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Website Tools for Entrepreneurs in Higher Ed (and Beyond)

A 2-Part Series



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by dr. Saby Labor in Blog, Resources
October 3, 2017 0 comments

I’ve been in business as a higher education entrepreneur for over a year now. I have researched all sorts of business resources, from developing online courses to podcasting, and creating online communities. I listen to podcasts like Smart Passive Income, Entrepreneurs on Fire, and Side Hustle Pro to fuel my entrepreneurial mindset and add tools and tips to my knowledge base.

Even though I provide inclusion and leadership development services to college and university partners, I get a TON of questions from higher education professionals about starting their own business. I thought I would pull together the resources I have used in order to sustain my business.

So, here is a two-part blog series to share these resources with you. This post is all about web design, email marketing, and graphic design. The second post will be about tools to launch your podcast (scheduled to post on October 12).

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might receive a commission if you make a purchase. My opinions are my own and I only recommend tools that I truly believe you’ll find valuable (because I’ve tried them out myself).

Website Design

If you don’t have a website or active social media, how are people going to find you? In this day and age, it’s difficult to establish and run an organization that doesn’t have an online presence.I struggled for days trying to add a theme to my WordPress site. These sites were supposed to be easy to setup and they were absolutely not easy at all. I lost a ton of sleep trying to wrangle an initial website together. It was not attractive…at all…(seriously, NOT AT ALL)…until I discovered an optimized theme called Conversion Cats. I had no idea what optimized meant (I actually thought of the Transformer, Optimize Prime) and quickly discovered it’s a fancy word for seamless setup and converting visitors to dedicated fans (aka get your beauty sleep back and increase your impact).

Conversion Cats completely shifted the power of website creation to ME…who would have thought a social sciences educator could design a pretty awesome website. They include step-by-step tutorials on how to set up each of the core web pages, how to add images, design landing pages, and add a signup form for your listserv. Check it out for yourself… (am I right???). I get SO many compliments on my website design and sometimes people assume that my web design skills are off the charts. (Teaser: I am no mad genius at web design. You can have a handsome website, too!).

Awesome entrepreneurs, like Dr. IJ of College Life Coach, have asked me about my website design, assuming I spent some serious cash on hiring a contractor and loaned out an organ or two. I shared my secret website team with Dr. IJ and many others that just do not know how to design and develop a kickass responsive website. Dr. IJ now has an amazing website as well, thanks to Conversion Cats.

ConvertKit for Email Marketing

Your website is the platform to represent your brand and blog to communicate to your audience. Maintaining an email marketing strategy is also recommended in order to engage and provide value to your community. I previously used Mailchimp and recently switched to ConvertKit…I love it! It is super easy to use and creates simple, high-converting opt-in forms, and automated email sequences. This last function will save you the most time and energy, reducing repetitive emails to a sequence that provides the most impact. I love that I can schedule automated email sequences to provide more educational content, give away additional free resources, and it’s done while I sleep, take a walk in the park, and go about my other 11,567 daily tasks (#dramatic).

Canva: The Entrepreneur-on-a-Budget’s Graphic Design Platform

One of my biggest dreams is to be able to generate enough revenue to hire an awesome team. Until then, I need banners and images that meet very specific size and resolution requirements, and someone to help with all the miscellaneous technology tasks that can arise.

If you are that creative-tech type who can work Photoshop with your eyes closed, then I am slow clapping for you right now. Kudos…I’m truly envious. As for me, some of those design platforms make me want to pull my own hair out. I  need something simple, so I can design the web and social media elements I need, then get back to creating curriculum and other exiting educator tasks.

Jamie Piperato, of JP HigherEd, introduced me to Canva and it has been life-changing.  I pay $10 each month for the business version and it saves the fonts and color scheme I use for my brand, so I don’t have to re-enter the RGB codes each time (there are so many variations of colors and this saves a lot of time).

