padlock?
Checking HTTPS Warnings in Bulk
If you’re worried about the rest of your site you might want to check it in bulk. Here are some recommended options.
There is a free little tool called SSL Check from JitBit which you can use to crawl your HTTPS WordPress site and search for insecure images and scripts that will trigger a warning message in browsers. The number of pages crawled is limited to 200 per website.
The Ahrefs audit tool now has the ability to detect HTTPS/HTTP mixed content. If you already have access to this, or someone on your marketing team does, this can be a great way to be thorough.
HTTPS Checker is desktop software you can install that will scan your site. It can help you check for “not secure” warnings and content after big changes. It is available on Windows, Mac, and Ubuntu. The free plan allows you to check up to 100 pages.
The next step is confirming that those resources loading over HTTP are accessible over HTTPS. They most likely are, you just need to update the links. If our example above we’ll use the insecure image and hosted jQuery.
If we take both of those URLs, input them into our browser’s address bar, and append HTTPS on the beginning, we can see that they load just fine. Therefore we simply need to proceed to do a search and replace on our site.
There are are a lot of different ways in which you can perform a WordPress search and replace. In this post, we will walk you through two different recommended options.
If you’re curious, we don’t recommend using the Really Simple SSL plugin. While it’s a great plugin, you shouldn’t rely on a plugin like this long term. You won’t be migrating back to HTTP later, so do it the right way and update your HTTP URLs in your database (as we’ll show you below).
If you’re a Kinsta client, you can use our search and replace tool that is available from right within the MyKinsta dashboard. Under Sites click on “Manage” next to the site you want to run a search and replace on. Then click on “Tools” and you’ll find the Search and Replace tool at the bottom.
Kinsta search and replace tool
Enter in the search field the value you want to search for in the database, which in this case is our HTTP domain: http://wpdev.ink.
Enter in the replace field the new value that should be used to replace the value that you are searching for. In this case, it is our HTTPS domain: https://wpdev.ink.
Ensure the “Dry Run” option is selected first, as this will count how many replacements will be made without actually making the replacements. Then click “Replace.”
Important: Ensure you don’t include any leading/trailing whitespace in either of the fields as this might produce undesirable results.
HTTP to HTTPS search and replace
You’ll see a warning confirming that you want to run the command to calculate how many replace will be made. Click on “Replace” to confirm. Note: In “Dry Run” mode this will not make any database changes.
Search and replace calculate replacements
You’ll then see the total number of replacements that will be made.
Number of replacements
You can then un-select “Dry Run” and click on “Replace” again to perform the search and replace, making changes in your database. Note: A backup is automatically taken when this is run (backup identifier: beforesearchandreplace). So you can always revert back if needed.
Live search and replace
You’ll then see one final confirmation of the number of replacements made.
Confirmation on live search and replace
If you aren’t a Kinsta client, you can do this same task with the free Better Search Replace plugin and then simply delete the plugin after you’re done.
Better Search Replace plugin
You can download it from the WordPress repository or by searching for it within your WordPress dashboard under “Add New” plugins. After activating it just search for your HTTP domain (http://yourdomain.com) and replace with your HTTPS domain (https://yourdomain.com).
After you finish doing the search and replace you’ll want to double check your site to confirm the mixed content warnings are gone. We recommend just visiting your site and clicking around on a few pages while looking at the browser status indicator up in the address bar.
On our site, we can see that the insecure image is now fixed, but the hosted jQuery warning still remains. The reason is that we ran a search and replace on resources loading from our own domain. This is an external script which has to be manually updated.
Whether its increasing commuting costs, the ability to control one’s time, or the freedom to pursue their passion, more people now than ever are creating opportunities to work remotely. And it’s certainly a good time for this movement, as it’s supported by technological advances like cloud computing, collaboration, and improved communication tools.
As of 2016, about 25% of the US workforce has worked remotely in some capacity, and this number has more than doubled since 2005.
The Benefits of Working Remotely
Creating physical separation from a micromanaging boss is just one of many benefits that go hand-in-hand with working remotely.
Here are a few others worth mentioning:
Take advantage of flexible working hours. Before the internet, new parents didn’t have much of a choice when it came to being with their babies during the day or holding a full-time job. Now, parents can spend more time with their children, while doing their jobs from home—no trade-off necessary. For those without kids, the freedom of flexible working hours means that you can sleep in if you’re not a morning person, or work into the night if that’s your preference. Just make sure to draw a clear line between work and your personal life!
You can work from anywhere. The beauty of a remote working set-up is that you can literally work from anywhere: your couch, a coffee shop, poolside, or from another part of the world (as long as it has an internet connection!).
There’s no dress code. Since you can work from anywhere, what you wear doesn’t necessarily matter, unless you have an important client meeting. And even then, as long as your top half looks professional, you’re good to go. So yes, one of the perks of working remotely is that pants are optional and pajamas are encouraged.
Working remotely dress code (Image source: Imgflip)
You’ll inevitably learn new skills. If you’re a remote worker who’s working for themselves, as part of your transition, you’ll have to pick up new skills that aren’t necessarily part of your core expertise, such as bookkeeping, project management, and even a little legalese. And if you’re working for a company that lets you work remotely, you’ll also be learning new methods of communication and project management skills to bridge the physical gap between you and other team members.
Save money (and the earth). For many in today’s workforce, the prospect of a daily, multi-hour commute is enough to make you countdown to Friday as soon as Monday rolls around. Time spent in your car or on public transportation can be made productive but it can’t make up for time taken away from your family. Who wouldn’t want to get that time back? Not to mention all the money spent on gas, train tickets, and so on!
Drawbacks of Working Remotely
Every rose has its thorn. Working remotely seems like a dream come true but it comes with a few gotchas:
You’ll deal with limited social interaction. If you’re someone who likes indulging in gossip around the water cooler, going on lunch dates, and meeting new people around the office, working remotely may not be for you. While you’ll still meet with and interact with clients, many of these conversations take place over phone calls or video chats—not a conference room or coffee shop. To be sure, those living the cubicle life often complain of distractions in the form of regular interruptions, but sometimes distractions are preferable to isolation!
Everything is on you. If you’re working remotely for yourself, you’ll be tasked with finding leads, pitching, and closing prospects, then doing the actual work, taking care of finances, and managing your time—all without the oversight of a boss or the assistance of another department.
There are so many distractions. Many fantasize about the prospect of working remotely but can’t actually see themselves doing it—they just don’t have the ability to self-manage without letting distractions get in the way. If you don’t think you can act as your own boss, remote work may be a recipe for disaster when it comes to growing your career.
Working remotely distractions (Image source: Imgflip)
You’ll probably run into some communication problems. If you’re working with a remote team, it may be made up of members from different countries, operating in different time zones. Getting everyone together and on the same page may be hard. Add to that understanding different cultural contexts (you may act in a way that could be considered offensive to other cultures), as well as communication problems centering around words and meanings that may be misconstrued.
