Starting a business isn’t easy, which is why it’s important to educate yourself before diving into the world of entrepreneurship. And it appears that more and more of us are making the plunge from the 9-5 to going into business for ourselves.
According to Google’s Year in Search 2021, last year, more people searched for “how to start a business” than “how to find a job.” During the Covid-19 pandemic, business applications in the U.S. surged. While new business formation numbers appear to be leveling off recently, numbers overall remain consistently higher than in the years before, according to Census Bureau data.
Small business owners need to execute a variety of tasks, from project management to accounting. Whether you’re unsure of where to begin, are looking for information to help you scale and grow, or want access to online tools to help you more efficiently manage your business, there are plenty of resources out there for businesses of all kinds. But not all of them are created equal. We’ve broken them down by category, so you can get right to what you need.
One of the most popular types of websites for small business owners are for tools. These are things such as accounting software, website building, etc. These websites are useful at filling the practical aspects of starting and running a business. While many require a paid subscription in order to access full features, there are often free options that let you try the product before you buy, or offer basic functionality. Many of these tools have information centers that describe not only how to use the product, but also how to tackle certain areas of business ownership.
Another common type of website for small business owners is the informational website, usually best thought of as an educational resource. These websites are vast repositories of information about nearly any aspect of starting and running a small business. That said, they frequently center around one particular topic, although generalist websites are also common. A lot of these websites are 100% free, making them appealing to those working with a limited budget. Because of this, however, they can sometimes be difficult to navigate. The same goes for websites with a deep well of content – it can be easy to get distracted or become overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. Take things one step at a time, and stay focused on whatever it is you’re working on in order to be successful.
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely road, especially if you’re going down the solopreneur path. Having access to a community of other small business owners can provide you with the opportunity to discuss challenges and successes with those who get it. It also provides business connections that you might not otherwise have. This type of community can be a source of support, inspiration, and practical business connections that is invaluable for small business owners.
With the above information in mind, if you’re one of those people who has a business idea they want to run with, and are looking for the best websites to glean insights from to start your business, check out our list below.
Once you’ve settled on an idea for your business, you’re going to want to flesh out a business plan to help keep you focused. A good business plan will help you chart your progress, and remind you of why you started your business in the first place when times are tough. Bplans has sample business plans, including templates, to help you get started. The website also includes access to plenty of practical advice about starting and running a business written by entrepreneurial guru Tim Berry.
If you want to get the word out about your new business, you’re going to need a snappy website. A website builder site like Squarespace makes it easy to get started with a DIY solution, or, you can hire one of their experts who’ll handle the nitty gritty for you. When you create a website with Squarespace, you get free unlimited hosting, security, and 24/7 support, along with access to their extensive library of resources to help you be successful. If you’re building your site yourself, check out our roundups of the best Squarespace templates overall and for mobile sites.
If you aren’t familiar with a CRM, or customer relationship management tool, you’ll soon become very familiar after you decide to start a business. A CRM like HubSpot offers a sales, marketing, and service hub all in one spot so you can keep track of important customer information and interactions. There are both free and paid versions of the software available, both of which include access to award-winning customer support. You can also learn more about the tool and business in general on the HubSpot blogs and Academy.
Shopify lets you sell, ship, and process payments all in one place, and can have you up and running in a day. There’s a 14-day free trial if you want to try before you buy, with monthly plans starting at $29/month. The website also offers plenty of resources dedicated to branding, store setup, and creating an online presence that are helpful for those looking to start their own business. Their learning section contains access to business courses and guides, as well as a business encyclopedia.
If you’re looking for a website to track income and expenses, accept credit cards and ACH, and learn about growing your business, Quickbooks is it. They offer plans for business of all sizes, for those who are starting out and plan to DIY, to those who need the most comprehensive tools. You can even access a live bookkeeper (for a fee) to help set your books straight at any time. In addition, there’s a resource section and tutorials to help you get the most out of the software, as well as launch and grow your business.
Entrepreneur has been writing about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur for more than 30 years. While the magazine itself focuses on inspiring entrepreneurs, the website offers a great deal of articles and practical information for setting up a business and making it prosper.
You may have used LinkedIn in your corporate work life, but it’s also a great tool for when you’re looking to start your own business. Aside from networking with those in your industry, LinkedIn offers a comprehensive learning platform through its LinkedIn Learning section. There are courses on every aspect of business from creating a content strategy, to SEO foundations, and WordPress essentials.
The NFIB is the National Federation of Independent Business, and advocates in every state and in Washington, D.C. to give members a voice in public policy debates on the local, state, and national level. They also hold events where small business owners have access to bipartisan legislative panels to share their story, hear from lawmakers, and ask questions. Their featured articles provide updates on important topics small business owners need to know about, and their legal center assists small businesses confronting legal issues by helping them create a road map to resolving them. Minimum dues are $195 for the year.
Canva is a free website that lets you create visually engaging social media posts, presentations, posters, videos, logos, and more. There are thousands of professional templates, images, and other content to choose from – ideal for a budding business with a tight marketing budget. There’s even a free version which is great for those just starting their business. The learning section offers a lot of actionable advice on personal branding, social media mastery, and graphic design mastery. Learn how to use it with our in-depth guide to Canva.
Protect your new business by putting contracts in place with a website like LegalZoom. Not only does the website allow you to create legal documents without having to hire a lawyer, it also keeps all your startup documentation stored nice and neatly. You can create documents such as business formation documents, copyright registrations, trademark applications, and more. Documents are priced according to a flat fee depending on complexity, plus any filing fees. Their resource section has lots of info about the business of launching a business, such as starting your LLC, registering a trademark, and what you need to know about hiring independent contractors.
Business Owners Idea Cafe provides a forum for small business owners to share their ideas, opinions, and look for guidance from like-minded entrepreneurs in an informal, humorous atmosphere. There’s a bunch of info about how to run your business, as well as information on grants, sample business plans, and business financing advice. Membership is free.
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