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Tools I’m Using 🛠️

My honest pros, cons, and recommendations
(This page is a work in progress.)

Let me be upfront, some of the links on this page are affiliate links and I’ll be paid a commission if you buy thru them. (You won’t pay anything extra tho.)

That said, I use (most) of these products regularly and included my pros, cons, and recommendations to help you decide if they’re the right option for you. If you have any questions about these tools, feel free to email me at: michael@ecksteinadvisory.com or DM me on LinkedIn.

And, you don’t haveee to buy thru my link (Although, I would definitely appreciate it 🙏 I could always use some more beer money 😉)

General

Email Marketing: Convertkit

I use Convertkit to manage my weekly newsletter. It’s a very low-tech, text-forward newsletter. I send out one full-list (aka, no fancy segmentation) email blast each Saturday. And, a very simple intro sequence runs for new subscribers. Convertkit has been wonderful.

What I like:

  • dead simple – Convertkit is significantly simpler than any other email marketing software I’ve tested. The forms are easy to set up. And, you don’t have to click thru a million steps to send out a broadcast (aka an email). I just duplicate my last email, type up a new email, and hit send.
  • robust free tier – You can run a <1,000 subscriber newsletter for free (no automation on the free plan tho which is a bummer)
  • subscription form builder – You’d think every email marketing software would include a form builder, but they don’t. Thankfully, Convertkit does.
  • landing page builder – I personally don’t use it because I have subscription forms embedded into my website. But, if you just wanted a simple landing page without the hassle of building a website, their page builder would be super useful.

What I don’t like:

  • credit card upcharge – The ‘Products’ feature charges you a 3.5% credit card fee and runs on Stripe which only charges 2.9% fees. It’s not a huge difference if you’re getting started, but it rubs me the wrong way. (Convertkit might have to pay an extra .5% Stripe Billing fee. But, regardless, that leaves them at 3.4%, not including a volume discount.)
  • sucks on mobile – There’s no app and it constantly logs you out on mobile. It’s almost impossible to use on mobile, other than for checking stats.
  • Grammarly doesn’t work – For whatever reason, Grammarly doesn’t work in their email editor. It bugs me, but my spelling and grammar is pretty decent, so I type up my email in Convertkit, quickly copy/paste it somewhere else to check for errors with Grammarly, then hit send.

Setup a free Convertkit account – 💸 This is an affiliate link 💸

Starting your own newsletter? Here are my favorite articles and resources (work in progress).

Email Marketing Runner-up: Drip

Drip is ever-so-slightly cheaper than Convertkit and is more robust. I considered Drip for a few reasons:

  • cheaper – I’m an accountant, what more can I say 🤷‍♂️
  • Facebook ads integration – Drip’s Facebook ad integration is included in their base plan. Convertkit’s is included in their most expensive plan.
  • Page tracking – Drip can track which pages your newsletter subscribers use and include it in their subscriber profile. It can also send emails based on which pages they’ve viewed.

Why I didn’t use it:

  • more complicated than Convertkit – I’m spoiled by Convertkit’s email editor. It’s really super simple. Drip’s isn’t complicated, but required so many extra clicks and fiddling to get the same thing done.
  • no subscription form builder – You have no idea how frustrating their forms were when I demo-ed the software. There’s no form builder and Drip didn’t integrate into any form builder I already owned. I’m relatively tech-savvy (I built this website, for example). But, building a clean-looking form that integrated with their system was a nightmare for me.

 

If you have a lead capture software that natively integrates or need a frugal Facebook ad integration, Drip is a great option.

Setup a Drip trial – 💸 This is an affiliate link 💸

Starting your own newsletter? Here are my favorite articles and resources (work in progress).

Customer Relationship Manager (CRM):  Pipedrive CRM

I use Pipedrive CRM to manage all my emails, client notes, and phone tracking. I specifically use Pipedrive CRM because it has a SOC2 audit (a security audit), because I still do tax prep, I like that extra security and peace of mind. If you don’t need uber security, there might be a more affordable option!

