The Best FREE Resources for Starting a Business
Hello? Hello, what's up? How you doing? And welcome back to another episode of the freelance Friday podcast today. We're in for a treat because I am sharing just a bunch of free stuff with you all. There are so many amazing free tools, resources, education platforms that I've used over the years. And I wanted to go ahead and share some of those things with you all today. Before we hop in, I wanna take a second to. The sponsor of today's episode, who is also one of the items on this list, they do have a free plan.
They are called render forest render forest is a platform that allows you to create really cool mockups and designs super easily without having to have any graphic design skills like myself. I have. Fairly any, and it's a really cool platform for social media managers, for content creators, YouTubers, talkers, whatever you can use it on pretty much any platform create some really cool designs on there.
And I thought it would be perfect for graphic designers as well. If you're going to deliver a new site to your clients, you can easily pop it in until like an iPad mock up or. Uh, laptop mock up to really kind of bring that preview to life.
I've done something similar for my courses. I created like a little promo sort of reel that I can play throughout my videos. And it just like, looks really cool.
And as eye catching. So yeah, again, they have a free plan, which is amazing. I'll leave the link in the show notes. I'll leave all of the links for all the tools I'm gonna talk about in the show notes. But if you do decide to go with a paid plan for render forest, my code is gonna get you 20%. So enjoy.
All right. So let's first talk about networking and kind of advice and peer to peer sort of education. This is super important when you are first starting out, especially, but even still I've been in business for a while. And I still often feel very confused, very alone and having other people to lean on really, really helps. So one of the groups that I really love is called creative mornings.
It is free. I don't think I've ever. Been offered a paid event by them. I think all of their events are free and of course, most of them are virtual now, but I went to a creative mornings event like the week that I quit my day job.
And it was just really nice to be in a room with other people who were doing similar things as me. It made me feel much less. Scared, even though, like, you know, they weren't like my coworkers or anything. A couple weeks ago, I attended a class all about my human design type and how it applies to business, if you believe in that kind of stuff. So they have like fun, interesting things like that sometimes. And then they also have things like copywriting classes and, you know, coworking sessions and things of that nature.
So it's a really cool freeway to meet people and just to learn, I think, especially when you are first starting. You know, that calendar can look really empty sometimes if you don't have a ton of clients yet. And so it's a good idea to just keep moving, keep talking to people, you know, keep saying what you do. And that really helps business move along. Similarly, there's a group called Tuesdays together.
This is a group that honey book actually kind of. Puts on or owns, but it's totally free and you don't need to be a honey book member to join a Tuesdays together group. So it's very similar, although it's a little bit more like a mastermind style, I would say. So they do have speakers come in.
Sometimes they do have events, but like they are a lot more local. Focused. So they have local chapters. So here in the Metro Detroit chapter will like meet up to go to dinner or meet up to do a co-working session.
Something I really like about the Tuesdays together group is that a lot of the people, just because of honey books, like core, uh, customer base, they tend to be photographers. People in the wedding industry, a lot of them. And I actually really like that as somebody who is not in those spaces at all, I have said it before. I'll say it again. Like I have learned so much about my business and just business in general from people who do not do the exact same thing as me. So while I love being in spaces of other marketers, YouTubers, social media managers, et cetera, like that's great.
Sometimes the information can kind of start to get a little bit like redundant. Like I've heard a million. or everybody kind of starts doing the same thing. And then it's like, wait, how do I actually stand out? So I really like Tuesdays together because it tends to be like, I'm usually the only marketer in the room, which is nice and also gives you a good opportunity to potentially meet some clients and people that may want to, you know, pay you money. So that's always good. Lastly, focus me.
I love focus me over the past, like year and a half. Started getting into, uh, I don't know the word for it. Like co-working virtually, I've been really into this.
It just puts a little bit of healthy pressure on you to actually get some stuff done. I host co-working groups in the freelance Friday club. I attend co-working groups that some of my friends put on and I also sometimes use focus mates.
So focus mate is basically you get on you turn on your camera. You say hi to one person on the other line, and then you go heads down. You turn. Microphone on mute and you just start working on the task that you are attempting to work on. Then you regroup at the end, say, Hey, how'd it go? What'd you accomplish? And then that's it. It's kind of like chat relay or, um, O mango or something like that, but with a business twist and a less creepy twist.
So yeah, it is a really cool platform. They do have paid plans. Most of these resources that I mentioned do have some paid option, but. They all have a free plan as well. And I'm just on focus.
