Tools IMG_0172
I thought it might be helpful to share some of the tools I use to run e.m.papers. This isn’t a comprehensive list, but without these, the lights would go out at e.m.papers.

Online Store: Joomla/Virtuemart – Although this eCommerce platform has been pretty good to me, I wouldn’t recommend it if you want to open up a standard online shop. A hosted service would be better for that. The reason an open-source platform works for me is that I have a lot of special features like digital goods, an affiliate program, multiple currencies, and an in shop blog (to name a few). With open source software there is somebody out there who has built the plug-in for whatever it is I need (the quality might be another story). If I have an idea for a feature, I can pretty much make it happen with my developer.

Payment System: PayPal – For obvious reasons, but it is a necessary evil! If you are a small operation, expect at some point to deal with PayPal’s notoriously terrible customer service. Having said that, PayPal allows me to do business literally with anyone in the world with a minimum of set-up. Until someone comes along to compete with them (please god!) they’re here to stay.

Organization: Outlook – This is my control center. Although it doesn’t work as fully on a Mac as it does with a PC (for example, I can’t convert emails to tasks, or drag tasks to my calendar) it’s still the nerve center for everything I have to do and track.

Data Storage: Dropbox – Dropbox keeps getting awesomer and awesomer. It’s what I use to store and organize my entire product catalog of digital products. Since it’s cloud based I can access them anywhere if need be, and if my computer gets lost, no big deal (well, it would be a big deal, but my entire inventory wouldn’t be lost). If for some reason a customer has a problem with a download, I can just send them a Dropbox link to the product. I’ve done this several times via my iPhone while traveling (even out of the country). And now we’ve set it up so that my phone photos automatically synch. This makes using photos when blogging for e.m.papers insanely easy.

Custom Forms: Wufoo – This is a fantastic form building tool. When I couldn’t find a (affordable) workaround in my shopping cart platform to include custom orders, I discovered this service. Basically you can create a form – even a fairly complicated one, with built in logic, different currencies and PayPal integration – and just plop the code into your existing website. Amazing. This order form is totally generated in Wufoo, here it is again in German. Prior to using this tool I had a long, ugly, text based page and asked people to send me an email. Then there would be a lot of email back and forth and finally, I’d generate a receipt manually via PayPal. It was a huge headache. Now I pay $50 and I can generate tons of forms as needed. Great reporting too.

Translation Service: Gengo I heart Gengo! e.m.papers is in both English and German. My German is o.k. but writing in another language is difficult, even if you speak it fluently. I often need a sentence or two for a product description, or a a short paragraph or sometimes an entire page translated. Google translate won’t cut it, but hiring a translator for such small jobs is also too much. Gengo is a service I’ve hoped someone would create for years. You can quickly submit your tex and usually it’s translated within a couple of hours. Additionally you can keep a profile with a list of your business-specific terms, select preferred translators and there are three different price tiers to select form depending on how sophisticated you want the translation to be.

What are the must have tools for your business operations?

Photo by OZinOH