54 Tools to Help You Build Your Platform and Expand Your Influence

I often get asked what tools I use to build and grow a platform. Below are a few of the many resources I find helpful for authors, speakers, thought leaders, and anyone else trying to expand their influence online and off.

Disclaimer: While many of the tools listed are free, some are paid resources using affiliate links. If you purchase through them, I might earn a commission (thank you) at no additional cost to you. Please note that these are resources, tools, etc., that I’ve either used in the past, or continue to use now; or come from helpful companies or individuals that I know and trust… That’s why I’m listing them here for you!

IF YOU ARE NEW HERE, BE SURE TO ALSO CHECK OUT SOME HELPFUL POSTS:
7 Helpful Marketing Tips for Authors (and Those with Something to Say or Sell)
4 Step Guide to Writing / Publishing Your Book
Why Most Authors Should Not Have Social Media Accounts for Their Books
14 Platform Building Tips for Authors

If you have any tools you’d suggest, leave a comment below and let me know.

toolboxPLATFORM BUILDING TOOLBOX

 

Web Hosting & Support

Bluehost: Need help hosting a blog or website? For as low as $3.95, you can get set up on Bluehost. Bluehost is one of the leading web hosts on the Internet, and they offer 24/7 customer service. They also help you register a domain and install WordPress, and you can get set up in minutes.

HostGator: Another great resource for hosting website and domains.

WordPress Service Squad: If you have a WordPress site / blog and need help in any way, from small fixes to bigger needs… WP Service Squad is a great trustworthy solution.

 

Courses & Communities

Platform University: Michael Hyatt’s Platform University is by far one of the best communities for platform builders to join!

 

Blogging

WordPress: This is the free blogging software that we use and recommend. It’s the best. Best of all, it’s FREE! That link will take you to the Bluehost page where you can get a self-hosted blog set up.

Principle Design: If you need help getting your WordPress site off the group or customized to look awesome, Principle Design can help.

Compfight: This is the resource I use every day to illustrate my blog posts with beautiful photos that don’t cost me a dime.

How to Launch a Self-Hosted WordPress Blog in 20 Minutes or Less: A great guide from Michael Hyatt.

The Complete Step-by-Step Guide to Launching Your Own Blog: This free guide will teach you everything you need to know to launch a blog.

 

Membership Sites & Generating Passive Income

Wishlist Member: One of the best and easiest membership site solutions out there. Integrates with WordPress easy.

SmartPassiveIncome.com: Love Pat Flynn’s knowledge and how he shares it on his site. If you don’t subscribe to his site and podcast yet, you should. Tons of ideas to help you monetize.

Get Paid Daily: My friend Casey Graham is behind this one. Casey is fastly become the go-to guy in this area. He has created millions in recurring revenue via membership sites and will show you how as well.

 

Social Media

I’ll be eventually providing additional support and training for authors / platform builders in this area but in the interim, check out the resources of Amy Porterfield and Jon Loomer.

As far as social media management goes, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are what I use.

 

Writing

You Are a Writer (So Start Acting Like One): This best-selling eBook by Jeff Goins offers practical tips and inspiration for how you can start living the dream and become a real writer by believing you already one.

Bird by Bird: Anne Lamott has a wonderfully unique and frank way of describing life, faith, and writing. This book is worth it if for no other reason than it helps you understand that every first draft is terrible. The job of a writer is to keep going.

The War of Art: Quite simply, this book is a must-read for any aspiring writer.

On Writing Well: This writing classic is a must-read for any aspiring author who wants to write nonfiction.

On Writing: This more contemporary approach to writing by Stephen King is essential for anyone who wants to be a novelist or writer of fiction.

 

Email Marketing & List Building

Mailchimp: Super easy to use and free for the first 2000 subscribers. Ideal for writers and artists who just want to share their art.

Aweber: Similar to Mailchimp. Easy to use.

Infusionsoft: The most robust solution there is. It’s like the Ferrari of email, shopping cart, and customer management all into one. This is a solution usually best for the more advanced user.