Where to Find Remote Work
Whether you’re working for yourself or want to work remotely on behalf of another organization, the following websites can help connect you with remote work opportunities:
AngelList: One of the best websites to look for a remote job, AngelList allows you to search for jobs based on location (choose ‘Remote’), function, job type (full time, part-time, internship, etc), and salary. It is used for staffing by companies like Facebook, Uber, Tinder, Medium, Coinbase, and Crunchbase.
Jobspresso: Jobspresso allows you to find work opportunities at innovative companies like Kinsta, Zapier, Student Loan Hero, and Bustle.
Hubstaff Talent: Hubstaff is most well known for their time-tracking software but you might not be aware that they also offer a job marketplace. Once you’ve filled in your desired search criteria, you can see a label next to the job listing that lets you know whether it is remote or not.
Remotive: Remotive is another great job site, used by top websites including Buffer, InVision, GitHub, and Zapier.
GrowthHackers: GrowthHackers offers great resources for growth hacking, as well as a job board. Unlike some of the other resources on their list, it’s not about the number of offerings—but all of GrowthHacker’s listed jobs are of high-quality.
Productivity Tips for Working Remotely
Working remotely means balancing a lot of different things. The following tips will help you to find this balance and with designing your ideal (productive) situation:
Have a Dedicated Workspace and Working Hours
Flexible working conditions may mean excuses and distractions when it comes to actually getting work done, so it’s important to establish some semblance of a routine, as soon as possible. Without this, you’ll constantly be tempted to do other things, and before you know it, your whole day will be gone!
You don’t necessarily need a home office to be successful when it comes to working remotely. An area or room where your roommates or family members know not to disturb you (and ideally, where there’s a door you can shut!) is sufficient. Many remote workers find that having a dedicated workspace is helpful in making a distinction that when you’re in this area, you mean business—and when you’re out of it, you’re not working!
If working from home isn’t an option, try to find the best place to work outside of your home: be it a coffee shop, library, or coworking space (to name just a few options).
If you like working in peace, working in the library would be a great choice. But it wouldn’t be a good match for someone that constantly has to make calls. Consider the nature of your out-of-home workspace and aim to find a fit in terms of your “normal” daily routine.
Getting Rid of Distractions
Distractions are the biggest hindrance to productivity, especially for remote workers. Although dated, a 2006 Salary.com survey found that the average employee wastes about two hours per day due to distractions and these productivity losses cost companies $544 billion a year. It’s probably fair to assume that these numbers have steadily risen since then, as more and more distractions are constantly introduced into our daily lives.
The first step to overcoming your distractions is to do a time audit to understand where you might be wasting your time. You can use a time tracking tool like RescueTime to track time spent on certain websites and categories.
After you’ve identified how you spend your time, you can proactively take it back by scheduling tasks that you must complete on a daily basis, in time blocks—like checking emails. Speaking of emails, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, people spend 13 hours on email each week on average, which equates to 28% of their entire work week!
When you’re scheduling time blocks, be realistic about how much time you allot to different tasks. Aim to overestimate your involvement in various tasks and projects, to make room for delays and unexpected occurrences. If you finish in less time than scheduled, then you have extra time to do chores, errands, or rest!
Tackle the Small Stuff Later
During the workday, it’s easy to get distracted by small, non-urgent things that come up. If it really isn’t urgent, resist the temptation to deal with it now.
Why? It takes most people 25 minutes to refocus after being distracted. If something comes up, you can acknowledge it right away if necessary, along with an expected date of completion. This “trains” your contacts to understand that you’re a busy person, can’t drop everything immediately, and that they should respect your time.
Besides issues with focusing, you’ll also want to physically remove distractions and distracting circumstances from your work environment.
If you find that you frequently check emails or social media updates, you can use apps like StayFocusd to block your access to certain websites. If you’re the type who’s frequently checking your phone, you’ll want to temper yourself to turn it off and keep it somewhere far away while focusing on work. And if Facebook is a big problem for you, try the Facebook News Feed Eradicator Chrome extension.
On a final note, strive to keep a clean workspace so you won’t be tempted to clean up as a way of procrastinating.
Hire the Right People
When you start out working for yourself in a remote environment, you’ll likely try to do everything on your own. But when you’re diligent in getting clients and these happy clients recommend your service to others, you will inevitably become swamped and will need help staying above water.
Thanks to the hyperconnected world we live in, it can be easy to find fellow virtual workers to help your cause—at any price point. If you’re trying to keep costs low, you might consider virtual workers from countries with a lower cost of living—the tradeoff is that you may have to deal with cultural and communication barriers, as well as different time zones. When you deal with people accepting low rates, understand that sometimes, the quality of work is also sacrificed.
While there are many virtual assistant horror stories, there are also people that are happy with their remote team. No matter how you find contractors, hiring the right people for your team is crucial. The wrong people can do more harm than doing everything yourself because when you hire employees, you’ll be managing them in addition to your own workload. This can be tricky, especially for people that are control freaks and who aren’t so good at dealing with people.
Toggl recommends hiring employees who meet these three criteria:
They have a history of self-management. Good self-managers can motivate themselves and work with minimal supervision.
They have a good support system. Working remotely can be lonely—aim to hire teammates who have proven that they’re up for the task and who have support at home.
They have good writing skills. Since much of the communications made between remote team members are text-based, you’ll want to work with people who can articulate themselves properly.
It might be helpful to also read about Kinsta’s genesis story, bootstrapping the brand into the company you know it as today!
Create a Task Management System
To establish an organized workflow, it is important to have systems in place. This is especially important when working with remote teams. When onboarding new team members, make sure that this includes an introduction to your systems and how they work.
Systems serve as a basic framework to guide your team and make your workflow more efficient.
Task Management Systems to Consider
There are several ways to prioritize tasks but we’ll focus on a few of the most popular frameworks:
The ABC method is a simple priority setting technique where you assign tasks on your to-do list in terms of:
A for the most important tasks: those that are urgent and come with a major consequence if not completed in a timely manner.
B for the tasks that are important but come with mild consequences if not completed on time. These tasks may leave someone upset when not completed in a timely manner but aren’t a matter of life and death, as with A tasks.
C for the tasks that would be great to accomplish but no real consequences are attributed to not completing them. In short, these are tasks that can wait.
If you have more than one task for A, B, or C, number them 1, 2, 3 (and so on) in order of their priorities. Think of this as a strict system, where you start the A-1 task immediately and don’t move on to another task unless you’re finished.
Eat the Frog Method
A less-complicated version of the ABC method, this method encourages you to do the thing you are least excited to do (usually the most important and heaviest task of the day). It’s hard but strict adherence to this method that will help you get through the hard stuff!
The first quadrant is for important and urgent tasks (top priority)
The second quadrant is for tasks that are important but not urgent
The third quadrant is for tasks that are urgent but not important
The fourth quadrant is for tasks that aren’t urgent or important.
Put another way, the tasks in the first quadrant are the tasks you DO, the tasks in the second quadrant are tasks you DECIDE when to do, the tasks in the third quadrant are the ones you DELEGATE, and the tasks in the fourth quadrant are those you DELETE (or think about in the future at another time).
