Entrepreneur's Toolkit: 20 Free Great Tools & Resources for Starting Up

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Heath Ledger’s the Joker in the Dark Knight does not seem to live his life by many rules. But early on in the film, he does mention one:

Which is not a bad rule to live by. We all need to get paid.

However, that doesn’t mean that all the free information out there isn’t worth your time. When you are entrepreneur, there are 1,000,001 things you need to keep track of. You’re CEO/CFO/Payroll/Accounts payable and receivable/sales, you name it. Whether you’re a writer, coder, designer, consultant, inventor, or DJ – here’s twenty of many quality and free resources you can find online:

Shopify Tools

Shopify itself is not a free service. Nor should it be – you don’t get on the shelves at Wal-Mart for free after all. But Shopify’s expertise is in the realm of small businesses so their tools are out there to assist entrepreneurs and they are absolutely free.

Maybe you have a great product but can’t come up with a catchy, simple name for your business, or you need a QR code, or perhaps a template for your business cards or a loan calculator – Shopify has all (or most) of the bases covered.

Findlay’s Snark: Nobody needs a QR code!

Startuplawyer.com

Startup Lawyer

There are places to cut costs when starting a business. While legal representation shouldn’t be one of them – sites like startuplawyer.com are great resources for enquiring minds.

Let’s face it, legal jargon can be confusing at times. This site eponymously offers a wide-range of advice in the legalities of a start-up. The site is run by a real lawyer (not a Suits-like knock off) and covers everything from Venture Capital, start up issues to stock options. It never hurts to know the basics of something before you talk to a lawyer, educate yourself!

Just like WebMD shouldn’t replace your annual checkup – startuplawyer.com should only be consulted for general advice and information. While they say it’s better to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission, the legal system does not abide by said rules.

Google Docs

Google Docs

The days of emailing documents back and forth should be gone forever if they aren’t already. With services like Google Docs you have web-based documents that are accessible from anywhere (anywhere there’s web access, which is everywhere) and can control who has access to documents and who can edit them. No need to worry about having the latest copy or wondering who the last to edit was, it’s all right there on Google Docs. A must for any business.

HARO

There may not be such thing as free publicity – but if you’re willing to trade a bit of your time to get your name out there – HARO is the way to go. HARO stands for “Help a Reporter Out” (www.helpareporter.com).

This site connects thousands of journalists and industry experts. It’s like Match.com for publicity. Okay, maybe they won’t like that analogy but every day reporters are on the lookout for news-making events, people, products – you name it, and just like you they are always under the gun to perform. This has created a situation where the press are more open to interacting with a wider range of sources, one of those sources could be you!

Here’s an example of how it comes through via email:

HARO - Business Finance

From there, you select the story/topic that is relevant to you and respond to the query:

Query - Business Finance

Simply send an email back answering their questions for the chance to be featured in their story.

LinkedIn

Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 6.18.09 PM

Sometimes the best tools are the best tools for a reason.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to finding and connecting with talent. While a good entrepreneur should be a jack-of-all-trades that also includes knowing when to outsource a task to a master. Whether it’s content creation/web-design/promotion – either full time or freelance – LinkedIn connects you to the most professionals possible. While they charge for premium accounts, their basic version is free to any professional.

You probably already have it, but are you using it to its full capability?

One of my favourite aspects of LinkedIn is the ability to upload Slideshare presentations directly to your summary:

LinkedIn Slideshare

Slack

Emails?

You don’t need no stinkin’ emails (are 1948 movie quotes still cool?).

Remember now, we’re talking about free and Slack isjust that if you keep your information a certain limit. So presentations, contracts, pictures, conversations, debates, gifs, anything you know you will need at a moment’s notice are all there for you. No need to worry about excessive email attachments.

This services will change the way you and your team communicate.

Layers

Website design is not as expensive as it used to be and there are cheap options that businesses can use to design their site themselves. However, Layers is free and built right into WordPress (which runs most of the internet now). There are templates, set up suggestions and enough to get you started on your way to a professional-looking and $0 website.

Is this a permanent solution?

No but it will let you get up and running while you

Seth Godin’s Start up School

Seth Godin is the author of nearly 20 books on business, marketing and psychology. He’s started a number of businesses (successful ones at that) and upon selling one of them to Yahoo, he subsequently became one of the most influential marketing brains in the world.

Safe to say he knows a thing or two about starting a business.

This 15-episode podcast series takes the listeners through a progressive look at how to run a start-up including finding a niche, raising money and managing cash flow. It is worth a listen regardless of what your business aspirations may be.

MIT Open Courseware

If would be a gross understatement to say tuition to an Ivy-league school is not cheap. For those of you who don’t have six figures lying around, you have to check out MIT  Open Courseware. This is a publicly funded site that gives free access to real university courses on a wide range of topics.

Specifically, the entrepreneurship section has a number of real, accessible University courses entrepreneurs can use to learn more about all areas of running a business from getting patents, to legal courses, and entrepreneurial finance to marketing. There’s a lot to be learned here all of it at an Ivy League level and all of it for free. It’s not easy, but it’s free.

