64 Essential Tools for the Location Independent Entrepreneur

For a more in depth look at travel/business tools and resources, check out my free book Location Rebel Arsenal.

What kind of camera do you shoot your videos with? What sites do you use to book your airline tickets? How do you do your SEO research? What hosting do you use for your sites?

I get questions like this all the time.

Because of this I’ve been thinking about building a resources page for a long time, but just haven’t got around to doing it. Until now.

Below you’re going to find my entire list of everything I use to help me live the Location Rebel lifestyle.

I tried to be as thorough as I could with this. Still curious about a tool or something I use? Leave a comment and let me know, and I’ll update the post.  Something I should be using? Tell me about those too!

With that, there’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump in.

Basic Web Essentials

Basic Hosting - One of the few things here that is a non-negotiable, must have thing if you want to be a location rebel.  I used Fat Cow for three years due to their good customer service.  These days however, I recommend Dreamhost.

Upgraded Hosting - For a little bit more money you can get a VPS solution – totally worth it in the long run.  If you’re technically inclined (or work with someone who is) Linode is about as good as it gets, and is what I use.  For usability however, Dreamhost VPS is still a good bet here.

WordPress – The CMS I use to run ALL of my websites.  Want a blog? Use WordPress. Building an E-commerce store? WordPress can do that. Membership site? Check. Best of all? It’s free and has an unbelievable support community behind it.

Google Analytics – Essential for figuring out what’s working and what isn’t.  Also free, so there’s no excuse for not taking 3 minutes to install on your site.  You can get info about how people are finding your site, where they’re from, and what your most popular pages are – and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Cyberduck – Open source FTP client.  This allows you to access all of your website’s folders and files. You’ll need this at some point, I promise.  FileZilla is also a similar program that I use.

Travel

I use a bunch of different travel sites and services depending on what I’m looking for.

Expedia – For booking flights and hotels in the US, I almost always end up booking through Expedia.  Also, if you’re going to some place like Vegas and need a hotel and flight, their package deals can be very good.

Skyscanner – The travel aggregator to end all travel aggregators.  Searches 1,000 airlines to help you find the best flights.

Vayama – When flying from the US to Asia, Vayama repeatedly has the best prices.

Agoda – The very best website for booking hotels in Asia.

AirBnb – Hotels too expensive where you’re going? Get bigger apartments, in better locations, for less money.

Couchsurfing – Still don’t feel like paying? Then head to Couchsurfing and find a place to crash. I know people that have traveled all over the world without paying a dime on lodging.

Tripit Pro – Been using this for a few months and absolutely love it.  All of my travel info in one nice, easy to access place.  Not to mention the flight updates are great.

Online Marketing

Aweber. Your email marketing solution is one of the most important services you can can have.  I highly recommend this over similar services such as Mailchimp for it’s robust feature set and high deliverability rates.

Wishlist Member – There are a lot of WordPress membership plugins out there, but this is the one I use for all of my clients and my personal online membership sites.

OptimizePress – A WordPress theme that makes it dead simple to create sales pages, launch funnels, and a membership backend. What Location Rebel is built on. They just released version 2.0 of their product, and it’s incredible.

Thesis – If you’re willing to get your hands a little dirty with the technicalities, Thesis is pretty much the most robust theme/framework for WordPress.  Location 180 is built on Thesis.

Woo Themes - Dozens of high quality, easy to manage WordPress themes.  When doing client work, I usually recommend they start with Woo Themes when looking to change up their website.  Here’s a recent example.

iDevAffiliate – There are a lot of solutions out there for affiliate programs.  Use E-junkie if you’re just starting out, but I like the feature set and price point of iDevAffiliate so it’s what I chose for LR.

Office Autopilot - For as great as Aweber has been, I’m considering making the switch to Office Autopilot because the service (while expensive) takes the place of Wishlist, iDevAffiliate, and Aweber.  Anytime you can bring everything under one umbrella, the better.

Launch Effect – Anytime I buy a new domain and need a placeholder or a way to start capturing leads, I use Launch Effect.  In minutes you can create beautiful landing pages.

Other Great Web Tools

I realized I use a lot of things that don’t necessarily fit into any of the other categories, but are just as important.

SpeedTest - Incredibly useful when traveling and trying to get a sense of whether or not the internet is actually manageable.  I’ll often open up the app on my phone, connect to wifi and test the internet speed before booking a room if I’m in travel mode.

