When I left cubicle nation for the never-boring life of a freelancer, I was exhilarated. No more commute! Bye-bye office politics! Hello, hour-long lunches and a freedom that would never have been possible ten or even five years ago. I even had regular clients gained when writing was only a lucrative side hustle.
Once the celebratory mood passed, I wasn’t so giddy. The statistics are grim when it comes to startups, with an estimated 90% failing to thrive. Even though my product, which was my writing, didn’t require much financial outlay, I needed to keep creating something that people want while making smart growth and marketing moves.
Two years later, here I am. I didn’t turn out to be a ninety percenter, and you don’t have to either. Startup growth is hard. Luckily though, there are some terrific business startup resources that will transition you from surviving to thriving. Let’s take a look at some of them.
What Is A Startup?
When you hear the word ‘startup’, your mind likely conjures images of 20-something coders and web developers congratulating each other in their trendy new office before they head out to meet with some venture capitalists. While this image doesn’t represent every tech startup, it does spotlight elements what most startup businesses have in common.
- The founders think big because they’re confident that they can sell their product or service to a very large market. Unlike small businesses like a hair salon or artisan grocer, they’re designed to scale.
- Their funding comes from investments instead of the bank loans and grants that small businesses rely on.
- The founders are innovators. They look for what’s unusual and exciting instead of simply catering to an existing market.
In my case, I targeted small law offices who needed assistance with their blogs and web copy instead of trying for the big firms. It was risky, given that smaller offices had less money to spend on their advertising, but the volume and demand turned out to be there, and it keeps me busy today.
Practically all cities have coworking spaces now, some of them geared specifically toward new startups. If you find it difficult staying focused while working from home but aren’t yet able to afford an office, co-working spaces offer a workstation, Internet access, and networking opportunities. They’re also usually full of that enthusiasm and energy that’s typical of startup culture.
When you meet someone from your industry who is thriving, introduce yourself and see if there are ways you can help one another. The business world is all about connections, and the right ones can alert you to contract opportunities, investors seeking startups to support, and more.
There are some excellent websites for startups. A few are niche while others offer a wide array of services. The ones listed below have great reviews from their users, so they’re worth checking out. Many of them have apps too, so you can engage on the go!
- Startup Stash: If you’ve never visited this site before (and you were reading someone else’s article) I’d tell you to drop everything and head over right now. Described as a curated directory of resources and tools for startups, it includes assets like:
- Optimizely, an optimization platform, with useful resources for optimizing your product and marketing.
- Mixpanel, which tracks user actions instead of page views.
- And Squadhelp, which helps you come up with the perfect startup name.
- Freebie.Supply: If you’re forced to operate on a shoestring budget until business picks up, this website will be your new best friend. It’s loaded with free resources for entrepreneurs and startups, such as UI (user interface) kits, website templates, and email newsletter templates.
- FoundersKit: This website is free to join and gives you access to significant discounts on popular startup tools. For example, Swyft Filings will form your C-corporation online for only $49 plus state filing fees and Gusto payroll software offers a free introductory month.
- Toggl Plan: Once you start working with teams, either on-site or remotely, Toggl Plan makes it much easier to coordinate outstanding results. The Gantt chart software simplifies the process of creating and maintaining project timelines that are attractive, easy to follow, and designed to help you and your team succeed.
- Hootsuite: Hootsuite is one of the most popular social media marketing management tools, with many startups among its users. It can help you manage all of your social media networks from a single dashboard. Everything is centralized, so you can follow important conversations and not miss out on any great opportunities.
- BetaList: Do you want to test the waters before you commit to launching a startup? You can join BetaList and present your idea before you launch it. If you opt for the free membership, it will take an average of two months to showcase your startup to the community of business professionals and get feedback, but for $99, you can be listed in as little as two days.
Apps & Software
Apps help us do everything from shop for groceries and plan our week to manage our finances and monitor our fitness. The apps listed below offer valuable tools and services to all kinds of startups.
