As upstart entrepreneurs know, when trying to get a small business off the ground or working to keep a more established one profitable, it is important to stretch every dollar. And one of the best ways for small business owners to limit a business’s outgoing expenses is to adopt a do-it-yourself mentality, taking on and gaining a high level of proficiency in as many business-critical tasks and operations as possible.
Fortunately for business owners in the digital age, the internet puts a wide range of online resources at their fingertips to help them sharpen their business knowledge and skills. For small business owners looking to boost their business acumen and tackle otherwise expensive business-critical tasks on their own, these five free websites can prove invaluable by providing a wealth of guidance and education from subject-matter experts:
- The U.S. Small Business Administration’s website (sba.gov) — A federal government agency designed to provide success-boosting support to entrepreneurs and small businesses nationwide, the U.S. Small Business Administration offers what some have summarized as “the three ‘C’s” of business achievement and growth — capital, contracts and counseling.
On its website, the SBA offers a range of resources that can be categorized into four distinct areas:
– Business-planning resources such as tools for writing a business plan, performing market research and competitive analysis, calculating startup costs and generating business funding.
– Business-launch resources such as professional guidance on choosing a business name and location, deciding on a business’s structure, registering and licensing a business, getting federal and state tax ID numbers, opening a bank account and getting business insurance.
– Business-management resources, including financial-management resources, guidance on hiring and managing employees, tax-filing assistance, compliance resources, marketing and sales guidance and emergency-preparedness assistance.
– Business-growth resources such as guidance on securing business funding, expansion expertise, merger and acquisition tips, guidance on becoming a federal contractor, and resources designed specifically to help minority-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses and rural businesses.
The website can also point business owners to additional resources such as free in-person business counseling, help securing SBA-backed business and help securing low-interest disaster loans.
- Coursera.org — For small business owners looking to gain an edge or stay ahead of the competition, the need to continue learning never ends, no matter how much real-world experience or formal education one attains. And offering thousands of free courses led by university professors, other professional educators and veterans of the corporate world, Coursera can serve as a go-to resource for continual attainment of new business knowledge and skills.
Started in 2012 by a pair of computer science professors at Stanford University, this helpful website now collaborates with more than 200 leading universities and companies worldwide to deliver expert-led courses in a broad array of disciplines. Just a few of the many business-focused courses available on the platform include online classes offering insights on business foundations, launching a business, entrepreneurship, business strategy, business analytics, financial markets, finance and accounting, brand management, account management, international business and workforce management.
- Google My Business — In today’s business world, many modern consumers’ search for a product or service begins and ends with a Google search. And by creating and maintaining a free business profile at Google My Business, small business owners can help ensure consumers who take this route to discovering them are getting accurate information about their businesses. (Further, completing the profile can help boost a business’s online exposure via delivering an SEO advantage as Google ranks businesses with completed Google My Business profiles higher in its search results.)
The process of creating a Google My Business profile is free and easy and business owners who do so can personalize their business listings with business hours, product and service descriptions, photos, and special offers. And in addition to giving business owners the chance to take greater control of what is often the first impression potential consumers get of their businesses, Google My Business can also provide them with valuable information on how consumers are finding their business, such as what keywords people used to search for them online.
- The FTC Internet Speed Calculator — For a growing number of modern businesses, a strong internet connection is crucial to maintaining high levels of business productivity. After all, long times spent waiting for online content to load and/or buffer can take away from the time workers actually have to spend on completing their essential everyday tasks. Further, as more business meetings and conferences between colleagues move online, a strong internet connection can support improved comprehension and increased collaboration during videoconferences.
To ensure that a business’s internet connection is up to speed, the free FTC Internet Speed Calculator collects information from business owners about the ways their internet connection is most often being utilized. The tool gathers details on employees’ online activities such as email, web surfing, social media, video and music streaming, video calls and file transfers. It also gathers details on additional internet-connected devices in the workplace such as surveillance cameras and video doorbells. After collecting all of these details, the tool recommends an ideal business internet speed for the specific work environment.
- Docracy.com — Most small business owners are experts in their specific fields and possess high levels of knowledge about their own product and service offerings. But navigating the legal landscape that can come with running a business is frequently outside of their skill sets. And, while getting professional legal guidance is highly advised in any important business dealing, Docracy.com can provide free starting points for those seeking access to common, run-of-the-mill legal documents such as those needed when making new hires, securing the help of an independent contractor, renting or leasing a business space or hiring a consultant.
Looking to get all of your small business’s vital communications services from a single trusted provider? Visit ftc.net/business to explore all of FTC’s powerful offerings, including business-critical services such as Internet, Wireless, Voice and Security.
And when you need local, expert IT assistance for your business, help is nearby and easy to reach without the expense of hiring a full-time IT staff. Visit FTC IT Solutions for professional IT help in a number of tech-related areas, including Managed IT, Cybersecurity, Hosted Services, Point-of-Sale and Hardware Sales.