Startup life is hectic, and founders often find themselves wearing almost every hat — manager, sales rep, accountant, marketer and even sometimes the bank.
It's a labor of love, but don't worry: You're not in this dizzying space alone. Pretty much all of Silicon Valley can give you a pat on the back in solidarity or at least a tired wave, and they've developed plenty of startup resources to help you.
No matter the industry or business model, launching a small business or non-profit doesn't have to be exhausting. These excellent resources for startups can help you organize, bankroll and promote your projects, from like-minded communities to instant-messaging apps.
1. Social Networking
Are you even a small business if you don’t exist on social media?
Social media is one of the best free startup tools to gain visibility, create a brand culture and cultivate a base of loyal consumers. The big four are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube, though brands are finding increasing success with newcomers like TikTok.
Create a Facebook event for your upcoming opening or marketing events; Tweet at your partners and customers; post your aesthetically pleasing processes and products to Instagram! Growing and maintaining you social network is an absolute must in this business environment.
Though many startups use social media as a crucial customer service tool, some networks have an advertising suite that can help you create a cost-effective marketing strategy.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter all have popular ad platforms that will introduce your brand to new consumers without breaking the bank. These platforms all have mobile applications as well, so you can stay in touch and make interactive posts on the go!
There’s a reason a classic is a classic. In the era of social media, email lists are still the most direct way to reach customers. According to HubSpot, another excellent resource for developing and maintaining an effective marketing strategy, email marketing makes about $38 for every $1 spent.
That’s a pretty astounding return on investment.
There are a lot of startup resources specifically for email marketing, but MailChimp makes mailing lists so easy that even the most inexperienced startup founders can succeed by using the analytics and A/B testing.
There’s also a free option for lists with fewer than 2,000 subscribers.
Office culture has completely changed in the last decade.
More than ever, startups are finding their team scattered across different cities and sometimes even different continents. That makes communication tough, but Slack is there to fill in the gaps (even if the gap is an ocean).
The instant-messaging service is crafted specifically for businesses and functions as a virtual coworking space.
Though it’s generally used like a typical chatroom, you can also hop on calls with your colleagues, leave yourself notes and reminders and motivate your team with a well-chosen GIF. You can also join Slack channels that act as networking groups for entrepreneurs, freelancers and startup founders.
A quick web search will show you the cream of the crop.
4. Google Analytics
SEO, or search engine optimization, is a huge part of success in both online ads and search-engine visibility.
Though Google Trends will help you get your website ready for the search engine, Google Analytics is a lot more valuable than that. The service can help you determine exactly why viewers are visiting your website and why they’re leaving your website.
In other words, it identifies your customers' needs and wants so you can better adjust your business strategy.
Sometimes, a startup just needs a quick task done on the cheap, whether it’s as small as a simple Photoshop job, some lines of advertising copy or website code.
Fiverr helps business owners connect with freelancers. Though it's best known for its graphic designers, you can pretty much find someone for any task in the realm of graphic design, photography, writing, coding, video and audio.
Trello is a project management app, but it functions like a calendar on steroids.
It’s basically a Holy Grail for project managers and is widely regarded as one of the best resources to maximize productivity and streamline your company’s workflow across various teams.
Even if you don’t use Trello for your business, you can use it for yourself. Let’s be honest: Running a small business has a lot of nuts and bolts, and Trello makes your to-do list clear, shareable and flexible enough that you can roll with the punches of startup life.
Plus, there’s a free option, so what do you have to lose?
Even if you have a business degree, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll probably have to learn something with which you’re not familiar at some point in the course of business.
Coursera makes learning convenient and affordable by allowing you to take online courses from some of the top universities. Subjects include everything from Python and data science to marketing and accounting. Basically, it encompasses every skill a business owner would need to know.
This isn’t just one of the best educational startup resources for founders and co-founders. At $25 to $99 per course, it’s also affordable enough to use with all of your employees.
8. Google Docs
Microsoft Office is great, but Google Docs has a leg up because it’s made for collaboration.
The program eliminates the biggest drawback of Microsoft’s famous software. You don’t have to filter through hundreds of saved, edited versions of your spreadsheets and presentations and pray that you’ve emailed your colleagues the correct one.
Every document is saved in the cloud and is updated in real time, even after you share it.
Google Docs can pretty much do anything Microsoft Office can do, except it’s totally free with a Google account. At worst, you’ll have to add extra space to your Google Drive, which costs as little as 99 cents per month.
9. The Small Business Association
The Small Business Association is the cornerstone of all American startups.
If you’re not turning toward the SBA for advice, you’re missing out on a seriously helpful opportunity. It's known for its startup resources, which include tutorials about everything from calculating startup costs and doing market research to writing a business plan.
The SBA is also a crucial resource when it comes to funding (which happens to be one of the most important things in determining life expectancy of a new business). The organization can help secure loans or loan guarantees.
If you don’t qualify, it can still counsel you about your next steps.
10. Startup Grind
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to be around like-minded people who can help support or mentor you on your startup journey.
Startup Grind is one of the largest startup resources for networking, with a community of more than 400,000 entrepreneurs in 85 different countries and 200 cities. It also has events, local meetups and partnerships with organizations like Google for Entrepreneurs, Intuit and Chase.
One of the main draws of Startup Grind’s various conferences and events is the opportunity to meet with investors, a hurdle that many startups don’t jump past.
There’s not just one way to fund a startup.
Business owners don’t have to go the traditional path of venture capitalist investors and loans. Kickstarter is one of the many trendy technology companies that helps small business owners crowdsource their projects.
Since it launched in 2009, entrepreneurs have raised $3.3 billion on the platform, which has led to some major innovations like the Illumibowl, a nightlight for toilets, and JamStik, a tool for learning guitar.
Your idea could be next!
For any of these growth hacking resources, there are plenty of FAQs and tutorials to help you get started. Gather your team for a startup weekend and learn how to optimize your processes and marketing with these tools!
- HubSpot: The Ultimate List of Email Marketing Stats for 2020
- Trello: Why Use Trello?
- Entrepreneur: 10 Expert Resources for Startups in 2017
- Mental Floss: 20 Successful Kickstarter Products You Can Buy on Amazon
- Entrepreneur: If You Want to Get Funded on Kickstarter, Research Says to Avoid These Tactics
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Organization
- Medium: 10 Good Reasons Why You Should Use Google Analytics
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.