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17 Essential Free Online Resources for Entrepreneurs

17 Essential Free Online Resources for Entrepreneurs

Starting and running a modern business can be challenging to say the least. There are so many things to juggle. So many tools and services. So many people to meet and contacts to make. Business plans, marketing– you name it.

As busy and as hectic as the world of business is, there is one huge benefit we can all make use of – free online resources aimed at helping small business owners and entrepreneurs. There’s a stack of great stuff out there; if you know where to look.

To help you, we’ve compiled a big list of all the best free resources (including guides, tutorials, articles, tools, & services) that will help you take another step towards success.

Business Ideas

Coming up with a viable business idea is not always that easy. That’s not to say it shouldn’t be a fun learning experience. SpringWise looks at innovation around the globe with a focus on high tech stuff that, unfortunately, tends to be out of the reach of a solopreneur type startup. Nevertheless, it’s still hugely valuable to keep tabs on what’s coming onto the market.

Springwise business ideas

    Not every idea you see on Springwise will be a viable startup option for you, so you might want to look at something like SME Pals’ Small Business Ideas resource page, which offers a huge, growing list of unusual, innovative, and quirky ideas with a focus on low startup costs and great online potential.

    Business Plans

    Whether you are looking for investors, approaching the bank for a loan, or simply doing extensive marketing research, a good business plan can give you the knowledge and industry insight needed to take advantage of new business opportunities.

    Bplans offers hundreds of freely available business plan templates on their Free Sample Business Plans resource page.

    Bplans sample business plans

      There are over 116 business plan outlines for retail and online startups alone, which makes an unbeatable business plan resource for home based or small business startups, that want to do everything from blogging to selling things online.

      Websites

      Every modern business needs a website. But not every modern entrepreneur should have to learn programming, HTML, CSS, MySQL, DNS, SSL and every other piece of technology that goes into making a website.

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      Free yourself from complicated and expensive custom Web design issues by following SME Pals’ How to make a website guide for complete beginners. See how easy, fast, and cheap it is to create a professional, cutting edge website for yourself.

      How to make a website

        What’s nice about this resource is that it is organized into sections that you can dip in and out of depending on where you are in the process of creating a website. Access everything from important concepts and basic definitions, to costs, guidance, and advice on domains, hosting, and step-by-step beginner guides to building a website on all the major Web platforms.

        Analytics

        Having a great website is only the first step. Next, it’s important to monitor Web traffic to understand where visitors come from, what they do while they’re browsing your site, and where they go afterwards.

        Analytics is a vital part of any good marketing, advertising, content, sales, and search optimization campaign. Google Analytics offers a complete (and completely free) way to work with your visitor data to better understand how your business is performing.

        Web analytics

          I find that the Audience Overview, Real Time, Acquisition Channels, and Behavior Events data reports are the most useful because that covers everything from who has visited my site, whos online right now, where they came from, and what they did.

          Marketing

          Marketing is a huge discipline making it difficult to cover every little aspect in one go. However, there are a few standout resources that I think are definitely worth mentioning.

          Inbound

          The particular demands of the Internet audience lead to an evolution in the way marketers approached their craft. Inbound marketing was born and espoused a shift in attitudes from telling consumers to buy your products, to engaging with them to build trust and authority. At the vanguard of this movement is Hubspot, and there is a lot of extremely valuable information on inbound marketing at their blog.

          Hubspot inbound marketing

            Blogging

            For me blogging just wouldn’t be the same without the longstanding service of Darren Rowse’ ProBlogger that offers a massive array of articles, guides, tips, eBooks, podcasts, and other resources on everything to do with creating content for blogs.

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            Blogging tips and advice

              While some of the resources on the site are paid, I highly recommend browsing their blog for more actionable advice and tips than you can shake a stick at.

              SEO

              Search engine optimization is the art and skill of ranking your website and webpages higher in Google (and other search engines) in order to generate as much valuable organic search traffic as possible. SEO is a huge discipline encompassing everything from content creation (blogging) to technical aspects such as server speed and performance.

              There’s no-one better in the industry to offer reliable free advice and insight then Brian Dean and BackLinko.

              Backlinko SEO advice and tips

                The best feature about Brian’s site is that he doesn’t produce tons of articles. You’re lucky if there’s a new one each fortnight. But, each article contains a wealth of really valuable insight and information. I’ve been in the biz for years and I still learn new stuff each time I pop in to read something.

                My favorite is his list of 201 powerful SEO tips, which contains enough actionable search optimization hints and tips to keep you busy for weeks at a time.

                Software

                There’s no one single piece of free software I could recommend since any type of business requires a whole array of software in order to function. That’s why this section is going to be a list of the most useful software packages available for download online. Enjoy.