LeadPages: One of the best solutions out there to help you capture leads (email addresses). You can easily create landing pages, webinar registration pages, etc that work seamlessly online and can integrate with Facebook.

Optin Monster: A Great solution to help you add effective email optin boxes to your website.

 

Online Shopping Carts & Product Distribution Systems

E-Junkie: Easy-to-use online shopping cart. Great for selling eBooks and other simple products. Super cheap and has an easy-to-use affiliate program to help sell other people’s stuff.

Paypal: Basically an online bank account that makes it easy for you to receive payments.

MoonClerk: You’re just 5 minutes away from accepting recurring payments and one-time payments online. Explore for Free. No credit card required.

Gumroad: Another great, simple online cart to sell digital products.

1ShoppingCart: A fairly simple cart to use for e-products and physical products.

 

Webinars & Teleseminars

GoToWebinar: What most of the pros use for hosting webinars.

Instant Teleseminar: Webinars are effective but so are teleseminars. I love them. Easy to implement, low tech (so less support issues) and can be done fast! Instant Teleseminar is what I use.

LeadPages: You can easily create landing pages, webinar registration pages, etc that work seamlessly online and can integrate with Facebook.

 

Marketing

Permission Marketing: Seth Godin is renowned for turning traditional business thinking on its head. In his classic, Permission Marketing, he puts the customers, not the marketers, in control of how products are advertised. It’s a classic.

Platform: Michael Hyatt tells you exactly how to build a powerful platform that will get you heard in today’s noisy world.

Internet Marketing for Smart People: This free course from Copyblogger is all you need to learn how to start marketing your stuff online.

 

Publishing

Get Published: A 21-part audio course on becoming an author. This program from my friend Michael Hyatt is one of the most thorough guides to publishing I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend it!

The Unconventional Guide to How to Publish Your Book: In this guide, Chris Guillebeau shows you how to get a book, self-publish your work, or do both. For anyone who’s ever dreamed the dream of publishing a book, this is a great resource.

Writing a Winning Book Proposal: Publishing veteran Michael Hyatt walks you through the process of crafting a great proposal for your book (whether it’s a novel or the next nonfiction best seller).

 

Virtual Assistants & Outsourcing

Virtual Freedom: The complete guide on how you can use virtual assistants to help you grow and thrive!

Virtual Staff Finder – A great virtual assistant match-making company (run by Chris Ducker) that has helped thousands of entrepreneurs and businesses bring calm to the outsourcing chaos, by finding them the best Filipino VA’s in the country. If you’re looking for a part-time, or full-time virtual assistant solution, this is where you need to go.

Fiverr, Elance and Odesk – Never outsourced tasks before? Start on one of these sites and then look for a more permanent solution, such as the aforementioned Virtual Staff Finder, when you’re ready to take it to the next level.

 

Design

I suggest finding a freelance designer who you can use on a regular basis to help you with graphics, print design, web, etc. Helps to create consistency with your brand. You can find freelancers on Elance or by asking people you know who they use. Beyond that, you can also use services like below for needs as well.

99Designs – Marketplace for graphic design, including logo design, web design and other design contests.

Crowd Spring: An alternative to 99Designs

 

Online Video Software & Services

Splasheo – Want a cool video intro, outro or lower-third animation for your video? This is the service to get your videos look ‘pro’ for very little investment.

Screenflow – Editing software you can use to get your videos online. It’s only available on the Mac, but is so simple to use.

Camtasia: Gives you the tools you need to record on-screen activity, edit and enhance your content, and share in high-quality to viewers anywhere. (PC)

 

Podcasting

Podcast Answer Man: Check out the resources by Cliff Ravenscraft. He’s one of the go-to guys for podcasting expertise.

Blue Nessie Mic: If you aren’t ready to go super-pro yet, I suggest starting with the Blue Nessie microphone. It’s what I use and I love it. Simple and easy to use + low cost.

 

Productivity

Dropbox – The quickest, easiest and most reliable way to share documents (written, photos, audio and video files) with your virtual assistants and co-online buddies and partners. I seriously use this thing almost hourly during my work day!