People think that multitasking is useful but according to findings by a neuroscientist from MIT, multitasking makes it more likely that you’ll make mistakes, it ruins productivity, and it impedes creative thinking. Multitasking makes your brain expend extra energy as it shifts from task to task. In contrast, innovative thinking comes from prolonged periods of concentration.
If you’re constantly shifting between different thoughts, your brain has to backtrack to remember all the details of the different tasks you’re working on. Do yourself a favor and work on just one task at a time!
Remote Work Time Saving Tips
Time is money, as well as your most powerful resource as a remote worker. Try these time-saving tips to be more effective:
There are so many automation tools currently available in the market that it would be a shame not to give them a try. Tools like IFTTT and Zapier allow you to automate tasks based on triggers, like immediately posting to your social media accounts once you’ve published a blog post on your WordPress website. Little things like these save time.
Delegate and outsource. Everyone needs a little help sometimes. If you have an assistant or a remote team, you’ll want to delegate some tasks, or even just parts of tasks (like research for a blog post), to get things moving along. The process starts with choosing which tasks to delegate. These are usually the non-urgent tasks (like B or C tasks with the ABC method), especially when they’re in training. Leave ample time for your team member to complete the tasks, so that you’ll have time to go over the results, and add your own inputs, before anything is due.
Avoid meetings. Meetings tend to be time-wasters and you should avoid them as much as you can. If you absolutely have to meet to collaborate with someone, set the meeting yourself and limit it to at most 30 minutes (15 minutes should be your new default!). Have a set agenda and ensure that both parties come prepared so that you can bounce ideas off each other from the get-go.
Use shortcuts. When writing emails, use templates or shortcuts, like TextExpander, which expands the text of your most commonly used phrases after keying in relevant text shortcuts. Use programs that help you remember or generate a password (like 1Password or LastPass) so you don’t have to commit this information to memory (or worse, store it non-securely).
Unsubscribe from unnecessary emails, like newsletters from brands you don’t care about, which only add to the items you need to sort in your inbox.
Zapier says that the three ingredients of a successful remote work setup are: team, tools, and process. Since you can’t really control other people, focus on controlling your tools and process.
Another productivity hack when it comes to working remotely is to use the best tools available to you. With so many different tools for remote workers currently available in the market, it’s hard to not find something that suits your needs.
Here are some of the most popular tools for working remotely:
Accounting and Invoicing: QuickBooks
QuickBooks connects with your bank accounts so you can easily keep track of your business expenses. You can also use Quickbooks to send invoices and pay employees using the Payroll feature.
Many of those working remotely for companies overseas are seen as independent contractors. In these situations, it can be wise to hire a CPA (Certified Public Accountant). Firms such as IC Tax Advisors work solely with workers in these situations. Letting them handle payroll and all relevant tax paperwork can help reduce your stress come tax time.
Cloud Storage: Google Drive
With almost everyone having access to a free Google account, it makes the most sense to use this cloud solution to store your files and access them wherever you go. Google Drive comes with 15GB of free storage with the option to purchase more if needed. The Google Office Suite (G Suite), which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation maker (not unlike Microsoft Office’s suite of software tools), allows you to share files and collaborate with others in real time.
Costs can quickly add up when you need to make frequent local or international calls. The remote worker’s answer to this potential problem is Skype, which allows you to make unlimited audio or video calls (and even conference calls)—as long as you have a stable internet connection.
Jan Hofen, founder and CEO of Planio, recommends text-based tools for communication, especially if you work with team members living in other countries. You can’t keep calling them every time problems arise! Using text-based communication tools helps make things clearer because you have the opportunity to think through everything you need to say, then read over and edit your messages for..
In business, lead generation often means the difference between success and absolute failure. When you start an online store, blog, small business or agency, those people who come to your site aren’t going to stick around forever. Therefore, it’s essential to have some sort of system to either keep them around longer or prompt them to come back (and hopefully buy something). The best way to go about doing this is with one of the best WordPress lead generation plugins.
Some of these plugins are simple enough to install within two minutes. They’re meant for people who don’t want to mess with code but still crave stunning email optin forms. Some of the other WordPress lead generation plugins are built like suites, with social media sharing, , optins, and many other tools included.
Lead generation is a cluttered market, so we want to help you find the best solution for your organization.
Our Shortlist of the Best WordPress Lead Generation Plugins
If this were a beauty contest, Bloom would win the prize. It’s a plugin from Elegant Themes that you can get by signing up for the Elegant Themes membership program. That might get you thinking that it’s going to be expensive, but that’s not the case. In fact, an Elegant Themes membership costs only $89 per year, and it provides access to all themes and plugins, including Bloom. Therefore, you’re pretty much getting every possible element you need to design your website for $89 per year. There’s also a lifetime access option for a one-time fee of $249.
In terms of the Bloom plugin, it’s essentially a large variety of gorgeous optin forms. These can be placed anywhere on your site, from sidebars to inline blog areas. Even a quick glance at the template library shows something for everyone. You can start with different colors, styles, fields, and topics. Some of them look great for certain industries, while others turn out well for niche tasks like webinars.
Bloom WordPress plugin
Kinsta uses Bloom optin forms (as seen below) on its site for the same reason so many other people like Elegant Themes products like this one–they’re uncomplicated and good-looking. Overall, Bloom has a structure that brings in more email subscribers and allows for highly targeted content. Pair that with the incredible designs and you’ve found a great recipe for your lead generation.
Kinsta Bloom optin
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
The designs are both plentiful and the best-looking on the market.
You only have to pay for the $89 per year Elegant Themes membership to gain access to the Bloom plugin and everything else Elegant Themes has to offer.
Bloom has six different optin form display types, including an automatic optin popup, fly-ins, below content optin forms, widget area optin forms, and an unlock content optin.
Several triggers are available, where you can set something like a timed delay or wait for the customer to scroll to the bottom before revealing the optin form.
Bloom offers 16 email marketing integrations, which is more than we can say for some of the competition on this list. Some of them include AWeber, MailChimp, and Campaign Monitor. Overall, it looks like the majority of reputable providers are supported.
As a standalone service for generating leads and growing your email list, you can’t beat the pricing, flexibility, and beauty of OptinMonster. I’m a huge fan of finding WordPress themes that include email subscription forms, but more often than not you already have a theme installed, or you’re working on multiple client sites, where you need a universal optin form creator for all of them. That’s where OptinMonster comes into play. To start, there aren’t any free plans from OptinMonster. But that makes sense considering the reasonable pricing and the excellent feature set.
The Basic plan goes for $9 per month, and that gets you unlimited optin forms, A/B split testing, page level targeting, and more. The Plus plan is listed at $19 per month and that provides a floating bar, sidebar forms, and some content locking. Finally, the Pro plan goes for $29 per month, with support for exit-intent technology, referral detection, and fullscreen takeovers. Considering you’re likely to drastically improve your conversions with OptinMonster, even the $29 per month plan seems reasonable.
