The Accomplished Solopreneur

Issue 23.37

Saturday, September 16, 2023

My New Solopreneur Tech Stack (updated September 2023)

Every solopreneur has a “tech stack” - the collection of applications you use to run your business. The term “tech stack” comes from the technology world - tech is obviously short for technology, and “stack” is the idea that you stack layers of apps so each can use the functions from lower layers.

Technology is always changing, and as I’m getting ready to roll out SoloBOSS, I’m changing out some of the apps I used in the past.

Here’s the tech stack I will be using for the near term.

My new tech stack

The tech stack you need to effectively run your business depends on the kind of business you run, how automated you want to be, and what you want it all to do for you. Here’s my business, and what I need.

My business and what I need

My business is pivoting to primarily product and course sales with a support community. I need systems to help me do the following:

  • A website where people can go to find out more
  • Capture and nurture leads
  • Sell my products (and the little services I still deliver)
  • Support my clients and users
  • Host online meetings and webinars
  • Manage my business

To meet these requirements, I need the smallest number of apps that give me all these functions and play nicely together.

The apps in my new tech stack

If you don’t know this already, I have a technology background, so I’m comfortable with systems that I would not recommend to non-technical solopreneurs. See my notes below.

With that being said, here’s what I will be using:

  • Capture and nurture leads: I have a strong preference for automating this as much as possible, so I ConvertKit as my email marketing platform.
  • Sell my products: ConvertKit or Circle (see below)
  • Support my clients and users: Circle
  • Host online meetings and webinars: Zoom

At the time of writing this, I’m not yet sure whether I will use ConvertKit or Circle to sell my products. Both can do it, so I will make my final decision when I’ve compared cost and user experience.

The apps I’m leaving behind are:

  • Thinkific: a really great course platform, but I need better community support. Circle does both well.
  • Websitetoolbox: Forum software that hasn’t kept up with the time. Replaced by Circle.

To make my tech stack play nicely together, I also need:

  • Zapier (which links almost any app to almost any other)
  • Stripe (for online payment processing).

That’s a total of 8 apps. Each of these has a learning curve, so you can see the attraction of all-in-one apps!

What all this costs

My philosophy for paying for all of this is to start with a monthly subscription, and convert to an annual subscription once I’m happy this will be a long-term relationship.

Based on monthly costs, here’s what you can expect to pay (all prices in US$ as of 16 September 2023):

  • Webflow: $29
  • ConvertKit: Starts at $15 per month for up to 300 subscribers.
  • Circle: Starts at $49 per month, but I need courses so I pay $99 per month
  • Zoom: $16 per month
  • Notion: $10 per month
  • Quickbooks Online Essentials: $30 for the first 3 months, $60 per month after that
  • Zapier: $30 per month, but I could probably get by with a free plan
  • Stripe:  $0 (fees are built into ConvertKit or Circle)
  • Calendly: $10 per month

That’s around $283 per month, or $3,396 per year. Most of these vendors offer 2 months free if you sign up annually, so you can reduce this cost to around $2,830.

As a side note, I was paying $99 per month for Thinkific and around $30 for Websitetoolbox, so I’m slightly better off paying $99 for Circle which replaces both.

To add insult to injury, I have other recurring costs, including Microsoft Office, domain registration costs, Camtasia (which I use for video editing), and more. All together, these are not trivial either, but they’re not part of my tech stack.

The one big hidden cost no-one talks about

All of these systems promise a lot, but there’s one big hidden cost very few people will talk about:

Most of these systems have to be set up and configured. If you DIY this, you have to go through the learning curve for each. This will take time - and as you know, time is money.

Your learning curve will vary from one system to another, but in the end it translates to your time. There’s no direct financial cost, but you will be spending time which you could otherwise have spent marketing or servicing clients.

To me, this is just the cost of doing business. The tools are out there, and if we invest the money and time to make them work for us, they pay off. But it’s not a short-term payoff, so be prepared to spend time getting the tools to work for you.

The good news is that most of the tools require time to set up, but once they’re up and running, it’s mostly hands off.

Is the cost worth it?

There are definitely cheaper options out there (see my recommendations below). But when I look at what each of these does for me, and how often I use it, I’m happy:

  • Webflow: Visited every day. I only use it when I need to update my website.
  • ConvertKit: Does most of my lead nurturing and sales for me. Most of the stuff I do there is set-it-and-forget-it, so it saves me a lot of time.
  • Circle: I’m just starting out here, but it will deliver all my products and support my community. I will be using it every day.
  • Zoom: Multiple times per week. I can’t do business without it.
  • Notion: I run my whole business, except financials, on Notion (that’s how SoloBOSS was born).
  • Quickbooks Online Essentials: Links to my bank accounts and my bookkeeper takes care of the rest. I use it around once a month to send out 2-3 invoices for consulting clients.
  • Zapier: Set-it-and-forget it, and saves me a lot of time I otherwise would have to spend manually moving data from one system to another.
  • Calendly: I’ve been using this forever, and it takes away all the hassle around scheduling meetings.

To determine whether the cost is worth it, you have to compare it to your income. If your gross revenue is say $100,000, your tech stack costs are around 3% of your revenue. As your business grows, costs will go up, but usually at a smaller rate than your business growth.

What do you get for your investment?

My relatively expensive tech stack costs me less than 4% of my revenue. For this, I get:

  • A huge amount of time and hassle saved.
  • A much better experience for my leads and clients.
  • Most of my lead nurturing and sales done for me.
  • Hands-off course delivery.

And a bunch more. In short, I’m very happy.

Need a tech stack?

It would of course be wonderful if there was one app that did everything you need in your business. Vendors like Zenler and Hubspot have a lot of functionality, and pricing is not too bad.

But over the years I’ve learnt that all-in-one systems do a lot of things well, but are not great at that one thing you really need. So approach them with caution.

I recommend the following:

  1. Make a list of what you need technology to do for you.
  1. Have a look at the all-one platforms and see if they will meet your needs.
  1. Select 1 system to test
  1. Follow the guidelines in this article to test it well

If you think it will work for you, sign up for a trial and follow the guidelines in this article to test it well. If it looks promising, sign up for a monthly account until you’re happy the system will work for you in the long term.

If the all-in-one systems don’t do what you need them to, I use and recommend the systems above. And I’m happy to help - email me any time.