Tools Of The Trade
First, Let's Get Something Straight...
The tools, software, and tech you use have literally zero impact on the success of your online course business.
In fact, fiddling with the tech is often just a form of procrastination, as a means of avoiding the real hard work.
But having said that… it’s fun nerding out over tech gear, right?
I’m frequently asked what gear I use for making videos, creating courses and running my online course business—so here it is.
(Heads-up: most of the links on this page are affiliate links.)
Cart & Courses
Everything I’ve ever sold—live events, courses, coaching calls—I’ve sold with ThriveCart, a hosted cart solution with a built-in course platform.
ThriveCart is hands-down the most valuable purchase I’ve ever made. I’ve sold multiple 6-figure $ with it, all for a single one-time fee back in 2017.
- Historical customer sales data is all in one place, regardless of what I sell or what platform it’s hosted on.
- Checkout process is simple and frictionless.
- Affiliate management features are superb, as are the options for setting product pricing.
- Collects payment plan and subscription payments, allowing customers to update their own details.
- Replaces the need for a separate course platform, as there’s a course platform built in—Learn.
- No maintenance or updates to worry about.
Cameras & Filming
I make videos and live stream with the mirrorless Sony ZV-E10.
It shoots beautiful 4k video and is nice and small. It’s pretty easy to use, and the face tracking auto-focus is fast.
To turn this into a high quality webcam for live streaming, I use the Elgato Cam Link 4K.
- Any webcam—like Logitech’s StreamCam—is perfectly fine.
- Don’t forget you can probably shoot 4K footage on your mobile phone. It’s also dead easy to go live on Facebook or YouTube, either with their native apps or with a 3rd party service like Streamyard. And apps like EpocCam turn your phone into a streaming webcam.
- Mac OS Ventura has a Continuity Camera feature that lets you use your iPhone as a webcam.
Sigma 16mm f/1.4
I bought the Sony A6100 camera body on its own and bought a lens separately: the lovely Sigma 16mm f/1.4.
16mm is just about the right focal length for the distance I typically stand from the camera, it gives a nice wide angle view of the room.
And the wide aperture helps me easily achieve that sweet blurred background effect that makes you look more like a pro—hey, I’ll take all the help I can get.
I made my first YouTube videos, created my first course, and made my first $40k in revenue with the timeless Logitech C920. And it’s still a great inexpensive webcam I can highly recommend.
I now use the Logitech’s StreamCam for Zoom calls and the like. It’s “only” 1080p, but you can’t stream anywhere in 4K anyway. It’s more than good enough.
- As mentioned above, there’s software out there that lets you use your phone as a webcam. You can also likely shoot high quality 4K footage with it too.
Glide Gear TMP100
People are surprised when they learn that I often use a teleprompter. I use one when I want to be sure that I convey information clearly and concisely, without any waffle.
I absolutely love my Glide Gear teleprompter.
Install your camera of choice into the back of it. Load a teleprompter app with your script onto your tablet or mobile device (I use PromptSmart because it automatically stops and starts as you speak). Then slide your device into the Glide Gear, and away you go.
- The Parrot Teleprompter 2 is a portable teleprompter that slides directly onto your camera lens.
- Or if you record with your phone camera (perfectly acceptable!), PromptSmart allows to overlay the auto-scrolling script onto your phone screen as you record.
Elgato Cam Link 4K
I mentioned above that I use my main Sony ZV-E10 camera for live streaming. It looks waaaay better than any webcam could. (I still use the Logitech StreamCam for day-to-day Zoom calls.)
To live stream with a ‘proper’ camera you need a capture device, plugged between your camera and computer. For this, I use the Elgato Cam Link 4k. Works a treat.
Elgato Stream Deck
The Elgato Stream Deck is probably my absolute favourite toy… I mean, serious piece of professional equipment.
On a webinar or live stream it allows you to quickly switch between different scenes with the press of a button, like a TV show. For example: my face on camera, then to a web browser, back to camera, then to a few slides of a slideshow, back to the camera… you get the idea.