What I like:

  • call notes – I take calls on my Android cell phone. After a call ends with a Pipedrive contact, the app pops up a screen that reminds me to take notes. This feature alone is worth it for me.
  • SOC2 audit – I still handle a lot of tax compliance, so security is important to me (just in case a client emails me tax docs, instead of using my secure portal).
  • simple UI – Pipedrive has a relatively simple UI. There’s a fewww things to be desired, but overall it makes sense. Things are where you’d think they should be and are easily accessible. Some other CRMs are so cluttered with features that you need to drill down thru multiple menus to find what you need.

What I don’t like:

  • no ‘touch base’ reminder – Other CRMs have a feature where you can be reminded every 3 months to touch base with a contact. I’m sure there’s a way to set it up with automation, but it doesn’t exist natively in Pipedrive. 
  • no birthday reminders – Pipedrive also doesn’t have birthday reminders. All the in-Pipedrive workarounds are messy. I currently keep a Google Calendar with recurring events for birthdays. 

Note: Pipedrive is a well-known and recommended CRM – that said, it might be overkill for your business. I use it mainly due to the SOC2 audit and security, if security isn’t a concern and you just need simple notes. There might be something cheaper.

Setup a Pipedrive trial – 💸 This is an affiliate link 💸

Scheduling: Calendly

What I like:

  • dead simple – Calendly is a superrr simple scheduling tool. There isn’t a ton of features but it does what I need.
  • clean UI – I love the way it looks.

What I don’t like:

  • ‘Make me look busy’ – Acuity Scheduling has a ‘Make me look busy’ feature where it, well, makes you look busy. 
  • no discount codes – You can’t give discount codes for paid services. The workaround is a secret link to a cheaper meeting.
  • doesn’t remember people – 

Tools I use but haven’t written reviews for

Accounting: Xero

Sign up here

[If you’re a client, please contact me. I have access to partner-only plans for clients. And, I’ll set up your account for you.]

Payroll: Gusto

[If you’re a client, please contact me so I can handle setup correctly.]

Email: Gsuite

Legal/Entity Formation: Find an experienced, local business attorney

Let’s be honest, this page is full of affiliate links and LegalZoom has an affiliate program. I could very easily have signed up and plugged them right here. 

But, I don’t think they’re the right option for new businesses. Your entity formation, operating documents, and other legal documents are important. If something comes up (eg a lawsuit, a partnership breaking up, etc), those legal documents will help govern how that process unfolds. You should talk to a real lawyer that can help you form an entity with documents tailored to your needs, write contracts for you, and answer your legal questions.

Cash Flow Forecasting: TBD

Client Portal: Canopy Tax

This portal is specifically for tax accountants. Do not buy it if you aren’t one. It’ll be a waste of money.

Professional Tax Software: Drake Software

Drake Software is professional-grade tax software for accountants. Don’t buy it if you’re not an accountant. And, even if you are an accountant, check out the demo before buying it. Drake Software has an absolute cult of followers and I love it, but it might not be the right software for you and your practice. 

Buy here

Payments: Stripe

Sign up here

Website builder (for tech-savvy): Divi

When I say tech-savvy, I mean it. Divi might be incredibly affordable, but you’ll need to understand WordPress (.org, not .com), setting it up, installing plugins, and maintaining your site. 

Website builder (for non tech-savvy): Leadpages

Domains and hosting: Namecheap

You can get domains anywhere (Namecheap, Godaddy, Google Domains, etc). They’re all effectively the same. I’m just used to Namecheap at this point. 

I also use Namecheap to host my websites. I’m on a Shared Hosting plan and installed WordPress myself. If you’re not tech-savvy, I don’t recommend going that route. I’d either recommend using a website builder that takes care of the hosting and other tech issues or going with a dedicated WordPress host that handles setup.

Also, Namecheap is one of the few hosts that doesn’t allow you to easily integrate a free SSL from the Let’s Encrypt Project, which is…annoying to say the least. many other hosts will automatically add a free SSL to your website. With Namecheap, you need to buy one (or be very tech-savvy to install a free SSL). 

Social Media Scheduling: SocialBee

100% honest. It’s okay. I don’t necessarily recommend it, but I got a lifetime deal on it and only paid $50 🤷‍♂️

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