5 Essential Online Business Tools to Use in 2024

Clients, potential clients, and business friends alike all ask me for online business tool recommendations. Having been in business for over 4 years now, I’ve tested out quite a few over the years and now have a list of favorites I use and recommend regularly.

So I thought it would be a good idea for me and you if there was one single blog post/podcast episode I could refer you to to get those recommendations, along with direct links.

Full disclosure, some of the links mentioned are affiliate links. So if you use those links I may get a little kickback, at no additional cost to you.

There isn’t a single tool on this list that I don’t currently use. In fact, all the ones that have affiliate links associated with them are tools that I have used for at least a year or longer. You can be confident that my suggestions are honest. I don’t mind discussing a tool’s shortcomings either, because honestly, no tool is perfect.

Today’s discussion is simply going to be about my experience with these online business tools, a little bit of affiliate income talk, and how these tools all work together to make running my design business feel easier.

The inspiration for this post

My friend and client Mara had a wonderful episode on her podcast, Create a Better Course where she talked about finally taking affiliate income seriously after being in business for several years. Well, that absolutely inspired this episode/post!

Mara does a fantastic job of being really transparent about how she operates her business, where her income comes from, and how much money she makes. I just love that about her.

Another thing she does that I really admire is she publishes monthly Income Reports on her blog. Reading these month after month is really what got my wheels turning when it comes to affiliate income.

Why start affiliate marketing?

When planning my goals for 2024, I knew I wanted to lean into more evergreen marketing efforts. By evergreen, I mean things like podcasting, blogging, email marketing, Pinterest marketing, and affiliate marketing.

I’ve mentioned before, that I struggled to be consistent with social media marketing because of the short-lived nature of those platforms. I’m still active on Instagram, Facebook, and a little bit on TikTok, but that’s not where I’m putting the majority of my marketing energy.

Thinking ahead for when we have children, when I’m ready to hire in my business, or when I just want to take an extended break or sabbatical, I didn’t want my online presence to just disappear because I’m not posting to the feed every day.

All of those evergreen marketing efforts I just mentioned are really the building blocks for a strong marketing strategy that works beyond my active working hours.

  • Blog posts, podcast episodes, and Pinterest pins are searchable 24/7.
  • Weekly newsletters are being opened by warm-to-hot leads every week. In fact, I recently booked a project with an old client because of my weekly emails. And y’all, she booked after less than 8 emails.

Affiliate marketing is the perfect complementary income stream to these marketing strategies. Affiliate links can be included in blog posts, podcast show notes, pins, and emails.

If you’re going to be sharing things like your favorite online business tools, favorite products, and favorite programs anyway, you might as well make a little money from that recommendation.

It’s not sleazy or salesy to share an affiliate link. Most savvy business owners know to search for a coupon code for a product before purchasing, and most know that those codes are attached to affiliate links.

That’s essentially why I’m focusing on affiliate marketing this year. Mara totally inspired me to do it, and the more I thought about it, the more it makes perfect sense and fits in with my overall marketing strategy for 2024 and beyond. Hopefully, this inspires you as well!

My top 5 favorite online business tools

Let’s get right into it! My top 5 favorite online business tools to use that I can’t live without are:

  1. Showit
  2. Flodesk
  3. Riverside
  4. Loom
  5. Dubsado

It was incredibly hard to narrow down this list, but I’m sharing my honorable mentions in the next section so nobody gets left out. These top 5 tools are essentially the backbone of my design business.

Since the overall list is going to be about 15 tools long, I’m going to keep this simple by following a format. What the tool is, why I love it, whether I have an affiliate link for it or not, and any potential savings you get for using my link or code.


What it is: Showit is a website host and builder that allows you to create beautiful, code-free websites from scratch or a template.

Why I love it: I love Showit because it gives you complete creative freedom over the design of your website, is simpler to understand for new users compared to other website builders, and has the best customer support team of any business I know. If you are familiar with Canva, Adobe products, or any other design software, you can easily learn Showit.

If you would like to learn more about Showit, I have a couple of other podcast episodes and blog posts that go more in-depth. Check out episode #8: Introduction to Showit and episode #29: Showit Website Template Customization: DIY vs Hiring.

Affiliate link: stephanieduke.co/showit-affiliate
Coupon code: stephdukeshowit
Savings: In addition to the standard 14-day free trial you also get an additional month for FREE. This totals 44 days of free access to Showit before your billing cycle starts.