It works with all sorts of apps, including Ecamm Live. And Ecamm’s Virtual Cam feature allows me to use Ecamm and the Stream Deck anywhere—like Zoom calls, and any webinar platform.
Elgato Key Lights
When I first started I had literally the light from a desk lamp and a window to work with. I later bought a couple of very inexpensive LED lights which seriously improved my videos! All you need when getting started.
However, I now use a couple of Elgato Key Lights. They come with rock-solid adjustable-height stands that clamp to your desk, so they take up ZERO valuable floor space.
The light quality is beautiful, thanks to nice big diffuser panels. The design is clever—the provided stands sit flush against a wall, which is great if you’re short on space. And the Elgato Control Centre app makes it easy to control brightness and colour temperature.
Note – there’s also a cheaper version: Key Light Air.
- Any LED lights will be fine (see example below). Best to have two placed either side of you, one brighter than the other.
My very first video lighting set-up was two Yongnuo YN300 Air LED lights, placed on tripod light stands.
They’re great! Small, inexpensive. Not hugely powerful, but plenty enough light for video you. The built-in diffuser helps give off a nice soft, flattering light.
I’ve since replaced them with Elgato Key Lights as my main video lights, but I still use them for other purposes—great for plonking down on a table when making quick videos in other parts of the house, for example.
I also later added the more powerful YN300 III to my collection, which I shine on the background of the room behind me, just out of shot.
For a long time, I just pointed a couple of lights at my face, and that was it. But I realised I could improve the look of my videos further with some nice lighting in the background.
I use a few different light types in the Philips Hue smart light range for this. You can set them to be literally any colour and brightness you like.
I have a Philips Hue Go Portable light on a chest of drawers behind me, which provides a nice warm accent glow. I also have a couple of Philips Hue Play lights on the floor shining upwards.
I’ve since bought more Philips Hue lights for around the house! They’re addictive.
Note: you’ll need the Philips Hue Smart Hub Bridge too.
- A quick search on Amazon will reveal a ton of inexpensive smart lights of all shapes and sizes.
Microphones & Audio
Sennheiser MKE 600
For YouTube videos and course lesson videos I use a shotgun mic—a Sennheiser MKE-600.
I like it because it’s out of shot, mounted above my head, so it’s not distracting for me or the audience.
Note: this is not a USB mic, it’s an XLR mic that you plug into an audio interface.
- There are loads of other options, like the Rode NTG2.
- When you’re starting out though, don’t bother with a shotgun mic like this. In fact, many people never use them. Just get a good USB dynamic mic, like either the Audio Technica ATR2100X or Samson Q2U.
The Shure SM7B is a classic industry standard radio and broadcast mic. Michael Jackson recorded the Thriller album with one of these, fact fans.
It’s a ‘dynamic’ mic, so it only picks up sounds directly in front of it, not ambient noises from the back or sides. This makes it perfect for close-up voice recording. (I’d advise against ‘condenser’ mics, which pick up everything).
I use the SM7B for livestreams, podcast recordings, live workshops, etc, where I don’t mind the camera being in shot. That’s because—unlike my shotgun mic—it doesn’t require much in the way of post-production EQ and effects, which you obviously can’t do with live video.
Dynamic mics like this need their input gain level boosting a bit. So I put a Cloudlifter CL-1 in-between my mic and audio interface. It gives the signal a volume boost, which results in a much cleaner, quieter recording.
Note: the Shure SM7B is not a USB mic. It’s an XLR mic that you plug into an audio interface. Which means you need an audio interface.
- You can’t go wrong with either the Audio Technica ATR2100X or Samson Q2U. Both are fantastic mics for the money, both are USB (just plug them straight into your computer), and both do a great job of blocking out background noise.
- I used to use the Rode Procaster which was great. I just prefer the more neutral sound of the Shure.
Deity V-Mic D3
If I need to attach a microphone to my camera for shooting away from my desk, I use the Deity V-Mic D3. It’s a lovely camera-mounted shotgun mic. The audio quality is excellent, and it’s super lightweight and well made.
