Opening the Kimono : Software That Powers My Life and Online Business
I’ve always liked reading articles that cover how super successful people work, simply because it's fun to see how awesome things are made. It also gives me ideas of ways that I can improve my own business or personal productivity.
Being in the spy/surveillance space has probably made me a little more paranoid than the average person, so I’ve always been reluctant to share my ‘secret sauce.’ Maybe cause I think someone’s going to appear out of the blue and destroy me.
If we’re being honest, odds are pretty good that my competitors don’t give a shit, and even if they do they’re not going to be able to do a whole lot with this info.
On the other hand, someone like you might benefit bigly from knowing about software that can make you more money, more productive, or make life easier. I’ve sure as hell benefited from this sort of thing, so why not pay it forward?
I also need some blog posts under my belt and this is a pretty easy topic, so let’s both win! For now, I’ll limit this to software and maybe later will talk about my work style. I’ll put some links down at the bottom for my favorite “How I Work” articles that are out there.
My Personal Productivity Stack
Things 3 / Todoist
I’ve used Things for the past 8 months or so and really like it a lot for the GTD method of productivity. I’d still be using it if I could, but being able to share my to-do lists with others has become a priority. Todoist is a solid piece of software made by a great company that I follow, but I’m not quite used to it yet.
Bear Notes / Evernote
I tried for a long time to figure out what it was about Evernote that everyone loved. The web clipper was cool, but eventually I ended up with a crapload of notes that weren’t organized in any way and seemed like a big monster to tackle. After taking Tiago Forte’s GSD.LAB and Building a Second Brain courses, I’ve really come to appreciate it and use it constantly.
My favorite app for notes like this is Bear, which is Apple only. The only downside is there is no sharing/collaboration, so I ended up switching to Evernote about a week ago so that I could share my notes with other people. It’s definitely not my favorite, but until Bear adds this functionality (and they said they won’t) I’m stuck using it.
Generates and saves all sensitive information securely. Passwords, credit card info, and other important data is kept in here and gets autofilled whenever I need to log into a website. It can also share this data with other team members if needed, without actually letting them see the login info - super cool.
Gotta listen to Oasis somehow. iTunes Music has a garbage UI/UX and I don’t know how anyone can use it.
Plays all my podcasts. Cuts out the dead time when nobody is talking, granular playback options (like 1.1x or 1.3x playback speed, for example), can rewind /skip 15 seconds at a time instead of 30 like the default iOS Podcasts app.
Counting macros to make sure I’m adhering to my diet. Should be a lot better than it is IMO, but it gets the job done.
A calendar app for MacOS and iOS that I really love. I can jot things down into a single line of text, like “Lunch at Olive Burger 1pm on Wednesday” and it’ll key it in flawlessly. I’ve never used a calendar until this past year and now I don’t know what I’d do without it.
The best reddit app out there. Don’t ask questions, just download it.
For some reason there are like 9 chat apps on my phone from various countries and conferences, and Telegram has ended up being my favorite. Lot’s of great ‘stickers’, and amazing UX. Perfect way to send reddit links to friends.
I got tired of dragged Chrome favicons into a folder on my desktop to read later. Ended up getting Pocket and kinda like it - instead of going into a black hole on my hard drive it’s now on someone else’s cloud. Most of my friends prefer Instapaper, which I haven’t tried yet.
I’m on here constantly checking in on everything going on. Been super helpful for meeting new people and reaching out to media, etc.
Part software and part hardware, I absolutely love this thing. It’s a sous vide that makes it dead simple to make amazing meals. Very detailed instructions, beautiful videos showing you exactly what to do, which new recipes getting added all the time.
I’m not really sure why I pay $10/month for this considering we have G Suite at work and I’m also paying for iCloud for photos and all that. But, it’s easy to share files with people and the app is intuitive, unlike Drive and iCloud.
The best collection of gifs around, and perfect when you gotta send a Simpsons meme.
I’d been using Chrome for years, but Google’s constant creep into my personal stuff got pretty tiring. Ended up switching to Brave about a week ago after learning that the battery life is awesome, it can use Chrome extensions, and the built-in Adblock is kickass. Highly recommend for both MacOS and iOS.
The credit card points game has become a hobby of mine, and AwardWallet makes it so much easier to manage. I can see all my loyalty programs, how many miles/points I have in each, and get alerted each time the balance changes.
Not software, but important enough to go ahead and list it. I thought everyone was exaggerating how good they are, but for $140 they’ve definitely been one of my fav purchases in the last year.
Our Ecommerce Software Stack
Google Apps (Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets)
This is the software suite we use for our email, documents like blog posts, resources like PDFs, spreadsheets for SEO projects…. pretty self-explanatory.
The best damn ecommerce platform in the world, and the best $79 I spend each month. Unbelievably simple to make a brilliant website to sell your wares. Integrated with almost any service you’ll want to use. The only thing I’m not a fan of is the blogging platform. I don’t know what I’d do without this platform.
I’m a big fan of this fulfillment software. It syncs with Shopify, and we’ve setup a ton of shipping rules within the app to automate all our orders. When a customer places an order, it gets filtered through all our shipping rules so that it knows exactly what service will ship it out, how much the package will weigh, what box/envelope it goes in, how fast it needs to get there... and it prints the label without us having to do anything. It rocks.
Automated product reviews. Stamped sends an email to our customers a couple weeks after their purchase, asking for a product review. It’s very affordable and a better product than some competitors out there, and what’s cool is what customers don’t have to go to an external website - they can just reply to the email.
I set this up a long time ago and it works, but I could be doing a better job with it. Tommy Ong develops this and is probably the most helpful Shopify app dev I’ve ever spoken with.