Lastpass - Easily get access to all of your passwords in a very secure way.

Astrill VPN - If you’re in certain countries (like China) good luck getting on any social media sites without a VPN.  All of my friends over there swear by Astrill.  They also have a free one week trial – so check it out.  Even if you aren’t in China, I recommend using this for the sake of security.

Prey - Track your stolen laptop or phone as soon as it’s connected to the internet. Remote wipe all of the data.  If your stuff gets stolen, this is your best chance of finding it.

Skype Call Recorder - Super simple app for Skype that allows you to record your conversations.  Great if you’re doing interviews.

Caffeine - Mac only app that simply keeps your computer from going to sleep. Easy to toggle on and off, and is perfect when you’re doing things like webinars or other interviews.

Better Touch Tool - I’m not a fan of some of the gestures that came along with OSX Mountain Lion.  This solves that problem and let’s you pretty much create whatever touchpad gestures you want.

Mars Edit - Edit and format WordPress blog posts offline with this super useful desktop app.  I find myself using this on trains or buses all the time if I don’t have wifi.

Visual Website Optimizer - Not the cheapest service at around $50/month, but its the easiest way I’ve found to edit pages and split test offers.

Pretty Links - Make all of your ugly affiliate links look nice, and well, pretty! I use the free “lite” version and it works just fine.

Planning

Whether your simply planning your next blog post, or writing out a detailed business plan, reliable planning tools are key.

Evernote – There are two types of people, those who “get” Evernote, and those that don’t. Spend an hour going through some online tutorials, or even better just grab this book. You’ll understand why this is such an essential tool for so many people.

Google Docs – It took me awhile to switch from Microsoft Office, but the ease of collaboration with all the Docs makes it totally worth it in my opinion.

Mindnode – There are a lot of mindmap tools out there, but for me, simplicity is key.  So I go with Mindnode.

Mockingbird – Mocking up a new website look for a developer? Trying to get the user interface down for a new project?  Mockingbird is my favorite tool for this.  However, lately I’ve also used the Google Drive Drawing feature for this – which has worked surprisingly well.

Market Samurai – My SEO research tool of choice.  If you’re thinking about a new online venture that will be based around search engine traffic, this is a much better option than the free Adwords Keyword Tool.

Productivity

When you work for yourself, productivity and discipline are absolutely essential.

Ask Me Every – You may have noticed that one of my biggest struggles as an entrepreneur comes down to productivity and accountability.  Ask Me Every is a super simple concept and app – you set it up to ask you a question every day.  Maybe its a text message that simply says “Did you floss your teeth?” So far its worked surprisingly well for me.

Rescue Time – Want to know how you’re wasting time each day?  Use Rescue Time to not only track your online productivity but figure out how to fix it as well.

Spotify – Pretty much the greatest thing to happen to music (for the listener), well, ever.  Don’t have it yet? Go check it out and thank me later.

Rage Chill – Every once in awhile it’s nice to mix it up from Spotify. Rage Chill has a simple premise – drag the slider towards rage when you’re ready to get crazy, and drag it towards chill when you want to take it easy – or leave it somewhere in between. Found some good music on here.

Communication

When you’re working with people all over the world, good tools for communicating are absolutely essential.  Here are my favorites:

Trello – Free solution for team collaboration. I actually like this better than paid solutions like Basecamp.

Box – Need to transfer really large files between people you’re working with? Box works great.

Dropbox – Creates a folder on your desktop, anything you put in there gets automatically backed up to the cloud.  Also great for sharing documents with others.

We Chat – This is all anyone uses in China, and after using it for the last week I can see why.  More or less turns your phone into a walkie-talkie with recorded messages.  Makes it really easy to get ahold of someone.

Skype – You know what it is.  Call any phone in the US from anywhere in the world for less than $10/mo unlimited.

Go To Webinar – My webinar service of choice.  Been using it for almost a year, and once you get a feel for it, it provides a great service.

Canned Responses – I get a LOT of emails asking me the same questions.  I can use canned responses to take snippets of emails and add them in.  I always have personal responses, but sometimes I’ll drop in answers to questions that I see frequently. Find in Gmail Labs.

Boomerang – Don’t want to deal with an email just yet, but want it out of your inox? “Boomerang” it and have it come back in 2 days. You can also schedule responses and more with this app for Gmail.