Evernote – Great note collector that can help you become super productive. Available on the web, iPad, iPhone and everywhere else where you need to make a note, clip something to read later and then move on. I love this thing. Read how Michael Hyatt uses Evernote to stay super productive.

10 Reasons Why Email Marketing Still Trumps Everything Else (Yes, Even Social Media)

Back when social media started getting really hot there were a lot of people who were quick to predict the demise of email marketing. It was like that famous line from Henny Penny (aka Chicken Little), “The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!” but instead they were saying “Email is dead! Email is dead!”

They were wrong.

Email marketing is just as much alive today as it ever has been. Sure, like all marketing, there are hurdles to overcome and right vs wrong ways to do it but I believe email marketing trumps every form of online marketing in terms of generating the type of response, action and engagement that really matters.

By the way, I’ve been involved in marketing (online and offline) and platform building for over 15 years. I’ve worked with all types of clients, some who had almost no budget and others where I managed multi-million dollar budgets. I’ve built targeted email lists of hundreds of thousands of subscribers, I’ve helped create and grow dozens of successful brands, I’ve taken social media platforms from zero to almost a half-million followers, and much more. The point is this, the advice I’m giving here is not random. What I’m sharing is based on being on the front lines, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

This post isn’t to bash social media either. Quite the contrary. I love social media but only as a PART of an integrated marketing mix, not an end-all solution that many seem to think or have been misled to believe that it is. Same goes for email marketing actually… or running ads… or direct mail… or any other component of a marketing mix. Rarely is one solution THE solution. In most cases you utilize different solutions to reach different people in different ways. It’s all part of a collective effort that, to be effective, you must leverage to generate the best results for your particular goals.

So how does email still trump everything else?

I’m glad you asked. Here are 10 reasons why:

1. You Own the List – One of the greatest assets you can have is your list (list of customers, prospects, clients, members, etc). When you own this list you have direct access to communicate with them whenever you want. The list is yours and having it helps you build and grow residually and exponentially. If you choose to move from one email list provider (Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Aweber, etc.) to another, you can take your list with you anywhere. Not the same for 3rd party platforms like Facebook and Twitter, at least not easily. If Facebook or Twitter died tomorrow or

Ways to Kick-start 2013 with Possibility and Perspective

Since 2013 is upon us, now is a great time to kickstart the new year with a dose of possibility and perspective… two essential ingredients for making this year better than the last!

Below are a few posts I have recently read or reread that I believe will inspire you and help reinforce the mindset you need to succeed.

Manifesto for Living a Life Worth Living
This short but powerful manifesto by Mark Batterson is one that I have posted above my desk. I read it almost daily as as reminder to live a life that matters. It’s a great motivator to overcome the fear and obstacles that might stand in the way. This link includes a poster of the manifesto that you can print and post.

Stop Waiting for Perfection
Perfection is a myth. If you are holding out for things to be perfect, you’ll never accomplish what could be.

20 Tips for a Positive New year
This is a post by best-selling author Jon Gordon. A great post with 20 simple ideas that will have a positive impact on your year.

14 Ways to Expand Your Influence
If you have any desire to make a positive impact on the world, you must understand how to expand your influence. This post offers 14 quick tips to not only help your influence expand but to make it count.

Do You Have a Personal Platform Plan for 2013?
This is a post by best-selling author Michael Hyatt. Going along with the influence link, if you are serious about making an impact and have something to say (or sell), you need a platform. This post will help you as a guide on how to start.

The Culprits of Quitting
An insightful short post by Ben Arment. “Today, I would like you to write down your list of excuses… and then burn it.”

Why You Shouldn’t Bother with Writing Resolutions this New Year
A post by Jeff Goins. Resolutions don’t work unless you do. This post will give you the perspective you need to make your goals a reality. “Don’t waste your time with writing resolutions this New Year. Instead, focus on something else…”

Productivity Tweaks for 2013
This is a post by Ray Edwards. It includes several practical tips for enhanced productivity but more importantly, it illustrates the importance of being intentional with your time and resources.

3 Things Zig Ziglar Told Me at Lunch
A post by Jon Acuff. These lessons shared by the legendary Zig Ziglar are important for us all.

