Well, it's been (another) interesting year, and here we are at the tail end of it.
That is as good an excuse as any to create a "best of" list!
And in this case, I've put together the services and tools I gained the most value from in 2021. Below I've described my experience and why I liked it (and in some cases, I've noted shortcomings as well). The list is divided into two categories: Work and business and Personal and lifestyle. Other than that, it's in no particular order!
At worst, maybe you can file these under "good to know." And at best, maybe you'll find something that makes your life a little easier.
Please note: I only recommend products I actually use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post does contain affiliate links. When you buy through these links, I may earn a commission.
Work and business
1. Bench for bookkeeping
Earlier this year, I had to part ways with my bookkeeper after he decided to almost double his rates with little warning (read: two weeks). I won't fault someone for raising rates when warranted, but the communication about this change left me with a bad taste in my mouth. So I made the switch to the accounting service Bench. I'd heard good things from others who have businesses of a similar size.
It's early days, but I've been super impressed with the quality of the service, the prompt communication and the overall efficiency. Bench has a nice dashboard that keeps track of income statements, balance sheets and all messages with the team. It's clean and easy to navigate. Since I use an accountant for tax services, I pay a reasonable $299/month.
2. WP Buffs for website maintenance and security
Around this time last year, the PodReacher website suffered malware attacks and the website was down for a few hours at a time. I was able to resolve the issue each time by scrambling to find freelancers on Upwork to troubleshoot. But it was stressful each and every time. Not an experience I'd like to repeat, and a tough way to learn that I could no longer take a less than serious approach to website security.
Since PodReacher is a WordPress website, I signed up with WP Buffs to handle ongoing website management. They take care of all the WordPress stuff that gives me a total headache, including site speed and plugin updates. I'm happy to report that I haven't had any issues since they've been making sure the website continues to run smoothly. An added benefit: certain plans offer website edits. A website edit is anything from switching out images to formatting a blog post. If you like these things to be done same day, WP Buffs is probably not a great solution because it usually takes about 48 hours. But for my needs, this has been perfectly adequate.
3. Dynamite Jobs for hiring writers remotely
I've listened to the Tropical MBA podcast for years, but it wasn't until this year that I tried out Dynamite Jobs, the hosts' remote job board, when I needed to hire more writers. Over the years, I've posted job listings in several places, including Craigslist, Facebook groups, Indeed, LinkedIn etc. One drawback with each of these is that once posted, the listings don't market themselves. It's really on you to further market the listing in the hopes of attracting some excellent candidates. Dynamite Jobs helped me solve that. As a well-known remote job board, it gets a lot of traffic and the job posting was picked it up in a few writer newsletters and I've been able to make some excellent hires.
To be sure, the job board has been very helpful, but I also attribute the hiring success to changes in our writer application process. I currently have an editor role posted there and I haven't been as impressed with the quality of applicants (yet). It might be the case that Dynamite Jobs is especially good for writers and select types of talent.
4. Loom for video messaging
This asynchronous video tool continued to be an essential tool for my business in 2021. It's a rare day that I don't use Loom at least once for giving feedback to my team, answering client questions or explaining processes. This year, I also used it a lot to communicate with my business coach. It's truly a tool that makes remote work much easier.
5. Deskpass for coworking access in 1,000+ spaces
Having worked remotely for the last five years, coworking spaces are a significant part of my weekly routine. I love the flexibility of working from home a couple times a week, but I've found that to stay productive I prefer to work outside of home and in an environment where other people are focused (hugely variable with a coffee shop).
For obvious reasons, coworking died down a bit in 2020. But as we've all learned to adjust to life with COVID-19, coworking spaces have as well. I've been impressed with the evolution of Deskpass as a company in the face of the pandemic and more broadly.
The company, which gives you daily access to coworking spaces in 30+ cities around the world, makes it easy to access many spaces via its app. Over the years, I've considered joining a specific coworking space. But then I think about how helpful it is to have Deskpass when I travel and how it also adds to my experience in a new city when I get to check out different coworking spaces. Even while living in the same city, it's like you have a network of sattelite offices around town, which is hugely convenient for planning your day. Individual plans start at $19/month and unused credits rollover each month.
Personal and lifestyle
6. Smart City for apartment rentals
I can thank mindless YouTube scrolling for this one! When I came out to Austin earlier this year to scout out areas, I spoke to friends and contacts and also watched a few video primers on different neighborhoods. One video mentioned Smart City and the next thing you know I was completing a form on the website and then matched with an agent who sent me apartment rental listings according to my criteria (side note: Smart City's influencer marketing is clearly working)!
After an initial phone call with Victoria (the agent), we communicated mostly via text. The customer service was personalized and exceptional. As the renter, you don't pay anything for the service. It's a referral relationship and the agents are paid if you rent an apartment they send toyou. Victoria was completely transparent about all of this and also not salesy (she encouraged me to look beyond the listings she sent). They're only in a handful of U.S. cities and I also like that it's a woman-run business. Fun fact: This is the only business I've written a Google Review about.
7. Fernish for rent-to-own furniture
Shortly after moving, I started seeing Fernish ads in my Instagram feed. And damn, the marketing was on point (noticing a trend, yet?) Fernish offers rent-to-own furniture that is delivered for free directly to your home. And in my case, this option was a no-brainer for a couch. Given that there is a decent chance I'll only be in this particular apartment for a year, I didn't want to buy a pricey couch that might not fit an unknown future space. I also absolutely didn't feel like doing the familiar IKEA song and dance especially because furniture assembly is either costly or a time suck. I'm paying $80/month for my couch for the next year. I can then buy it outright or if I don't want to keep it, Fernish will come and whisk it away and I won't have to deal with trying to sell or donate it. A win!
I can't see the economics of Fernish making sense for an entire apartment or even a room full of furniture for more than six months. But in certain cases, it could be a great option. And so far, I have only great things to say, which is why I'm dropping my referral link here, which gets you $100 off.
8. Task Rabbit for professional organizing
The Task Rabbit platform isn't new to me. Before 2020, I'd used it to find apartment cleaners and... that's about it. But I returned to Task Rabbit this year to find a professional organizer and Task Rabbit delivered. I needed to consolidate storage rooms and then wanted my stuff organized before I moved to Texas. It wasn't that I had an overwhelming amount of stuff. But some of it had been packed in boxes for about five years, and I wanted to minimize as much as I could. To say that the task felt about as exciting as going to the dentist might be an understatement.
Getting a professional organizer for a morning wasn't cheap, but it was money well spent. It got me way more organized for my move than I would have been if I'd just muscled through on my own. And it took up a lot less of my time. Being organized before I unpacked was also extremely helpful.
9. Trifecta for meal preparation
Earlier this year, I started counting macros based on the RP program. As with any eating program, RP has its own list of preferred foods and services to enable you to meet guidelines. That's how I happened upon meal delivery service Trifecta. They offer several different meal plans, including Keto, Paleo and vegan ones. There is also an option to create your own plan where you can order proteins like pulled chicken, cod, salmon (instead of an assembled meal).
Like any meal delivery kit, it gets shipped to your door (apparently in the most sustainable way possible). What's nice is that the proteins are all lean (easily fit within RP's guidelines) and they are lightly seasoned, which makes preparing meals a breeze. The quality is excellent and the subscription terms are reasonable so you can skip as many weeks as you want. I found this a helpful and efficient way to prepare healthy homemade meals. Give it a try with my link if you think it might work for you.
In the immortal words of the Looney Tunes: "That's all, folks!" I really wanted to add one more item and make this a nice round number. But nothing quite fit the bill and I decided to just roll with it.
Thanks for reading and hope it was helpful!