Whether you are just starting out or well on your way with an established company, every small business owner is always in need of tools or other resources that can help them become more efficient, make smarter business decisions, and market more effectively to their target audiences.
While all of the free resources listed below may not be specifically for you, the majority are designed to help all types of small business owners increase their knowledge and skills in all areas, including sales and marketing, while maximizing resources, improving productivity and enhancing service.
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Business Operations Resources
From keeping your financial statements to handling your marketing strategy, these resources have you covered:
- Brand 24 is a tool that helps you keep track of what's going online with your brand from people that mention you to social media accounts that are interacting with your brand, shaping your marketing strategy.
- Tools for Entrepreneurs is a YouTube channel that was created by Google for Entrepreneurs and General Assembly to provide online seminars directed at skills enhancements, business basics, technology and marketing.
- Hubspot has an extensive online library of videos and content designed to cover all aspects of a business, especially those associated with marketing, social media, public relations and sales. The content includes e-books, white papers, templates, guides and more.
- Desk.com is a tool for interacting and growing with your customer. Desk is one of the most popular customer service tools on the market for business owners.
- Google Books and The Gutenberg Project are two online sources that offer extensive libraries of free books that cover a wide range of topics that can help provide everything from the basics like marketing and sales to more technical information on every aspect of business.
- Small Business Trends is one of the most popular online publications available that serves as a daily guide for content around business trends and issues that impact small business owners and entrepreneurs.
- Due Payments helps startups and business owners get paid online. They allow you to invoice clients and get paid instantly with tracking and advanced payment features.
- Small Business America is an online publication managed by The Huffington Post that provides a wide range of content for small business owners to help them develop strategy, mange their daily operations, and build their businesses.
- Inc. Magazine has extensive online content that covers everything that a small business owner would need to know, including numerous articles on marketing trends, challenges, and opportunities.
- More Business offers an online library of business and marketing plan samples, contract examples, tax assistance and more.
- The Self-Employed is an online site that covers everything from startups to fully operational small businesses, addressing issues related to funding, insurance, technology, compliance and more. It also includes issues, trends, and tools related to marketing and sales.
- Biz Info Library is an online compendium of articles that help you at every stage in your business make better decisions, market to the most appropriate audience for your business segment, and operate more efficiently.
- SCORE is a non-profit that offers free business counseling and advice to small business owners. They also offer a wide range of content through their website and e-newsletters.
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has its own small business owner center that offers important information related to taxes, hires, business forms, and overall compliance.
- Accounting Coach gives you free courses on bookkeeping, accounting, and financial decisions that help small business owners who may lack this type of knowledge and skill set.
- Business Balls is a compilation of material that covers all aspects of running a business that are easy to navigate to get to the categories that will specifically help you achieve your business objectives with an emphasis on advertising, media relations, social media and other marketing tools.
- The Business Utility Zone Gateway is a national online directory that lets you pick the state where your business is located to then receive information and access to free government and small business assistance programs and learning series.
- Small Business Computing helps you specifically focus on making smarter decisions about technology, including what to invest and how to maximize its benefits.
- Money Management International delivers financial tools that help you learn to effectively budget, handle debt, and oversee finances. The site provides webinars, e-books, articles, podcasts and more.
- Marketwatch has created a site devoted to small business owner issues, trends, and opportunities that regularly delivers fresh and relevant content tied to all aspects of running and publicizing a business.
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Startup and Funding Resources
If you are in the works with a new business or looking for funding to get started, consider these free resources:
- Startup School is a YouTube video channel packed with videos that show you how to turn an idea into a viable business, including how to market that business to the right audience through various platforms and messaging.
- Startup Nation is a free site chock full of resources to get your business off the ground, including access to funding, mentors, investors, tools for marketing and advertising and talent.
- Startup NEXT offers an intensive five-week course that provides a way to move a new startup farther along in order to get attention from investors and prepare the entrepreneur for an accelerator program.
- Dreamfunded is the next generation of funding for startup founders. It enables crowdfunding for your startup.
- Entrepreneur has a comprehensive online site with plenty of free content related to startups, funding sources, investors, new marketing channels and strategies and business trends.
- The Small Business Association (SBA) offers everything from paperwork to advice on how to start a business, where to get funding, and how to ensure everything you do is compliant.
- My Own Business offers an online collection of courses and resources to start a business the right way and continue to make the smartest decisions about its direction and growth through everything from designing a business plan to creating a marketing strategy with tactics and metrics to hiring and training the best talent.
