A piece of software is a lot like a lever—it amplifies force.
For every minute you invest in building your audience and business, the right tools can make the impact go further.
With the seemingly endless options of apps, automations, and software available, it can be hard to tell what you need and which to choose.
This guide will break down the most common tools in a professional creator’s tech stack, along with some specialized apps you’ll need within your niche.
The right tech stack makes your job easier
A creator tech stack is the set of tools you use to run your business, and it’s kind of a big deal. An effective tech stack lets you:
- Find people in your niche and introduce yourself to them
- Build an audience and community
- Establish trust
- Earn an income
- Scale your business
- Speed up your workflow
Tech stacks come in all shapes and sizes, too. The right creator tech stack for you has tools that work well together and help you accomplish your most important tasks.
Our 2021 State of the Creator Economy survey revealed that 45% of creators spend less than $100 a month on their tech stack. Unsurprisingly, professional creators are likely to invest more in their tools. 28% of professionals spend more than $500 a month on their tech stack, and 9% of creators earning more than $150,000 a year spend more than $5,000 each month.
A creator tech stack makes your work more effective and efficient, so as creator income grows, pros are willing to invest more in impactful tools.
12 common tools you can add to your creator tech stack
For more than half of full-time creators, the essential tech stack consists of a website, landing pages, a tool for selling products, email marketing, and community space. Your options extend beyond those five tools, though. We’ve identified twelve types of apps that any creator can benefit from.
Before we jump into what they are and how to pick them, we have to clear up one thing; don’t feel pressured to use every one. Creator tools are supposed to make your work easier, not harder, and adding apps before you need them can weigh down your workflow and budget.
1 – Website
Your website is the home base for your content and community. Even a simple one-page website gives you a place to introduce yourself, share content, link to products, and build your email list. The website tools that were most popular with our State of the Creator Economy respondents were WordPress, Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, and GoDaddy.
Not a designer but want a great website? Check out tips for creating a beautiful website here.
2 – Landing Page
Whereas websites are where you share all of your content, landing pages are the perfect place to promote a single idea. For example, PowWows.com uses a landing page to share their email guide to using Ancestry.com as a genealogy resource for Native Americans. Having a single sign-up page comes in handy for email marketing segmentation, and the site can link to the landing page within related blog posts.
The most popular landing page builders for creators are ConvertKit, Linktree, Leadpages, Clickfunnels, and Webflow. If you’re one of the 35% of creators who want to add a landing page tool to their tech stack this year, you can get started with a landing page template here.
3 – Analytics
Tracking how your content and promotions perform shows you what you should keep doing and what you can leave behind. Every creator can benefit from monitoring website analytics like traffic source and conversion rate plus email stats like open rate and ROI.
Build your Google Analytics dashboard in four steps. If you’re new to Google Analytics or want to take your analysis to the next level, check out our guide to getting started.
4 – Social platforms
66% of full-time creators use social media to grow and engage with an audience. That number isn’t surprising, considering it’s a free way to meet an audience where they already hang out. If you’re not careful, social media can take up too much time and mental energy, which might be why 33% of creators want to add a social media scheduler to their stack this year.
The most popular social tools for creators include Later, Buffer, Planoly, Hootsuite, and CoSchedule. It also helps to turn social media followers into email subscribers, so you aren’t beholden to the dreaded social media algorithms.
5 – Email marketing
Speaking of social media algorithms, let’s talk about email marketing. Email is the best way to control what and when your audience sees from you. An email marketing tool gives you a consistent way to grow an audience, build trust, and promote relevant products with automations. Most of the respondents to our creator survey use ConvertKit, MailChimp, Active Campaign, Substack, or Flodesk.
45% of creators want to add email marketing to their stack this year, and 47% of full-time creators want to learn more about email marketing. Our blog, Tradecraft, is a great place to learn all things email. Just sayin’.
6 – Community engagement
Instead of being the face of a brand or a company or a product, now I can just be my face, and I can just live my values and my food philosophy – and then I can ask people to join me in the process on email and in my community.
Facebook Groups and Slack are among the most popular community spaces for creators, plus Discord, MightyNetworks, and Circle.so. Some creators also like to use Facebook Groups to build their email list.
7 – Membership
If you want to take community-building to the next level, you can set up a paid online community. A recurring revenue subscription smooths out your income while offering consistent value and content for subscribers. Most creators turn to Teachable, Patreon, ConvertKit Commerce, Kajabi, or Wix to manage paid memberships, and 28% of creators want to try this type of tool in 2022.
8 – Fan monetization
If you aren’t ready to commit to a paid newsletter or community, you can give fans a way to donate to a digital tip jar. The top choices for fan monetization from the State of the Create Economy survey are Patreon, ConvertKit Commerce, Buy Me a Coffee, Ko-fi, and Kickstarter.
Setting up a tip jar is free with ConvertKit Commerce, but no matter what tool you choose, a tip jar is easy to set up and a low-pressure way to add a patronage option. If you’re part of the 14% of creators who want to add a patronage tool this year, check out these tip jar examples from fellow creators.
9 – Commerce
38% of creators made digital products in 2021, 21% created books, and 14% sold physical products. There’s a wide variety of digital products creators can sell, and no matter the format, they need a tool to make the sale. Your audience wants a secure platform to make a purchase, and creators need something easy to use.
