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11 Essential Tools to Help Your Online Business Succeed

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Every business owner's dream is to find tools that provide real value – save them time and make them more money. Based on countless consultations, trials, and feedback, we've curated a list that has become our go-to recommendation for every online business that comes to us for help getting started. Ready to discover the game-changers? Let's look at the 11 essential tools we believe every online business owner should have in their arsenal.

(make sure you read to the end to claim your free month's trial to our very own Resource Hub with 1000's of recommended tools curated for you!)

1. Canva: The Ultimate Design Tool for Non-Designers

What is it?: Design and publishing tool available as a web platform and mobile application.

Cost: Free plan with limited features. Pro plan starts at £10.99/month.

Canva is the perfect  design and publishing tool for online businesses that need frequent visual content.

How It Works: At its core, Canva is a drag-and-drop design platform that allows even the most novice of designers to create professional-grade graphics. With a myriad of templates ranging from social media posts to business cards, it ensures branding is consistent and on-point.

What It Can Be Used For: Perfect for online businesses that need frequent visual content. Think social media posts, infographics, presentations, flyers, business cards, and even simple video editing.


  • Saves Time: No more waiting for a designer. Get your visuals ready in minutes.

  • Professional Templates: Ensures that your branding looks top-notch across all platforms.

  • Easy Collaboration: Share your designs with team members for feedback or editing.

Best For: Any online business, especially those without a dedicated design team. Whether you're a solopreneur, an e-commerce shop, or a content creator, Canva makes design accessible.

2. InVideo: Simplify Your Video Creation Process

What is it?: An online video creation and editing platform.

Cost: Free plan with InVideo watermark. Paid plans start from £15/month.

InVideo is a great video creation and editing platform for busy online businesses who need lots of content.

How It Works: InVideo provides a user-friendly interface where you can either start from scratch or select from over 4000 pre-made templates. You can add texts, images, music, and voiceovers, then export the video in your desired resolution. One of its standout features is the AI-driven "Text To Video" generator, which effortlessly transforms written content into engaging videos.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Social Media Posts: Craft attention-grabbing videos for platforms like Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok.

  • Advertisements: Create video ads that resonate with your target audience.

  • Product Demos: Show your product in action, which can be a game-changer for conversions.

  • Tutorials: Share knowledge or provide instructions in an engaging video format.

  • Text to Video: Easily convert blog posts or articles into captivating videos, expanding your content's reach.


  • No Professional Skills Needed: Craft professional-looking videos without being a pro.

  • Variety of Templates: Suits almost every niche and occasion.

  • Quick Turnaround: Much faster than traditional video creation methods.

  • Branding: Add your logo, colours, and fonts to maintain a consistent brand image.

Best For: Businesses looking to engage their audience through video, especially those without a dedicated videographer. This is particularly beneficial for e-commerce stores, online educators, and content marketers.

3. Shopify: The Ultimate E-Commerce Solution

What is it?: E-commerce platform for creating online stores.

Cost: Plans start from £23/month, with a 14-day free trial available.

Shopify offers a comprehensive and easy to use solution to create, manage, and promote an online store

How It Works: Shopify offers a comprehensive solution to create, manage, and promote an online store. Its drag-and-drop interface lets even the least tech-savvy individuals design a beautiful store, while its vast array of features cater to the needs of large enterprises.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Online Store: Create a standalone e-commerce website.

  • Point of Sale (POS): Sell in person with Shopify POS.

  • Inventory Management: Track stock counts, and automatically stop selling products when inventory runs out.

  • Multichannel Selling: Sell on online marketplaces and social media.


  • Ease of Use: Build and customise your online store without any coding.

  • Secure & Reliable: Shopify handles the technicalities of hosting, PCI compliance, and even provides a free SSL certificate.

  • Integrations: Access to thousands of apps in the Shopify App Store to extend your store's functionality.

  • 24/7 Support: Dedicated support team available via phone, email, and live chat.

Best For: Entrepreneurs and businesses of all sizes looking to sell online. Especially beneficial for those looking for an all-in-one solution that minimises the tech challenges of setting up an e-commerce store.

4. Ahrefs: Your SEO & Content Marketing Companion

What is it?: SEO toolset for keyword research, competitor analysis, and site audits.

Cost: Plans start from £82/month, with a 7-day trial for £6.

Ahrefs is an all-in-one solution SEO toolset for online businesses with keyword research, competitor analysis, and site audits.

How It Works: Ahrefs crawls the web, stores tons of data, and then makes this data easily accessible via a straightforward user interface. You can analyse your website, research competitors, and discover keywords to target.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Keyword Research: Identify profitable keyword opportunities.

  • Backlink Analysis: See who's linking to your competitors.

  • Site Audit: Find and fix technical issues on your website.

  • Content Explorer: Discover popular content in your niche.


  • Competitive Edge: Gain insights on competitors' strategies and act accordingly.

  • Content Ideas: Know what content works well in your niche.

  • Improve Rankings: Optimise your website based on actionable recommendations.

  • Comprehensive Data: Gain insights from a massive database of keywords, links, and content.