- Entrepreneurship.org is an organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs all over the world to start and manage their businesses, including resources organized by topic and channel like sales and marketing, funding and credit, human resources, strategy, competition and more.
- The SME Toolkit provides resources related to starting your business, including creating a business plan, locating funding, finding a business partner and scaling it up through various marketing strategies like social media marketing, influencer marketing, online marketing and traditional marketing.
- Intuit has launched a free online startup kit to help entrepreneurs launch their business correctly with tips on getting it set up, receiving payments, creating a website, developing marketing messages and managing client relationships.
- Numerous banks are now offering their own set of small business resources, including Citi, Chase, Wells Fargo and U.S. Bank just to name a few.
Professional Development Resources
No matter where you are in your career, professional development should be on your to-do list. Whether it is keeping up with the latest industry trends or polishing up your leadership, technology or marketing skills, here are some free resources:
- Startup Grind is a community of startups from around the world helping each other network and connect with other startup founders. They also have local monthly meetups where they interview startup founders that have been successful.
- Stanford University offers its Entrepreneur Corner, which includes over 3,000 free videos and podcasts designed around leadership, entrepreneurship, marketing and sales, and innovation.
- You’re the Boss Blog is published by The New York Times and is strictly geared to helping the small business owner run a more effective business as well as improve their skills and knowledge in the process around all components of a business -- from accounting and HR to marketing and public relations.
- YEC is a great community to join that consists of young entrepreneurs under the age of 40 who own businesses and are looking to further develop their skills, talents, and knowledge. Beyond just professional development, it would also fit under the categories of business operations and networking for what it offers, including numerous opportunities to market your expertise and business to others within the community.
- Free Management Library allows you to tap into online development courses that are equivalent to MBA courses that you would otherwise have to pay for at a university, including leadership, strategy, business law and marketing.
- The American Management Association has an online library of thousands of articles and white papers that can help you develop your own skill sets and improve the health of your business. It covers all aspects of a business, including the internal and external environment, talent acquisition and management, sales and marketing, strategy, finance and accounting, competition, and national and international trends.
- The Open Education Consortium provides access to a global network of university courses that are offered online and free to those interested in taking them, furthering the idea that education should not be expensive. It offers courses similar to those found in universities for business majors, including marketing, leadership, strategy and human resources.
- SmallBusiness.com offers regularly updated relevant content that you can use for your own professional development goals as well as apply to what you want to accomplish in your small business. It can be searched by topic and offers numerous guides and a wiki with information added by small business owners related to their experiences with marketing, strategy, talent acquisition, competition and legal issues.
If you are looking for everything from a mentor or advisor to a strategic partner, co-founder, or fresh talent, networking is a good platform where you can achieve these goals. Check out these free resources:
- StartupWeek is a five-day free event that happens in cities all over the world that brings together entrepreneurs, local leaders, and business owners to share ideas and find ways to help each other succeed, including topics related to funding, strategy, marketing and sales, technology and talent.
- Startup Weekend is a much shorter way to get information and tips to get launched. Hosted in numerous cities all over the country, this weekend puts entrepreneurs in front of potential investors, mentors, and sponsors.
- eFactor is a free membership site that connects a small business owner to online and offline networking events. Besides the social aspect and ability to locate mentors, talent, investors and more, this networking hub provides a wealth of information through content, seminars, and events all over the world.
- Outro helps marketers generate triple opt-in referrals and warm introductions from the people who know, trust, & love you and your business. This helps you network like a pro.
- LinkedIn is a popular professional networking site that offers a diverse set of resources and ways to connect with other professionals as well as talent, mentors, colleagues, investors and more. It can also serve as an excellent marketing tool for a small business owner.
- Plaxo started as a professional networking site and continues to offer ways to connect with those that can help your small business succeed, but it also provides a way to stay organized with your contacts by keeping them together across all devices and platforms plus provide cloud storage capability for your critical data.
- Micro Mentor is a channel that allows you to find and partner with an available mentor who can help you get started or address any growth challenges you may be experiencing.
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Start Sourcing Now
I still use so many of these resources even as my businesses have grown because they offer me new knowledge, efficiency, and solutions that maximize my time and available budget.
With so many free resources at your fingertips, there's no excuse not to take advantage of them. Look these up later when you have free time.
Make the time now to change how you make business decisions and oversee your startup or thriving company.