This past year I went through a blogging and business boot camp of sorts—at times, it was as intense as that college semester when I took 22 credits, worked part-time, wrote my 72-page senior thesis, and held down an internship. And yet it has brought me to this place, where I feel much more confident and peaceful moving forward running a small business.
Was it worth it? Absolutely!
Do I have more to learn? You betcha!
There are so many tools and resources available out there for bloggers and small business owners that it can be a little overwhelming. Since I was working on my own business full-time these past 12 months, I actually was able to go through lots of free programs, webinars, etc. and glean valuable information from them. I’d like to save you the hassle and time and point out resources that I found to be extremely useful in helping me move forward.
Did I mention that most of these are free (did you expect any less)?
How to Create Your Own Coworkers
Listen, it can get lonely working by yourself. On top of that, you miss out on the opportunity to bounce ideas off of other people. In order to keep synergy alive, I joined a Mastermind group last summer (we meet once every other week for 1.5 hours), what I call a girl entrepreneur power group (we’ve met twice so far), and I have begun business and blog coaching with the infamous Luke Landes. I use Skype or Google Hangout for each of these, both of which are free. The more I connect with people, the easier things seem to get.
Free Webinars with Massive Amounts of Useful Information
What I have learned is that in today’s market, webinar hosts have to give away massively helpful information before they can expect a sale. This is great for people like you and me who may not be ready to invest in high-costing courses because we have not even learned the low-hanging fruit (or mid-hanging fruit) yet. Plus, it gives us a taste of what these people offer so that when we are ready to make an investment, we know who we want to work with.
- Pinterest for Business Webinar Walkthrough: This year I learned an entirely new platform and how to apply it to my business (plus it’s pretty darn fun). If you are brand new to Pinterest, then this free webinar will show you how to set everything up. Plus it includes several great, free resources.
- Amber McCue’s NiceOps.com and Freshly Implemented: I was very fortunate to stumble upon Amber McCue and all of her systems-goodness while searching the web. Subscribe to get three training videos plus amazing worksheets to start learning how to clone yourself (by creating an operations manual and hiring out). This really opened my eyes to the potential of delegating work away so that I can work as often as possible in my zone of genius.
I have taken several free courses over this past year, and was so thankful for the immense amount of information and value offered in each. Check them out!
- Amber McCue’s Free PlanAThon for 2016: When I was blogging with a full time job, everything was fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants. I’ve had a few series, but never really launched anything or put a lot of planning into my posts and how they tie into my overall message (heck, what my overall message even is!). The most I ever did was to have my posts all scheduled for the week by Sunday night. Then I moved it to having all of my posts scheduled for the previous Friday, and that really opened up a nicer weekend and work schedule for me (some planning at play!). Now I’m working on planning out 90-day chunks at a time. Amber’s free, self-paced, PlanAThon videos will give you a great idea of how to set goals for this year, then how to break them down into sizable chunks. By the end of this self-paced, free course you will have crafted a 90-day plan.
- David Risley’s 30-day Blogging Academy: Wow do I wish I had gone through this free 30-day blogging course when I first started blogging in 2009. Even so, I still learned a good bit throughout this course, including things like where eyes fall on your blog, calendars in WordPress, opt-in offers, etc. Once again, this is a self-paced course. In fact, it took me two months to get through it instead of one, but the impact was just as great.
- Erika Lyremark’s Free Week Long Whip-A-Thon: (Update: Unfortunately, this is no longer being offered. Erika is currently offering an awesome free download of her book Think Like a Stripper). I stumbled upon Erika and her Daily Whip website in time to sign up for her free week-long Whip-A-Thon (the name alone really caught my attention). I signed up at the end of October, when I was trying to meet my self-made deadline of creating the content to my first course offering (to be announced soon!). She, along with the other wonderful women who took part, really kept my focus on the end goal. If you have the opportunity to take part if it is offered again in the future, please do!
- Nathalie Lussier’s Free 30-Day List-Building Challenge: I am currently undertaking Nathalie’s list-building challenge to increase my subscribers and my overall reach. Very worth my time—shows you how to do things like create a goal in Google analytics to track your efforts, great pdfs for creating an opt-in, and so much more—and you can’t beat free + valuable!
Photography and Image Work
It’s been a little over five years since I first had my head shot done. Aside from the lapse in time, I had a vision for how I wanted my website and brand to look moving forward. While my new website design is still in the works, I’ve been unrolling photos from the awesome photography session I had with Erin Smith bit by bit. If you are close to Houston and are in the market for a photographer, I highly recommend Erin. She was delightful to work with, was able to truly capture me (enough to bring tears to my eyes), and made wonderful use of natural lighting.
To edit your photos and make them pinnable (like the image above), my go-to free software is PicMonkey.
Free Small Business Resources
I’m not sure why I never saw running a blog as a small business before, but now that I know it is, I have opened myself up to some great small business resources.
- Legal Counselor through SCORE Chapter: Contact your local SCORE chapter through the SBA if you are a small business. I was able to talk with a legal counselor for free. She was patient, and knowledgeably answered all my questions about incorporating in Texas and potential tax consequences. That’s right; this year I registered as an LLC, set up automatic bookkeeping, put a back-up system in place for my files and computer operating system, and formally separated business finances from personal finances by opening business checking/savings. I’m not sure why I didn’t do so sooner!
- GoDaddy Bookkeeping (update: no longer free): GoDaddy offers this awesome, easy-to-use, and free bookkeeping system. You can associate all of your business accounts (including PayPal), and things will be automatically categorized for you. I used to work in an excel sheet, tabulating everything by hand at the end of the month. This was a revolutionary change for me!
- Small Business Plan Template: Crafting my small business plan, along with everyone else in my Mastermind group, was a very valuable use of my time. It’s an ever-changing and evolving document, but it truly laid down the foundation for Frugal Confessions, LLC.
- Coffitivity: This is a free resource that mimics the low-buzz noise that makes people so much more focused and productive in coffee shops. It’s quite pleasant!
- Perfecting Your Biz Bio: I have been attending FINCON (personal financial conference) since its inauguration in 2011. It’s embarrassing to say this, but when I would meet people and they asked what my blog was about, I would suddenly become tongue-tied. How was I supposed to explain myself in one-two sentences? In fact, I wasn’t entirely clear on who my audience was and what my overall focus was. That’s why I really, really found Communication Stylist Nikki Elledge Brown’s blog post on perfecting your biz bio using her simple formula very helpful. For example, my Biz Bio is, “I add frugal decadence back into the lives of the overly budget-conscious + cash-strapped so that they live for the now + save for the future.” Ahhh, that feels good.
I would not be where I am today without having discovered and made use of the resources above. There are so many amazing people on the internet! Do you have some great small business and blogging resources you discovered over the years? Please share with the rest of us in the comments below. It’s my hope that we can all help one another out.