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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 May 22, 2019

                                    50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry

                                    50 Great People To Follow On LinkedIn, No Matter Your Industry

                                    LinkedIn is an excellent platform to network with great people to help you in your career and businesses. However, with over 575 million people on the site, who should you follow? This list will steer you to the right people to follow, organized by categories of expertise.

                                    Job Search Experts

                                    You will likely have several jobs throughout the course of your career, and you will constantly need advice on new trends and strategies out there in the job market. Here are the LinkedIn experts who you should follow on these matters.

                                    1. Liz Ryan is the CEO and founder of Human Workplace. Her articles on job searching are filled with creative and colorful cartoons.

                                    2. Lou Adler is the author of The Essential Guide for Hiring and Getting Hired.

                                    3. Dr. Marla Gottschalk will help you make an impact in a new job.

                                    4. Hannah Morgan runs CareerSherpa.net, where she gives expert advice on job searching and how to be more visible online.

                                    5. Alison Doyle is the CEO and Founder of CareerToolBelt.com.

                                    Management Experts

                                    They say that people leave managers, not jobs. These experts in LinkedIn will help you become your employees’ dream manager.

                                    6. Jeff Weiner. How can we leave out the CEO of LinkedIn himself?

                                    7. Nozomi Morgan is an executive coach. She can help you transition from a boss to a true leader.

                                    8. Mickey Mikitani is the CEO of Rakuten. He constantly shares his expertise in managing a global player in e-commerce platforms.

                                    9. Andreas von der Heydt was the head of Amazon’s Kindle Content and now the Director of Talent Acquisition. He has extensive experience in management, branding, and marketing.

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                                    Productivity Experts

                                    By maximizing your productivity, you can win in all aspects of life. The following LinkedIn experts will help you win big in your career.

                                    10. Gretchen Rubin is a happiness coach and the bestselling author of the The Happiness Project.

                                    11. Carson Tate is the founder of Working Simply. She advises us to include play in our schedules.

                                    12. Greg Mckeown is an essentialist. Part of being an essentialist is saying no to many things so that we can focus on the things that matter.

                                    13. Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha! Labs Inc. provides strategies on how to be productive and happy at work at the same time.

                                    Marketing Experts

                                    14. Sujan Patel is VP of Marketing at When I Work, an employee scheduling software. He is an expert in content marketing and he even shares his ideas on content marketing in 2020.

                                    15. Megan Berry is the Head of Product Development at Rebelmouse, a content marketing and AlwaysOn powerhouse.

                                    16. Sean Gardner will help you navigate the social media landscape. This includes how to use different platforms to help accelerate your career. He is also the bestselling author of The Road to Social Media Success.

                                    17. Christel Quek is an digital and marketing expert. She is the VP of South East Asia at Brandwatch. Their products help businesses utilize social media data to make better business decisions.

                                    18. Jeff Bullas is a digital marketing expert. His blog has over 4 million readers annually.

                                    19. Michael Stelzer is the CEO and Founder of social media powerhouse site, Social Media Examiner.

                                    20. If you’re looking for inbound and content marketing expertise, follow Dharmesh Shah, Founder and CTO of Hubspot.

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                                    21. David Edelman is a McKinsey partner and is at the helm of the Digital Marketing Strategy Practice Department.

                                    22. Dave Kerpen leads the social media software company Likeable Local. He is the author of Likeable Social Media: How to delight your customers.

                                    23. Clara Shih is the CEO of Hearsay Social and the author of The Facebook Era.

                                    24. Aaron Lee is Grand Master of Customer Delight at Post Planner. He is an excellent resource for everything social media.

                                    25. David Sable is the CEO of Y&R, one of the largest advertising firms in the world.

                                    26. Content marketing trumps traditional marketing these days, and who else better to lead you in this area than Joe Pulizzi, Founder of Content Marketing Institute.

                                    Personal Branding Experts

                                    Part of what we market in our personal career is our brand. When people hear your name, what kind of brand comes into their mind? What traits and qualities do they associate with you?

                                    Here are some personal branding experts from LinkedIn to improve your own brand.

                                    27. Dorie Clark is the author of Stand Out and Reinventing You. He can help you craft the professional image you’ve always wanted.

                                    28. Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding. If you’re a millennial, Dan is the guy to help you craft your personal brand.

                                    Other Notable Experts to Follow

                                    29. Lisa Gates is the expert to follow if you’re negotiating for higher salaries and promotions.

                                    30. If you’re a Baby Boomer, Marc Miller will help you navigate the continually changing landscape of the workplace.

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                                    31. To avoid getting your resumé moved to the “No” pile, read Paul Freiberger’s excellent advice.

                                    32. James Caan provides insightful ideas on careers in general. He is also a serial entrepreneur.

                                    33. Jeff Haden writes on various topics, such as leadership and management. He is the owner of Blackbird Media.

                                    34. If you’re looking for expert business advice on getting new customers and keeping them, follow Jay Baer.

                                    35. Suzanne Lucas, aka Evil HR Lady, is a great human resources specialist.

                                    36. If you need help in using Twitter to boost your career, Claire Diaz-Ortiz can guide you in the right direction.

                                    37. Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite, a social media management tool.

                                    38. Customers are the lifeblood of a business and Colin Shaw focuses on revolutionizing this customer experience.

                                    39. Brian Solis often reflects on the future of business and how technology can disrupt our world.

                                    40. Nancy Lublin provides advice on more lighthearted topics, which are perfect after a long day’s work. She is the CEO behind Dosomething.org, a portal designed for social change; and the founder & CEO of Loris.ai and Crisis Text Line.

                                    41. Katya Andresen provides advice on how to manage your career. She was the CEO of Cricket Media and now responsible for the SVP Card Customer Experience at Capital One.

                                    42. Gallup has created a system to test what your strengths are and how to use them at work. Jim Clifton is the CEO of Gallup.

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                                    43. Adam Grant is a Wharton Professor and the author of Give and Take, which provides advice on why being helpful at work can accelerate your career.

                                    44. Hunter Walk is a partner at Homebrew Venture Capitalist Company and has specialty in product development and management.

                                    45. If you’re running a nonprofit organization, follow Beth Kanter for expert advice on this area.

                                    46. Emotional Intelligence is necessary to succeed in your career, and Daniel Goleman is your expert for that.

                                    47. Rita J. King connects science, technology and business.

                                    48. Tori Worthington Rose is a Creative Director at Mary Beth West Communications, LLC. She has extensive experience in sales and digital media.

                                    49. If you’re looking for some advice on how to use writing and personal content marketing to boost your career, follow Ann Handley.

                                    50. Tim Brown is the CEO at IDEO and shares his insights on Leadership and Creativity.

                                    These are just some of the key thought leaders and movers in various industries. They will provide you with constant inspiration, as well as the willpower to pursue the career that you’ve always wanted. Their stream of expert ideas in their respective fields will help you become well-equipped in your professional pursuits.

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                                    Featured photo credit: LinkedIn Sales Navigator via unsplash.com

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