You know the old saying, “You get what you pay for?” Well, it turns out that there are a number of valuable business-related freebies.
Identifying free business tools and resources is a great way for new or experienced business owners to ease some of the strain. It can set your company up for success.
Here are eight free business resources every military spouse entrepreneur needs:
1. Bookkeeping and Invoicing
Finding an effective and reliable software to keep track of incoming and outgoing monies can be a godsend.
Wave is a helpful (and free!) software solution for business owners. Wave syncs with your business bank account, tracks all financials, and even offers online invoicing. As a service-based business owner that bills clients on a monthly basis, I love Wave’s easy to use invoice reminder features. It's a great tool for managing cash flow.
Additionally, Wave’s paid version offers payroll and online payment options, making it a bookkeeping option that can grow with your business!
2. Call Scheduling
Calendly is a scheduling app that helps eliminate back-and-forth, time-sucking correspondences to schedule a meeting.
Calendly integrates with other calendar apps, such as Google, iCloud, and Outlook so no double-entries are required. Just sync your calendar, and start scheduling! It even automatically adjusts for time zones.
There’s also a Calendly feature that lets you embed a scheduling feature right into your website — a great option if you offer free consultations.
3. Continuing Education
There are industry-specific regulations, management styles, and business development strategies that might differ from those experienced in a more traditional, employment roles. Prioritizing continuing education throughout your entrepreneurial journey can greatly increase your chance of success.
Here are a few free continuing education options available for military spouse entrepreneurs:
- Boots to Business — An entrepreneurial course offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
- Patriot Bootcamp— A nonprofit, technology-focused entrepreneurial workshop available to veterans and military spouses.
- VetNet — An online entrepreneurship classes offered through Syracuse University’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families.
4. Graphic Design
Visual content drives modern marketing. Engaging social media graphics, interesting event images, branded online content are all business essentials.
Good news for new business owners: You don’t have to be artsy to create great graphics.
Canva is a free design tool that offers over 1 million unique graphic features. Its drag-and-drop platform, coupled with pre-designed templates, help busy entrepreneurs create eye-catching digital graphics within minutes. Canva even provides graphic design tutorials for those interested in honing their content creation skills. If you work with a team, Canva provides a shared home for designs that allows you to express your vision while staying on brand.
5. Project Management
Regardless of whether your business is located inside a brick and mortar building or consists of remote teams, effective project management software will save time and keep you and your team on task. While there are lots of project management options out there, Wirkeis my favorite free one.
Wirke’s project management features let users create and organize tasks, communicate with team members, edit, and store files. It’s a great tool for encouraging teamwork and meeting deadlines. Wirke is free for up to five users (perfect for a startup), with an additional paid option for larger teams.
6. Online Surveys
Collecting feedback about your new business can be a great way to streamline your offerings and operations. Customer-provided information can help you develop a more efficient business model by making sure your operation meets market needs. Thanks to digital-based survey tools, like Typeform, entrepreneurs can now easily collect feedback and perfect their craft!
Typeform lets you create well-designed online surveys about all things business-related. The free version is available for up to 100 responses and ten fields per form. Typeform’s survey format is aesthetically-pleasing, easy to use, and very mobile-friendly.
Connecting with experienced mentors can be a great resource for new entrepreneurs. The military community offers several unique opportunities for free mentorship for service members, military spouses, and veterans. Veterati and eMentor are two free military-focused mentoring programs I’ve found helpful on my own professional journey.
eMentorasks protégés to fill out an online profile and then provides mentor suggestions based on their profile. After the match, protégés can reach out to mentor(s) and set up a communication schedule that works for them. My current mentor and I have a monthly call, while past mentors have engaged me via email and Skype.
Veteratilets protégés sync their LinkedIn account to create a Veterati profile. After their profile is complete, protégés can review available mentors and schedule a one-hour call directly through the Veterati app. The app will even place the call on the scheduled date and provide follow-up communication options. It’s incredibly easy to use.
8. Video Conferencing
While Skype tends to get all the hype, Zoomis my favorite free video conferencing platform.
Over the past year, I’ve used Zoom for everything from one-on-one video calls to attending a multi-day conference virtually. I love the group collaboration features, as they help keep a multi-member video conference flowing with minimal disruption.
Zoom has mobile capabilities, so you can video conference on-the-go. Another great Zoom feature is the ability for meeting organizers to control the delivery, muting all attendees’ microphones and selecting presentation access.
Starting and scaling a new business can require many tools and resources; however, they don’t all have to require a big investment. By starting with free options, entrepreneurs can establish operations while preparing for their company’s growth. Sometimes, the best things in life actually are free!