Quora

Quora

One of the slogans of the bygone electronics store Radio Shack was “You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.” If Quora could steal that catchphrase, this would be the one!

It’s everything Ask Yahoo wanted to be, where anyone can ask questions and get real answers from experts. For small businesses there’s a number of recommendations and solutions available from a number of resources that is growing every day.

I’ve contributed to Quora many times over the years and have had my answered featured on sites like Forbes and Huffington Post as a result. I highly recommend you take the time to study the community, contribute on the regular and leverage it as a resource to gain insight.

Crate

Sharing links on Twitter is one of the most effective ways to grow a following.

Studies don’t lie:

Links and Followers

But how do you find relevant, quality content to share without spending all day looking?

Crate is a tool that identifies and suggests the best content tailored to your own interests and insights for you to share on social media. You upload a bit of information like URLs, usernames or keywords and Crate finds the best content for you to share. For example: if you add @FindlayH, Entrepreneurship and bothsidesofthetable.com to a Crate, we’d show you the best/recent links shared by Findlay, with the keyword Entrepreneurship and posts from the bothsidesofthetable.com.

Hemingway

Hemingway

We don’t want to tell you that nobody cares about you, but what we can say is that if you don’t get to a point quickly, you will lose your readers. There is too much going on in the world today and it’s affected everyone’s attention span.

Which is why Hemingway is a great app for any entrepreneurs who require help with their writing. This will allow you to write at a proper reading level, simplifies confusing sentence and highlights any grammatical errors. Hemingway once said “You must be prepared to work always, without applause.” Which is something this site and app takes to heart as they don’t charge anything for the service.

Docracy.com

Contracts, legal documents, and invoices are not easy to write and can be expensive to have a professional create. Luckily with sites like Docracy.com, you don’t have to worry about either of those things. With a searchable database of all sorts of free legal documents, templates, this can carry you a lot of the way and teach you about verbiage, lay outs, how to structure contracts, etc. This may not fully replace a professional lawyer, but free of charge it’s hard to say no to.

/r/Entrepreneur

Yes, that means Reddit.

This online community of entrepreneurs is a never-ending source of information, discussions and advice on entrepreneurship. Like anything on the internet you need to take the good with the bad but reddit.com/r/entrepreneur is a growing subreddit with an active membership and wide-spread wealth of information.

Government Sites

Yes, apparently the government is looking out for you after all. Since small businesses are a large part of economic growth, both the Canadian and U.S. government offer a plethora of information to current and aspiring entrepreneurs.

We’ll mark these under free* with an asterisk, since we all pay taxes. With these sites, depending on where you live, you can find info on tax credits, refunds, government loan information, and possible grants your business may qualify for.

Ask Altucher

James Altucher has made and lost more money than most could only dream of. Sure the losing part isn’t great, but Ric Flair was a 16-time World Champion which makes him a 16 time loser. There is something to be learned from a person who’s had a number of successes and failures.

Altucher has a weekly interview podcast along with an Ask Altucher segments where he answers a variety of business and personal-related questions from his listeners from financial issues to how to dominate a room for a presentation. At over 330 episodes and going strong, there’s a lot of advice to glean.

Google Analytics

You need to know how your content is performing online, bar none. Feedback in the comments section is great but you also need raw data. Whether you’re just starting out or well on your way, Google Analytics is a free service that gives web traffic information, which sites are giving you the most traffic and what posts/advertisements/tweets are drawing the most people to your site.

There are more in depth analytics for a price, but Google’s free service give you more than enough data to know what is working and what needs fixing.

Mailchimp

MailChimp (or Mail-himp if you were a Serial listener) is an email distribution service. While MailChimp offers paid services if you exceed a certain number of subscribers, for a professional or small business you are able to send up to 12,000 emails per month to 2,000 subscribers for free. Conveniently enough, this is known as the “Entrepreneur” plan. MailChimp has built-in analytics as well as templates to get you started. We all start small and as you grow, MailChimp will grow with you.

Gary Vaynerchuk

Ask Gary Vee is entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk’s web show where he takes questions from his readers/listeners. His success in business (an online wine-ordering service) has made him a quasi-celebrity, he’s published three books and counting and he’s also an investor in apps such as Periscope. While this video podcast is not just for entrepreneurs a lot can be taken from Vaynerchuk’s passion and success while remaining entertaining and not taking too much time out of your day.

Hustle & Grind

Hey you are already here, might as well take a look through the back logs of blog posts (and keep an eye out for new posts). We are entrepreneurs, we are dedicated to entrepreneurs and we like to talk about our craft with others in the same field. We have everything you need whether you’re looking for inspiration, advice or real life stories – you can find it all here.

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2 Comments

Patrick

Niiiice! Hemingway just became my jam. My writing jam. Thanks again Ross. I can see the hustle is very real.

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