                7-Zip

                7-Zip is a free (no payment or registration required) utility that can archive and compress files and folders as well as unzip them using a range of formats – like Windows’ .zip, and the superior .tar.gz, as well as its own high compression .7z format.

                7zip free zip utility

                  Skype

                  Skype provides free online conversations and instant messaging, file sharing, video sharing, conference calling, and VoIP to land-line calls.

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                  Skype free VoIP IM

                    Avast

                    Avast offers a free trial of their antivirus software for 30 days. After that time you can choose to extend your free usage period or upgrade to their full, paid protection plan. While there are a few annoying popups to deal with on occasion, overall, their free protection plan is excellent.

                    Avast free antivirus

                      Thunderbird

                      Mozilla’s Thunderbird is a modern, easy to use email client that will have you sending and receiving emails in no time on virtually any platform you can imagine – Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.

                      Thunderbird free email client

                        OpenOffice

                        Apache’s OpenOffice is open source’s answer to Microsoft Office, which used to be bundled free with Windows, but now costs a small fortune to install separately.

                        OpenOffice free office software

                          Adobe Reader

                          Adobe Acrobat Reader is an essential free utility for reading (but not creating) PDF documents. PDF is a widespread document format that is common online (if you do any work online, you’ll need a PDF reader).

                          Adobe free PDF reader

                            Dropbox

                            Dropbox is a free, cloud based application that allows you to store, share and synchronize files online.

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                            dropbox free cloud sharing and storage

                              Chrome

                              Google’s Chrome Web browser has risen to become the most dominant PC browser on the planet. It did this by being fast, and easy to use while rendering Webpages elegantly.

                              Chrome free Web browser

                                Q&A

                                Without a doubt, the best place to get surprisingly good, in-depth and knowledgeable online advice about virtually every aspect of starting, growing, and operating a successful business of pretty much any size in pretty much any industry is Quora.

                                Quora free expert answers

                                  A good way to find quality answers is to search for questions that have garnered a lot of views. Generally, popular questions attract better and better answers that go into more and more detail as they compete to be upvoted to the top of the answer results.

                                  Tax, Loans & Finance

                                  Government recognizes the importance of startups, innovation, and small businesses within the economy. Small businesses account for almost half the nation’s contribution to GDP and almost half of the overall employment. That’s huge.

                                  It’s no wonder that the SBA was created to help entrepreneurs and small business owners navigate the tangled Web of tax, legal, and finance laws, regulations and practices.

                                  Small Business Administration

                                    While there are plenty of local and regional resources available from the SBA, the two most important online ones are their Loans & Grants and Learning Center. The loans section, in particular, offers plenty of valuable advice and information on how to apply for loans, connect with lenders, and access other financing resources.

                                    So that’s the end of my list of free, online entrepreneur resources. Hopefully you’ll find plenty of valuable insight and information to help boost your own business and take you one step closer to success.

                                    Do you already use any of the resources mentioned here? Have they been of help to you and your business? What other free sites, articles, tools, and resources would you recommend?

                                    Share your thoughts in the comments.

                                    Featured photo credit: Jeff Sheldon via albumarium.com

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                                    Last Updated on November 5, 2019

                                    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

                                    How to Use Visual Learning to Work More Effectively

                                    Knowledge is essential to become successful in life, your career and your business. Without learning new concepts and becoming proficient in our craft, we cannot excel in our chosen careers or archive knowledge to pass down to the next generation.

                                    But content comes in various forms, and because how we learn influences how much we know, we need to talk about learning styles. This article will focus on how to utilize visual learning to boost your career or business.

                                    The Importance of Knowing Your Learning Style

                                    Knowing your learning style enables you to process new information to the best of your ability. Not only does it reduce your learning curve, you’re able to communicate these same concepts to others effectively.

                                    But it all starts when you’re able to first identify the best way you learn.

                                    As a college student, I soon figured out that taking online courses without visual aids or having an instructor in front of me led to poor retention of concepts.

                                    Sure, I got good grades and performed excellently in my online exams. However. I discovered that I couldn’t maintain this performance level because I forgot 80 percent of the course content by the end of the semester.

                                    There are several types of learning styles known to mankind. To give an idea of how visual learning stacks up against other learning styles, here’s a brief mention of some of the different types of learning styles we have.

                                    The four most popular types of learning styles are:

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                                    • Visual learning style (what this article talks about).
                                    • Aural or auditory learning style (learning by listening to information presented).
                                    • Verbal or linguistic learning style (learning that involves speech and writing).
                                    • Tactile learning style (learning by touching and doing)

                                    But for the purposes of this article, we will be focusing on using visual learning to boost your career or business.