OptinMonster WordPress plugin
What’s more is that the optin forms are universal, easy to use, and beautiful. A blogger could use them on all of her blog posts, while an agency could supply all clients with this WordPress lead generation plugin. I also like it for eCommerce websites, since you can add it to your checkout, blog posts, or homepage, leading to more conversions and returning customers.
When you look at the templates and dashboard from OptinMonster, you start to understand that it requires no prior coding knowledge whatsoever. You would start looking for a suitable optin form in the library, then customize it for your own company in the drag and drop builder. You can even make Yes/No forms, mobile-friendly popups, and effects to grab attention as people land on your website.
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
The OptinMonster lead generation forms start at $9 per month, which is a steal for all of the features included.
It has a geo-location targeting option for personalizing campaigns based on where your visitors are located. This is bound to improve conversions and deliver better content to your users.
OptinMonster includes exit-intent technology, which detects the movement of your user’s mouse. If it seems like they might be leaving your site soon you can automatically reveal a popup box and give them a coupon or ask them to stay.
The plugin has 2-step optins, which are known to increase conversions over alternative methods.
The drag and drop builder means that advanced developers don’t have to work too hard and the beginners can still make professional optin forms.
OptinMonster has a wide range of optin campaigns, from inline forms to lightbox popups, and fullscreen welcome mats to floating bars.
You can play around with targeted campaigns and campaign triggers for the ultimate marketing efficiency.
Some of the integrations work well for a fluid workflow, like with Salesforce, Drip, Shopify, and WordPress.
3. Holler Box
If you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive way to generate leads and get more emails into your list, Holler Box is the way to go. It’s not only simple in terms of getting launched on your website, but it’s intuitive enough for all experience levels to take advantage of it. To start, quite a few features are offered for free, allowing you to test out the Holler Box plugin and see if it’s right for you. Who knows? You might only need to use the free version, or maybe you’ll find out that the Pro Version is better for your situation.
The free package supports unlimited popups, exit-intent popups, time delays, and scroll triggers. Some of the integrations are quite powerful, including Paid Memberships Pro and MemberPress. You can also incorporate eCommerce Buy buttons to convince folks to purchase directly from one of your optin forms. Other than that, the free version integrates with most of the top email marketing programs like MailChimp and Active Campaign.
Holler Box WordPress plugin
Once you get into the Pro version of Holler Box you’ll gain access to content upgrades and what the developers call FOMO (fear of missing out) optins. These are unique to Holler Box since you’re able to tell a user that someone else (maybe a friend) just bought something, so they shouldn’t miss out. In addition, the Pro version offers a header banner, advanced targeting filters, and more popup designs. If you’d like to get all of the free features along with the FOMO popups, that’ll cost you $79 per year. This also includes one year of premium support and the ability to insert the boxes on five sites. For $99 per year, they throw in all pro features, all future pro add-ons, and support for 25 sites.
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
It’s made in California by some excellent developers. They offer top-notch customer support, reasonable pricing, and of course, the free plugin to get a taste of what to expect.
The free version of the plugin is packed with goodies, including conversion rate analytics, the eCommerce Buy buttons, and exit-intent popups.
The FOMO popups are some of the more unique lead generation tools you can find. This is important for eCommerce sales since so many users make purchases based on what other people are doing.
You’re able to complete other tasks besides collecting emails. For instance, there’s a popup for announcing events without completely annoying the user.
There’s a tool called a chat email capture, where you can chat with your customers through a box and ask them to punch in their email address during the process.
The optin forms are sleek, simple, and fully customizable. If you’re not into complicated settings or over-the-top optin forms, this is for you.
With the Icegram plugin, you receive welcome bars, optins, and some other lead generation tools. It’s a free plugin with several premium plugins to buy as packages. The free version provides everything from messengers to action bars, and popups to toasts. Once you upgrade, you’ll pay $97 per year for the Pro plan, with exit-intent targeting, campaign stats, badges, and inline messages. Finally, the $147 per year plan throws in some of the more advanced features like A/B testing, geo-targeting, and optin exit animations.
I’m not a huge fan of the A/B testing being listed in the most expensive plan, but that’s how it goes sometimes. The main reason I would consider Icegram over some of the others is because of the several unique features like badges, messengers, stickies, and ribbons.
Icegram WordPress plugin
It’s absolutely possible to run your entire lead capture operation with the free version, but I have a feeling the majority of companies will find that some of the premium features are required.
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
The Icegram plugin provides a completely free plan with access to a library of templates and several tools for your popups.
You’ll be able to target your customers with the help of exit-intent marketing, advanced targeting, and the simple A/B testing. Combine this with the actionable reports and you’re well on your way to providing the most relevant content to your customers.
The plugin provides a selection of 12 types of optins, all of which you can create within a matter of minutes. Some of the optin forms include popups, floating action bars, inlines, and messengers to engage visitors.
The geo-targeting tools help with honing in on what your customers want based on their city, state, country, or continent.
Icegram has a call to action targeting feature, which allows you to include things like forms, links, and downloads on your optins.
5. Popup Domination
Popup Domination can be integrated into any type of website, not just a WordPress one. That said, it offers a free, 14-day trial for testing out the service and seeing if it’s right for you. After the trial, you can sign up for the Starter package, which goes for $9 per month and gets you 10,000 views for your popup forms. The next level is $19 per month for 30,000 views, then $29 per month for 100,000 views. As you can see, the pricing is far more flexible and understandable, since it only relies on the popup optin form views. If you don’t have that many people coming to your website, there’s no need to spend much money.
All of the Popup Domination features are packed into every plan. The forms are built to increase subscribers and sales, and it’s all done by copying and pasting a bit of HTML code into your website. Therefore, you can technically incorporate the forms into any part of your website. It’s not quite as easy as a WordPress plugin, but you don’t need to be a development expert.
Popup Domination WordPress plugin
Although it’s tough to beat the visual spectacle coming from the Bloom plugin, Popup Domination does a great job of making comparable designs. You can find optin forms with countdown timers, multiple fields, images, beautiful colors, and animations. You can also go for the standard email optin themes or change it to something unique like an optin form with a redirect to another page.
As mentioned, all of the Popup Domination plans have the same features. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about missing out on something from another plan. This means A/B testing is there for all customers, along with analytics, popup triggers, and exit popups.
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
The Popup Domination template library offers a wide range array of options, with varying colors, styles, sizes, locations, and functionalities. So, you might have a Yes/No popup, or anything from email optins to timers and progress bars.
The pricing makes it easy to decide on which package you should go with. All of the features are included in each plan so you only need to worry about how many views your optin form popups are going to see.
I really enjoy the redirect themes, which are popup forms to send people to other places like sales and affiliate pages.
You receive all of the essentials like exit-intent popups, popup triggers, and A/B testing, all without having to pay too much.
Since the app is installed by pasting in simple HTML code, you don’t have to worry whether or not Popup Domination has a plugin or add-on for your website platform. This way, just about everyone can enjoy Popup Domination.