Mate's free plan. I don't use it every day or anything like that, but if I have something big that I'm trying to tackle, like my book proposal, I used focus mate, to, um, work on the revisions for that. Cause I was like, I need to get this done. Things like that. It comes really in handy and it's pretty generous.
The free plan is let's talk about education. I love the platform. Score. I don't know if any of you have heard of this, if you have questions about like, how do I write a business plan or can I get an example of a business plan or how do I set up an LLC, which business entity type is right for me? How do I keep track of my finances? Like some of those more like traditional business functions score is an amazing, amazing resource. You can get a free mentor. Yes.
I said. Free mentor, who is often in your area. I think that's how they do it.
They have you sign up based on where you are in the world and they will help you with like, whatever you need. Really. I use this when I was first starting out because the whole like business entity thing confused me, I was like, should I be an LLC? Should I be an S Corp? Should I be a sole proprietor? And it's hard to find information like that online. And you know, it's not because people are trying to withhold things from you.
Like. I'm not, I'm not trying to make it difficult for you. I wish I could just give you the answer. But the thing is, you know, I have a global audience and even just in America, like every state is different, so I never wanna give bad advice. I'm also not like trained in that. I'm just winging it and doing what I think is right as well.
So I never wanna give you bad advice on that. So it can be really hard to get free advice on some of those more detailed issues, but score is where it's at. I highly recommend it. And even if you don't need the actual mentor again, like you can get examples and templates for business plans and a ton of stuff like that.
Another website that's amazing is HubSpot academy. They have so many free courses. I honestly can't believe all of their resources are free.
HubSpot in general has a lot of. Free resources. It is a CRM client relationship manager. So if you need one of those and you don't want to spring, or you're not ready to spring for like a honey book or something, which is my preferred CMS, you can use some HubSpots resources. You can also use like their meeting scheduler.
But they're courses. Let's talk about that. The first marketing course that I really ever took was the HubSpot inbound course, which teaches you all about inbound marketing. And I mean, honestly, inbound marketing is where like 90% of my leads come from. So what obviously worked, it obviously made an impact on me now, of course I did learn, I did try things on my own too, but it really did leave lasting impact on me and it really helped me out so, so much they have courses on, you know, uh, LinkedIn for. YouTube marketing content, marketing, email marketing, inbound sales, uh, revenue, operations.
Ooh. I feel like I need to take that one. That sounds very interesting. I mean, seriously, so many cool things. And even if you are like experienced, like I am.
I'm like, wait, some of those look really helpful. The other cool thing about HubSpot academy is that a lot of these are certificate courses. So if you're somebody who is looking to stand out from the competition to your clients or to a future employer certificate programs can really help you do that. The last thing I wanna say about free education is if there is. Content creator or coach or educator, or course creator or anything like that, that you like that you really align with. I just recommend following them, joining their email list because so many of your favorite creators will often host free live calls and things like that.
So just always stay on the lookout for those things. I personally have a free class coming up. So if you are interested, I will leave a link for that down below. No pressure.
Of course. Okay. Let's talk about the actual tools. There are so many. Uh, run through these first up Google docs. I have not paid for Microsoft word, Microsoft Excel.
Any of these programs in so long, like since college Google docs is where it's at, it really has everything that you need, especially when you're first starting out. I don't think I need to go through it in detail, but if you need to write a document, if you need to make a spreadsheet, I keep everything like I'm looking at my tabs right now, and I have so many spreadsheets, so many Google sheets, revenue, forecasting sheets, sales sheets, uh, CSVs for email imports and things like that. Like it is everything I love Google docs. A lot Asana Asana is a task management tool. So it basically think of it as like a checklist.
That's a living document, you know, you don't just write on it and then check it off and throw the piece of paper away. You can move things around, you can assign things to people. You can, um, you know, change dates, change, priority levels.
You can add tags, you can add them to different projects. It is really cool. It is where I house my content calendar. So this is how I know I'm actually looking at it right now.
This is how I know which podcasts are coming up, which ones I need to record, which stage they're at. Have they been edited, cetera, et cetera. Again, I can assign things to my team. So like I have a copywriter who's working on some of my newsletter stuff, so we can communicate back and forth.
It's just a great thing. If you have a team or not, honestly, I've been using Asana. Gosh, probably like a decade.
I don't know. I've been using it for a very, very long time, but when you do have a team, it's nice because you can chat back and forth with 'em without having to like, send an email, like, Hey, is the newsletter ready? Or, Hey, are we gonna edit this video? You can just communicate directly in the task. And it just feels a lot less obnoxious for me and just keeps everything.