                                    How to Know If You’re a Visual Learner?

                                    When it comes to boosting your career, business (or education), a visual learner is one who would most definitely choose shapes, images, symbols, or reading over auditory messages.

                                    I’m talking about preferring to read an actual map when navigating to a new place over listening to verbal directions. I’m talking about discovering that you actually have trouble remembering what your manager said at the meeting because there were no graphs or illustrations to support the points raised.

                                    Most people who struggle with learning probably aren’t leveraging their best learning styles. The earlier you identify how your learning style can boost your success, the less struggle you will encounter with processing new information throughout your career.

                                    However, visual learning in particular CAN 10x your career or business whether it is your preferred learning style or not. And here’s why:

                                    Several studies have arrived at the conclusion that the brain retains more information with the help of visual aids. In other words, images are directly processed by our long-term memory which helps us store information for longer periods of time.[1]

                                    While some lessons can be performed orally, several concepts can only make sense if you have an image with an explanation of sequences (i.e learning about the human DNA).

                                    Visual learning does use a different part of the brain and visual cues are processed by the part of the brain known as the occipital lobe.

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                                    By engaging more parts of the brain during learning, you’re able to have a fuller understanding of concepts and facilitate better interaction with your immediate environment.

                                    How to Use Visual Learning for Success

                                    Here’re 4 ways to use visual learning to boost your career or business:

                                    1. Bring back the to-do list. Then add shapes and colors to boost productivity.

                                    We live in an age where computers have taken over virtually every aspect of productivity and most human functions. But written lists are making a comeback, and with an endless number of important tasks to complete, having a to-do list of tasks in order of importance can improve your productivity.

                                    While coming up with a list is initially challenging, adding colors and shapes to written lists that you personally write and manage gives you an extra layer of assurance and boosts aids recall so that you actually get stuff done.

                                    I have tried this technique in my work as a registered nurse and discovered that adding shapes and colors to to-do lists helps me delegate tasks, recognize where more work is needed, and makes it easy to cross off completed tasks at the end of the day.

                                    2. Add graphs, charts and symbols to your reports.

                                    Yes, it seems like more work cut out for you. However, graphs enable you monitor the heartbeat of your business.

                                    Graphs and charts help you trend your finances, budget, and pretty much any data overtime. With the help of free and premium software available on the market, it has become easier to take plain data and in a matter of seconds, have relevant information displayed in different shapes and images.

                                    As an entrepreneur, you can make predictions and allocate funds wisely when you’re able to see whether your efforts are rewarded. You can use colors and charts to delegate actions to members of your team and track performance at the same time.

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                                    And when broken down into monthly, quarterly, bi-annual or annual goals, graphs and charts communicate what ordinary text cannot.

                                    3. Effectively brainstorm with mind-mapping.

                                    Mind-mapping is not new but I don’t think it’s been talked about as often as we do to-do lists.

                                    With mind mapping, you’re organizing information accurately and drawing relationships between concepts and pieces from a whole.

                                    Think of a mind map as a tree with several branches. For example, the tree can symbolize healthcare while each branch stands for nursing, medicine, laboratory science, and so on. When you look at nursing, you can further branch out into types of nursing; pediatric, women’s health, critical care, and so on.

                                    It’s an interesting relationship; the more ideas you’re able to come up with for your chosen subject, the deeper you get and the stronger the association.

                                    Mind maps really show you relationships between subjects and topics, and simplifies processes that might seem complicated at first glance. In a way, it is like a graphical representation of facts presented in a simple, visual format.

                                    Mind mapping isn’t only limited to career professionals; business owners can benefit from mind mapping by organizing their online learning activities and breaking down complex tasks into simple actions so that you can accurately measure productivity.

                                    4. Add video streaming to meetings.

                                    What if you could double the productivity of your team members by video streaming your meetings or adding flash animation to your presentation at the same time?

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                                    When you offer video as an alternative method of processing information to colleagues, there is a greater chance of retaining information because we recreate these stories into images in our minds.

                                    For organizations that hold virtual meetings, it can also be an effective way to enhance performance during if people can see their colleagues in addition to flash animation or whatever form of video is provided during the meeting.

                                    Is Visual Learning Better Than Other Learning Styles?

                                    No, that is not the point. The goal here is to supplement your existing dominant learning style with visual learning so that you can experience a significant boost in how you process and use everyday information.

                                    You might discover that understanding scientific concepts are much easier after incorporating visual learning or that you’re able to understand your organization’s value when projected on a visual screen with charts and graphs.

                                    The overall goal is to always be learning and to continue to leverage visual learning style in your career and business.

                                    More About Learning Styles

                                    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

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