If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not, you’ll find an excuse.
I’ll just leave you with that…

Question: What tips do you have to kickstart the new year? What posts / articles are you reading that are helpful? Leave a comment below and share.

5 Ways to Increase Your Productivity with a Productivity Tune-up

Learning how to maximize our productivity is an essential component of achieving better results. Productivity helps us work smarter, become more efficient and better enables us to produce our desired outcomes (whatever those outcomes may be).

Productivity isn’t only about cranking out more widgets or more work though… It’s also about using tools and resources to make wiser use of your time so that you can spend more of it (your time) on the things that matter most to you.

Unless you are some lazy couch potato with no drive, ambition or desire to control your time (instead of it controlling you) then mastering productivity is a must.

But let’s be honest… even those of us who are pretty productive fall into slumps. It’s easy to get a tad overwhelmed or start to spin wheels and let inefficiencies creep back in. We’re like cars that drift out of alignment and from time to time we need a Productivity Tune-up.

So, here are a few simple ways to Increase Your Productivity or simply get your productivity back on track:

1. Recognize The Problem – If you are in a slump or feel that you aren’t being as productive as you could, you need to first recognize it so that you can deal with it. Are you weighed down by being in reactive mode (responding to others) instead of creation mode (getting things done)? Is meeting overload zapping your ability to execute? Are you spending too much time on idol things… things that are keeping you busy but not yielding results? Are you letting yourself get easily distracted on random tasks instead of keeping your head down and completing what is of highest importance first? Make a list of the things you feel are draining you. Be honest, self-awareness is a big part of recognizing the problem since quite often we can tend to create our own blocks.

2. Track Your Time – Keep track of your time throughout the day. Use a notepad or something electronic like Toggl or any number of other time tracking tools to see where your time is being spent. Do this for a week and then analyze the results. You might be surprised where your time really goes. Once you know, then you can see where you might be able to adjust or purge what is a waste.

3. Map Out Your Goal – In order to create direction, first you need to know where you want to go. What is it that you would like to be more productive with? Do you want to execute better at work? Do you wish you had more time to complete certain projects? Do you want to have more free time to spend at home? Is there a special project or an idea you have wanted to pursue but THINK you don’t have the time? What is your goal? Write it down.

4. Be Willing – Honestly, productivity often boils down to hard work. It’s one thing to WANT it and something entirely different to do what it takes to GET it. If you want to write a book and need to be more productive with your time… perhaps one way is to not watch TV for a period of time and instead spend that time writing. That’s just one example…

5. Use the Tools – Tools are last on the list. Why? Because the tools only work if you have the right mindset / foundation to use them. If someone hands me a hammer but I don’t know what I want to do with it then the hammer is useless. But, when I know… then it’s an indispensable tool to help me get things done and increase my productivity.

The tools are limitless depending on your need. If you are simply feeling overwhelmed, perhaps you need some help to lighten your load. If you’re drowning in email… there are tools and systems for that. If you are trying to be better organized electronically… there are tools for that too. Regardless of your need, Google can find you a solution and it’s just a search away.

Productivity is about results.

The real difference is in the doing.

Five Myths of Being Your Own Boss (And How You Can Overcome Them)

Millions of people wake up every day dreaming about becoming their own boss. Some are entrepreneurs who have a vision, others are just fed up with working for “the man” and feel that there must be a better way.

Perhaps you are one of those dreamers or know someone who is.

The “idea” of becoming your own boss is attractive but I must warn you, there are a lot of myths to it as well.

I’ve run my own business, as my primary income, for over 10 years now but before that I had numerous side businesses from the time I was age 13. Collectively these experiences have taught me a lot about the “be your own boss” mindset and the realities of how to make it a prosperous endeavor instead of a rude awakening.

