Is 2018 the year you plan to launch your business or take it to the next level? If so, we’ve got a round up of 17 awesome free resources that can help you achieve your goals for growth. Some of these services may offer a paid subscription but the free version can provide significant value.
1. Free Business Consulting
Small Business Development Centers, SCORE Offices, Veteran-Owned Business Centers and Women-Owned Business Centers provide training and consulting to entrepreneurs. Get expert help with your business plan, marketing and social media, or even import/export help. Many of their services are free; when there are charges for services (such as training) it’s typically a nominal fee. Use this SBA locator tool to find services in your area.
2. Small Business Cyber Planner
Nothing can kill a business faster than a data breach or getting hacked. That’s why every business needs a cyber security plan. The FCC’s Small Biz Cyber Planner is an easy-to-use, free online tool you can use to create a customized planning guide to protect your business from cybersecurity threats.
3. Invoicing and Contracts
Some 81% of small business invoices are 30 days past due, according to research by Fundbox. Two keys to making sure your business gets paid: have a contract and invoice promptly. And.co can help with both for free, plus you’ll get time tracking, reports, the ability to accept payments online (transaction fees charged on free accounts) and more.
LinkedIn can help you network, find customers and new employees, or get the word out about important developments in your business. Business owners can get enormous value from a free account. If you haven’t created a LinkedIn profile, or if yours isn’t getting results, use these free LinkedIn profile tips from upendPR to make sure you stand out.
5. Get Found Online
Help get your business found by customers and prospects online by creating your free Google listing on Google My Business. While you’re at it, create a free business profile at Manta.com.
6. Business Startup Checklist
Want to make sure your business is legit? This easy 14-step checklist will give you step-by-step instructions for getting and staying on the right track.
Can't get enough? We've got tons of business tools and resources right here.
7. Business Forms & Templates
A library of free business forms and templates (including an invoice template, marketing plan template and more) are available at Entrepreneur.com. Use as a starting point and be sure to get professional advice when appropriate.
8. Business Plan Template & Samples
Your business plan isn’t something you create once and forget. Some small business lenders will want to review a business plan, plus it’s a great way for you to review and reset your goals each year. Get a free business plan and/or pitch plan template, or peruse more than 500 sample business plans at Bplans.com.
9. Productivity Tool
Get — and stay — on track with Asana’s robust project and task management tool. The free version will likely be sufficient for the majority of smaller businesses. Tip: If you’re a visual task master, create “boards” for projects so you can see the status of tasks at a glance and monitor progress. If you’re already a Kaizen or Kanban fan, you’ll love this tool.
10. Email Marketing Tools
There are few businesses that can’t benefit from engaging customers through email. Your email list, in fact, can be marketing gold. Three robust solutions you can use for free as you grow your list include Benchmark Email, which provides up to 14,000 emails to 2,000 contacts under its free plan; Mailchimp which allows up to 12,000 emails per month to up to 2,000 contacts at no cost, and SendinBlue which offers up to 9.000 emails to an unlimited number of contacts free per month.
11. Conference Calling
Uberconference offers free conference calling accessible online or via phone. It even allows for screen and document sharing on a free account. Warning: Be on time for calls. In addition to avoiding a top conference call faux pas, The clever tune that’s played while waiting for the organizer to arrive will get annoying quickly — it’s a truth universally acknowledged for all conference calling systems that the hold music will slowly drive you insane.
12. Business Phone Number
Get a number you can use strictly for business with Google Voice. This free solution lets you forward calls to various numbers (cellphone, landline) or send to voicemail. It’s one of several inexpensive business phone number solutions.
13. Video Calls
Skype remains a popular option for video conferencing. It’s also popular among some podcasters and small business owners who host webinars. And if you travel frequently, Skype offers free or inexpensive calling internationally.
14. Stunning Photos
You’re likely going to need great photos for your website or social media posts. Pixabay and Unsplash are two sites that offer stunning royalty-free photos you can use in a commercial context. There are others; always be sure to review the license to make sure you use photos you find online correctly.
15. Beautiful Graphics
Take those free photos (or your own) and use them on Canva to create beautiful graphics with over 8,000 free templates. Add text and size them to the most popular social media platforms (or in custom sizes) for share-worthy posts.
16. Free Credit Scores
Build business credit, monitor your business and personal credit for free, and find financing options with a free account from Nav. As an added bonus, you can get a free printed copy of my award-winning book Finance Your Own Business: Get On the Financing Fast Track mailed to you when you sign up for your free Nav account through this link. (Limited copies available.)
17. Coworking for Less
Public libraries offer free research services, WiFi, low-cost copying and a quiet place to work. You may even think of them as your free coworking space. Some libraries serve entrepreneurs with “maker spaces” with 3-D printing, networking opportunities and more. If you’re an entrepreneurial nomad, or not ready to shell out money for an office space, check out your public library.
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