10 Free Services You Need to Use as a Small Business Owner
If you’re like most small business owners, you probably don’t have an endless pool of funds to help your business grow. Fortunately, there are some amazingly useful free services that offer tremendous value. Some are funded by government corporations with the specific intention of helping small business owners, while others are offered free for the time being until they can grow their user base.
If you’re short on cash and want freebies for your business, you’ll definitely want to keep reading!
The Small Business Administration
At the top of this list of free services for small business owners is the U.S. Small Business Administration. Founded in 1953, this independent agency of the federal government helps millions of small businesses with loans, loan guarantees, contracts, counseling sessions, and many other types of free resources. If you are looking for a bank loan, a government grant, contracting opportunities, or even information on how to pay your taxes, you can get help from the SBA.
Whether you’re just starting out or well into growth mode, the SBA is a fantastic resource for any small business owner. There are district offices located in each state as well as an extensive website loaded with information. And there are even specialized centers for helping women and veterans to enable them to acquire business training and funding. Learn more about loans and financing for small businesses.
Every business owner needs advice during their journey to success. While you can pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a well-paid consultant, you can also access free mentoring from the Service Corps of Retired Executives. This nonprofit association that is supported by the SBA has a network of more than 11,000 volunteers that help businesses get off the ground and achieve their goals.
SCORE offers free one-on-one counseling, business workshops, webinars, and business tools specifically for small businesses. With over 300 local chapters, SCORE makes it easy to obtain a mentor. SCORE volunteers are often retired business leaders who have had success in entrepreneurship and corporate positions.
There are a surprising number of free online services that can help small businesses. One of these is Dropbox, a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, and software. Dropbox lets users create folders on their computers that can be viewed through their website or mobile phone application.
The service was created by Drew Houston after he became frustrated by forgetting his USB flash drive while he was a student at MIT. For small businesses, Dropbox is a very quick and convenient way to share files.
Dropbox is free to download for Windows, Mac, Linux, and mobile, and the basic plan which provides up to 16 GB of space is free, too! If you are often sending email attachments to employees, vendors, or customers, you will probably find Dropbox to be a much easier solution for sharing files.
Help a Reporter Out, or HARO for short, is an unbelievably valuable resource for generating exposure for your business. HARO, was founded in 2008 by author and speaker Peter Shankman, to help connect journalists and individuals who have expertise or experience in particular issues. Each weekday, HARO connects reporters, bloggers, editors, and producers with news sources such as small business owners.
It’s simple to sign up for the service, and easy to review the list of queries that is emailed several times per day. For small businesses, it is well worth the effort to peruse this list and make connections with the goal of possibly getting a mention in a news story, article, or book. Top national, local, and industry media use HARO for finding sources, and many business owners have had amazing luck using HARO. If you don’t have the funds for a high-powered public relations firm, you definitely need to be taking advantage of HARO!
If you frequently organize phone conferences, you will want to bookmark FreeConferenceCall.com. This free VoIP-based service lets users set up and participate in teleconferencing for up to 1,000 callers – an ideal phone solution for distributed work teams and when you have clients and customers located away from where you’re headquartered.
After setting up an account, you can schedule conference calls and provide participants with a conference dial-in number and participant access code. At the scheduled time of a conference call, participants dial in and are connected during the conference. These calls can be recorded, and the service enables you to access the recordings for up to six months.
There are many services similar to FreeConferenceCall that you can pay for, but for a business owner on a tight budget, this offers tremendous value.
Hopefully, you’re already using or will be soon using social media to promote your small business. This means sharing links via Facebook, Twitter, and other social channels. These links can often be long and complicated. In the case of Twitter, they can even be cut off if they exceed the character count for a tweet.
Fortunately, there is a free solution that everyone should have in their back pocket if they post content on social media. TinyURL.com is a free service that lets you create shortened URLs for links that you wish to share with others via social media and even email. These URLs do not expire and won’t break in postings. Tiny URL is also helpful when you don’t want to disclose an affiliate link or other information about a URL.
If you frequently post on social media or send links via email, you may find this service to be something that you use on a daily basis. At no cost, this can’t be beat!
Signing up for Gmail, Google’s free email service, is truly a must for any business owner. Not only do you get a free email account with 15 GB of storage, you get access to a large suite of useful tools such as a calendar and the ability to post content on Google+ and YouTube from a single location.
As well, you can share and collaborate on a cloud-based drive. Many small business owners use this drive to edit files in real-time with multiple users and to store them for easy access. Whether you have a paid email service, it’s well worth your time and effort to sign up for a Gmail account.
Blogging is one of the best ways for small businesses to connect with customers and prospects online. With WordPress, this can be done for free! This open source blogging tool and content management system lets users create hosted blog sites and publish content without having to understand complicated programming languages.
WordPress users can install themes to customize the look and functionality of their blog sites, and even entire websites can be built using WordPress. Plugins can be added to customize functions and to even improve search engine optimization.
Email marketing is a wonderful way to stay in touch with your customers, and there is a free service to let you do this! MailChimp is a customer relationship management tool that enables you to send up to 12,000 emails to 2,000 subscribers per month for free.
MailChimp offers a variety of pre-designed templates, or you can use their email designer to create your own customized designed emails. The tool is also integrated with Facebook and WordPress so that you can embed sign up forms and collect subscribers on the customer relationship management platforms that you currently use.
Sign up is free, and you can start sending out emails right away. For ten dollars per month, you can also get some useful add-ons including autoresponders, email client testing, and delivery by time zone.
Identifying the right keywords for online content is a must for any small business. For many, this was once accomplished using Google’s Keyword Tool. However, this helpful free service was discontinued by Google several months ago.
Fortunately, there is another free keyword research tool that can be used to reveal high performing keywords. It’s Wordtracker. By simply signing up for an account, you can find out very useful information on keywords to help you create content that will help you rise in the search engine rankings.
While your mother may have told you that nothing is free, the reality is that there are plenty of free services out there for small business owners. These are just ten of countless services that can be had for a song and can help you pursue your entrepreneurial dreams. Do you have a free small business service that you use?