Free As A Bird

There are free agents, free apps, and free samples, but did you know that you can get free training and advice? Many companies and organizations offer free or low-cost advice to small businesses while others can charge exorbitant fees. The trick is figuring out if the free advice is worth it and where to find it.

There are free agents, free apps, and free samples, but did you know that you can get free training and advice? Many companies and organizations offer free or low-cost advice to small businesses while others can charge exorbitant fees. The trick is figuring out if the free advice is worth it and where to find it.

Below you will find places to get free and low-cost webinars, online advice, and in-person advice. One of the most exciting things that I found is a new benchmarking program from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) called Size Up that allows you to check out the competition in your market and find out how your company sizes up.

Webinars

Verizon offers a free 60-minute webinar that features a 45-minute presentation and a 15-minute Q&A session. You can go to http://business.verizon.net/SMBPortalWeb/appmanager/SMBPortal/smb?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=SMBPortal_page_webinar to view their archived events, such as “Big Dreams for Small Business” and “Internet Presence Your Business Needs” and sign up to participate in upcoming ones.

Many larger cities offer small-business development programs. Many of their classes are free, and some are offered for a small fee. The City of Austin offers a free class on re-evaluating an existing business during its growth as well as a class on search engine optimization for $35.

Online Advice

The SBA offers a wealth of free advice through their site. They offer online advice for managing, growing, and financing growth as well as becoming a government contractor and franchising your company.

They have recently launched Size Up, an online tool that allows you to benchmark your company against your competitors. This tool enables you to target your advertising by finding zip codes with the highest revenue per capita, most underserved markets in your industry, highest average revenue, highest total revenue, and highest household income. It also lets you see where your competition is located within your area and how your annual revenues stack up against theirs. Check it out at, www.sba.gov/sizeup.

CNN Money offers a variety of articles targeted to small businesses, so does Inc., Smart Money, the Wall Street Journal, and a variety of other large publishing companies and networks.

But one of my favorites, is allbusiness.com where you can find tips for doing competitive analysis, different types of managing styles, business apps, questions to ask when buying a business, marketing advice, loan advice and much, much more.

The Internal Revenue Service offers a section on its site for small businesses and the self-employed. In addition to forms and publications, the site also offers videos and webinars on tax issues for a variety of situations. The site also offers information on tax credits, such as the Affordable Care Act Tax provisions which include the small-business health care tax credit (35 percent credit for tax years 2010-2013) and the health flexible spending arrangements.

In-Person Advice

There are more than 1,000 Small-Business Development Centers nationwide that provide free consulting to small-business owners. You can find one near you, www.asbdc-us.org/.

SCORE is another excellent resource. In addition to providing you with a free mentor, SCORE also offers free online workshops. Currently, two of their featured workshops are on developing a pricing strategy and learning how to market through email. However, they have tons of online resources on various subjects such as accounting, cash flow, financing, business planning, customer relations, legal, technology, and more.

Who can beat free? So, put on some “Freebird” and check out these sites for some free stuff to take your business to the next level.

Story by Jennifer Taylor

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