What it is: Flodesk is an email marketing software that has beautiful, easy-to-use templates that make email marketing a breeze.

Why I love it: There are a lot of great email marketing software out there, and I’ve used most of them either for myself or for clients. If you don’t need any super complex workflows or segmentation, then Flodesk is the best option in my opinion.

I personally started out on MailChimp, but quickly moved over to Flodesk once I went through their free trial to see what it was all about. Y’know how I said you’d love Showit if you were familiar with other software like Canva? Yeah, same thing for Flodesk.

It’s intuitive with a clean interface and has lots of customization options that some other email software don’t have. You can upload your custom fonts, set your brand color palette, and so much more.

They also don’t penalize you for the size of your audience so you can have a list of 500 or 500,000 subscribers and it’s still going to be the same price!

Affiliate link: stephanieduke.co/flodesk-affiliate
Coupon code: No code, simply use the link.
Savings: Try out their free trial, then get 50% off your first year of Flodesk when you use my link.


What it is: Riverside is an online video and audio recording platform that allows you to easily record at studio-quality levels.

Why I love it: I started using Riverside to record my guest podcast interviews back in July of 2023, and it has been so easy to use for both me and my guests. It records locally to both of our computers so even if we have some weird internet glitchy moments, the end result is crystal clear.

There is so much to love about this software, but one of my favorite features is the marker button. This is simply a button you can click during a recording to “mark” something important. It may be a section you want to edit out, a segment you want to turn into a TikTok or Reel, or simply a quote you want to reference. Riverside saves the marked moment to the cloud so you can revisit it after you’re finished recording!

I currently only use it for recording podcast guest interviews, but it would be perfect for other uses like YouTube videos, high-quality short-form videos, course lessons, and other training videos.

Affiliate link: stephanieduke.co/riverside-affiliate
*Coupon code: *Updated 3/14: Riverside30
*Savings: I don’t currently have a coupon code as of this recording, but I’m working on getting one from the Riverside team. If you’re listening in the future, it may be linked in the blog post already! *Updated 3/14: Code Riverside30 gets your 30% off your first 3 months of Riverside.


What it is: Loom is an online video recording platform that specializes in on-screen recording. While it may sound similar to Riverside, they’re actually very different.

Why I love it: I use Loom for so many different things in my business. The most repeated usage though is for recording presentations for my branding clients, tutorials for my website clients, and other training-style videos if a client or business friend needs help with something.

With Loom you’re able to record your entire computer screen, just a section of it, a particular browser, or a single tab. You can also choose to have your webcam on and display your face in a little circle that you can move around the screen.

Loom’s mission is to cut down on unnecessary meetings in business, and that’s exactly why I love it! They even send you a lovely little email at the end of the month letting you know how many meetings you eliminated by recording short, simple videos.

My top 5 software are not in any particular order, but honestly, Loom is pretty close to being my absolute favorite. As an introvert who loves working by herself with no makeup on, Loom saves my life constantly.

Affiliate link: Unfortunately, Loom doesn’t have an affiliate program as of this recording, but man I’m still going to sing its praises! At just $12.50 a month for unlimited videos and recording length, it’s an invaluable tool for online business owners.


What it is: Dubsado is a client relationship management software that allows you to sign contracts, collect payments, send custom forms, and create powerful automated workflows.

Why I love it: As an online business owner, it’s important to have a secure online location to keep track of all your clients and customers. You know as well as I do that invoicing, signing contracts, scheduling appointments, and gathering information can get out of hand quickly.

Dubsado takes care of literally everything you need to stay organized and maintain a professional appearance to your clients and customers. 

I personally use it for sending proposals, contracts, invoices, payment reminders, scheduling consult calls, intake forms, brand and website design workbooks, scheduling podcast guests, and contact forms on my website. Honestly, I’m probably forgetting something.

Their automated custom workflows and canned emails are 2 of my favorite features. I save countless hours each week because of this! I’ve gotten so many compliments from podcast guests about how smooth my process is from them filling out the form on my website to the thank you email once their episode airs. This is all thanks to Dubsado workflows.

Dubsado is really like having a personal assistant. Combine it with Zapier and ChatGPT, and holy moly you’re in business baby!

