People often ask me about the resources, tools, products, services, and technology I use for Value of Simple. So I created this page to share the “best of” with you in a number of categories. Keep in mind it’s always being updated because I’m committed to everything here relevant (translation: “C’mon back now, ya hear?”).
Note: I’ve personally used or firmly believe that everything here has big-time value. Like everything in life though, your experience may vary. So please don’t spend money on something you feel won’t truly help you reach your goals.
Also know that there are affiliate links on this page, meaning I earn a small commission if you purchase something through one. Value of Simple is entirely reader-supported and any small amount earned through a link helps keep this ad-free. Your support also helps our partner charity – Second Harvest Heartland – battle hunger.
As always, thank you for supporting me, this site, and this community!
If you want to jump to different parts of this page use the links below.
- Website or Blog Related
- WordPress Themes, Plug-ins, and Analytics
- Online Communities
- Value of Simple Library
- Software I Can’t Live Without
- Productivity or Other Tools
- The Refuge of Simplicity
Website or Blog Related
BlueHost: I lucked out when I first signed up for website hosting. I had no idea what I was doing, but Bluehost has been rock solid for me.
And they do more than just help me avoid the horror stories I’ve heard my friends and peers talk about with other web hosts. The pricing for web hosting and domain name purchasing is awesome, they have one click automatic WordPress install, and their customer service is top-notch. You can even run multiple sites from one account.
Bottom line: BlueHost rocks!
AWeber: I’m not the only one saying that building an email subscription list is, hands down, one of the most important things any website owner can do. And if you want one, AWeber is the best email subscription service in my experience.
Premise: If you’ve ever seen the sales page for Start Investing with $100 or the newsletter landing page here on Value of Simple, you may have already appreciated what the Premise WordPress plug in can do.
From landing pages to turn key membership site functionality to an amazing database of free graphics to use anywhere on your website, Premise simply rocks. I’ve heard people say great things about Wishlist Member (probably its closest competitor), but I couldn’t imagine creating a landing page or running a membership site without Premise.
WordPress.org: Totally free and totally awesome. There is a reason just about everyone I know uses WordPress.org to self-host their website and power their content management. Don’t get this confused with WordPress.com though.
WordPress Themes, Plug-ins, and Analytics
Headway Themes: I hope you don’t remember how ordinary my websites looked before I started using the Headway Theme. Installing this premium theme has made all the difference in how I present myself, my content, my confidence, and the flexibility to make changes on my own without a web developer. They have out-of-the-box search engine optimization, a drag and drop visual editor, super-fast page load times, and the community support is amazing.
Optin Skin: I bought Optin Skin to boost the conversion rate of sign ups for my email newsletter. And what a boost! The cool email sign up form at the bottom of an article, on my homepage, in the side bar, and the one right below this description; Optin Skin at work. It has tons of built in templates, great analytics, high ease of use (even to folks who aren’t tech savvy), split testing, and other useful bells and whistles.
Secure WordPress: Installing this doesn’t mean you’ll never have to worry about your site getting hacked. But it will reduce the chances of it happening. It’s free and it works.
W3 Total Cache: We’d all like our page load times and usability to get better with just two minutes of work. Installing this free plug-in does just that.
WordPress SEO: I suck a little bit less at SEO because of this plug-in. You should be using some kind of SEO plug-in (in my opinion) and there is no better and easier one than this. Actually, any plug-in from Joost de Valk is normally the best one in its given category.
ODesk: Whenever I need to outsource some work – like graphic design, branding, website development, and more – Odesk is the first place I turn to. I’ve had amazing experiences with people I’ve worked with through ODesk and their website just plan does it for me. A pretty good alternative that I use once in a while is…
Legalzoom: My legal entity, Personal Renaissance LLC, was incorporated through Legalzoom. I didn’t want to deal with any paperwork, filing information with the state, interaction with the IRS, or anything else that setting up a new business involves. They did it all super fast, packaged up everything I needed, and mailed it to me. They’re the biggest and best legal outsourcing company out there and their prices often beat their competitors.
The Bootstrapper Guild: I wrote up a full review of The Bootstrapper Guild because I felt it was the best resource for current or aspiring micro-businesses. If you’re a DIY entrepreneur, then Tyler Tervooren is the guy to see and the guild is the place to go.
The Puttytribe: I’m a multipotentialite and you may be too. This is the perfect community for “smooshing” all your interests into a business idea or into a manageable course in life.
How To Connect with Anyone (CWA): For those of you who don’t know, Scott Dinsmore is the man! This is his membership community to help people make life-changing connections and get the people you need in your corner to achieve your biggest goals. I’ve only been a member for a short while, but already this has been freakin’ amazing for me and my peer development abilities.
Value of Simple Library
The books below have helped me simplify, organize, and be money wise in all facets of my life. These are true 10 out of 10 books for me…and they may be for you. There are many other awesome books that I would highly recommend, but these are the pillars.
