biz ladies: more free online resources for business owners

rosie_the_riveter1
since freelance writer and co-owner of the TheTravelingJournal.com, alison storm, contributed the free online resources for business owners post in 2009, several things have changed.  during these hard economic times any and all freebies are appreciated, so we asked alison to update her guide to free services to help us all reap the benefits of some free finds!  thanks alison for helping us keep your businesses budget conscious and efficient!–stephanie

*update: if you need some advertising advice, the d*s ad team blog has a great new post up about setting goals for your online ad campaigns*

CLICK HERE for the full post after the jump!

As a couponer, I have no problem scoring free food, deodorant and body wash. But when it came to my small business, TheTravelingJournal.com, the deals seemed a bit harder to find. 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 eight 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 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 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. If you use WordPress, try a free WordPress shopping cart plugin like GetShopped, which is the cart that we use at TheTravelingJournal.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. 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 2010. 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. It’s free software that allows you to bill customers, create reports, schedule transactions and much, much more.

Free Boxes

If you ship items as part of your business, you may want to sign up for a free Flat Rate Box Shipping Kit from the USPS. It comes with each size of flat rate box available, plus valuable information to help you make the best shipping decision for your company. When you ship using Priority Mail, all of the boxes and supplies are free and can be delivered anywhere you need them.

Free Marketing Materials

Score free bumper stickers, pens, business cards and more from Vista Print. If you can’t afford these important promotional items, the freebies from Vista Print might be enough to get you by until you can invest in an upgrade. You’ll probably still have to pay a few bucks for shipping.

Free Conference Calling

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 iConferenceFree.com to do just that. My business partners and I are spread across the US, so we use this for meetings. No scheduling is required and you’ll have access to an audio file of the phone call which you could even turn into a Podcast if you wanted to. For another way to call for free, try Skype. 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.

Free Phone Service

Your customers may want to call you and offering a 1-800 number for them can be a great service. Don’t bother paying to set up your 1-800 number. Instead use the six months worth of free service at eVoice. The free service includes call forwarding, call routing and voicemail to text. We use this at TheTravelingJournal.com and it’s been a great resource.

Alison Storm is a freelance writer, passionate bargain hunter, and co-owner of TheTravelingJournal.com. She writes about her money saving adventures for various websites and magazines. Learn more about Alison at AlisonStorm.com.

Check out my latest news, portfolio, bio and more at www.AlisonStorm.com.
annie

I love your Biz Ladies series, look forward to it every week and has given me great information and helped me start my own business.
I’m hoping there is a whole chapter about it in your book. Thank you for all the wonderful info.

Danielle from RENEWjewelry

If you have a little money in the budget for design… A lot of graphic design departments (colleges) will forward business card/logo projects to their higher level students. You can be up front with the amount of money you’re willing to spend and negotiate the terms with the head of the department/teacher. You might end up with several great logos to choose from!

S.Steve

Thanks for these awesome tips. Having a small business it is great to save money wherever you can. I will certainly take some of these on-board.

Meytal

Thank you so much for all of these great tips! Very helpful! I love reading your Biz Ladies series , you are doing a fabulous job! Thank you!

dana

thanks. i missed this one the first time. i was particularly interested in the shopping carts and shipping. just ordered my free usps shipping kit. keep it coming!

Jewelry Assembly Chicks

SCORE! Good call! I just made an appointment last week with my local office. They give free classes on how to use Quickbooks for your business. I found out about them through Small Business Administration, a wealth of info there too! http://www.sba.gov/

business phone service

I just registered my business with the state, and have been looking for a place to go next. I’m so glad I know about SCORE now because I think they will be able to provide me the help I need to advance my business. Thanks so much!

Gabrielle

Great tips! Some of the freebies I have already taken advantage of like the USPS boxes and Vista Print. I will have to try some of the others.
Thanks!

Pyromancer

Thank you so much for providing such valuable information all in one place! I am working on expanding my business into the online world and this is a great start!

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