Entrepreneurs, especially those just starting out, usually are on a pretty tight budget. Below is a listing of things and services you can get for free to help stretch those precious dollars.
Business Cards & Car Door Sign
VistaPrint (vistaprint.com) is an online printing company that offers 250 free, good-quality business cards, as well as other free products, such as a car door magnetic sign. You will need to pay processing and shipping, but the costs don’t seem outrageous.
Computer Help & Software
Submit your computer question to protonic.com and an answer will be e-mailed to you from a volunteer expert. Response time is generally fairly quick. The site also offers a collection of free downloads that have been recommended by the site’s users and technicians, although the disclaimer is that they are “as is” and are not supported by protonic (the site does state that “as far as we are able to determine these files are VIRUS FREE”).
The Small Business Administration (sba.gov) offers free online courses; they take about 30 minutes each to complete and are self-paced. Free in-person classes are also offered at SBA district offices.
SCORE (formerly known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives) provides free mentoring services to both newly-minted and experienced entrepreneurs. Sign up on its web site, www.score.org, to be matched with either an e-mail mentor whom you can select according to mentoring skills and industry experience, or a local entrepreneur who will meet with you in person.
Everyone is entitled to one credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year, free of charge. Visit annualcreditreport.com for directions. If you’re considering seeking financing for your business, this is a must-do.
Wi-Fi Hot Spots
Who needs an office, or even an Internet service? Get a directory of restaurants and coffee shops that offer free wireless Internet access at wififreespot.com.
Gently Used Furniture and Other Stuff
Check out freecycle.org and the “Free Stuff” section of your local craigslist.org for all kinds of free items. You do need to join your local Freecycle group, but it’s … free.
Co-Founders Lab (www.cofounderslab.com) offers a free Match.com-type service for entrepreneurs, connecting individuals with others who offer complementary services and skills, and sometimes even a cash investment. You can sort candidates by city or industry.
Picasa (picasa.google.com) is a free software download from Google that helps you locate and organize all the photos on your computer. It allows you to edit and add effects, share photos with others through e-mail, print them or upload them to the web.
Dial 800-FREE-411, then follow the prompts to get your desired number — either a residential or a business listing (in the U.S.) — by phone or text message. You will need to listen to a 10-second advertisement, however.
The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) offers classes in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Greek, Mandarin Chinese and more. Sign up at bbc.co.uk/languages for a step-by-step interactive course and learning tips.