As you’ll notice in the GetSiteControl plugin’s graphic below, it creates far more than your standard popup forms. You also get surveys, follow buttons, share tools, chat boxes, and more. The vast majority of companies will do just fine with the free version, but you might think about upgrading to the Premium or Pro plans if needed. The free option provides all widget types, frequency settings, unlimited widgets, custom colors, and scheduling, all for one site. You pay $19 per month for the Plus plan, but it supports more monthly views and you get things like integrations, start triggers, and exit popups. Finally, the Pro plan allows for unlimited views and for the managing of multiple users and user access rights.
GetSiteControl WordPress plugin
As I mentioned, I feel like most individuals and organizations will feel comfortable at first with the free plan. It comes with a chat widget for speaking with your customers and providing quick customer support. There’s also a subscribe widget for building your email list, and that pairs nicely with the over 25 email integrations. Besides the email lead generation tools, you’ll be able to generate surveys for feedback and contact widgets for people to send in emails.
The promo widget is ideal for sending out any kind of notification, such as promotional messages like sales and discounts. You can also find some social sharing and following buttons in this plugin, removing the need to download a completely different plugin for the same purpose.
Best Features from this WordPress Lead Generation Plugin
The GetSiteControl plugin delivers quite the punch in the free version, with optin forms in nine widget positions, and features like scheduling, custom colors, real-time stats, and responsive widgets.
This is more than a WordPress lead generation plugin, since it provides other excellent features like the contact widget, promo widget, share buttons, and chat box.
GetSiteControl has the option to activate exit-intent popups, which are essential for keeping people on your website.
The Google Analytics integration ensures that you receive the best information about your optins.
The GetSiteControl plugin automatically matches the optin form colors to the colors on your website.
You can play around with the A/B testing to see which of your strategies works best.
The surveys are nice for getting a feel for what users like about your site. You can even integrate these with your lead generation tools, like in an email marketing campaign.
The SumoMe platform is one of the more well-known WordPress lead generation plugins on the market. It’s best to go to the main Sumo website to get a full idea of what’s offered and to understand how much you could be paying. For smaller websites, Sumo makes sense if you’d like a handful of email collection tools with autoresponders, visitor targeting, and email campaigns. However, that free plan is limited to 200 subscribers, so you’re going to run out of room fast if your company is growing.
After that, the Sumo suite is pretty darn impressive. However, the pricing jumps up quickly. For instance, the Professional plan is meant for bloggers and consultants. It sells for $24 per month and still only allows for 750 subscribers. But you start to get into more advanced features like A/B testing, click triggers, and browser push notifications.
While there are plenty of more full-featured donation plugins, we’re just going to focus on creating a very simple Stripe donate button in this post. To accomplish that, we’ll share tutorials for two different free plugins:
WP Simple Pay: this plugin is good if you want to offer a fixed donation amount. But you need to pay if you want your visitors to be able to donate custom amounts. This one is the most popular Stripe payments plugin.
Stripe Payments: this plugin lets you accept custom donation amounts for free, which might make it more attractive if you’re on a budget and want to accept custom donation amounts from your visitors.
We’ll start off with a quick tutorial on how to create your Stripe account and find the API keys that you’ll need to configure either plugin.
Then, we’ll dig into how to create a Stripe donate button with WP Simple Pay or Stripe Payments.
No matter which of the two plugins you choose, you’ll need to enter your Stripe API keys in order to create your Stripe donate button.
These API keys are what connect your WordPress site to the Stripe payment processing service. They’re essential, but they’re also easy to create with Stripe. So don’t worry!
Rather than trying to explain this in the step-by-step directions for each plugin, we’ll just explain it once now. That way, you’ll know exactly where to find your API keys when you configure either plugin.
Step 1: Create A Free Stripe Account
To get started, you’ll need to sign up for a free Stripe account. There’s no complicated information – you just need to enter your email, name, and password (though you will need to provide more information to start accepting payments for real).
Pay attention to the difference between test API keys and live API keys:
Test API keyshelp you safely test your donate button without sending any real payment details.
Live API keys are for when you actually want to start accepting payments for real.
You can toggle between them by clicking the toggle button, and both plugins will include boxes to let you enter both your test and live keys, as well as a setting that lets you switch between test and live modes:
Your Stripe API keys
Keep these keys handy, because you’ll need them to configure either plugin.
How To Add A Stripe Donate Button With WP Simple Pay
To get started, go to Simple Pay Lite → Settings and enter your test and live API keys. Make sure that Test Mode stays Enabled for now:
Enter API keys and make sure Test Mode is enabled
Step 2: Configure Currency (Default Is USD)
By default, WP Simple Pay uses USD as the currency for your donate button. If you want to use a different currency, you can change it by going to the General settings tab:
How to change the currency
Step 3: Create New Payment Form
A PaymentForm is essentially a specific donate button that you want to use. To create one, go to Simple Pay Lite → Add New.
In the Payment Options tab, enter the amount that you want visitors to be able to donate (if you want visitors to be able to donate their own custom amount, you’ll need the paid version of the plugin):
Enter the fixed donation amount
That’s all you technically need to do. But to offer a more personalized form, you can change the text that displays on your form in the On-Page Form Display and Checkout Overlay Display tabs.
For example, in the On-Page Form Display area, you can change the text so that the button reads “Donate With Card” instead of “Pay With Card”:
Change donate button text
Once you’re done, click Create to publish your form.
To display your form on the front-end of your site, you’ll need to add the shortcode to the post, page, or text widget where you want it to display:
The WP Simple Pay shortcode
Step 4: Test Your Form Then Enable Live Mode
Because you have test mode enabled, you can test your form by entering some test data:
Example of the donate button
Once you’re happy with how everything is functioning, you can enable Live mode to start accepting real payments by going to Simple Pay Lite → Settings and disablingTest Mode:
How to disable test mode
And if you want to edit the page that users see after they submit a payment, you just need to edit the Payment Confirmation page that WP Simple Pay created.
How To Add A Stripe Donate Button With Stripe Payments
While Stripe Payments isn’t as popular as WP Simple Pay, its advantage is that you can accept custom donation amounts without needing to pay for a premium version.
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Once you’ve installed and activated it from WordPress.org, here’s how to use it…
Step 1: Add API Keys And Configure Basic Settings
To get started, go to Stripe Payments → Settings to add your API keys:
How to enter your API keys
Make sure that Live Mode is not checked for now.
You can also configure the currency for your donate button in this area, as well as the button text. You’ll likely want to change the Button Text field to something like “Donate”:
Configure currency and button text
Step 2: Add A New Product
Next, go to Stripe Payments → Add New Product. There are a lot of options, but most of them are unnecessary for a basic donation button.
The sections that you should configure are:
Short Description – this displays on the Stripe Payment window.
Price & Currency – leave the Price blank if you want visitors to be able to enter a custom amount.
Thank You Page URL– this lets you redirect users to a special thank you page after they donate.
Choose fixed or custom donation amount
Once you’ve finished configuring things, click Publish. Then, copy the shortcode from the bottom of the editor and add it to the post, page, or text widget where you want to display your Stripe donate button.