So let’s dive in…

Here are 5 Myths of Being Your Own Boss (And How You Can Overcome Them):

1. I’LL MAKE MORE MONEY – This CAN be true but don’t bank on it from the beginning. When you start, you’ll likely have good months and bad months, up and downs, and cash might be tight. Plan on a lean ride and make sure you are prepared to invest as much as you can to prime the pump. Don’t ever get into a false sense of security when things are going well. Always have some money set aside for the unexpected and for when things don’t go quite like you had planned. The financial risk and stress of being your boss can be crippling if you don’t expect it but it can also be the most lucrative choice you’ve ever made. Just be prepared for the bad but shoot for the good!

2. I’LL HAVE MORE FREE TIME – Yes and no. I work much more than a 40 per week employee would but I’m an owner and that’s what owners do (and so will you if you are a boss). The difference when you are your own boss is that you can schedule your work to fit your needs. You have flex time. Some days I cut out of the office at 3pm to go jump on the trampoline with my kids but that’s okay because I can work at 10pm at night after they’ve gone to bed (if I want to). The best way to tackle this is to manage your time well and that is a learned skill. Cut out distractions, maximize efficiency and leverage every opportunity that you can. Your time is your most valuable asset (for most of us) and it can make or break you. Use it wisely and be intentional with it.

3. I WON’T HAVE TO ANSWER TO OTHERS – A big myth is that when you become your own boss you don’t have to answer to others like you did when you were employed and accountable to a manager. Wrong. As your own boss you are still accountable to your clients and you will be answering to them, just in a different sort of way. Don’t jump into becoming your own boss if you are simply looking to avoid accountability. If you do, you will fail. Understand that you are always answering to others… when you are the boss they are just called clients or customers.

4. I’LL HAVE MORE CONTROL – This is true but there is a flip side of more control and that is more responsibility. If you are the boss, you are responsible and that means not only making sure that you are providing a service to your clients or producing the product but also taking care of all the financial aspects and administrative needs of the business. Sure, you can hire others to do many of the specific tasks but you’re still ultimately responsible. Make sure you are setting up systems to help you automate where you can so that you don’t get blind sided by a responsibility you forgot.

5. IT’S EASY – Well, as you have already seen from points 1 through 4 above… it’s not. If it were easy then everyone else would do it. The point here isn’t whether or not it’s easy though, the point is for you to understand that nothing worthwhile is easy so if you want to be your own boss and succeed… be ready to work and work hard. But as the old saying goes… hard work pays.

If you are pondering being your own boss, these myths are meant to discourage you. They are meant to help you by framing the realities you will face. If you step into it with the right perspective and understanding then you have a much better chance of succeeding.

Shut Down the Incoming and Focus on the Outgoing

There’s a problem that plagues a lot of us these days. It’s the barrage of the incoming.

It’s a full email inbox, inbound phone calls and voice mail, text messages, Twitter and Facebook updates, a co-worker stopping by our desk to “chat,” or any number of the incoming distractions that compete for our time each day.

The incoming isn’t necessarily the greater issue though. After all, it’s part of doing business or working in the times that we live. If you are good at what you do then more incoming will result (because everyone starts to want something from you).

The problem exists when we let the incoming control our time. When we start to be reactive to all the stimuli, wants and desires of others instead of being focused and proactive with what it is that we need to do and get done.

Your email, phone, cell phone, social media outlets, etc all exist for your benefit… for your convenience. Yes, they are communication tools for others as well and collectively they make us more connected and able to interact in amazing ways but they are for YOUR convenience, not just that of everyone else.

If you have a project to get done, block off some time, focus in and hunker down. Turn off your email, shut down your office phone (or turn off the ringer), silence your cell and don’t have Facebook or Twitter open. If you are in an office environment, shut your door, post a note on the outside of your cubicle that says “Do Not Disturb – I’m Making Work Happen”, or ask your boss if you can go offsite to do the work without the inbound distractions.

I wish I could personally respond to every email and every phone call within minutes of it coming in but if I did I’d be in reactive mode all day long and would never get anything that I need to get accomplished done. If you are always in reactive mode, neither will you.

So today, evaluate your work environment. Are you being sidetracked by the inbound? Are the spontaneous requests of others hijacking your time so that you can’t get what needs to get done, actually done? Assess the problem and then determine how you can shut down the incoming and focus on the outgoing.