We use this ticketing software for all customer emails coming into SpyGuy. Sales, tech support, it’s all done here. It’s laid out beautifully and has all kinds of features that make our lives easier, like canned responses, assigning tickets to specific agents, all sorts of good stuff. It should have a much better Shopify integration than it does (Gorgias has it beat) and the live chat isn’t to our liking, but we like it a lot for tickets.
You can probably guess, but this is our live chat app. I’ve used these guys over the last 7 years and almost exclusively on SpyGuy’s website.
If you run a Shopify store and aren’t using Klaviyo, you are doing it all wrong! This is hands down the best email marketing platform for Shopify and was responsible for like 40% of our revenue over BFCM in 2018.
The integration with Shopify is deep. Setup ‘flows’ for automated emails to customers based on what they order, their customer lifetime value, or what they added to their cart but don’t buy, or maybe based on how long it’s been since their last order. If you have a popup on your site for email capture, when a visitor types it in you can automate an email sequence. Very powerful stuff.
If you’re new to email marketing or just want to get better, watch their Klaviyo:BOS event on their website. We learned a TON from it.
Our project management tool. I made a board called ‘Masterplan’ and filled it with every little thing we need to do at the company. Then, I broke it out into area-specific boards like ‘SEO’ or ‘Email Marketing’.
We’ve tried other tools like Asana, ClickUp, Basecamp, and Notion…. but keep coming back to Trello since it’s ‘faster’ to use. The learning curve on those other ones is a bit steep, but they’re more feature rich. Trello has some of worst communication within the app (as in leaving comments on tasks, they don’t even have comments for an entire board like Asana). As long as stuff get's done, that's all that matters.
All our team communication takes place here, except for the stray email or comments that are being made in Todoist. We have a general channel, off-topic, and announcements. I'm also a member of a couple other Slack workspaces like my ecommerce mastermind and private communities like the DC, but that's about it.
The best tool I’ve found for wire transfers. I use this for paying suppliers and my overseas employees.
This handy tool makes it easy to record short videos, take screenshots, and annotate them with arrows and text. Everything is stored in the cloud, too. It’s helpful for when you’re trying to point out how to do something on a website, or send a short video to show them what you’re talking about if your emails don’t make sense.
A very fine suite of tools for your SEO efforts, and the only one I use. I use it for keyword and competitor research, tracking our rankings, watching for mentions and links to our company, and that sort of thing. The content on their website is outstanding.
My content marketer uses this. I don’t really know how, but figured I should include it since we’re technically using it.
The most technologically advanced bank in the USA. Their website and apps are straightforward and I’ve never had an issue with their customer service. They’re also my credit card processor, although I use Authorize.net for the payment gateway.
I might get special treatment since I’m a business owner that gives them a lot of business.
Our HR/payroll/benefits provider. These guys rock! Without them, I don’t know how I would have handled the nightmare of hiring and paying employees. How did people exist without this 10 years ago?!
Our inventory management app that works with Shopify. The developer is a quick responder and has made several custom features for us and others. For some reason, all the inventory apps I’ve used on Shopify were pretty lame and this was the best one I could find. It’s not pretty, but I like the team behind it and it works well enough.
Shopify’s backend for editing content on a product page isn’t very good, and this app addresses it. It’s kinda hard to explain what it does, but I’ll try. If you want to edit a description for a product, there is only one text box in the Shopify backend for you to edit and format with their rich text editor. It’s really hard to have content/formatting within a single text field.
This app breaks everything up into many text fields, so now we have one text field for a YouTube product video, 5 text fields for the tabs of our product description (FAQs, specs, etc.), another text field for bullet points that go below the add to cart box…. and it all gets published exactly where it needs to go on the page.
An app that lets us sell a single SKU on the website, but when we fulfill it, it will pull multiple SKUs from inventory. So if someone orders a GPS tracker kit on the site that’s a single SKU, but has 3 backend SKUS (tracker, case, extended battery), it handles all the inventory correctly. It shouldn't be $10 a month, but okay.
Google Shopping App
This app has been very helpful with syncing Shopify to Google Shopping for the last 4 years. Unfortunately is about to get ‘updated’ in such a way that destroys the main functionality. We’ll likely be switching to DataFeedWatch.
Self-service returns for Shopify stores. Processing returns is a burden for any customer care team, and this software makes it so we don’t even need to talk to customers. They key in the order data, select what items they want to return, and a label pops out.
Google Optimize 360
We installed this on the site a couple weeks ago for some A/B testing my friend is doing. It shows half my customers one version of a page and the other half a different version, and we can statistically determine which one performs better by measuring user activity and overall sales.
On a different note, why did Google rename have their stuff and add 360 at the end? Real creative, guys (please don't shut down my accounts).
I bought a lifetime membership back in 2013 when they launched but didn’t use it until Black Friday 2018.
Useful for backing up Shopify stores. My developer told me to get it but I haven't actually had to use it yet. $99/month insurance policy.
Powerful search feature for Shopify that’s only $9/month. Very useful for collecting keywords customers are typing in, deciding what shows up in the results and what doesn’t. I haven’t optimized this as best as possible, but this is a priority for Q1 2019.
Gotta be safe when using unknown WiFi networks while at a coffee shop or traveling abroad. This thing encrypts all your traffic so people can’t snoop on you. I never hear it mentioned when VPNs get discussed, and they have the BEST branding of any VPN out there.
I used this to incorporate my LLC in Delaware several years back. Easy, affordable, and great customer service. If anything gets sent to them in the mail, they scan it and email it to me.
Easy legal tool you can use that's helpful for drafting up quick NDAs, agreements, etc.
Other ‘How I Work’ links: