The best tools from around the web
By Michael Wong
I have been in the internet business since 1997 and have earned a six-figure income for many years. In this article, I share with you 20 software products and services I use to make a six-figure income online annually.
I have used PCs running Microsoft Windows since 1997. However, in 2007 I switched to an Apple iMac and I have never looked back since. The Mac operating system (OS) is much more user-friendly and crashes far less often than Windows.
Because I use an Apple Mac OS, the majority of the software programs mentioned in this article are for the Mac OS. Where possible, I have included the Microsoft Windows equivalent.
Out of the 20 products and services, 12 are free. You will see that you don’t have to spend a great deal of money to set up and run a profitable business online. I haven’t listed hardware equipment such as a computer, fax/printer, office desk, and chair, etc. The cost of those depends on your budget and taste.
1. Email: Google Gmail (Free)
I had been using the Eudora email software for 8 years but switched over to Google Gmail when I decided I wanted to a better spam filter and untie myself from a desktop email software.
Gmail’s user interface is much easier to use than Eudora’s. The best feature is the spam filter. I used to struggle with spam on Eudora, but ever since I switched to Gmail, spam is no longer an issue.
2. Email Back-Up: Apple Mail (Free) / Outlook Express (Free)
In December 2006, Gmail users reported mass email deletions. Rumors were that Gmail was hacked using a hole exploit in Firefox 2 (the issues have since been resolved). More recently, Google accidentally deleted entire email accounts.
Google’s official policy is that once emails are deleted, they are gone forever. So if you value your emails, I recommend you back up your Gmail emails by downloading them onto your computer.
I back up emails using Apple Mail that comes with my Apple iMac. Windows users can use Outlook or Outlook Express. Google offers instructions on how to back up your email using your computer’s email software.
3. Instant Messenging (Free), Long Distance Voice/Video Chat (Free), Long Distance VOIP Phone Calls: Skype (2.6c+/minute)
I use Skype Chat to instant message with friends and freelancers. Skype Chat is free and runs on Microsoft Windows/Mac OS X/Linux, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Android, and Symbian.
I use Skype to chat for free with freelancers and friends who live overseas. Skype voice chat requires both parties to have Skype installed on their respective computers. And if both parties have a webcam, they can see each other as they chat.
I use Skype to make cheap international VOIP calls if the person I want to talk to doesn’t have Skype installed or isn’t online. I can call landlines and mobiles from 2.6 cents per minute.
Skype also offers four unlimited landline call plans:
- Unlimited calls to a single country from $1.42 per month;
- Unlimited Europe: make unlimited calls to landlines in 20 European countries for $10.34/month;
- Unlimited World: make unlimited calls in 40 countries worldwide for $16.09/month; and
- Unlimited World Extra: make unlimited calls to 40 countries worldwide plus $17.24 of Skype credit for €17.24/month.
You can also get a Skype Online Number for friends, family, and business colleagues who don’t use Skype. Anyone can dial your online number from any phone or mobile and you make the call on Skype. Skype offers online numbers in 18 countries. When people call your Skype online number, they only pay the local rate – there is no charge to receive calls.
If you have never tried Skype, I recommend that you give it a go. You will be pleasantly surprised by the sound quality. Skype gives you the feeling that the person on the other end is in the same room as you.
I have even had a 3-way chat with friends in Hong Kong and England, while I was in Australia. The sound quality was excellent when the video was switched off. I felt like they were in the same room as me. The video picture quality is very good when the window is small. But as you expand the window, the quality does deteriorate.
4. Server Uptime Monitor: Uptime (Free)
Web hosts typically offer 99.9% server uptime. But how can you be sure that your server is working 99.9% of the time? And what about the other 0.1% of the time, which adds up to 8.76 hours of downtime a year?
This is why I use Uptime by OpenACS to monitor my servers which periodically request a page from my server and emails me if the site is unreachable. If my server is unreachable, Uptime will continue checking my site until it becomes reachable again, at which point it will email me to let me know my server is back up again.
5. Outsourcing: oDesk ($2.22+/hour)
I use oDesk to outsource web programming and graphic design work. I like oDesk because it logs hours and provides screenshots to confirm that contractors are indeed working when they say they are. Some contractors are offering their services for as little as $2.22 per hour, although you would expect to pay a lot more for top-quality contractors.
But you can save a lot of money. For example, last year I outsourced a website project to a team of really good Ruby Developers based in India. They charged $40 per hour. If I had hired Ruby developers in the West, I would have had to pay between $100 and $150 per hour.
6. Typing Shortcuts: TextExpander ($29.95) / Perfect Keyboard ($19.95)
I respond to a lot of emails, and I hand type HTML code. The problem is that I am not trained in touch typing, so I am relatively slow. Even if you are, there will be times when you may want to use the same text, sentence, or email, without having to retype the whole thing.
When I had a Windows PC, I used Perfect Keyboard ($19.95) to help me retype commonly used email responses and HTML code with just a few keystrokes. I also used it to automatically fix common typos, such as ‘teh’ and ‘can;t’.
When I switched over to Apple iMac, Perfect Keyboard wasn’t available on the Mac, so I used TextExpander, which costs $34.95.
7. Google AdWords Keyword Tool: JUMBOKeyword.com (Free)
Jumbo Keyword is a web tool I produced. But I genuinely do use it all the time so I think it’s fair that I include it in this list.
Jumbo Keyword is a free Google AdWords keyword tool offering 70+ 1-click Google AdWords keyword editing functions. I use it to edit hundreds, sometimes thousands of AdWords keywords, as well as convert cleaned keywords into the various AdWords keyword matching options with just a click of the mouse. There are also lots of additional features including an advanced find and replace function to help you edit keywords and text quickly and easily.