Step 3: Test Donation Button Then Go Live
Because you’re still in test mode, you can safely test out your donation button by entering Stripe’s dummy data:
Example of the custom donation amount form
Once you’ve verified that everything is working properly, you can enable real payments by going to Stripe Payments → Settings and turning on Live Mode:
How to disable test mode
No matter which plugin you choose, adding a Stripe donate button to your WordPress site is fairly simple and pain-free. Both plugins also allow you to create multiple buttons, so you can easily create different donate buttons for different uses.
If you’re not happy with Stripe after creating your own button, you can also consider accepting donations via PayPal or Bitcoin.
Have any other questions about adding a donate button to your WordPress site? Or need different functionality that we didn’t cover? Leave a comment and we’ll try to help out!
I once saw a friend of mine nearly destroy his business before it got out of its first year.
It wasn’t because of reckless spending, poor marketing, or any of the common reasons you might think of when it comes to businesses failing. In fact, I think he made a mistake that’s actually quite common across every industry.
Want to know what he did?
He created a race to the bottom. Or in other words, he started a price war. Before he ever began selling his product, he went and researched what competitors in his area were charging. Instead of trying to differentiate and charge more (his product is objectively better), he decided that the smart move was to undercut their prices in hopes of stealing customers.
But his big mistake was that while he was charging less, his costs were also higher than the competition due to the quality of materials and labor he needed. He started out with a minimal margin, and eventually realized he was bleeding money when production backed up even by an hour.
For the next year, he had to dig himself out of a hole that cost him half his clients and potentially years of profitability.
This story is a fairly drastic example of how a race to the bottom can affect a business, but I don’t think it’s that much of an anomaly. Industries all over the world are attempting to see how low they can swing their prices to undercut the competition, and it’s hurting everyone. Ever heard of MoviePass?
That’s why this trend needs to stop. I want to help you understand the ins and outs of how a race to the bottom will only hurt your business, even if all seems fine in the short term. And to get things started, I want to flesh out the idea of a race to the bottom actually looks like.
If by-the-book definitions are your thing, then you’ll enjoy this clarification on a “race to the bottom” from the Financial Times Lexicon:
The situation in which companies and countries try to compete with each other by cutting wages and living standards for workers, and the production of goods is moved to the place where the wages are lowest, and the workers have the fewest rights.
So on a basic level, it’s a situation where prices are being lowered without sacrificing overall profitability. But the ugly truth is that in situations like this, someone is always forced to foot the bill.
In many cases, instead of sacrificing quality, a corporation will opt to lower wages or working conditions to make the same amount of money with lower costs.
If you want a modern day example of this, look no further than the super-competitive e-commerce industry.
As of last year, the average price of a product from Amazon was around 11% less than its leading competitors. Prices ranged from a 1% difference to as much as 17%, which means someone is losing money somewhere.
On the outside, it looks like Amazon is winning. They’ve posted profits for 11 straight quarters and even took home $1.9 billion in the 2017 holiday season.
But in the past few months, some very serious worker abuses have come to light that displays where Amazon seems to be cutting corners. Workers report constant surveillance, being denied adequate bathroom breaks, and even panicked asthma attacks due to the pressure.
While Amazon has pushed back against these claims, it’s hard to see them as an ideal model of business when you start to connect the dots.
And these trends have even started affecting the prices set by major retailers in their physical stores. Just look at price differences from major retailers on in the microcosm of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday.
The industry is completely scattered, and even on the highest grossing days of the year, it’s hard to get a sense of where consumers are actually getting value out of these major retailers.
But the e-commerce and retail industries aren’t the only place where these price wars happen. It’s a problem that’s plagued online freelancing communities as well.
Sites like Fiverr at one point allowed businesses to get products that would have cost them hundreds for a mere five dollars. They’ve since changed their platform to allow freelancers to charge more, but even that was met with a mixed response.
Even the emerging mobile phone app industry has experienced a race to the bottom, and it’s only been around for a decade.
The App Store Race to the Bottom - YouTube
When the app store began, you paid for a high-quality app once, and it was yours forever. Now, you can download just about any app for free, and then be sold constant updates or shown ads for revenue instead.
But again, in these price wars someone has to suffer, and in this case, it’s the end user.
If that example doesn’t scare you, I’m not sure what will. In less than ten years, a brand new and innovative industry went from top to bottom with as little drama as possible. If you want to make money on an app these days, you either have to conform or innovate.
The key with all of these examples is that only the top companies, or “mega brands” are actually coming out ahead in these instances. They’re the only ones who can survive this approach, but it’s still a practice that smaller businesses experiment with.
When that happens, it hurts your bottom line and has some seriously negative effects in the long-term. I want to take a look at a few of them and show you just how bad a race to the bottom can be should you decide to entangle yourself in one.
Negative #1: It Kills Innovation
First and foremost, a race to the bottom will kill your hopes and dreams of becoming the next innovative company in your space.
When a company sets out to innovate, there are a ton of factors they need to consider. Back in 2011, Harvard Business Review turned some heads when they published a list of nine elements that they called “Critical Success Factors.” Here’s what made their list:
A good reason for innovation
A collective, lofty goal for the future
A strategy for innovation that everyone agrees on
Involvement from senior management
Teamwork-based decision-making that supports passionate leaders
A talented and creative team
An open-minded approach toward marketplace drivers of change
The willingness to take risks, even if absurd
Flexible execution parameters
Do you notice something missing in all of these? There’s zero mention of money, profitability, or anything financial. Some might scoff at that observation, but what seems to be indicated here is that making money is typically a non-factor in true innovation.
Sure, if you innovate effectively, you will most likely make money. Just look at Apple. They started out making computers, but then innovation happened, and they created the smartphone industry as we know it. Now, their net worth is over $900 billion.
And the evidence for innovation through positive environment simply adds up the longer you look. Here’s a great example that was shared regarding how credit unions innovate in the highly competitive banking industry.
Again, a very small portion of this procedure has to do with making money. Even then, it focuses on “ideas or improvements that can be implemented in the shortest timeframe, with the greatest return.” That doesn’t sound like slashing employee benefits to me.
What makes that graphic even more timely is the current banking price war that threatens to undercut even the efforts of innovators in credit unions. Once again, the race to the bottom is everywhere.
Study upon study has shown that environment is the key to innovation, and we’ve already taken a long hard look at the environments created by corporations currently conducting price wars. They suck.
And you can’t just create a price war and then mandate your culture be innovative either. You have to create a space where employees feel engaged and safe enough to want to innovate. Without leeway to make mistakes (and potentially lose money), your employees will lack the incentive they need to truly make changes.
So the clear winner for innovation strategy isn’t price. It’s culture. Experts that become colleagues and friends are a much greater resource for innovation.
But business is about profit, so we still have to deal with the issue of making money through innovation. While culture seems to be the clear winner, it’s also worth taking a look at how you can innovate on the go while making ends meet.