The 4-Hour Workweek: Tim Ferriss did for me what he did for millions of other people with this book. He planted the seed that eventually grew into my current business. To say this was a transformative book would be an understatement. If you’ve ever dreamed about having your own small business or a passionate side hustle this could be the best book out there.
Letters from a Stoic: This was a recommendation from Tim Ferriss and a massive part of my framework behind living a simple and minimalist life. Every section of the book is one big resonating quote after another from the Greek Stoic Seneca. More than anything you see here, this makes you think about how simple life can be if only we let it.
Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life: This answered the question of how much a single book can resonate deep within your soul. Not everyone’s life path is described or explained in this book, but Gail Sheehy does such a wonderful job breaking down the most common ones. If you want a life walk-through of where you’ve come from or where you’re going read this. Applicable to literally everyone.
Never Eat Alone: Keith Ferrazzi is a fantastic writer, thinker, explorer, and master at relationships. If you want more meaningful connections with people, Keith’s wisdom is second-to-none. The combination of personal stories, case studies, and step-by-step guidelines are irreplaceable. If you read Never Eat Alone and love it, Keith’s follow up called Who’s Got Your Back is almost as valuable.
The Essays of Warren Buffett: Warren Buffett – arguably the 20th and 21st century’s greatest investor – is the only person I know that can make the topics of corporate governance, alternatives to common stock, and mergers & acquisitions amazingly awesome. Lawrence Cunningham (the creator of the book) did a fantastic job curating the best content from 40 years of shareholder letters from Buffett and arranging them in meaningful way. You’ll learn more about investing and, hell, just how to be a solid person, from this book than just about anywhere else. Did I mention how entertaining Buffett is?
Beyond the TED talks I wrote about in A Statement to Reframe Everything, there are a couple of additional ones that blow my mind. They are:
- Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg
- The Secret Structure of Great Talks by Nancy Duarte
- Neil Gaiman Addresses the University of the Arts Class of 2012: “Make…Good…Art”.
- Want to Help Someone? Shut Up and Listen! by Ernesto Sirolli
- Beware Online “Filter Bubbles” by Eli Pariser
- All it Takes is 10 Mindful Minutes by Andy Puddicombe
Software I Can’t Live Without
Quicken: You know I’m way into personal finance. Quicken lets me go way deep, be organized, and stay sane. I wouldn’t be qualified to talk about half the personal finance stuff I do if it wasn’t for this software.
Skype: This is getting to be ubiquitous but some people still don’t know about it, let alone use it. It’s a free platform, like Google Hangouts on G+, that lets you talk to someone with video over the Internet. Most of the interviews in my podcasts are recorded over Skype and the quality is excellent.
VLC Media Player: Tired of the built in media player for Windows or Macs? VLC is better in just about every way. My favorite part is speeding up or slowing down the action when you’re watching videos or listening to podcasts. This feature alone saves me hundreds of hours a year and you can watch my brief – but comprehensive – tutorial on maximizing VLC. So the next time you want to listen to my podcast, but don’t want to commit the full time, just speed me up with VLC.
Productivity or Other Tools
Feedly: I subscribe to a crazy number of RSS feeds for blogs, new briefs, periodicals, podcasts, and more. Feedly allows me to access them all in one place, simply, and in a very customizable way.
Gmail: I wish I didn’t have to say this but, if you’re using any other free email service besides Gmail, try it immediately. It’s night and day. I wish I could get back all those years of my life where I was using Yahoo email and replace them with the awesomeness of Gmail.
Google Analytics: The granddaddy of website analytics. Free, powerful, customizable, and off the charts usability. At a minimum, you should be using this to understand the traffic to and from your website.
Dropbox: I use Google Drive and Microsoft SkyDrive as well for free cloud-based storage for my files. But the interface of Dropbox is the best and it’s my preferred platform for synching all my files across multiple electronic devices.
Evernote: You’ve probably heard of Evernote by now. If not, this is your public service announcement that you can have a second memory for free. Evernote can be your note taking method, to-do list keeper, and master place to keep your important information. Check them out and see how shifting the taxing tasks on your brain can be done easily.
Dragon NaturallySpeaking: Part of this page you’re reading wasn’t typed. It was spoken by me and Dragon NaturallySpeaking transcribed it almost flawlessly. I’m a slow typist but it doesn’t matter anymore. I can just speak my thoughts now and see them instantly in front of my face. Great for blogging, great for emails, great for a lot of things.
FreeMind: Have you ever mind mapped before? I didn’t even know it existed until April 2012. After I learned about mind maps and the best mind mapping program – FreeMind – turning abstract thoughts into something actionable was so much easier. I even tried the paid MindMeister mind mapping program and prefer this free one better.
The Refuge of Simplicity
This is where you will find The Personal User Guide, full Spreadsheet Spotlight resources, bonus Value of Simple Declaration images, and more free goodies. Apparently it’s awesome (according to the thousands of people who have visited this online sanctuary) and instant access is just a few seconds away by using the form below.