I design e-book, PDF, website, and social media elements on Canva. They just don’t prepare you for how many differently sized graphics you will need in this entrepreneurial life (geez!). Canva is so simple to use that I honestly thought it was a trick at first. I thought, “This can’t be right…this facebook cover image actually turned out great!” You would be surprised how much better your website and social media pages look when you have images and text that are the optimal sizes. People want to click, read more, share out, stay longer on your site simply because it’s visually pleasing.

Don’t you want all the amazing content you’re sharing from your brilliant grey matter to be received by the masses? In the digital world, it is often times the tedious technical aspects and design that connect your audience to your world…and boom – you’re impacting the world:) Canva is seriously a game changer.

Fiverr for Graphic Design Help

Okay, so I’ve ranted long enough about how I am technologically inept. Installing a WordPress theme and doing other behind-the-scenes website hosting tasks were just not interesting to me at all. I heard of Fiverr, a site where freelancers across the globe can be hired for projects just like these and more. I’ve hired someone on Fiverr to remove the background from stock photos, to edit my logo when I re-branded it, and I’m even considering podcast audio editing help. If you need to hire a ghost writer for your blog posts, have someone create music and an introduction for your podcast, or event someone to draw a cartoon version of you (cool, right??), you can find a freelancer for hire on Fiverr.

Free Stock Photos

When you are running a business, you look at photo sharing and intellectual property issues with a magnifying glass. You have to read all that busy small print regarding how you can share photos as a commercial entity. Many of the stock photo sites do not have people of color unless you dive into their site search bar with a shovel, headlamp, and water to hydrate yourself on the long journey (you get the drama I’m sending out, right?).

You can find free stock photos on sites like Pexels.com and Pixabay.com and take your chances finding a diverse range of people represented. I predominantly use these sites for landscape and background images. I also purchase some icons and images from Shutterstock when I have the budget to do so. The photos on these sites have fantastic resolution and a range of elements depicted. I just want to predominantly feature Black and Brown folks… not feature them once in a while (or during cultural heritage months…ahem)…feature them A LOT.

Create Her Space for Stock Photos

Don’t worry. I did some digging for you and discovered CreateHER Stock to solve this concern. Photographer,Neosha Gardner, has a gallery of free stock photos featuring Black folks and dynamic physical spaces. I don’t quite have the words to make stock photos exciting, because they are design elements I never quite understood until recently. I pay $7 each month to receive VIP access to a new batch of stock photos that are the product of Black women and grassroots creative efforts. If you love the image used for this post, you will love CreateHER Stock.

Google and Amazon

Two of the primary tools I use in my business are Google Apps and Amazon Business.

Having an email address with my website domain name was very important for me when I started Resilient Campus. Starting off with Google Apps when I was getting my website set up made it pretty easy. There are some backend coding type of tasks to complete in order to connect your email address(es) to Google, but I found that it paid off enormously! It’s only $5 a month to have access to the full suite of Google services. It helps me keep my business documents and emails separate from my personal and university work.

I have been using Amazon Business for a few months now and see the benefits. Here are the perks I’ve noticed:

  1. It’s free. It doesn’t cost anything to setup an Amazon Business account. I love free!
  2. They offer special pricing on a ton of products, basics like pens, printer paper, and binders, but I also need pretty random workshop materials like kaleidoscopes, glitter, lego sets, tactile toys, mailing materials, you name it
  3. You can add multiple people that make purchases to one account. For now, I don’t need to use this, but I think it’s cool that I can add folx from my team if need be.
  4. Shipping is FREE on orders of $25 or more.
  5. There are useful tools to track how much you’re spending across category types in one place. This is helpful whether you are responsible for departmental purchasing, your business, or side hustle.

If you’re interested in signing up for your free Amazon Business account, click the image below:

Parting Words

So, all my secret tips and tools for running the website elements of my business are revealed. Why should the technology side of running a business be so complicated? Let’s share resources. I operate from abundance and I truly believe that by sharing strategies, tips, and supporting each other, we all thrive.

Did this blog post answer your questions about designing an awesome website? Which tools are you using in your business? Are you interested in which tools and software I used to launch the Resilient Campus Podcast? Well, that blog post is for another day my friend. Until then…

Saby Labor

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