Video and Photography

Video and photography are a big part of my business and are one of my hobbies to boot.  On almost every trip I take, I’ll have a multitude of cameras, and am usually the one trying to stick it in your face.

iPhone 5 – My go to for day to day photos and just about anything else I do on a regular basis. Photo and video quality is surprisingly good.  When traveling internationally though I tend to ditch the phone and go with my trusty old iPod Touch.

Instagram – I didn’t get it at first, but after 6 months of being an Instagram user, I’m hooked.  It makes sharing photos with your friends fun.

Canon S110 – The latest tool in my arsenal. So far this camera has been excellent, and the photos have been very high quality for such a small camera.  Worth noting, at $450 I would have purchased the Panasonic Lumix LX7, however I got a pretty ridiculous deal on the Canon and paid less than $300.

Canon HF200 – While surprisingly enough, the video quality is higher on my point and shoot, this camera is much more flexible for audio.  Doing an interview and need an external mic? This is a great camera for that.  Probably newer and better models out there.

Audio Technica Lav Mic – The best $20 you could ever spend to improve your sound quality.

Adobe Creative Suite - I used Photoshop a ton for touch ups, and InDesign for all of my ebooks.  If you can find a student to grab this for you, then it becomes a no brainer. Or at $50/mo for the entire Suite, you can also keep it relatively affordable up front.

HDR Efex Pro – My preferred method of photography is HDR. Not only does it allow you to be more creative, but if you know what you’re doing, it can make you look like a much better photographer than you really are. Use coupon code “hdrsoftware15″ for 15% off.

Final Cut Pro X – Blows iMovie out of the water. Same easy workflow, with pro level tools.  This is how I edit all of my movies and videos.

Gear

Depending on the trip I travel with a lot of different types of travel gear.

15″ Macbook Pro - Yes, it’s expensive, but if you’re going to spend upwards of 10 hours a day on one machine that’s solely responsible for your income, wouldn’t you want the “Ferrari of laptops?”

Bose QC15 Headphones – The best headphones I’ve ever owned, by a long shot.  Kicks the crap out of my old Beats, mostly because the noise canceling is so effective.

Osprey Farpoint – The latest bag, I purchased just for my recent trip to Asia.  Not perfect  for my needs, but its light, carries a ton of stuff, and has a detachable daypack that makes my life so much easier.

North Face Surge – Traveling light, but still gadget heavy? This is perfect. The bigger than it looks North Face Surge, is all I had with me on my original 7 month trip to Thailand.

Lowepro Fastpack 350 – My go to, day to day bag in the States and on photography trips.  If all you need to carry is a laptop and camera gear – this is perfect.  This never left my back during my trip to Jordan last summer.

Benro Tripod – I bought this for about 50 bucks in Bangkok nearly 3 years ago. It comes on almost every trip I take, and makes all the difference in the world when it comes to the quality of your photos.

Social

Tweetdeck – My Twitter client of choice. Makes it easy to manage multiple twitter accounts from one desktop

Buffer – Time tweets to go out at the times you select.  Makes it really easy to tweet articles and websites you come across on the web.

Finance

Shoeboxed – I used to have receipts EVERYWHERE when I was traveling. Now I snap a photo, have it get automatically uploaded and organized to the site, and then I get rid of the receipt. Easy peasy.

Outright – How I manage my finances for my business. Really easy to use, great tools for taxes, and although its no longer free for the premium features, it’s still an excellent site.

Well there you have it. These are the tools I use on a regular basis to travel all over the world and still run my business online.

What did I miss? What are your favorite resources? Share with us in the comments!

Michael Charalambous January 21, 2013 at 10:26 am

Always good when you read through something like this and find that you already use most of them. Must be on the right track. Though, i never really liked tweetdeck or iPhone 5. I have Samsung Galaxy s3, so much better :P

In fact Sean, I part ways with my motherland on April 15th and aim not to come home for as long as possible. Wish me luck!

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Sean January 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

Good luck man! Excited for you!

And yes the S3 is definitely a cool phone :)

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Michael Charalambous January 21, 2013 at 2:52 pm

Cheers buddy! Hey, I’ll be in America for a good 3 months before i move on. And I’ll be in Minneapolis for a large portion of it.

If you’re available at any time? I’ll couch surf my way to your area for a good ole’ chat!

