Starting and running a small business can be exciting, challenging, and also expensive. Knowing how to make the most of what is available is a valuable skill that can help propel your business forward. To help you out, we have put together 54 free and cheap resources to help you and your business grow.
A trusted and experienced mentor can be an advantage for both newbie and veteran small business owners. Mentors can give you strategic direction, widen your network, help avoid costly errors, and, as Tony Robbins puts it, "save you time and pain with the knowledge they've gained in their own experiences." Here are some resources to help find the right mentor for you:
- SCORE - SCORE is a non-profit and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). As a national network, SCORE has over 300 chapters across the US, with volunteers in over 60 industries. Every member of SCORE is either an active or retired executive or entrepreneur.
- Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) - SBDC is a nationwide network of centers offering a wide variety of assistance to small businesses, including mentoring and business consultations. SBDCs usually partner with local colleges and universities to help nurture small businesses.
- Veteran’s Business Outreach Center - The VBOC is tailored to provide veterans with free services for service members, veterans, reserve members, and military spouses looking to start a small business or need help in determining the direction of an existing one.
- Minority Business Development Agency Business Centers - MBDA Business centers are located throughout the country to help minority-owned businesses with business services
- Association of Women’s Business Centers - This national network of business centers helps women entrepreneurs by offering training, mentoring, networking, and financing opportunities.
- MicroMentor - Powered by volunteers Micromentor is a community of entrepreneurs and experienced mentors that help small businesses position themselves for success.
- Trade or professional associations - Depending on the industry you are in, you may be able to find a mentor through your specific industry association.
Productivity, collaboration, and communication
As a small business owner, you probably find yourself losing track of time during hectic workdays. Here are some tools that can help you streamline business processes, increase productivity, and make communication easier.
- G Suite - For just a few dollars a month you can set up a unique email for your business, and have access to tools that can help make running your business easier like shared calendars, Google Drive, Google docs, sheets, slides, forms, hangouts and more.
- Slack - Slack lets you set up team communication and keep everything organized in one place. Slack also integrates with dozens of apps, giving you the flexibility to create a work environment that suits your business needs.
- Trello - Trello is a productivity management tool that helps you organize tasks and projects for your business, and best of all, many of the features that make it great are free. There is also a vibrant community of Trello users who share insights on how they use Trello for their business.
- Asana - An additional project management tool to help you keep track and efficiently manage tasks for your small business. The free version provides a generous list of features for small businesses.
- Calendly - Calendly lets others schedule time in your calendar for meetings, demos, and other events. Instead of tedious back and forth emails, you can add a link to your website or email.
- Zoom - Zoom is a video conferencing tool for your online meetings. Their free plan includes unlimited 1 to 1 meetings and 40-minute sessions for over three people.
- Dropbox - You don’t need to spend a lot of money on storage space when Dropbox provides solutions for small businesses for free. Need more space? For a few dollars a month, you can upgrade your business account.
- Zapier - Zapier lets you automate specific tasks in your small business and manage your time better.
- Evernote - Evernote helps you organize different types of information to “notebooks” that you can share and access from any device. Check out some suggestions to use Evernote in your small business.
List your business online
Here are some tools that can help you get the word out about your small business.
- Google my business - GMB allows you to create a listing for your business on Google so you can connect with your customers. Post details like location, hours, website, pictures that will show up when someone is looking for a business like yours.
- Yelp - Yelp lets you create a free business profile and encourages your customers to write a review about your business.
- Foursquare - Over 50 million people use Foursquare to find, check-in, and share experiences about their favorite small businesses.
- Tripadvisor - With hundreds of millions of users, your small business is missing out if you do not post it on Tripadvisor - especially if your business is in the hospitality industry.
- Instagram - Use Instagram to show off your store or service and get creative with what your business has to offer.
- Yahoo (Yext) - You can claim a basic listing for your small business to appear on Yahoo and other premium sites.
- Bing - While Google reigns supreme, there are still opportunities to be found on Bing. List your small business for free.
- Angie’s List - If your business in the healthcare or home services space, Angie’s list is the de-facto place to list your small business.
- YP (Yellow Pages) - You can claim a free profile with YP and build a profile so potential customers can find you.
Marketing your small business is vital to promote your offering, messaging, and company to customers and potential clients. Here are some tools that can help you do that.
- Wix - The granddaddy of no-cost websites Wix also includes free hosting. Wix includes over 70 industries and hundreds of templates to create a viable website for free. For a few dollars a month, you can upgrade to a premium plan for a custom domain, site analytics, and blocking Wix ads and more.
- Mailchimp - If you have built an email list, Mailchimp is a great tool to relay news and promotions about your business. Mailchimp offers appealing templates that are easy-to-adapt to your business needs. Their free plan lets you send up to the 12,000 emails per month to 2000 subscribers.
- Canva - Canva helps you create professional designs for your small business. With dozens of templates for social media, banners, posters, flyers, and more, Canva gives you lots of free or minimal costs (usually $1).
