Tools and resources
As a small business, one of your primary concerns is keeping costs low. This is where free resources are going to be your secret weapon. Tools like trade publications, training, apps, and software can provide low-cost or even free ways to establish and manage certain aspects of your small business.
Small business apps
Today’s business apps and software packages can help boost productivity organization-wide. Many include mobile apps for on-the-go access. Those explicitly designed as small business apps often scale with you, leaving room for growth and eliminating wasted time and money. Consider apps for help managing the following:
- Accounting. QuickBooks, Freshbooks.
- Inventory management. Delivrd, SOS Inventory.
- Marketing. Wix, Nimble.
- Team management. GoTo Meeting, Slack.
- Full-service payroll. QuickBooks Time, Gusto, Zenefits.
- Point-of-sale. Square, Zettle by PayPal.
Project management. Google, Trello.
Small business advice
The following resources can be beneficial for getting clear, quality business advice:
- SCORE.org. Receive free advice from retired and active executives and entrepreneurs sponsored by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Google, the SBA, Microsoft Inc., and other heavy hitters. Small business owners can request a SCORE mentor and receive valuable insights on business management.
- Your local community college small business center. Most community colleges have free resources funded by local and state governments to help spur local small business growth to revitalize their communities.
- BusinessAdvising.org. You can use this virtual advising platform if your small business meets the criteria. It allows business owners to meet online with advisors who can help you boost revenues, growth, and hiring capacity.
Good legal advice, even when it’s costly, can protect you from expensive issues later on. Fortunately, there are affordable places to go for general legal advice and even specific guidance for your own business.
- The SBA. Head to sba.gov and look up the district office nearest you. They can point you toward local legal advising and financing programs.
- Avvo.com. The website includes a free resource where you can submit a question about legal documents, taxes, sole proprietorships, and other issues and get an answer within 24 hours.
- Legal Zoom. You can pay about $24 a month to get all sorts of small business legal advice, have lawyers write or review contracts, and review other legal documents.
Trade- and industry-related advice
Nobody will quite understand your business needs as well as people with experience in your industry. This is why you need to reach out for networking opportunities, online forums, and other resources related to your industry.
- Meetup.com. Probably one of the most robust online forums for small business owners to discover and “meet up” with fellow small business owners in their industry or local area.
- Small Business Expo. In 16 major cities across the country, small business owners converge yearly for networking opportunities and education about general and specific industry-related small business issues. Registration is free for these annual conferences.
- Online business forums. Try Small-Business-Forum.net and BizWarriors.com. Search both to find advice and discussions that might suit your needs.
Marketing is an essential part of growing your small business. Understanding how to manage traditional marketing with social media marketing, content marketing, and other channels takes time.
Many previously listed organizations and forums (like SCORE and the SBA) will provide advice on all facets of marketing. But YouTube can also be a valuable resource where successful entrepreneurs share valuable insights for free. Here are some channels to check out:
- Behind the Brand. If you need help building your brand (an essential marketing step), tune in to see interviews from some of the most successful brand builders out there.
- Social Media Examiner. Social media marketing, podcasts, and blogs (content marketing) are essential tools for building a brand, driving traffic to your website, and snagging sales. This YouTube channel has shown small businesses the ropes for more than a decade.
- LinkedIn Marketing Success Hub. This is not on YouTube, but instead can be reached through LinkedIn’s website. This is a prime spot to get advice about focusing on your target market and addressing it to build sales.
Once you start hiring employees, you’ll have all kinds of documents, legal issues, and payroll issues to address to keep employees happy and engaged and keep you legally compliant. The following forums’ HR-specific advice resources are worth checking out as well:
- Workest. From HR compliance checklists to crafting an excellent employee handbook, Workest specializes in providing HR advice to small businesses.
- Your local small business association. Local small business associations, including official small business development centers (SBDCs), have a wealth of resources related to human resources, hiring the right people, and more.