“Distributors have to work on innovating, creating value, and becoming the ‘go-to source’ for customers who are making the important buying decisions.”
What he’s saying here is that if companies want to innovate and avoid a price war, they have to focus on creating a product or service that’s too valuable to pass up. If your value is good enough, profit and innovation will come.
Just look at what Southwest Airlines has done to the airline industry if you want a good example of this principle in action. Their “bags fly free” mantra might look like a price war on the surface, but in all honesty, it’s just a clever deflection of their costs into other areas.
Create a product with value (Image Source: Southwest)
They offer no meals, in-flight shows, first-class seating, or any of the other creature comforts of airline flying. They get you from point A to point B, and that’s the product they sell. It’s literally a flying metal tube with free peanuts, soda, and bag carriage.
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By being innovative about the value they present, Southwest actually avoids a huge price war and has created an impressive presence in their industry. If the focus were solely on delivering a lower price, it’s hard to say if this approach would yield the same results.
Negative #2: It Means Your Brand is “Cheap”
One of the other negative effects that a price war has to do with your overall brand image. The image you create through your branding efforts is one of the ultimate signals of profitability in a company. It’s the way you know you’ve “made it.”
So when you ask your customers what word they associate with your brand, the last thing you want to hear is “cheap.”
But if a low price is the only way to convince your clients to work with you, then chances are that’s why they’re even talking to you. They’re around because you’re cheap.
It’s a fact of business that you will always have people who want something for cheap. Part of doing business is making deals and trying to get a better price, and everyone has their bottom line to consider. But you also have your bottom line as well.
Being cheap and being good don’t typically go hand in hand though. It doesn’t take much searching to find the popular Venn diagram that discusses the true nature of good, fast, and cheap.
Simply put, you can’t have everything you want in a race to the bottom. If you’re going to try to produce a cheap product, you’ll have to sacrifice somewhere. And when you start compromising like that, it won’t take long for your customers to notice the dip in quality.
And plenty of studies have sought to prove this fact. A study from 2014 that was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research seemed to show a causal link between price competition and overall service quality. That is, when prices were competitive in retail stores, the overall service of the store dipped from previous levels.
Another study showed that price inversely influences a consumer’s perception of value. If the price is too low, the product is cheap. If the price is too high, the product is a ripoff.
Simply driving your prices as low as possible only makes the overall perception of your brand suffer. So a low price should never be the main differentiator between you and your competition. All that does is create lasting image problems.
Instead, find a way to respond to your low-cost rivals that helps you push ahead in the long run. This concept isn’t a new one, either. Harvard Business Review published a helpful flowchart back in 2006 discussing whether you should engage in a price war. The overwhelming answer is “no.”
Instead, focus on differentiating yourself from your competition. It may not be easy, but no one ever claimed that competition is supposed to be easy.
For example, you can always look for ways to revitalize your marketing and approach a new customer base. If all else fails, Simon Sinek’s famous Golden Circle still rings true. Start with a good enough why, and success will follow.
You can also focus on finding a niche and then create a concrete margin. There are plenty of guides that can walk you through the process of finding a niche that will help your business avoid the”cheap” stigma.
Just remember that engaging in a race to the bottom will only make you appear cheap and eventually lose you business. Focusing on quality will not only help you succeed, but it will also improve your customer loyalty and give you a better position in the years to come.
My final point brings us full circle. Much like my friend whose business almost failed because of a race to the bottom, you have to come to grips with what can happen to your company’s future when prices go too low.
If you don’t make enough money, you can’t invest in the future, much less guarantee it. There are plenty of negative long-term effects that have been documented by entrepreneurs through the years.
Temporary price cuts can become permanent ones all too quickly. Reduced profit margins mean fewer options for growth. And when you try to raise your prices, there’s a good chance you’ll only drive customers away.
Just look at the current dilemma faced by Procter & Gamble. Due to price cuts and “skirmishes,” they could face budget cuts in the coming months. While the outlook is uncertain, they’re in jeopardy enough to be making headlines, and that’s never a good thing.
Another illuminating way to look at this problem is through the lens of what makes a business successful in the long run. Craig Ormiston recently shared his take on the Elon Musk Company Formula, and you’ll notice that being sustainable is one element that creates the ability to reach long-term goals.
Elon Musk Business Model (Image Source: WaitButWhy)
While this is a fairly basic model, it’s a great representation of how your business should approach the issue of setting price. Instead of cutting prices, you should focus on revenue and customer growth instead.
It should be common sense, but you have to be sustainable if you want to stay around for more than a few months. It doesn’t matter how much seed money you get if it’s going to be wasted. The only way to grow in any area is to create a sustainable business model that’s beneficial across the board.
People choose to freelance for a number of reasons—but most often, it is because they desire freedom:
The freedom to do what they love and what they’re good at
The freedom to work with the clients they choose
The freedom to work at their own pace and schedule
But, freelancing is not all rainbows and smiles. Freelancers have to take care of their own finances (including taxes), find and close their own projects (because their income depends on having enough work), and manage their time wisely (since they don’t have anyone else telling them what to do). Certainly, successful freelancing requires wearing many hats—sometimes that includes responsibilities related to hiring and management, too.
Luckily, as freelancers start to become an increasingly larger chunk of today’s workforce, the marketplace is responding in kind with high-powered tools that freelancers can use to be more effective.
Understanding the importance of information availability, regardless of which tool you’re currently using, most of our picks for the best tools for freelancers integrate with other popular tools for freelancers.
One of the best and worst things about being a freelancer is that every day is different. This is ideal if you’re the type of person who hates routine work—but not so great if you’re not self-disciplined enough (or don’t have a system) to keep track of deadlines and appointments.
With this in mind, having a calendar and meeting scheduling tool is a must alongside other best tools for freelancers that you’ll want to start using.
1. Google Calendar
Many people buy multiple Apple products specifically because of how easily they sync with each other. On a similar note, since most people have a Google account, Google Calendar is the gold standard, one of the best tools for freelancers in terms of calendar management—especially now that they’ve introduced new features geared towards business use cases.
Alerts you before your appointment (you can choose how many minutes before)
Allows you to input the location and other relevant details of your meeting
Allows for rich formatting and hyperlinking so that you can share notes and presentations before the meeting
Google Calendar events can be shared with other team members, so if you’re working as a virtual assistant for many clients, you can view and manage multiple calendars at once.
Hate wasting time finding meeting times that work for both parties? Calendly makes it easy to cut to the chase—just send recipients your unique scheduling link, which presents multiple meeting options based on your calendar availability.
Calendly allows you to schedule one-on-one or group meetings, integrating with Google Calendar, Outlook, Office 365, and iCloud, as well as apps like Salesforce, Zapier, Slack, and MailChimp. Calendly also automatically handles timezone detection so you can schedule meetings with clients from other countries with less confusion.
Cloud Storage Tools
Cloud storage has made it easier to store, access, share, and even collaborate on files in real-time: from anywhere in the world with an internet connection. Because of all these useful features, a cloud storage solution is necessary for freelancers who collaborate remotely with clients and contractors from all over the world.
