Recommended tools for authors and educators
When you invest time learning a new tool it better be worth the effort and investment.
The tools on this page are my top choices for clients who want to grow their audience and use their website for blogging, podcasts, events, and online courses.
Enjoy my list of recommended tools! Some of these are affiliate links, which means that I get a kickback when you use my link. Since my business is built on client relationships not affiliate marketing, you can trust I only vouch for things I actually use and love.
Questions about anything? Contact me using the orange button in the bottom right (HelpScout, btw)
There is a reason self-hosted WordPress websites are the gold standard – when set up correctly it’s the most user-friendly and personalized platform for creating and connecting with people.
Most people get confused by themes, which are more like an operating system than a template. With the right WordPress set-up, your website can be better looking and easier to edit than anything else available today.
No link for this one friends – but I recommend Flywheel and Beaver Builder as the magical combination for an amazingly simple WordPress setup. Check them out below.
Here's the tool I used to make the video above. It took me less than 2 minutes to make, publish, and embed the video onto this website. Best part, it's free to start using this tool and you only need to upgrade if you want to store tons of videos on the platform.
I know, it sounds too good to be true, but this tool is what nudged me into the video space. Check it out by viewing the video above via the loom link here : https://www.useloom.com/share/31744d6daa634befb7e78d0a70322d4a
This is an app whose time has come. If you've ever tried to plan a complicated project (content, email sequences, or a curriculum) then you know the limitations of standard documents.
Notion allows me to create an ecosystem of information, interlinking pages, quick search, and even relational databases. And yes, I'm a librarian so this has me very, very excited.
Next up is Airtable. They boast that you can organize anything with Airtable and I think they're right. It can be used for project management, inventories, event planning, and student rosters.
In a nutshell, it's a strong alternative to Google Forms and a much improved version of Google Sheets. It's like a spreadsheet with superpowers.
Right now I'm using Airtable to manage the students and homework assignments for my website building program.
I use DocSketch for all the agreements required for website projects, care plans, and campaigns.
DocSketch makes it super easy to sign your documents, for you and the people you're asking to sign agreements. It is an all-in-one electronic signature, approval, and document tracking solution.
A process is a group of tasks that need to happen sequencially in order to achieve an outcome, such as monthly book-keeping, quarterly taxes, or new client onboarding.
I use Process Street's checklist software to "run" these processes on repeat.
For example, each month a new checklist is created with my financial tasks. This prompt me to send invoices, update my biz expense list and update the status of my projects.
Some processes are for clients, such as a publishing work-order. Process Street is our quality control secret, giving us ways to improve our regular tasks each time we do them and keep notes organized for our team.
Process Street also provided a TON of valuable training, and it basically an essential tool for any organization that has regularly repeating tasks, staff training to provide, or the solo-business owner who wants to stop things from falling through the cracks.
I was an early user of Gmail, and for years I used the service despite knowing they were scraping my personal conversations for nefarious gains... I guess there was a kind of cognitive dissonance there. Either way, I eventually had enough. I finally discovered Fastmail which I actually like better than Gmail.
Their tagline is "Email you feel good about" and that's exactly how I feel. This is a paid service (about $5 a month) and since email is an important part of my life I'm happy to pay for it and have my data be a secure and respected part of this service.
This was the first piece of software I subscribed to when I started freelancing. The first thing Harpoon will ask you set up is your financial goal. Then, it breaks it down into months and gives you a timeline to view your invoices on. This is fundamentally unique. There's obviously more to it, but I've stuck with this over the years because it's exactly the features I need to manage my biz finances effectively. It's worth mentioning the founder has responds directly to questions.
Stop scrolling through pages of reports and collecting gobs of personal data about your visitors, both of which you probably don’t need. Fathom is a simple and private website analytics platform that lets you focus on what's important: your business.
Even as WordPress grows and changes to become the most user-friendly and ubiquitous website tool, Beaver Builder gives you full editorial control on important pages like your homepage, about page, and program pages. I love this plugin so much I license it for all my clients and call it “Maple Builder”. I’ve even filled the Maple support center with tutorials for different kinds of layouts.
What I love about this course platform is that it's simple enough for anyone to use, yet somehow packs all the bells and whistles of a professional online school. You can have multiple instructors, affiliates, etc... but it's also set up so you can really scale without much risk. They also have great support and integrate with all the other tools I use. Curious to check out Teachable, here's my link: http://sendmeto.teachable.com/tlc3L
The future of online courses is online communities. What better way to support your student's learning than to provide a community where they can connect with others and feel motivated as they apply what they're learning.
Mighty Networks started by creating private social media sites for people who wanted the benefits of a Facebook Group without the lack of participation (or bystander dynamics) that happens on Facebook. They've refined their platform for years and now it's used by top community leaders and course creators. Here's my link to check it out, https://www.mightynetworks.com/?via=ryan-clover
If you ever just want a quick and simple way to add a donation button to your website, donorbox is the perfect solution. These tools can range from free to hundreds of dollars a month – and the difference is that the expensive tools are actually selling all kinds of other stuff.
This tool is exactly what it says it is... a way to accept donations, choose levels, matching, and all that with your own color scheme and style. Easily embed it on your website with copy and paste. Boom. You're accepting donations on your website.
I've been a fan of ConvertKit despite the unfitting name. This is one of the most sincere marketing companies run by really amazing and generous people. Just ask me and I can tell you more. For course creators, bloggers, and organizations, ConvertKit is the best way to manage email automation and subscribers. Use Maple's affiliate link https://convertkit.com?lmref=Yky12g and get a free email marketing strategy consultation for setting up your ConvertKit account.