Cameron January 21, 2013 at 10:49 am

Guess I was a day early asking about your camera. lol Been awesome reading your blog so far. I think mine is coming soon. Have a couple other small projects I’m working on then it’s on to the blog.

Cheers from the damp gray area 3 hours north of Portland

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Simon January 21, 2013 at 11:10 am

Just curious – how are you taking HDR shots with a point and shoot? Does it have Auto Exposure Bracketing? And are you using a tripod? Or shooting in RAW?

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Sean January 21, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I’m using a tripod and the point and shoot does have bracketing. I’ve tried shooting in RAW, but I need to update my version of Adobe Camera RAW as the current version doesnt support the version of RAW I have on my camera.

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Joanne Munro January 21, 2013 at 11:33 am

What a brilliant resource – I’ve been waiting for you to write something like this for AGES!

I use Awesome Screenshot Chrome Extension to take & write all over screenshots for some of my clients, I also use Pinterest to share articles & images with my Social Media clients, Rapportive for Gmail is a good one to see the online profiles of anyone that emails you plus you can link with them on all their platforms straight from your inbox. Big fan of Vista time tracker (screeperzone I think) to log the time I work on a clients’ project, and I use Wisestamp for Gmail to switch between email signatures when either emailing on behalf of a client or from one of my other businesses.

Like you, I also use Canned Responses, Evernote, LastPass, Skype, Buffer, Tweetdeck, Boomerang, Dropbox (Google Drive gives you more free space though!), Trello, and AirBnB. Off to check out the headphones and Market Samurai now – cheers Sean!

PS: Also a Galaxy S3 user. Smartphones are like something off of Star Trek. The future is now!

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Adrian Fusiarski January 21, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Great list and I’m happy to report that most of the stuff here I already use/have used (or am planning to!), must be on the right track tools wise, just got to apply myself and use them:)

One thing I know would be great now someone has given me Adobe Indesign CS2 (yeah I know, its an old vers.) would be a how to on how you put your ebooks together using Indesign, they always look great and much slicker than doing the OpenOffice>save as PDF route.

As always, brilliant stuff Sean

Adrian )

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Laila Atallah January 21, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Incredible post, Sean!

I found your suggestions re WP and Themes and sales pages (both for beginners and more advanced folk) especially helpful.

Can you also share what you suggest for regular and online backup, in terms of hardware & online services?

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Trav January 22, 2013 at 11:10 am

Sean, this awesome post is finally what is pushing me over the edge and getting me to start using Evernote. Everyone swears by it, but I’ve always been in the “don’t get it”/too apathetic to use it category. No more!

Also going to try out some of your other suggestions, especially Shoeboxed. I’d never heard of it before, but it seems like the perfect solution for travelers with pockets constantly bulging with receipts like myself.

Glad you found the Osprey Farpoint 70. I’ve had it for over 2 years now and used it for all my travels. I absolutely LOVE it. Lightweight material, plenty of space, and the daypack is an absolute essential.

FYI- I’ve carried it on to over 40 flights in the last 2 years and never once had a problem, despite it being a little too long for carry on regulations. I’ve even got it by those super strict Air Asia bag nazis on over 20 occasions!

Thanks for this great resource!

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Karol Gajda January 23, 2013 at 7:54 am

Since you’re using Linode hosting Astrid VPN is redundant. It took me about 25 minutes to figure out how to set up my own proxy server last night using SSH tunneling and Firefox. (Firefox will now be my proxy server browser; mostly I use Chrome)

Though I guess the benefit of something like Astrid is if you need a non-US IP address for some reason.

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Sean January 23, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Thanks for that man, its totally techy and way over my head, but it’s good to know :)

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Samantha July 25, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Hello Sean,
I am considering moving to Asia for a better life and having an on line consulting business. The problem is, that I am not sure what the international taxation and liciensure laws are. Can I work with people in the US and Canada and not have a business licience there? Do I need to pay taxes in each country that I consult in, if I am actually not in that country? You may know, as you are working with many people doing this type of work.

Torrey Rozycki January 25, 2013 at 7:45 am

Great list! How about a little CRM/eCommerce Stuff?

I’ve been looking for a great all-in-one tool while these come close they just are not perfect… yet.