Using cloud storage tools can also serve as a backup storage solution, especially since hard drives are prone to viruses and wear. By working in the cloud, you don’t have to worry about a sudden computer shutdown and lost work—your work is automatically saved as you type!
Check out our picks for the best tools for freelancers with cloud storage needs:
Dropbox is a cloud storage software that is free to use with a set storage limit.
You can share files with your friends and complete certain tasks to increase your monthly storage space: like inviting more users and installing Dropbox on multiple devices. You can also opt to purchase extra storage space, depending on your unique needs.
Besides working within Dropbox’s apps, you can install Dropbox on your computer. Doing this makes it so that you can automatically sync your online files for access on your computer.
4. Google Drive
Google Drive is becoming a popular alternative to Dropbox because almost everyone has a Google account, and Google Drive includes access to their suite of software tools, including Docs, Sheets, and Slides.
These programs allow you to work online and collaborate with others in real time, storing the files in your Drive. Like Dropbox, it comes free with a limited storage space (15GB), with the option to purchase more. You can also install Drive on your computer to sync your online files.
Redundant backups are always a good thing. If you’re a heavy user of Google products (such as Gmail), you can use a tool like Spinbackup to backup your Google products offsite.
It might sound strange to back up something that is already supposed to be redundant. But what if your Google account got hacked? Spinbackup protects Google users from account hijacking in cases where the original Google account has been compromised by cybercriminals. This way, you can rest at ease knowing you’ll never lose those important emails, photos, or documents. They even back up incrementally, meaning only changes are saved, which allows for a super cheap backup!
Whether you’re courting a new prospect or have already closed the sale, staying in touch with those interested in your business is critical for staying busy with projects.
Take a look at our picks for the best tools for freelancers communicating with clients and collaborators around the globe:
Boomerang is helpful for staying on top of email communications. It’s main claim to fame is its ability to schedule emails to be sent at the best possible times. You might get a lot done on weekends but don’t want customers to get used to you responding to them during your “free” time—so use Boomerang to draft pending responses, then schedule them to be sent during your regular working hours!
Boomerang for Gmail
Boomerang can also be used to move the sale forward, allowing you to see if your emails have been opened, read or clicked, and it also allows you to set up automated follow-ups. Boomerang offers free and paid options, depending on your needs.
If you’re looking for a more robust email productivity/sales tool, Cirrus Insight has a lot of the same features—and more!
Hunter.io helps you find specific email addresses when you want to pitch a prospect and would prefer to go straight to the decision maker. Simply search for the company website and it will find available email addresses.
For best results (and to help determine the actual decision maker), cross-reference with LinkedIn profile data.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a company not using Slack or a similar communication tool to connect people working together on long-term projects. It assists with organizing communications that require a simple response—where email might otherwise be too bulky and annoying. The major downside of acquiescing to a client asking you to get on their Slack? Notification overload!
If you’re not using it yet, it’s best to download and start using it now so you’ll be used to it when a client asks you to use it in the future (and inevitably, they will). Thanks to its popularity, Slack integrates with a lot of other best tools for freelancers shared on this list, like Asana, Google Drive, and Trello.
Contracting and Legal Paperwork
A rookie mistake many freelancers make is working without a contract or a set of terms and agreements. A written contract not only helps to brand you as a professional, but it also protects you by drawing a line between you and the client—and helps to ensure that you get paid fairly for your time and services.
Put simply, the contract states what each party has agreed to do (the scope of work), how much you’re getting paid, and when you’re getting paid. By setting it up this way, you have evidence in writing, which you can then use to seek reparations, should the client prove difficult.
Before getting overwhelmed by incorporating this legal dimension into your company, know that contracts don’t have to be fancy. There are plenty of free and affordable options that you can use to your advantage.
Take a look at our picks for the best tools for freelancers, as they relate to contracts and legalese:
While hiring a lawyer who understands your business and local laws is the gold standard when it comes to creating legal documents, just getting started with basic legal document templates is silver (or bronze, perhaps).
LegalZoom offers members a library of legal document templates for just $7.99/month. To add on attorney support, which can be a great help if you get stuck trying to fill out LegalZoom’s templates, it’s $31.25/month, total. LegalZoom can also help you with business formation (and act as your registered agent), if your business is still new.
If you’re on a budget, consider taking your completed contract templates to your local Small Business Advisory Board—they’ll have legal professionals on staff (and other business operations professionals) available to help advise you for free.
Bonsai is a contract creation and invoicing software tool that makes it easy for freelancers to create contracts, review (and revise) them with clients, and legally e-sign them when your clients are ready. Truly, fill-in-the-blank templates make the process a lot less confusing than having to create or edit the document without any context!
Bonsai also comes with an invoicing system that integrates with Stripe, Paypal, and Coinbase. Bonsai, one of the best tools for freelancers, allows freelancers to get paid using ACH—which many other similar tools don’t offer. This can result in lower payment processing fees for high-earning freelancers.
The premise of Bonsai is making everything simple for freelancers, which is why this tool is used by over 30,000 freelancers (up from 10,000 in 2016!). Bonsai founders Matt Brown and Matt Nish share that Bonsai users get paid two weeks faster than their average with other tools, and experience 3x less late payments than they had before using the tool.
Like Bonsai, their contracts tool is fairly intuitive and walks you through the entire process. You can also use AND CO for time tracking, expense tracking, invoicing and more. It works best when used as a complete system.
If you already have a contract template you’re proud of, consider HelloSign for your e-signing needs.
HelloSign offers a free plan for up to 3 document signatures per month (and an affordable unlimited plan if you have a larger need).
Let’s face it, if you’re on the buyer’s/receiver’s end of a transaction, you don’t really read the terms and agreements part. But it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re a seller or service provider—like if you operate an ecommerce business. You need to create and publish these terms before you offer a product or service, to legally protect you, should people decide to come after you.
Termsfeed helps by generating legal documentation, such as privacy policies, terms and conditions, terms of service, return policies, and more.
Many freelancers who provide marketing services get dragged into graphic design—even if they make it clear that it isn’t really their forte! Luckily, there are plenty of free and affordable graphic design tools for freelancers that you can use to produce visual content that clients will love.
Check out our list of the best tools for freelancers who do design for their clients:
Made famous due to social media influencer Guy Kawasaki’s stake in the company, Canva has grown to become synonymous with the idea of creating beautiful graphics without a background in graphic design.
Created with website designers in mind, InVision is one of the best and most powerful design prototyping tools around. Although you can’t create designs within InVision itself, the app allows you to upload your static designs and modify them by adding animations, gestures, and transitions—creating fully interactive prototypes.
A few useful InVision features:
Syncs with Photoshop or Sketch documents
Integrates with other tools from this list of the best tools for freelancers, like Trello, Slack, and Basecamp
Version control and comments (for easy workflow communication)
Freehand, where teams can collaborate by sketching and presenting designs for feedback—even while they aren’t physically in the same place.
If you’re a freelance designer or freelance..
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