8. FTP: FileZilla (Free)
I use FileZilla FTP software for uploading and downloading website files to and from my server. FileZilla is open source, hence free, and runs on Microsoft Windows/Mac OS X, and Linux.
9. Screen Capture: Skitch (Free)
The Apple Mac OS X has screen capture functions, but I prefer to use it Skitchbecause it also offers functions to edit the screen capture, and add arrows and text without having to open a graphics editing program. Skitch is free and runs on Mac OS X.
10. Image Editor: Picnik (Free) + Picturesque ($29.95)
Not having much artistic ability, I do as little image editing as I have to. On occasions when I have to crop and resize thumbnail images, I use Picnik, a free online photo editing web tool. I also use Picturesque to add 3D effects, reflections, corner curves, shadows, glows, and strokes to an image. Picturesque costs $29.95 and runs on Mac OS X.
11. Google AdWords: AdWords Editor (Free)
AdWords Editor is Google’s free software application for managing AdWords campaigns. I can download all my accounts, mass update campaigns, and re-upload the changes to AdWords.
I still prefer to set up campaigns via the AdWords website. But I use AdWords Editor when I want to make bulk changes (such as updating bids or adding keywords), and also to copy or move a large number of items between ad groups and campaigns. Google AdWords Editor is free and runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
12. Phone/Fax Number: JConnect ($15/month)
I have been able to operate a US-based company whilst living around the world with the help of a JConnect phone and fax number.
When I sold my internet website to a Softbank start-up back in 2000, I moved to Los Angeles from England to become their editor-in-chief. I set up a Californian registered company to charge for my services.
After the start-up went out of business during the dot-com bust, I moved to Hong Kong. Before I left I set up a mail forwarding address and a JConnect phone and fax number with a local area code, so the number looked just like a local phone number. Whenever someone left a voicemail or sent me a fax, JConnect emailed me a copy of the voicemail/fax without charge.
This has enabled me to operate a business out of California, even though I wasn’t based in the United States. The phone and fax number cost $15 per month and you may choose from over 2000 cities around the world.
13. Link Checker: Xenu’s Link Sleuth (Free)
I use Xenu’s Link Sleuth to check web pages for broken links and images. Link Sleuth is free and runs on Microsoft Windows.
14. Local Data Back-Up: Time Machine (Free) + 1 TB Time Capsule ($299)
I use the Apple iMac’s Time Machine and a 1 Terabyte Time Capsule external hard drive to make local backups. I learned my lesson after my Dell computer hard drive died on me a couple of years ago. Not even a data recovery specialist could recover any data from the dead drive.
15. Online Backup Service: Mozy ($4.95/month) / Carbonite ($54.95/year)
I back up my data onto an external hard drive. But I also have an insurance policy by backing up my data off-site via the internet.
I use Mozy, which backs up my data regularly automatically in the background. After the initial backup, Mozy only backs up files that have been added or changed. So far, I have over 150 GB of data backed up on Mozy.
Mozy used to offer unlimited backups for just $4.95 per month. But it recently removed its unlimited plan. MozyHome (for personal use) which runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X now costs $5.99/month for 50 Gigabytes (GB) and $9.99/month for 125 GB. You may an additional 20 GB of space for $2 per month, and additional computers for $2 per month, per computer.
MozyPro is for businesses and servers. Desktop licenses cost $3.95 per month + $0.50/GB per month, and server licenses cost $6.95 per month + $0.50/GB per month.
I also use Carbonite which does offer unlimited backup for $54.95 per year and runs on Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
16. Web Hosting: Linode ($49.95/month)
I have used several web hosts in my 12 years of running internet businesses. Each has been better than the last. I switched to Linode recently because my tech guru recommended it.
I am no techie but my techie tells me Linode offers powerful Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting services similar to that of dedicated web hosting, with excellent support, but without the high cost.
Before moving my websites to Linode, I was paying $256 per month for a dedicated server. My Linode VPS costs $49.95 which includes automatic backup.
Here are four Firefox add-ons that I currently use:
17. 1Password ($9.99+) / Roboform ($19.95)
I use 1Password to help me remember my many login usernames and passwords. Other features include password generation and sharing data across web browsers. 1Password costs $9.99 and runs on Microsoft Windows/Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, Android, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Safari.
Before I switched over to an Apple iMac, I had a Microsoft Windows PC and used Roboform, which costs $19.95/year and runs on Microsoft Windows/Mac OS X, iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, USD, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Chrome, and Opera.
18. Firesizer (Free)
Firesizer adds a menu to quickly resize the entire window of my web browser to commonly used sizes, such as 1024×768 pixels, or a custom size. This is useful for testing website designs.
19. Tab Mix Plus (Free)
Tab Mix Plus enhances the Firefox tabs with all manner of features. You can add duplicate tabs, control tab focus, protect/lock tabs, undo closed tabs and windows, add tab options to the Tab Context Menu, and much more.
20. TableTools (Free)
TableTools adds options to copy, sort, or filter HTML tables you find on a web page. I use it all the time to copy a table and retain the table structure when I paste it into a spreadsheet.
So there you have my 20 software products and services I use to make a six-figure income online. I hope you found some of the tools useful.
About the author: Michael Wong is the editor of Mikes-Marketing-Tools.com and author of MichaelWongAcademy.org, which shows people how to make money online. Mike entered the internet industry in 1998. He sold a website to a SoftBank-funded start-up in 2000. He wrote one of the earliest SEO books in 2002. And he’s generated millions in online revenue since then.