- Shopify’s Business Name Generator: A business name that’s unique and easy to remember are essential for brand recall. This free tool helps you find the right name for your startup as well as claim a domain name.
- Mojomox: A free online logo maker that will convert your business name into a professional-looking logo. With Mojomox you can create typographic logos and export them as high-quality images.
- Biteable Image Resizer: Video is the king of marketing content these days, and Biteable helps you make professional videos for your startup in minutes online. They also just released a neat new image resizing tool that enables you to export perfectly sized images for all social platforms in one click.
- Wave: This free online accounting tool makes it easier to track your income and expenses. If you want to accept credit card payments, there is a per-use fee of 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction, and a payroll feature is available at $20 per month plus $4 per active employee and $4 per independent contractor paid.
- HelloSign: When you’re running a business, you’ll be dealing with a lot of contracts. This e-signature app can help you close deals faster by auto-filling contact details, requesting signatures, and viewing signature status. You can manage all of your contracts from one location, which saves time. If you’re on a budget, you could consider an alternative signature solution like Signaturely.
- Recruiterflow: This efficient recruiting software helps startups plan and manage their human resources activities. When you want to grow your team, Recruiterflow helps you automate the outreach process, communicate with candidates, and keep appointments.
- Freshdesk: If your startup is not large enough to sustain a dedicated customer support person, Freshdesk makes it easier for you to assume that responsibility. From FAQs to ticketing and tracking, you have the support you need to respond to customer questions and concerns. Freshdesk also offers reports and analytics and team-specific products, such as administration and sales.
Whatever it is you’re looking to achieve, there’s most likely a software solution out there for it. Whether it’s a project scheduling tool, tools for marketing like SERP trackers, for recruitment, or something totally different like data recovery… you’ll be able to find an existing solution.
Everyone loves a good success story, and you’ll hear plenty of them on GrowthHacker.tv. This video site is packed with interviews with successful entrepreneurs like Nomics CEO Clay Collins, Capitalim.com founder Ryan Moran, and public speaker Vincent Dignan.
The latest videos are free to watch, but if you want to access a past recording, then you need to buy a membership. As an incentive, the site offers new visitors a promo code to access its premium content for one week.
When you start a business, you’re committing yourself to lifelong learning. An endless curiosity and creativity are classic traits of the successful entrepreneur, and the courses listed below will provide the information and inspiration you need to stay focused.
- Entrepreneurial Operations: Launching a Startup: Offered by Babson College, which was ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the finest universities in the world for entrepreneurship, this course teaches the fundamentals of entrepreneurial operations. Classes run for 4–6 hours per week, for 4 weeks and are free, but if you want graded exams and assignments, plus a certificate, the cost is $99.
- Startup School: This free 10-week course, which is offered by startup accelerator Y Combinator, covers topics that help you get your startup off the ground and keep it going. Past instructors include Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg, and all participants have an opportunity to win $15k in funding.
- How to Build a Startup: This month-long online course is taught by Steve Blank, who created the customer development method that launched the lean startup movement. As the classes progress, you learn how to develop and test business ideas using customer and marketplace feedback. This course is for you if you want to start a business but aren’t sure which field to pursue.
There are literally thousands (if not millions) of articles that educate, excite, and inspire entrepreneurs, so finding the right stories for your startup goals is a challenge. At Startup Launch List, you can input topics like making money, building a team, or creating a product and find excellent content by entrepreneurs and investors such as Tim Ferriss, Mark Cuban, and Chris Dixon.
I’ve seen a lot of freelancers who want to take their livelihood a step further and move from sole trader to owner of their own company. I’ve also known professionals who never had a side hustle but decided to act on their dream of being an entrepreneur after they lost their jobs. Regardless of how you found yourself on the road from employee or freelancer to business owner, the resources I’ve listed here can give you that chance at fulfillment and success.