Teachery stands out as a minimalist, user-friendly, and small-business sized online course platform. You can use this tool to create and sell online courses and manage all your students in one place. Use Maple's affiliate link https://www.teachery.co/?a=cTrAdE2g and I'll give you a personal welcome and consultation to help you succeed with your online courses.
Note: If you are a care plan client, then you've already seen how Teachery works. I use Teachery to provide online video instruction to help you manage your website. It's also how I process recurring payments website care plans. 🙂
The one thing that all online course platforms have is the ability for students to track their progress and mark a lesson "complete". The ability to complete something is what transforms content into curriculum.
WPComplete is the simplest way to add this functionality to your website, providing checkboxes and progress tracking. If you don't need all the other features a tool like Teachable (above) provides, WPComplete could be perfect, and there's a free version as well. Let them know you heard about it from Maple with our link: https://wpcomplete.co/maple/?ref=40
I use Calendly on my booking page because it's so easy for me and for clients to be able to set up an appointment. What's so nice about this is that it connects to the calendar I already use (Google Calendar) so that times that I am not available will not be available for booking.
It's so simple, I sometimes look at my own Calendly link to see when I'm available for myself (haha). Check it out at calendly.com
It's not just about managing social media... Meet Edgar is a completely different way of thinking about social media management. Most other tools like HootSuite or CoSchedule (which I've enjoyed) let you schedule things in advance on a calendar. Meet Edgar is based on the concept that you can create a library of share-worthy content, then have this content published on different days of the week (Monday to Sunday), based on the rules we create.
This is one of the most brilliant ways to manage a social media presence that truly creates value for your audience on a regular basis, raising the impact of your work while saving you tons of time. I can give you $10 off your account and provide a free trial with Maple's affiliate link https://ed.gr/gazrc
This webinar platform is the simplest for your audience. They can access the webinar in their browser with a single click, and then immediately participate in the discussion. The team behind this product is brilliant and committed to using their tools for social change. Crowdcast has impressed me with every improvement, so I'm glad to commit to them for the long haul. Like all of our partnerships, use Maple's link and I'll give you our entire webinar funnel blueprint.
Flywheel is the premium hosting option for WordPress websites. It’s for people who want to keep things simple and provide the best possible experience for themselves and their website visitors.
It’s "expensive" if you compare them to business as usual – but it's a bargain in all the time and hassle you save dealing with technical issues and fighting off upsells. You can set up a self-hosted WordPress site in 30 seconds for free, give it a spin, and even migrate your existing site to Flywheel free. http://share.getf.ly/j83z1b
Carrd.co provides one-page websites for pretty much anything. You can start using the service immediately, and only pay when you want to connect a custom domain. I always recommend a carrd.co site as a starting point for websites and especially for service providers. Check out carrd.co
Seriously, go check out carrd.co and build a one-page website for your idea, event, newsletter, etc... Becoming familiar with this tool will open a world of possibility to you.
Domain management, DNS, IP addresses... all this stuff can give any content creator a headache, even if you know how it all works.
Setting up and making changes to your web domain should be simple, and you shouldn't have to wade through a swamp of salesmen to get your work done. That’s why I use premium domain management from Hover. Get $2 off your domain using our link: https://hover.com/amv1vea9
Hover is the perfect example of how working with a specialist will always get you better results. If you ever have questions or issues with your domain, their support team will often just fix it for you, no hassle, which goes a long way with your most important asset, your domain.
This is by far the most often used app on both my computer and mobile devices – if you have more than one internet account, you absolutely must start using One Password, then email me a month later and tell me how things have changed.
Since using One Password, I’ve saved thousands of hours messing around with accounts, passwords, and payments. I can’t recommend this highly enough, https://1password.com
Now my go-to platform for video conferencing from client meetings to larger facilitated online discussions. This software is more accessible, functional, and reliable than any I've used in the past 5 or so years of video conferencing.
While I prefer Crowdcast for webinars, Zoom is a better option in certain scenarios, so I always recommend to explore the trial and to ask a lot of questions before making a choice. Zoom's free plan worked for the first 2 years of business, so that should say a lot. http://bit.ly/2QVcmt1
I'm amazed at how complicated podcast hosting usually is – because Buzzsprout makes it so simple and intuitive. They only have the features you need, plus detailed reports that help you understand your audience.
Using Buzzsprout, you can start a podcast for free, share it on every platform, and start getting traction before you upgrade and add more content. Check it out here to get a extended trial.
If you love being hospitable and you work with clients, then Client Portal is one of the ways a service-based business (like Maple) is able to provide an organized project experience for your clients.
In fact, I use Client Portal for all of my new clients. This shows the phase of the project, any important documents, even homework assignments all in one place. Check it out at https://client-portal.io/?ref=42&campaign=Maple
Forms are essential for any transaction. You can create an application form, a catering order form, a student registration form, even an advanced intake form with WPForms. You can also set up simple polls and surveys.
WPForms is a premium form builder tool that works inside your website and gathers all the data. You can set your notifications and use other advanced features like signatures and even payments. Clients have unlimited access to WPForms ($299 /annual value) with any care plan. https://wpforms.com/
Just like all the tools, I tested dozens of helpdesks before choosing HelpScout for handling support tickets. I love this platform, including all the amazing helpful resources they provide to help me be helpful (meta!!!)
You can test it out right now, because Maple uses HelpScout! Try the icon in the bottom right.