I could truly keep gushing about Dubsado because there is so much to love, but the last thing I’ll mention today is their customer service. Much like Showit and Flodesk, Dubsado has a wonderful customer service team and online community. Folks are just so willing to help you if you ask and I love that something seemingly so small as an online tool can bring people together so beautifully.

Affiliate link: dubsado.com/?c=stephanieduke
Savings: You’ll get 20% off your first payment on a Dubsado Starter or Premier plan. If you pay monthly, you’ll get 20% off the first month. If you pay annually, you’ll get 20% off for the entire first year!

10 additional online business tools to love

I use a ton of online business tools to run my design business, so here are 10 honorable mentions that didn’t quite make my top 5:

  1. Toggl
  2. ClickUp
  3. Canva
  4. GarageBand
  5. Google Workspace
  6. WhatsApp
  7. Zoom
  8. Stripe
  9. Xero
  10. Artboard Studio

I don’t have any affiliation with any of these honorable mentions, mainly because I think ClickUp is the only one that even has an affiliate program and their application process has taken forever. But I still want to mention how I use these tools in my business!


Toggl is simply a time tracking tool. I just started using it in December 2023, and I love it! I’m able to visually see an overview of where my time is going each day or week.

I track my time by client and by project so I can see exactly how much time I’m spending on what tasks. This has been insanely helpful the last several months in being able to more accurately estimate how many projects I can take on at a time.


ClickUp is a massive task management tool. Think of a to-do list, but on steroids. I use it for a ton of different projects within my business but the main ones are:

  • Planning and tracking my content. Podcast episodes, blog posts, emails, and more.
  • Project timelines and client collaboration.
  • Recurring business task reminders like annual payments.

I’ve really only scratched the surface of what ClickUp is capable of at this point, and I’m excited to continue using it.


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re most likely familiar with Canva. It is an online graphic design tool created to make marketing tasks easier for small businesses.

I have a really in-depth podcast episode and blog post on why I love Canva that you should absolutely check out. That’s episode #32: How to Use Canva for Your Small Business (A Brand Designer’s Take!)

In this episode I cover why some designers love Canva and others hate it, the difference between a brand designer and a graphic designer, is it worth it to pay for Canva Pro, how not to use Canva in your business, is Canva as good as Adobe?, the best Canva features, why Canva is a great designer/client collaboration tool, and ways I use Canva Pro with my brand design clients.


GarageBand is a recording software that comes on MacBooks. It may be available elsewhere, but I have only had a MacBook since using it so I’m not for sure.

I use GarageBand to record my solo episodes. You may be wondering why I do that instead of recording in Riverside since I told you how great it was. Well, I tend to edit my solo recordings as I’m recording, not aftward. GarageBand makes that super easy.

GarageBand is also where I edit the audio from my guest recordings in Riverside, so I’m using the software either way. It’s very simple to use once you get the hang of it. I like the quality of my recordings from it, so I don’t foresee ever needing to pay for a “better” solution.

Google Workspace

Basically, if you’re not a Google gal, Google Workspace is an online version of Microsoft Office products and so much more. It’s just the general name for all of the business tools Google has available.

I use a ton of their apps, but my most frequently used ones are Sheets, Docs, Drive, Gmail, Calendar, and Business Profile Manager.

I am constantly using Drive and Docs with my clients, but I’m in all of these apps daily for my own business use.


WhatsApp is an instant messaging service owned by Meta, who also owns Facebook and Instagram. It allows you to send text, voice messages and video messages, make voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other content securely.

It is end-to-end encrypted so all messages are super secure. Next to just quick communication, my favorite use is to have clients send me their login details through WA instead of unsecure means like a Google Doc or email.

Personally, I love using WhatsApp with my clients from booking through the end of their projects because it’s so much more convenient than email. It works as a mobile app and in a desktop browser. Originally I started using it just for my VIP Design Days for day-of comms, but now I use it for all of my client projects.

Sure, some clients still prefer email, but I’m always going to choose WhatsApp if the client is comfortable with it.


After 2020, we should all be really familiar with Zoom! It’s a video conferencing software that you can use on desktop, tablet, or mobile devices. Depending on your subscription plan, you can host meetings up to 40 minutes or indefinitely and your guests don’t have to have an account.

Zoom is how I conduct all of my consultation calls, collaboration calls, online coffee chats, and other meetings where I’m going to be on video with at least one other person. I love the options to screen share, transfer screen sharing abilities, and to record meetings for future reference.