Seamless. I have so many videos on Asana, so I won't go into it too much, but I love it. And I'm only on the free plan I've been using it for so long and I still have not paid for it. I feel sort of guilty.
I'm like, should I upgrade just to like show them a little love, but, um, They really pack in value for the free plan. When we talk about team communication as well, I do really like slack, slack can get overwhelming if abused, which like, you know, if you've worked at a startup before, you probably have negative feelings about slack, but I really like it. I don't think that I'm obnoxious with it. I'm not like slacking people on my team at all hours of the night, but it's just nice because sometimes, you know, whatever you need to say, doesn't warrant an email. So if you just need to say a quick.
has the newsletter been sent? I don't know something like that or what I also really like it for is like team morale, you know, just, Hey, happy Friday. I hope you have a nice day. Or, you know, just like the chit chat kind of thing. It's kind of like the water cooler. If you will, in traditional jobs, we don't really have that anymore as freelancers.
And even if you are not a freelancer and you work at a job, most of you are probably remote. It's nice to be able to just kind of get to know each other and have those more informal chats. I also like it for it's nice. If you want to add any community element to any of your offers. So for example, I use slack for my courses for the cohort based courses, like the social media management accelerator linked down below.
We are. Still enrolling and there are still like 50% of the seats left. I believe last time I checked for that course, we do have a slack room that we open up for all of our students. So I can check in every weekday and just communicate with people in between those live calls. If somebody doesn't understand something, somebody missed class, somebody, you know, whatever.
It's just nice to have that sort of community element. So I. Slack for that mail or light email platforms are hard.
There are a lot of them out there. I personally use flow desk, which is paid. Um, so, you know, if you're at a point where like, you don't really have much of an audience yet, you're just kind of starting out.
I would honestly. Recommend that you start with something free. You can always transfer all of your emails over to flow desk.
Once you get, you know, to the point where you're ready to pay, just cuz it doesn't make sense to pay for something that you're not really using quite yet. But mailer light is my favorite of the free email platforms or like the freemium email platforms because they really enable you to do a lot. I hosted my lead magnet. Lead magnet is like a free gift. Free PDF, click here, download this free PDF, and then they get the PDF. And then we take them through a welcome sequence, which is like a bunch of emails.
Hey, did you like the PDF? Hey, are you looking to be a social media manager? Here's some links, things like that. And you can do all of that for free in mailer light, which you cannot, you know, in many of the other email platforms, at least that I know of. So I really like that you can also build landing pages for. Lead magnets or for a webinar, whatever you wanna do. It does feel like I love mail light, but it does feel a little, like, I don't know, like old school, I don't know how to explain it.
Like it doesn't feel super sleek. Some of the things are a little hard to navigate for me personally and how my brain works, but for it being free, it just really is the best value. Next step acuity.
I love acuity. Scheduling nowadays, I use honey book because I pay for the whole CMS. But if you're, again, if you're not at that point, acuity is a great one because it's totally free. And basically you can just plug in, Hey, discovery, call availability. Here's when I'm available times a week.
Here's the intake form questions. If I need to ask anybody any questions. Plug it onto your website. So people can click book, a discovery call or whatever it might be, and people can easily select a time that you're available. So you don't have to do that back and forth. Hey, okay.
You wanna hop in a discovery call, what days and times are you available? And you go back and forth five times and then the client is like, you know what? This feels unprofessional. I'm bored. I forgot to reply.
And then you lose a sale. So acuity makes it just super, super seamless. I love that you can add those intake forms.
You can also add payments so you can accept PayPal payments through acuity, maybe Stripe too courses. I host my course on think if I get questions about this all the time, I've been with think if for years now, and I'm really happy with it. Of course, I do have a paid plan now because I have multiple courses and I have like, All the bells and whistles, if you will, all the additional features. But I did start on a free Thinkific plan for my first ever course. And I kept with that free plan for quite a while. Actually, they have a breakdown of what the different plans gets you, but I think the free plan is great for just starting out.
If you're like, I wanna. Create a course, but I'm not sure if it's gonna sell or I'm not sure if I'm gonna like teaching or whatever, so test it out, see how it goes. I love it. It makes it so, so easy. Everything's really drag and drop for building out the course. You know, all I do personally is I record my video lessons.
I create my worksheets and then you just like. Click and upload them into Thinkific. I mean, there's really not much more to it. Even the landing pages are really easy, you know, I'm not a designer, like I said, and you just kind of plug and play and drag the landing page elements around where you want them to show up on the screen. And they have some free resources throughout the year, too. Like they just had an event called think and color, which was all about like women in business, women, business owners, like a free summit.
