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Free business tools to help you flourish

Every dollar counts for a small business, especially for fledgling entrepreneurs. The upfront investment it can take to launch a business makes penny-pinching a necessity. That’s why putting capital into basic business essentials, like a website, advertising or communication software, is a big decision.

Fortunately, there are myriad free tools for the everyday entrepreneur. Of course, these tools have limitations. If you have the budget for a consultant or a paid service, there are amazing options as well. 

Here are four to help your business grow without breaking the bank.

Build a website with Wix

Every business needs a website, especially when it’s attempting to grow and get off the ground. But not every entrepreneur has the coding or website experience to create one from scratch. That’s how Wix can be a lifesaver.

Wix doesn’t offer a lot of customization, but it’s a great resource to get a basic website up and running. Its site creator is extremely intuitive. All for no cost, you can create your own desktop and mobile site with plenty of features.

If you’re using the free service, your URL will end with a “.wix.com,” which can look unpolished. But for a small fee, you can buy your own URL at GoDaddy or HostGator Web Hosting and reroute the URL to your Wix site.

Email marketing with MailChimp

Email marketing has become popular among small business owners and marketers. MailChimp has emerged as one of the favorite free tools. It’s a one-stop shop for all your email contacts and newsletter designs. If you have fewer than 2,000 subscribers and send fewer than 12,000 messages per month, the service is completely free.

Mailchimp’s drag-and-drop email designer makes it easy to craft your message, and you can build sign-up forms to boost your subscriber count from other websites. As for analytics, the free version presents open rates and compares them with industry averages.  

Advertising with Google

Google has plenty of free tools for business owners, like Google Analytics for websites or Google Cloud for storage, but perhaps its best and easiest feature to use is the Google My Business profile. You can post hours, location and pricing information, share pictures, and even a deliver a virtual tour to anyone who comes across your business on the search engine.

Considering that Google is the most-visited webpage on the internet, it’s only a plus to have your information available. Entering your website on your profile could also offer a boost in search engine optimization, allowing you to be found more often.  

Communication with Skype

Face-to-face communication in business is critical, especially in today’s world of social media and instant messaging. Skype is a free option for those looking to talk with partners, clients or employees face-to-face without travel costs.

The Wi-Fi-based program makes it easy to call other computers and phones around the world, although you’ll have to spend a little to connect with others who don’t use Skype.

Now that you’ve got some free tools to boost your business profile and capabilities, you can worry about the nuts and bolts of your operation. 

 

Taking the plunge: How to cope with a fear of failure

Do you have a great business idea but are afraid to take the plunge into entrepreneurship? You’re not alone. According to a 2012 study from Babson College, fear of failure is a top concern for all entrepreneurs, but it’s especially prominent for women entrepreneurs.

The study also found that women were more likely to have lower perceptions of their entrepreneurial abilities than male business owners. Despite these findings, women entrepreneurship is flourishing in the United States, suggesting that the fear of failure doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks.  

So how can you get over the hump? Here are three suggestions.  

Don’t be a perfectionist

Being a business owner isn’t all rainbows and sunshine. There are some bad days, and you probably won’t get everything right. Realizing that will go a long way toward taking the leap into business ownership.

The fear of getting things wrong can hold you back and gives you an excuse not to accomplish your goals. As long as you keep your end goal in sight, you can weather the bad times. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. When you inevitably do take a wrong step, use it as a learning experience, which takes us to our next point…

Use fear to learn

The Harvard Business Review said it best: “Learning is a powerful antidote to fear of failure, helping to mitigate one’s doubts by increasing one’s capabilities.”

If you are afraid of jumping into a business problem or going out on your own, ask yourself why. Is it because you have a great product but aren’t a financial guru? Or are you afraid of being in charge of yourself? Use fear to motivate your learning. Research accounting basics, ask your financial wiz of a friend or look for consulting companies to take the work off your shoulders.

Fear can also lead you to look introspectively at your potential business or idea. What can you improve? How can you get to your goal? Use fear to create a roadmap to move forward. Don’t let it paralyze you.

Find support

Every business owner — even the most successful ones — has dealt with the fear of failure. And most of them are wiling to tell their story. Central Iowa has great resources for connecting with other women business owners. NAWBO Iowa, of course, is a great organization.

You can also tap into state resources like the Small Business Administration Development Centers. The Iowa Center for Economic Success is an amazing resource as well, especially its Women’s Business Center.

Connect and be inspired by other women entrepreneurs. Perhaps that will be the spark you need to start something of your own.