Based on our survey results, the top choices for creator commerce tools in 2021 were ConvertKit Commerce, WooCommerce, Shopify, Squarespace, Teachable, and Gumroad. If you’re looking for a new commerce tool, check out our guide to the best ecommerce platforms for creators.
10 – Courses
Online courses let you deeply explore a topic in an engaging format. They’re also a useful revenue stream for creators of all stages since you can adjust course pricing and content to fit your audience. For example, Noa Kageyama launched a course based on what he taught at Juilliard, and the course launch paid for his NYC rent that month. Now, Noa has a range of self-paced and live courses to teach musicians about practice and performance at different price points.
You can sell courses on your website or use a popular creator course tool like Teachable, Thinkific, Kajabi, Udemy, or Skillshare. We’ve even broken down how to choose an online course platform here to make your decision easier.
11 – Paid ad platform
Paid ads give creators a way to quite literally invest in growth, and around one in three professional creators used this promotion strategy in 2021. Of the creators who used paid ads in the past year, the most popular platforms were Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
Want to start using paid ads in 2022? You’re in good company; 71% of our survey respondents want to try paid ads this year. Check out our crash course on online advertising here.
12 – Affiliate program
An affiliate marketing platform is the last (but not least) creator tool that all niches can use. Creators use affiliate programs to earn a commission when their audience buys a product or service they promote. Choosing the right affiliate product is essential since you don’t want to recommend something your audience won’t enjoy.
Psst – we made a list of 32 of the best affiliate programs for creators. Check it out here.
Industry-specific creator tools
On top of the general creator tools we reviewed above, you might need a few other apps depending on your specialty.
Two main tool categories help grow a YouTube channel: ones to make videos and others to work with the YouTube algorithm.
Here are a few to consider:
- Video editor: YouTube videos are rarely one take, so you’ll need a video editing workflow.
- SEO Tool: Researching relevant keywords will help you rank your YouTube videos.
- Thumbnail design tool. An eye-catching thumbnail can help you get more views.
- YouTube Analytics: Luckily, YouTube Analytics is built-in, so you don’t need to add a new tool to monitor video performance.
As an author, you probably already have a favorite place to write. But you’ll need a few more apps to get your work into your readers’ hands (or screens).
Some tools that help include:
- Editing tool: Getting an outside perspective on your writing is invaluable, and the Hemingway app is one of our favorite free writing tools.
- Publishing platform: You have a few options for publishing your book. You can either sell ebooks on your own website, use a self-publishing network like Kindle, or even use a print-on-demand service. We have a self-publishing checklist here in case you already feel overwhelmed with to-dos.
- Cover design tool: You’ll need to design a book cover that draws readers in.
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Podcasters need a way to edit, share, and track their work. To do this, we recommend checking out these tool types:
- Podcast analytics: Tracking podcast success can be tricky, but a clear goal and an analytics tool can help you understand episode performance.
- Editor: You can’t add in your snazzy new intro or cut out extra “umms” without a solid podcast editing workflow.
- Hosting platform: Self-publishing your podcast is an option, but we recommend using a podcast hosting service.
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- CRM: A customer relationship management (CRM) platform helps you keep track of your clients.
- Booking platform: Your clients need a way to book time with you if you offer one-on-one or group sessions.
- Video conferencing: If you work directly with clients, it helps to have a go-to video conference tool.
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Content is the name of the game for bloggers, and there are a few tools that can make managing it a bit easier:
- Editorial calendar: Staying organized makes identifying content gaps and posting consistently much easier, and editorial calendar software is built for the task.
- Blogging platform: You can publish content on your website, but there are also a few blogging-specific platforms to consider.
- Design tool: Great design can set you apart from everyone else. We have a roundup of 101 design resources for bloggers here that can make your life easier.
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There’s a lot more that goes into being an influencer than getting the perfect shot, and these types of tools can help:
- Analytics: You’ll need to track your website performance and social media growth to make your sponsorship pitch stand out.
- Influencer marketing or shopping platform: There are tools catered to influencers looking for brand deals.
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YouTubers and filmmakers might have some tool overlap, but you may want to look for film-specific tools:
- Video hosting: If you aren’t publishing content on YouTube, you’ll need to find a video hosting site.
- Video editor: Editing software is a must for filmmakers.
- Distribution platforms. Getting your music on streaming services without a label used to be difficult, but distribution platforms like CD Baby and Amuse make selling music online easier.
- Electronic press kit tool: An electronic press kit (EPK) is essential for PR, and you can make one with a simple landing page.
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In addition to marketing their services and growing an audience, photographers need tools for their craft and clients. Some categories to consider include:
- Photo editor: Every photographer needs a go-to photo editing software.
- CRM: If you work with clients, a customer relationship management (CRM) tool helps you keep track of details and jobs.
An artist’s tool stack depends on their medium. Some digital tools artists can use include:
- Printing service: If you sell your art on prints or other merchandise, you’ll need to find a platform to manage the process.
- Design tool: If you create digital art, you’ll have to have graphic design software in your creator tech stack.
ConvertKit is a multi-purpose creator marketing platform
Your creator business has a lot of moving parts. You're constantly managing what's now and next between your subscribers and products to your ideas and goals. For that reason, nearly half a million creators used ConvertKit in 2021 to manage their business from a single platform. You can grow your audience with landing pages, quickly design and send emails, sell products, and scale your business with just one tool. ConvertKit also integrates with your favorite apps, like Squarespace, Shopify, and Teachable, to give you a seamless workflow and subscriber experience.