Being a solopreneur is hard work and sometimes (as Tom Haverford would say) you gotta “treat yo ‘self”. So whether you’re treatin’ yo ‘self or looking for a useful gift for the creative business owner in your life, I hope you love the products I recommend!
Just so you know, Tricycle Creative may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page if you decide to shop from them. That money helps to support our content creation efforts so thanks in advance!
Tech + Gadgets
1. Kasa Smart Plug
The Kasa Smart Outlets made their way to my list when it was recommended many times by my mortgage broker (hi Kyle!). You should know that I have been, and continue to be, hesitant to have smart devices in my home (especially ones that use voice commands). And even though this Consumer Reports study found that smart speakers often start recording by mistake but quickly stop, I still don’t love the idea of giving away privacy simply because I can’t take the 5 seconds to Google something.
If you’re in the same boat, then all the more reason to check out KASA Smart Outlets. Yes, they can easily connect to Google Home or Amazon Alexa (or you can use their own app which is great) but you don’t need to use voice commands to LOVE them. Setting them up is super easy with their app and once setup you can then add them, if you want, to your Google Home or Amazon Alexa apps.
I use the KASA Smart Outlets in my office to control my video lights. When I’m doing a webinar or livestreaming, I have two LED panels and KASA’s light strip (which is AWESOME!) all in my Google Home app and grouped together. So right before it’s showtime, I open the app, tap the group and all my light turn on.
Another really cool added feature is the “Away” mode inside the Kasa app. You can turn this on when you’re out of town and set a time range with Kasa will automatically turn on/off your lights at random. Very cool.
2. HMDI TO USB DONGLE
For you Mac people out there, you are no stranger to dongles (i.e. connectors) for your computer since Apple can’t ever make up their mind about USB or headphone ports. But this HDMI to USB dongle is a must-have if you want to up your video quality for livestreams, webinars, or the endless Zoom calls that are now part of your life.
Even since I started using this, I’ve had countless people ask, “What camera do you use? It looks great!” Now, I should tell you that this dongle works best if you have a DSLR camera lying around that you aren’t using anymore that has an HDMI output because that camera will become your new webcam. I use a Sony a6000 which has a micro-HDMI output (I had to buy an extra long wire because Sony gives you a comically short wire that feels like you’re Doc Brown) and connect it to the dongle and then plug it in to my computer’s USB port. Then, when I’m in Google Meet or Zoom, it’s a selectable camera option.
Boom! You get all the controls and high quality of a DSLR as your webcam.
3. PEAK DESIGN PHONE CASE
I know, you probably have a phone case already.
Or, you are one of those insane people who don’t use a case.
But, either way, hear me out.
Peak Design is a company that delivers brilliantly thought-out products – tripods, bags, camera straps, and now phone cases.
I have been a Peak Design supporter for YEARS. I have all of their products and have supported each one via Kickstarter and I’ve never been disappointed.
I just received their phone case and I love it but when you get their phone case there’s so much more to love in their thoughtfully designed ecosystem of supporting products such as mobile tripods, wireless charging stands, mobile wallet, and bike + car mounts.
I can’t do them full justice so if you’re in the market for a new (or smarter) phone case or camera gear, go check out their website ASAP.
4. BLUE LIGHT GLASSES
You stare at screens all day long.
And when you do that, at the end of the day, your eyes feel like they are going to fall out of your head.
You need a pair of blue light glasses. They reduce eye strain from staring at screens. In fact, I use them not only when I’m in front of my computer but when I’m gaming on my iPhone or on PS4.
And when you buy the ones I got, you can get two pair so feel free to gift a pair to a fellow entrepreneur!
5. TIME TIMER
“No amount of money ever bought a second of time.”
Do you know who said that?
Tony Stark aka Iron Man.
Just because he’s fictional doesn’t mean he ain’t smart.
If you’re someone who conducts meetings with clients that are always going over time, the Time Timer is a helpful (and cute) way to keep meetings on-track and on-time.