- Hubspot - Hubspot provides a massive suite of tools that help you manage your customer relationship, develop your inbound marketing, and convert website visitors to viable leads. Small businesses can start for free and grow as needed.
- Pixabay - Need free stock images? Pixabay is an excellent source with over a million images, vectors, and even some videos.
- Unsplash - Unsplash is a market place for high-resolution freely-usably images.
- Mixkit - Want to add some music to your marketing assets. Mixkit gives you hundreds of free tracks to choose from.
- WordPress - Create and manage a beautiful blog for your business for free with WordPress. You do need to pay for web hosting and a domain name, however, you also have access to thousands of free themes and plugins to enhance functionality.
- Google analytics - GA helps small business owners understand what is working in their marketing efforts and gain insights about web site traffic.
- Ubersuggest - Ubersuggest makes it easy to do practical, quick keyword research with just a few clicks. Ubersuggest is a free service that shows how the keywords you are interested in are being used and suggest other words or phrases that can contribute to your content.
Accounting and cash management
Managing your finances effectively can be the difference between keeping your small business afloat or closing your doors. These tools can help you better manage the financial side of your business and even predict your cash flow.
- Melio is a free digital payment solution tailor-made for small businesses and accountants. Through smart payments, simple approval workflows, and 2-way sync with QuickBooks, Melio helps small businesses improve cash flow, save valuable time, pay invoices quickly and track all inbound and outbound payments in one simple space.
- QuickBooks - For a few dollars a month, QuickBooks can help you manage all your small business accounting needs
- Microsoft Excel - Search for “cash flow” in the templates to help you create a cash flow forecast specifically for your small business.
- Cash Flow Frog - Cash Flow Frog has a free plan that lets you manage your cash flow balance so you can make educated decisions about your small business’s financial position
- Expensify - Expensify helps you easily track receipts and expenses for your small business and simplify the traditional expense report. The free plan lets you scan up to 25 a month.
Training and skills
- Small business administration - The SBA’s learning center provides a host of free valuable online courses and resources on starting, managing, and growing your small business.
- Coursera - Coursera offers some free courses that can help you improve certain skills like negotiation. Running a search on “Small business” will bring up courses like “How to Start Your Own Business Specialization” from Michigan State University, “Business Foundations” from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton), Financial Accounting Fundamentals from the University of Virginia and more, and are free for seven days. They are a great resource if you are starting a small business or want more insight into running your existing one. After that, you might find it useful to pay the monthly subscription to get certified in certain areas.
- Hubspot Academy - If you are trying to grow your online presence for your business, Hubspot Academy offers free online training on everything from content marketing to email marketing, social media, and more.
- Alison - Alison offers hundreds of online courses for free on topics. The entrepreneurship category can help you learn critical skills for entrepreneurs.
- Skillshare - While a premium membership will give you unlimited access to Skillshare's thousands of online courses (and only costs a few dollars a month), they also offer many free courses to help you up your game.
- edX - edX offers many online courses for free without certification. So if the goal is increasing your knowledge, edX can be a great resource for you. Certification usually costs between $50-$300. Running a search on “Entrepreneurship” will offer courses like Entrepreneurship 101: Who is your customer from MIT, Fundamentals of Entrepreneurship in the Family Business, and more.
Networking with professionals in your industry and with your local community is beneficial to share resources, insights, and opportunities.
- Meetup - Meet up is a free website/app that lets you discover both online and in-person events in your area. Run a search for “small business” “entrepreneurs” or topics of interest in your industry.
- Eventbrite - Eventbrite is another free website/app to find events both nationally and in your area.
- Social Media Groups - Facebook and Linkedin both offer groups for small businesses in general, specific industries, or your community providing a valuable and free resource for networking and information. Some groups you might find helpful: Small Business Owners United, Small Business Owners Networking, Small Business Owners Of America.
- Linkedin - With almost 700 million professionals on Linkedin, it’s a great platform to grow your voice, build a following, and network with like-minded professionals. It does take time and effort, so here are some tips from Hootsuite that can help you organize a strategy to start.
- Help your community - a great way to network with other local businesses and people in your community is to find ways to offer help in times of need. Maybe your business provides a vital service, or you have a skill that can help others.
- Trade associations - Depending on your industry, your trade associations may have newsletters and networking opportunities that you can take advantage of.
- Your local Chamber of Commerce - While there might be a yearly fee involved, your local chamber of commerce is there to help businesses grow. They can help you get on small business newsletters, participate in workshops, learn about events in your area, and even benefit from help and discounts that can help you run your business.
- Freelancers Union -The Freelancers Union helps promote freelancers and contractors with education, and services. Membership is free and can help with a wide range of services including guides to networking, events, a community blog, and Freelancers Hubs.
There you have it. 54 free and cheap resources for your small business. We hope you find this list useful. What tools do you use in your small business? Let us know we’ll add them to the list.
*This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and you should consult with a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.