Infusionsoft.com
BigCommerce.com
Shopify.com

A few more free responsive templates, better integrated customer history (previous orders from other systems, emails, call log etc), and a solid mobile interface will make the leader emerge in my eyes. Has anyone found a solution like that yet?

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Bob Buskirk January 28, 2013 at 12:00 am

Great post Sean, I’ll be adding some of these to my arsenal!

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Toyiah Marquis January 28, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Great article and resources. I also use Hootsuite and easily am able to manage all of my social media accounts in one place.

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Kit Whelan January 30, 2013 at 12:07 am

Excellent post!!! I already used a lot of these, but some I’d never even heard of! Can’t wait to add some new apps to my digital nomad lifestyle. :)

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Aaron February 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Sean,

Another post to add to the bookmark bar for the next month for easy reference. Looking forward to continue to move forward and now I’ve got a few new tools to help me make it all a reality.

Aaron

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Pauline February 3, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Great list! I use justretweet that will RT any new post from my feed and you can schedule multiple feeds if you have several blogs or RT other bloggers on a regular basis.

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Chas February 4, 2013 at 5:21 am

Sean,
What are those straps attached to in the pic? It doesn’t look like either of the packs you recommended, but, the straps look comfortable. There is an ongoing argument that it is harder to apply SEO to CMS sites(WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, etc.) than hard-coded sites- your thoughts? I have to disagree with your choice of hosts, as I prefer Inmotion- but, everyone has their own preference. What do you feel is the best alternative for Microsoft Word for Mac users, OpenOffice.org, or LibreOffice? Do you use either? Thanks.

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Nate February 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

This is amazing Sean!! Thanks for this list of recourses. I was just looking at the backpacks that you suggested.. the Osprey Farpoint 70 is big enough for extended travel? I am heading to Chile for ~6 weeks this spring and need a new backpack :) If you give it your stamp of approval, that bag will go to the top of my list!

Thanks and hope you are enjoying Asia!!

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Lauren Peterson February 13, 2013 at 6:58 am

This is a fantastic resource for mobile workers, Sean. Thank you for sharing! I noticed you suggested several tools for communication. Have you ever considered iMeet? iMeet integrates best-in-class video and web conferencing with reliable conference calling in a secure, cloud-based personalized online meeting space where you and your guests can get together anytime.

I would love to set you up with a free trial and discuss how iMeet can eliminate the hassle of meeting remotely.

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Gunnar February 25, 2013 at 4:41 pm

Hi Sean – Thanks for posting another great article. One question;
What kind of solution do you use for your business address and for physical mail while traveling?

Keep up the good work!

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George Millo March 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Thanks for turning me on to AskMeEvery.com – been using it loads since I initially learned about it here. A simple idea but perfectly executed, it’s a great little tool.

George

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Roland March 10, 2013 at 5:30 am

You should also try out this especially if you use gmail, google drive and google docs. http://dextop.devolv.com

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Abina Jay May 9, 2013 at 5:19 am

Sean

Thanks for this great post!

I was really annoyed that I was not able to track my income/expense at first besides using some popular software. Right now I feel relaxed that I have got with the one that I really wanted.

The other tools that you have got to mention here was quite informative. I have tried with most of these. But still on a queue to look for more interesting software that can make the tasks simpler!

Cheers.

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mike September 1, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Sean!

Great stuff! great content and insightful thoughts about the suggestions provided above!

I am really finding your site quite useful in the humble beginnings of my business and am loving a sentence you had said which really spoke to me:

“When you work for yourself, productivity and discipline are absolutely essential.”

Props to that and keep pumping these posts! will try a bunch of these suggestions now and let you know what me thinks !

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Kimberly George December 17, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Great list of resources! Thanks for sharing.

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Anchit Shethia January 4, 2014 at 1:53 am

I have been facing problems with CyberDuck lately. I am not able to login through it even after entering correct credentials.
Will have to update my knowledge on how to use it.
Rest said, the list is pretty productive :)

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Anchit Shethia January 4, 2014 at 1:55 am

Oh, and I forgot to mention this.
Final Cut Pro is way too complicated in use for a normal blogger like me.
I can use iMovie but it does not have all the functionalities I need like combining the voiceover for a video review and stuff.
Any alternative for FCP on Mac?

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Sean January 4, 2014 at 3:08 pm

Have you looked at Final Cut Pro X? It’s basically like imovie pro, about as simple as it gets for how powerful it is.

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