You could definitely use the Deity V-Mic D3 as your main ‘recording at your desk’ mic. I know a few people who do this.
It also comes with a dead cat. No, not an actual dead cat… it’s the name for those windshields you pop over the top to reduce wind noises when recording outside. Meow.
Universal Audio Apollo
You don’t absolutely need an audio interface to record audio. You can plug an inexpensive USB microphone straight into your computer and away you go.
However… USB mics don’t sound as good as ‘proper’ XLR microphones. I use XLR mics wherever I can. But XLR mics need to be plugged into an audio interface—you can’t plug them direct to your computer like with USB.
The Universal Audio Apollo Solo interface is a true pro audio interface. It sounds amazing, and has way too many features to cover here. I love it. (Actually, mine is the Arrow, which the newer Audio Apollo Solo replaced—but basically the same thing).
- You don’t need an audio interface at all. You can plug USB mics like the Audio Technica ATR2100X or Samson Q2U directly into your computer.
- However, an audio interface is very handy for plugging speakers into, and you can plug an XLR mic into it, which sound better than USB. Great options that won’t break the bank are the Evo 4 and Focusrite Scarlett Solo.
Elgato Multi Mounts & Flex Arm
In all of the rooms I’ve made videos and courses in, floor space has always been in very short supply.
The Elgato Multi Mount system is the answer. These sturdy, clever little things mount firmly onto the edge of your desk. They’re telescopic, so you can put them at whatever height you like. They can sit flush to a wall, if you’re really short of space. And they can mount lights, mics or cameras equally well.
You can extend them with the add-on Elgato Flex Arm, an articulated extension system (sold separately) that you can bend in any direction you like.
Neewer Tripod Stands
I mount pretty much everything on my desk these days with the various Elgato Multi Mounts (see above) because they save so much space.
But I still use a few standalone Neewer tripod light stands here and there. The Neewer light stands are light, solid, steady, easily adjustable and inexpensive. Nothing not to like.
For example, I mount my Yongnuo YN300 III LED that lights my video background on one of them.
They’re also great for quickly mounting lights if I set up in a different part of the house for a change of scenery.
SwitchPod is a hand-held, versatile tripod designed for vloggers. It’s the brainchild of Smart Passive Income‘s Pat Flynn and his video editor, Caleb Wojcik.
SwitchPod is two stands in one. First, it’s a lightweight, portable tripod you can plonk on a desk or table-top anywhere. But with one swift motion, it transforms into something like a hand-held selfie stick. Perfect for portable filming.
You can mount any phone, mirrorless camera or DLSR to it. And I also have the separately sold SwitchPod Ballhead which gives me more options for pointing my attached camera in different directions.
One of the best decisions I made was to choose ScreenFlow (Mac only) as my video editor and screen recording tool.
I can record any combination of screens, cameras and audio at once. The editing process is a breeze.
On a PC? Camtasia is the nearest equivalent (there’s a Mac version too). I personally can’t get on with Camtasia though.
On a Mac you can record your screen for free with QuickTime or iMovie. I know people who record using OBS. And there are all kinds of other free and reasonably-priced alternatives out there too—just get started!
Descript is nothing short of genius.
Record some audio and/or video. Descript transcribes it on-the-fly. And then (here’s the genius…) you simply edit your audio/video by editing the transcript text—like editing a Word doc.
It’s amazingly fast and clever. I record and edit all my audio with Descript now, and then export it in high quality WAV format to my video editor.
The built-in effects—like limiter and compressor—are really easy to use and get a great sound from.
But THE killer audio processing feature is Studio Sound—it uses AI to get rid of any nasty room noise, reverb, or echo, making it sound like you’d recorded in a fancy soundproofed and acoustically treated studio.
Descript has also replaced Loom for me. It has a quick screen/cam recorder feature providing you with a link to share the recording. Perfect.
This is just scratching the surface of what Descript can do. It’s become indispensable.