The things you don’t even know you need.

Michael Kristenson

You’ve got a product, you’ve got a business model, you’ve got a marketing plan. Badass. 💪

But before you go gung-ho and start trying to attract customers en mass, you might want to double-check that you’ve got everything you need already set up. Nothing is worse than achieving real, explosive growth only to be unable to keep up with the pace.

So what might you be missing? Well, here are 6 essentials that most first-time entrepreneurs don’t even know they need.

1. Pretty Pictures. Like, Really Pretty Pictures.

As mundane as this may seem, quality images are a necessity on a website, and it’s very easy to spend way too much time looking for stock photos that both look good and won’t get you sued.

Seriously — copyright violations are no joke. They can cost ungodly amounts of time and money, so do everything you can to avoid them.

Check out these sites for gorgeous stock photography that’s completely license-free:

Pro Tip: If you’re still not finding what you need, do a Google image search, then select the “Tools” button under the search bar. Click “Usage Rights,” then select “Labeled for Reuse.” Anything you find is yours to use.

The menu looks like this:

2. Payment Processing

Often, first-time entrepreneurs think they don’t need to worry about accepting payment until further down the road.

If that’s you, let’s go ahead and change that right now.

Even before you have a functional product, you should be ready to accept payment from any customer, in any format. Getting a customer to pay you is the best form of validation out there, and if you get that validation, you ought to take it!

For an in-depth look at this topic, check out our Guide to Payment Processing for Small Business.

3. Content Scheduling

Being an entrepreneur basically means wearing every hat in the business, and one of the most important – especially right at the beginning – is marketing. To that end, you probably already realize you need social media accounts on all the major platforms.

What you may not realize, however, is just how time consuming it can be to post enough to actually generate returns on those accounts.

To save your sanity and your schedule, it’s worth using an automated content scheduling service for all your social profiles. These tools all offer free plans and work marvelously:

4. Save Yourself from Email Hell

One thing most people don’t consider when starting a business is just how much time they’ll put into dealing with their email inbox – and even more critically, just how inefficient email is.

Don’t let yourself fall into this timesuck. It will destroy your life. (Ok, that’s a little dramatic, but it’s still really annoying.)

A couple of years ago, I read this blog post on email productivity.

My Gmail client was never the same again.

Basically, that link is a step-by-step guide by Andreas Klinger for using Multiple Inboxes to keep your Gmail account neat, clean, and organized, letting you actually hit the coveted “inbox zero” without pulling your hair out over it.

It takes about 15 minutes to set up, and I promise you, you will not regret it.

I can not tell you how good this feels.

5. Email Automation (or, Save Yourself from Email Purgatory)

As much as we all hate email, it’s still a necessity. That’s doubly true if you’re trying to launch a product or start a new business. You’ll be doing a lot of cold outreach, and email will probably be your primary format.

On that subject, astute readers will notice something suspicious about my inbox (besides the multiple inboxes thing): what is this “Boomerang” nonsense all about?

Boomerang is a tool I use to automatically schedule emails and remind myself of when I need to follow up on things. There are plenty of tools like this, and they’re invaluable for wonderful things like these:

  • Not forgetting to reach out when you said you would (I learned this the hard way)
  • Actually getting a response by making sure your email is at the top of someone’s inbox when they get into work in the morning (although some say that 10am is the best time to send an email)
  • Not forgetting to follow up if someone hasn’t gotten back to you

Boomerang works well because it’s simple and free, but you can also go with other tools like Yesware or Hubspot, both of which also track when the recipient opens your email (a useful thing for doing cold outreach).

6. Quora

During the opening stages of starting your business (and essentially every stage thereafter), you will come up against walls. You’ll find things that you just don’t know how to do, and they may be so specific that even Google can’t help you.

Enter Quora.

Quora is a massive online messaging board with the simple goal of helping people get their questions answered. If this sounds kind of unreliable, the differentiator is that some very smart people spend their time answering questions on Quora – including some very smart entrepreneurs.

Don’t believe me? Check out this thread on calculating CAC (customer acquisition cost) for a SaaS (software as a service) business:

Look at all those numbers. Quora. Business school in a box.

The Most Important Tool of All? Thinking Ahead.

All of these tools can prove invaluable to a first-time entrepreneur, but this list is by no means exhaustive. Ultimately, you’ll need to choose the tools that work best for your specific business.

The point here is to try to look ahead at what you’ll need as the business grows. You may not have considered that a good email organization system is a must-have for entrepreneurs, but if you think about it, the payoff for even a 10% improvement in email efficiency could amount to thousands of hours over the life of your business.

So with that in mind, what essentials will you need that aren’t on this list?


If you want to dive deeper into what it takes to develop and launch a product or a business, the team at Rootstrap has created a set of e-courses to help you do just that.

Oh, and also:

Pretty please? 🙂

Author

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.