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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 January 14, 2019

                                    The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

                                    The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

                                    Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

                                    We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

                                    You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

                                    Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

                                    Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

                                    1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

                                    Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

                                    Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

                                    You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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                                    Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

                                    Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

                                    2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

                                    Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

                                    Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

                                    3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

                                    Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

                                    How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

                                    Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

                                    Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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                                    Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

                                    4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

                                    It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

                                    With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

                                    If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

                                    Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

                                    Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

                                    5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

                                    Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

                                    However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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                                    Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

                                    If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

                                    With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

                                    Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

                                    6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

                                    The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

                                    You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

                                    A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

                                    By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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                                    • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
                                    • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
                                    • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
                                    • Is this aligned with my passion?
                                    • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

                                    Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

                                    7. Be Prepared to Let Go

                                    It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

                                    Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

                                    If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

                                    When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

                                    Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

                                    We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

                                    The Bottom Line

                                    Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

                                    More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

                                    Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

                                    Reference

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