Best For: Online businesses aiming to increase their organic reach, from bloggers to e-commerce websites. It's also a powerful tool for content marketers, SEO agencies, and businesses looking to spy on competitors.

5. MailChimp: Email Marketing, Simplified

What is it?: Email marketing platform and automation tool.

Cost: Free plan available for up to 2,000 subscribers. Paid plans start from £8.99/month.

MailChimp is an essential Email Marketing and Automation Tool for Online Businesses

How It Works: MailChimp allows users to design and send newsletters, manage subscriber lists, and track campaign performance. Its drag-and-drop email builder, along with pre-designed templates, makes it easy for anyone to craft professional emails.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Newsletters: Regularly update your subscribers with news, content, or product promotions.

  • Automations: Set up automated emails, like welcome series or cart abandonment reminders.

  • Segmentation: Target emails based on subscriber behaviour and preferences.

  • Analytics: Monitor open rates, click-through rates, and other essential metrics.


  • Easy To Use: No technical skills required, thanks to intuitive design tools.

  • List Management: Organise and segment your subscriber list for targeted messaging.

  • Integration: Seamlessly integrate with e-commerce platforms, CRM systems, and other tools.

  • Extend Reach: Advanced features like landing pages and postcards.

Best For: Businesses and individuals aiming to maintain regular engagement with their audience, from e-commerce stores announcing sales to bloggers sharing their latest posts.

6. Trello: Streamlined Project Management

What is it?: Visual project management and collaboration tool.

Cost: Free basic version. Business Class version starts at £9.99/user/month.

Trello is a great Project Management Tool for Online Businesses, using boards, lists, and cards to organise tasks and collaborate with teams.

How It Works: Trello operates using boards, lists, and cards to organise tasks and collaborate with teams. It provides a visual overview of what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Task Management: Assign and track tasks.

  • Collaboration: Work with team members in real-time.

  • Content Calendars: Plan and schedule content creation.

  • Event Planning: Organise the steps and tasks for events.


  • Flexibility: Adaptable to various workflows and methodologies.

  • Integrations: Works seamlessly with tools like Google Drive, Slack, and more.

  • Notifications: Stay updated with email and in-app notifications.

  • Customisation: Use Power-Ups to add extra functionalities tailored to your needs.

Best For: Online businesses and teams seeking a straightforward way to manage projects, from content creation schedules to product launches.

7. Google Analytics: Dive Deep into Your Website's Performance

What is it?: Web analytics service to track and report website traffic.

Cost: Free, with a premium version (Google Analytics 360) available at enterprise pricing.

Google Analytics is an essential tool for Online Businesses, providing insights into user behaviour, acquisition channels, and more.

How It Works: By adding a piece of tracking code to your website, Google Analytics collects data about your visitors and their interactions on your site. This data provides insights into user behaviour, acquisition channels, and more.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Traffic Analysis: Understand where your visitors come from and which pages they visit.

  • Audience Insights: Learn about your visitors' demographics, interests, and devices.

  • Conversion Tracking: Measure the effectiveness of marketing efforts and ROI.

  • Custom Reports: Create customised reports tailored to your business needs.


  • Comprehensive: Gain deep insights into almost every aspect of your website.

  • Integration: Works well with other Google products and various third-party platforms.

  • Customisable: Set up goals, events, and more to fit your specific needs.

  • User Experience Insights: Understand how visitors navigate your site and where they drop off.

Best For: Any online business aiming to optimise its website, improve marketing strategies, and provide a better user experience for visitors.

8. ChatGPT by OpenAI: Engage Visitors with Conversational AI

What is it?: AI-driven chatbot for website and customer support.

Cost: Pricing varies based on usage, with various plans to fit different business sizes.

ChatGPT is an AI Language Tool whcih can support online businesses with customer service, automated tasks, marketing and much more.

How It Works: ChatGPT is a conversational AI that can engage website visitors, answer questions, provide support, and even assist in sales processes. By integrating ChatGPT into your website, you can enhance visitor interactions and offer round-the-clock support.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Customer Support: Handle common queries without human intervention.

  • Sales Assistance: Guide potential customers through purchasing decisions.

  • Website Navigation: Help visitors find the information they're looking for.

  • Feedback Collection: Gather input and feedback from visitors.


  • 24/7 Availability: Offer support at all hours without continuous staffing.

  • Efficiency: Handle multiple inquiries simultaneously, reducing wait times.

  • Continuous Learning: The AI evolves and adapts based on interactions.

  • Cost-Effective: Reduce the need for extensive customer support teams.

Best For: Businesses looking to enhance customer interaction, e-commerce platforms needing sales assistance, and any website aiming to provide immediate answers to visitor queries.

9. FreshBooks: Streamline Your Financials

What is it?: Accounting software.

Cost: Plans start at £11/month for the Lite version (up to 5 clients). Plus is £19/month (up to 50 clients), and Premium is £38/month (up to 500 clients).

FreshBooks is an Accounting software which simplifies the financial side of Online Businesses.

