10 Free and Low Cost Tools for Small Business Owners
Being a small business owner often means operating with a small budget. But that doesn’t have to mean skimping on essentials. The list below represents some of the best resources available for small business owners: general business and tax advice, payroll, invoicing, mentoring and other important functions. Best of all, nearly all of these resources are free, and the resources that are not free are reasonably priced.
General Business Info
Business Owners Toolkit: This free online resource from Wolters Klewer includes a treasure trove of informative articles on subjects ranging from taxes to personnel matters, finances and marketing. There are also free downloads for general business templates, employee policy information sheets and dozens of other topics.
American Express Open Forum: Qualifying for an American Express card can be tough. Taking advantage of the online American Express Open Forum is not. This online resource features blog posts and an interactive community of entrepreneurs and small business owners. It’s totally free for everyone – no American Express card required.
Business Mentoring and Training
SCORE: Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned business owner, expert advice from a seasoned professional can enhance your company. Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA) and comprised of volunteers who are matched with entrepreneurs in similar fields and industries. The SCORE website also features blog posts and links to live and online workshops. All services are free or charge very reasonable fees.
Small Business Development Center: Another SBA administered program, Small Business Development Centers operate through offices located throughout the United States and American territories. Business owners and entrepreneurs can receive free business consulting and low-cost training sessions for functions such as writing a business plan.
MailChimp: Email newsletters can be a powerful tool for growing your business. MailChimp allows users to send up to 12,000 emails per month to as many as 2,000 subscribers absolutely free. Larger email volume packages start at just $10 per month. You can connect your MailChimp account to an e-commerce platform (e.g. Shopify).
Dropbox: Sending large files via regular email can be an exercise in frustration. Dropbox allows users to upload files and send links to recipients worldwide. Free Dropbox accounts include up to 2 GB of space. Pricing for larger amounts varies by location: in the United States 1 TB of space costs $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year if paid in a lump sum.
Google Docs: Like Dropbox, Google Docs allows users to upload and share documents with designated recipients. However, Google Docs requires a Google account to use. Users are allowed 15 GB free space for all the services they use Google (email, Docs, etc.). Pricing varies for larger space allotments; presently 1TB of space costs $1.99 per month.
FreshBooks: QuickBooks by Intuit is one of the most popular bookkeeping software packages. But depending on the package you choose, QuickBooks can be pricey, even with the price decrease that occurred in 2015. FreshBooks is a low-cost online bookkeeping software package. FreshBooks offers customizable invoices, payroll and an integrated credit card payment function. FreshBooks is free for the first 30 days, and ranges from $15 per month for five active clients to $50 per month with up to 500 active clients.
SBA.gov LINC: The entire SBA.gov website is a treasure trove of general business information and specific guidelines for SBA administered programs. SBA.gov LINC is a free gateway for borrowers and lenders. Borrowers enter their information and receive feedback from prospective SBA-approved lenders in approximately two business days.
IRS.gov Small Business Taxes – the Virtual Workshop: If you avoid using the IRS.gov website because of the agency’s scary reputation from the bad old days, you’re definitely behind the curve. The entire Small Business and Self Employed section of the IRS.gov website should be bookmarked as a go-to source for general tax information for entrepreneurs and small business owners. In addition, the Virtual Workshop on the IRS Videos portion of the website features information on filing Schedule C, home based businesses, hiring employees or contractors and more. The site and its lessons are absolutely free.
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