The sound and video quality is not on par with Riverside, so it doesn’t make a great podcast recording software in my opinion. But it’s my go-to for regular meetings!


Stripe is a robust payment processing platform for businesses of all sizes. I absolutely love it!

When I first started my business in 2020, I only accepted payments through PayPal. Now, I only accept payments through Stripe. Their reports are easier to access and read than PayPal, as well as being more detailed, and overall I enjoy their online interface more.

I occasionally have clients that want to tip me or quickly pay for a couple of hourly to-dos rather than setup a full projects, so I’ve created custom payment links for different types of transactions in Stripe. This is so handy because I can reuse the same link for multiple clients.

I’m going to link to the Forbes article on PayPal vs. Stripe for 2024 in the blog post so you can get a more holistic view of the two options, but they’re both great to be honest. I’m just at a point that I prefer Stripe.


Xero is an online bookkeeping software. I don’t have a strong adoration for it because I’ve actually had a lot of trouble with my smaller, local bank feed not connecting properly.

But, it’s either Xero or QuickBooks and I just chose Xero a few years ago. I’ve been told I’d likely have the same issues with QuickBooks, so I’ll just stick with Xero.

When it’s working well, I really do love using a bookkeeping software. It makes categorizing transactions for tax purposes so much easier, and I’m less likely to make a mistake than when I was just using a spreadsheet alone.

I do still use a spreadsheet too, just so I can check my Profit and Loss statement against it. It’s also easier to view quickly during my weekly financial meetings. I was actual able to catch a pretty significant mistake in my bookkeeping because of this extra reference!

If you’re curious, I use Elizabeth McCravy’s Profit Sheet template and I do have an affiliate link for that! I’ve used it for, I believe this is my third year? Highly recommend, it’s super affordable and very easy to use.

Artboard Studio

The last tool on my list is Artboard Studio. Artboard Studio is an online mockup creation tool. It’s very similar to design tools like Illustrator and Photoshop, but has a huge bank of mockups, stock photos, videos, and animation tools available to you.

I will always and forever use this because finding and downloading the “perfect” Photoshop mockup for a project is such a pain because of the file size. Mockup files are massive and take up so much space.

Artboard Studio saw that problem and said, let’s create a solution. With the click of a button I can load countless mockup files for apparel, tech, packaging, products, signage, and so much more. It’s one of my favorite discoveries in the last couple of years.

I use it for brand presentations and portfolio images. This is usually my clients’ favorite part of the branding process because they can actually see what their logo, colors, fonts, and patterns are going to look like in real-world situations such as a billboard or hoodie. Absolutely love Artboard Studio!

What are some of your favorite online business tools?

Hopefully this episode inspired you to look into some new online business tools to use and maybe try out affiliate marketing. I talked about a lot of software today, so let’s recap it all real quick.

  1. Showit
  2. Flodesk
  3. Riverside
  4. Loom
  5. Dubsado
  6. Toggl
  7. ClickUp
  8. Canva
  9. GarageBand
  10. Google Workspace
  11. WhatsApp
  12. Zoom
  13. Stripe
  14. Xero
  15. Artboard Studio

These make up pretty much every online tool I use to run my brand and website design studio. There’s a few other tools I probably could have mentioned like the Notes app on my phone, the Adobe Creative Cloud, yada yada. But I think this was a good place to start.

Now, I want to know what your favorite online business tools to use are. Do you know of something that fills in a gap I have in my toolkit? Let me know! I love tools that are easy and fun to use and that free up time in my day so if you have a suggestion, I want to know.

You can send me a DM on Instagram @stephanieduke.co or shoot me an email at hello@stephanieduke.co

My links and coupon codes for everything mentioned today will be in the show notes, on the blog, and in today’s newsletter, so go check those out if you feel so inclined. I’m grateful you listened all the way to the end, friend. Chat with you again soon!

I’m Stephanie, but you can call me Steph!

I design brands & websites that get you butterflies-in-your-stomach-excited about your business again.

Simply put, I’m a graphic designer that specializes in brand identity design and Showit website design - arguably the most important aspects of your business! I live in central Alabama with my high school band directing hubby, Thomas, on our modest homestead in the country.

Grab a cup of cold coffee (be honest, do you ever get to drink it hot?) and let’s chat about your biz needs at my virtual kitchen table


Cleveland, Alabama, USA
Office hours: T-F | 9 - 3 CST

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