They have a lot of stuff like that. So I really like them Zapier. Oh my gosh. I just made a tweet the other day.
That was. Zapier is the best tool on the planet. and maybe this should have been at the top of my list. Zapier. I don't even know how to explain what Zapier does. I'll tell you what I use it for.
I'll tell you what I use it for. So one of the things that I do. My think if it orders, I put them into a Google sheet. I do that through Zapier. Like think if it doesn't automatically put it into a Google sheet.
Right. So I have to connect. Zapier is like the glue.
So here's Thinkific, here's Zapier. Here's the Google sheet. So they're all in a Google sheet now. And then what I can also do is I can. Take them from Google sheet to flow desk, my email platform and build them out into an email list.
So that way for like S M a for example, since there's live calls in that course, I can email them and I can say, Hey, class is starting in a week and I don't have to manually like copy and paste emails from my course platform. It all just as soon as somebody makes a purchase, they're added to Google sheets, they're added to flow desk. Boom, boom, boom. There's other things that you can use it for, of course, like whenever somebody orders SM a, I can automatically send them a link to a slack room.
So many things it integrates with like, Dozens, if not hundreds, maybe of tools and platforms out there. So if you have something that you're like, I don't know how to make this talk to each other, or I wish this was simpler. Zapier can probably do it. And they do have a free plan that enables you to do a hundred tasks a month. So again, when you're starting out, assuming you're not getting more than a hundred orders in a month, you could totally do that workflow that I do.
For think or whatever it is that you need to do. I talked about this one not long ago in a video. I started using it earlier this year and I feel like it's changed my life. Like not to be dramatic, but it's Grammarly. I always considered myself a good speller. I was always really a really strong writer and reader.
And honestly, the things that this thing catches, you're changing tents here, or you spelled this wrong, or this feels awkward. It gives you a score of how readable it is and how slow it is and things like that. And I have not paid for it yet. I don't think I'm going to, I don't think I need to.
I think the free plan is more than enough for me and you know, the difference between this and just using like spell check on Google docs, which is also great, is that it actually looks out for grammar. I. Spell check just looks out for spelling.
So I recommend everybody have it, especially if you're in social media marketing or anything like that. You know, if you wanna double check your captions, even just your emails, it just makes you look so much more professional. If you're, you know, spelling and writing correctly, if English isn't your, uh, first language, I'm sure it would help you out a lot as well. So I love it for invoicing. I love wave wave is totally free. They just take that, you know, transaction amount, which any payment processor is going to take a small.
For your transactions, but if you need to invoice your. Super easy. They also have bookkeeping and stuff in there. So you can kind of keep track of your expenses, keep track of how much money has come in.
It's easily to share with your accountant, if you need to. I love it. I've been using it for years. Invoicing is one of those things that is included in honey book now. So I do use that most of the time, but I still use wave occasionally for like a one off invoice.
If I work with a sponsor, for example, on YouTube, I'll usually invoice them through wave or yeah, just like random things like. It's so cool. And lastly, just in case you watched or listened to the end and are, you know, interested in video tube, buddy is one of my favorite tools, tube, buddy enables you to do keyword research and title research for your YouTube videos. It's basically like a Yoast SEO if you know of that plugin for WordPress, but for YouTube specifically.
So. I've been using this tool for years. I've upgraded now, but the free plan does get you, you know, started and gets you to kind of start thinking SEO first for your videos. Then, then if you feel like you need some of the additional features, you can always upgrade, but I love it so much.
It has just really helped me. Yeah, make better titles choose content that people are actually going to watch, because what it does is it basically tells you how popular your keyword is. Like how many people are searching for it versus how competitive it is. Because obviously you want that sweet spot where it's like, people are looking for it, but there's not a ton of videos on it yet. So it's really helped me, uh, just improve the. Searchability the discoverability of my videos.
And I think it will help you as well. All right. So hope this was helpful. I believe all the links to everything in the show notes.
Also, I would love it. If you would leave your favorite free tools in the comments, that would be super cool. I'm always learning about new things from you all, and I'm always. You know, on the hunt for new free stuff. So be sure to leave me a comment if you're watching on YouTube and again, thanks to the sponsor of today's episode, render for I'll leave their link and the 20% off offer down below for you as well. All right.
I hope you have a great rest of your day. Thanks for hanging out with me. I'll see you soon.