How It Works: FreshBooks simplifies the financial side of running a business. It allows you to create customised invoices, track time, manage expenses, and get a clear view of your business finances in one place.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Invoicing: Send professional-looking invoices and get paid faster.

  • Expense Tracking: Monitor business expenditures and categorise them.

  • Time Tracking: Log hours worked on projects and automatically generate invoices.

  • Financial Reports: Generate profit & loss statements, balance sheets, and more.


  • Streamlined Billing: Automate recurring invoices and payment reminders.

  • Accurate Records: Keep meticulous financial records to ease tax season.

  • Integration: Sync with other tools like bank accounts and payment gateways.

  • Mobile App: Manage finances on-the-go with the FreshBooks mobile application.

Best For: Freelancers, agencies, and small businesses needing a comprehensive invoicing and financial tracking solution.

10. Zapier: Automate and Integrate Your Workflows

What is it?: Automation tool.

Cost: Free for the basic plan, which includes up to 100 tasks per month. Starter plan begins at £17.49/month, Professional at £39.99/month, and Team & Company plans for larger needs starting from £224/month.

Zapier saves businesses time and money by automating key workflows and tasks.

How It Works: Zapier acts as a bridge between different apps, allowing you to create automated workflows. By setting up "Zaps", you can have one app's event trigger actions in another app without manual intervention.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Data Syncing: Ensure information remains consistent across platforms.

  • Task Automation: For instance, add new email subscribers to a CRM automatically.

  • Notification: Get alerted in one app when an event happens in another.

  • Integration: Connect tools that normally wouldn’t communicate with each other.


  • Efficiency: Eliminate repetitive tasks, freeing up time for more vital work.

  • Reliability: Automation ensures processes are consistent and error-free.

  • Extensive App Library: Integrate with over 3,000 apps in Zapier's ecosystem.

  • Customisable Workflows: Create multi-step Zaps to fit complex workflows.

Best For: Online businesses wanting to automate repetitive tasks, integrate multiple tools, and ensure smooth and efficient processes.

11. Buffer: Master Your Social Media Presence

What is it?: Social media management tool.

Cost: There's a free version to start with. Paid plans include the Pro version at £12/month, Premium at £56/month, and Business starting at £85/month.

Buffer simplifies social media management for Online Businesses by offering a unified platform where you can schedule, publish, and analyse your social media posts.

How It Works: Buffer simplifies social media management by offering a unified platform where you can schedule, publish, and analyse your social media posts. Instead of jumping between multiple platforms, use Buffer's dashboard to plan your content calendar and review performance metrics.

What It Can Be Used For:

  • Scheduling: Queue up posts for optimal times across different platforms.

  • Analytics: Review which posts are resonating with your audience and why.

  • Engagement: Respond to social interactions directly within Buffer.

  • Team Collaboration: Work with team members to curate and schedule content.


  • Consistency: Maintain a regular posting schedule, ensuring your brand remains active and engaged.

  • Insights: Understand what's working and what's not, allowing for better strategy tweaks.

  • Time-Saving: No need to log in to each platform individually.

  • Easy-to-Use: Its intuitive interface is ideal even for those new to social media management.

Best For: Businesses and brands that maintain an active presence across multiple social media platforms and need an efficient way to manage and analyse their efforts.

Taking the Next Step with Your Guide Online

So, that's our round-up of some of the best tools we recommend at Your Guide Online. But this is just the start to building your successful online business, and we're here to help you every step of the way. There's always more to learn and new strategies to adopt, and our website is full of the resources you'll need to grow. From our expert downloadable guides, to our ToolKit resources, including business checklists, content calenders and more.

Join our Resource Hub with an EXCLUSIVE 1 month FREE Trial!

The Your Guide Online Resource Hub is your ultimate destination for finding the tools and services you need to run a successful online business.

If you liked our list of recommended essential online business tools, be sure to take a look at our Resource Hub, a treasure trove of thousands of recommended tools, apps and services to help your online business thrive. We've tested and scrutinised the best tools across the web, and categorised them so you can find exactly what you need.

What you'll get with a Resource Hub subscription:

  • Expansive Categories: With our Resource Hub, you’re not just getting a random assortment of tools. We've meticulously tested and categorised thousands of them across the web. Be it marketing, finance, design, or daily productivity - there's a category for every need.

  • Quick Summaries: We understand time is essential. Each tool in our hub is accompanied by a brief summary, helping you gauge its relevance at a glance.

  • Payment Clarity: Never second guess again. We clearly indicate whether a tool is free, has a trial version, or is entirely paid, so you can manage your investments wisely.

  • Regularly Updated: The digital landscape is ever-evolving, and so is our Resource Hub. We're constantly updating it with the latest tools and resources, ensuring you always stay ahead of the curve.

***Use code ESSENTIALTOOLS to get your FREE 1 month trial to our Resource Hub!***

Think of our Resource Hub as your virtual office assistant, always ready to offer a tool, trick, or tip to help you solve a challenge or harness an opportunity. It’s a treasure trove waiting to be explored.


Are there other tools you find essential for your online business that weren’t mentioned in this list? Let readers know in the comments so we can all grow together!


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