We all love freebies! Here’s a list of a few free things that are useful when you start your business. Don’t worry, if you click any of these links, I don’t see a cent because these are genuine unpaid referrals.
This article has paid affiliate links in it. They were added after the fact because why not monetize recommendations for companies I would already recommend? The paid links are clearly labeled and I don’t make money unless you sign up for QuickBooks or spend $40 or more at Vistaprint.
I obviously have to give a shameless plug for my businesses Law Plus Plus and NC.Business. There’s a lot of information on both these sites geared towards the small business owner, especially those in North Carolina. If you have legal questions, check Law Plus Plus first. If you’re looking for general business questions, check NC.Business. There’s also some bleed over with some more general legal blogs on NC.Business as well.
Beyond my sites, I’d recommend the following sites because they’re reputable and regularly updated.
In my opinion, these sites also have robust and accurate search functions that you should take full advantage of. I have a hard time recommending other .coms or .orgs because the content is always hit or miss. Some sites make a lot of effort keeping their content useful. Unfortunately, many others just create content to get ad revenue. It’s hard to keep track of which is which. That’s why my sites are great. I will always be transparent about those things, and LawPlusPlus.com doesn’t even have ads.
Free Phone Number
Just getting started? Check out Google Voice for a free business phone number. Of course you can always use your personal number, but I prefer to have something I can keep separate and perhaps sell with the company some day. They have business options as well as personal, but if you’re on your own, stick with personal for now. It’s free.
Accounting & Invoicing Software
Waveapps is not the most powerful solution, but at the price of free, it’s a wonderful tool. I personally used Waveapps for the first 4 years of my business. I had to move to a more robust system once I had employees working for me. Quickbooks (<- paid advertising link) is a much better software, but Waveapps worked well for me in the beginning. When you start your business, it is important to have some form of accounting system in place. That’s why Waveapps is a great resource.
Coffee shops and Panera, in most areas, encourage a business crowd to come in and use their locations for business meetings. I conducted at least 2 meetings a day out of Bean Traders in Durham for a year. I drank an awful lot of hot chocolate that year.
In addition to restaurants and coffee shops, you should also check out your local and regional libraries and any co-working spaces you have. Some have community spaces. I’ve had many meetings in libraries because they allow you to reserve a room for a quiet one on one meeting. My local co-working space, The Frontier, has free community space on their ground floor during normal working hours.
For networking events, your best friends are Eventbrite and Meetup. From there, ask everyone you meet what networking events and groups they recommend. Most events are free, so it isn’t hard to find a place to meet new people.
Not Free & Shouldn’t Be
Your marketing materials won’t be free and you should avoid the ones that are. Websites and business cards that are free end up being a larger advertisement for the companies that make them free. When you start your business, it is tempting to get a free WordPress or Weebly site, but the domain name and advertisements will unfortunately drive away customers. Additionally, the free Vistaprint cards have a big Vistaprint logo on the back. I’d recommend buying the cheapest Vistaprint (<- paid advertising link)cards for $10 and going from there. It’s worth the small investment.