Sure, you can set a timer on your phone but that could lead a ton of distractions (oooohhh, a Groupon at the spa!). The Time Timer is a simple, visual reminder for you and your clients when discussing a particular agenda item.
So for $20 you might end up getting some time back in your day.
Maybe Tony Stark was wrong…am I a genius?
There are two types of people in the world.
People who close browser tabs when they are done and people who have 30+ browser tabs open all the time.
To my 30+ browser tab people, I don’t how (or why) you do it but that’s ok.
If you are struggling with 30+ browser tabs on multiple windows then you might want to consider Shift.
Shift can bring all of your Google/email accounts under one roof so easily navigate between them without having to worry about being logged out by accident.
You can also add in other apps such as Canva, Tweetdeck, Asana, Slack, Google Analytics, and more so that all of those apps are accessible in one place.
So, take a look at your browser window right now – if you have more than 10 tabs open, you might want to consider Shift.
Can we all agree that the process of sending emails back and forth to find availability and schedule a meeting is one of the most annoying things in business?
Well, Calendly is here to help.
Simply set up what days/times you want to allow people to book meetings, connect your calendar, and when you need to set up a meeting just send someone a link to book it. Calendly has super smart features that allow you set up rules such as meeting separation, how many meetings you want to allow in a day, and automatic reminders.
At the time of this list, they are also BETA testing a feature I LOVE: Meeting Poll. Set your availability and then send a link to the group of people you’re trying to meet with. They all select the days/times that work for them and then you can book it on the day/time they all (hopefully) agreed on.
8. WATER JUG
You might be saying, “Really? A water jug is on this list?”
Yes. It is.
There are only 24 hours in a day and not all of those hours are created equal when it comes to your energy levels.
I’m up around 6am and that’s when I do a couple quick tasks to warm up and then do my writing. If I try to do my writing later in the day, I’m much more distracted and find it difficult to focus.
But there’s something that I noticed – when my energy levels got low it was usually tied to the fact that I was dehydrated. When I felt lethargic, I would drink more water and start to feel better.
9. EXTERNAL MICROPHONE
“The most important thing to know here is akjdvklajdvja”
That’s what happens when your low quality built-in mic craps out during an online meeting or call.
It’s annoying. It’s unprofessional. It’s, sadly, commonplace.
Don’t be a garble gabber.
Get a USB microphone so that your message comes across clearly.
I have two recommendations here.
If you are starting from scratch, for most solopreneurs, I recommend the Yeti Blue. It’s affordable, solidly built, easy to connect, and has a good sound.
If you are looking to upgrade your existing USB mic, I recommend the Samson Q9U. This mic is a dynamic mic with a cardioid polar pattern…
Oh, sorry for the nerd speak…
Essentially, it means it will just capture what’s directly in front of it so when my dog is rolling around on the floor growling during meetings, no one hears that.
The Samson Q9U also has USB and XLR outputs so you can plug directly into your computer or into a mixer.
Goodbye garble gabber!
10. ECAMM LIVE
If you are looking to take your livestreaming, video podcasts, or webinars to a whole new level then look no further than Ecamm Live. This software is a powerhouse that can give you all the tools to produce a professional-quality livestream with all the bells and whistles.
There are many tools out there for livestreaming that I have used and continue to recommend (such as Riverside.fm and Streamyard) but if you are looking to produce a TV-quality program then Ecamm Live can help you do it.
While there is a free, open-source competitor in the livestreaming space (OBS) I find that EcammLive is a lot more intuitive and easy to use – especially when you producing a show on the fly.
P.S. Ecamm Live pairs well with my HDMI-to-USB dongle and external microphone recommendations.
11. COPYWRITING SECRETS
I’ve never considered myself a good writer.
But being able to write copy (i.e. words) is a critically important marketing and communications skill for your business.
And, just like anything else, to get better at it you need knowledge and you need practice.
Copywriting Secrets by Jim Edwards is the first place you should start.
It’s an incredibly easy and fun read that is chock full of helpful and actionable tips to improve your copywriting skills.
If you only read one book on copywriting, it’s this one.