biz ladies 09: free online resources for business owners

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times are tough so it’s always great to have some tips that help save you a buck- or two or three. so i’m thrilled to have this post from writer alison storm on free online resources for business owners. whether you’re looking to find free advice, shopping carts or financial software, there’s something here for everyone.

CLICK HERE for Alison’s full post on free online resources for business owners after the jump!

Free Online Resources for Business Owners
By Alison Storm

If you ask me, finding freebies at the grocery store or drug store is easy. Just yesterday I got two free tubes of toothpaste, a bottle of body wash, ponytail holders, four bottles of flavored water and a toothbrush all completely free. But when it comes to operating and running a small business, locating free stuff doesn’t seem to be so easy. And with all of the expenses, energy and resources pumped into making a small business succeed, a few good deals now and then doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. So I started digging and discovered five completely free online resources business owners will love.

Free Business Advice and Mentors

Back in the 1980s two neighbors united by a passion for fashion design pulled together $500 and created prototypes of quilted duffle bags and purses. Knowing nothing about operating a business the pair went to non-profit organization SCORE for help. Through SCORE they were matched with a volunteer mentor who helped them create a business plan, establish bookkeeping and generate inventory reports. Now those women run a multi-million dollar company called Vera Bradley Designs and you can get the same free advice that they received. SCORE (http://www.score.org/index.html) is dedicated to educating entrepreneurs in the formation, growth and success of small businesses all across America. There are 370 chapters around the country and more than 11,000 volunteers ready to help you. Find the SCORE office nearest to you (http://www.score.org/index.html) and get started.

Free Shopping Carts

If you’re planning (or hoping) to sell on the web, but don’t have a big enough budget to hire a fancy firm to build you a shopping cart, you may want to try one of the free carts available. PrestaShop is an e-commerce shopping cart available for free download. The PrestaShop shopping cart offers tons of features like top sellers on the home page, cross-selling, package tracking and the ability to offer price reductions, free shipping, and gift vouchers. Other free shopping carts to check out are Magento (http://www.magentocommerce.com/), Zen Cart (http://www.zen-cart.com/), and OpenCart. (http://www.opencart.com/)

Free Business Forms

Need help writing a letter of termination? Or maybe you need an employee to sign a drug testing consent form. You don’t have to do it alone when you use the free business forms at Smartbiz.com. (http://www.smartbiz.com/article/articleview/16/1/13) Just click on the form that you need and download it to your computer. You’ll be able to make adjustments to suit your business needs.

Free Financial Software

Ever feel like you’re spending way too much time creating invoices and working on bookkeeping? Try downloading Intuit QuickBooks Simple Start Free Edition 2009. (http://quickbooks.intuit.com/qb/products/common/direct_download/email.jsp) Yes, it’s completely free. You’ll be able to track sales and expenses for up to 20 customers, instantly create invoices, pay bills, print checks and organize your finances. You’ll be extremely organized when tax season rolls around next year and you’ll have more time to focus on growing your businesses rather than just organizing it. Another option is GnuCash.org. (http://www.gnucash.org/) It’s free software that allows you to bill customers, create reports, schedule transactions and much, much more.

Free Phone Services

Businesses require communication– lots of it. The good news is there’s no need to pay big bucks to keep the lines of communication open. Try FreeConferenceCall.com (http://freeconferencecall.com/) to do just that. By providing your name and email address you’ll receive an instant account, a dial-in number and an access code so you can start phone conferencing right away. You don’t have to make any reservations and more importantly, you don’t have to pay anything. You can conference in up to 96 callers for six hours at a time. For another way to call for free, try Skype. (http://www.skype.com/) You can chat skype-to-skype completely free from anywhere in the world. You can talk, instant message and make video calls free of charge which means you’ll have more money to put towards other items on that long list of important business needs.

Alison Storm is a freelance writer and passionate bargain hunter. She writes about her money saving adventures for CheapStingyBargains.com, Bargainist.com, OutofDebtChristian.com and DoMoreWithYourMoney.com. Learn more about Alison at AlisonStorm.com.

See my portfolio, bio, resume and more at www.AlisonStorm.com.

Kate

I just love this biz ladies ’09 series; each post is always jam packed with so much useful info. Thanks for sharing another great one! And Alison – I’m all over that free financial software, thanks so much!

Megan Z

As a small business owner I look forward to each of the biz ladies ’09 posts…thanks for all the insight!

emily eakes

This is amazing information! I’m an artist trying to reconcile being a business woman and I wouldn’t have even know how to start looking for this information! Thank you!!!

mackenzi

I am so going to use these resources! Great, great article…I would have never thought to look for free things!!

Mindy

Excellent resources and article! Besides my blog, I also run a small business, so free resources are always very helpful.

Mindy

Excellent resources and article! Besides my blog, I also run a small business, so free resources are always very helpful.
Sorry… forgot to say great post – can’t wait to read your next one!

Alison Storm

Glad you found these resources helpful and thank you to those of you who submitted additional ideas!

Camolai

Thank you!! These were all extremely helpful, especially the mentioning of Score. I’m trying to start my first business and I need all the help I can get!

Jen Holmgren

Wow, this is terrific! Thank you very much for taking the time to share all of these resources with the world. I am trying to figure out how to better organize my jewelry business, and this will help me tremendously.

Danica

Great information – thank you for sharing!

Wondering if there are some sites that would be helpful for Canadians?

Coline Bettson

Dear Alsion & Design Sponge !

THANK YOU . . . your article on Design Sponge ” biz ladies 09: free online resources for business owners ” was very important to me.

I am an Anglican Sunday School teacher, making a “list serve” web site / blog & building a ” subscriber list” of all of us, coast to coast to coast in Canada.

No clue how to do this. Started with ” WordPress.” Added Campaign Monitor and then . . . read I would need to have a web page. I spent $140.00 on a Yahoo business web site.

Then, I read your article, cancelled Yahoo and now know I can do it all . . . for FREE.

Our small rural church has zero budget for all this, so it was HUGE to me to read your piece.

The only other thing I can offer, besides my appreciation, is a cool, :free” site : Paperless Post. The only cost is “stamps,” but they are very cheap.
I use these elegant cards to e mail prospective members of our new venture.

Thank you. God bless. Happy summer. Peace. You are wonderful.

Coline Bettson
Dauphin, MB

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