Need help setting up or growing your small business, but don’t want to pay big bucks for consulting help? Don’t worry: You can find professional assistance at no cost.
Here are five resources for free business consulting:
- Small-Business Development Centers — More than 1,000 service centers nationwide are available to provide free consulting services to small-business owners. The programs are hosted by local universities and economic development centers and funded, in part, by the U.S. Small Business Administration. Advisers with significant business experience are available to provide one-time or ongoing consulting on everything from hiring to tax issues — at no cost. The programs also host free lectures and workshops: Check your local SBDC site to find out what’s available in your area or to book a consulting session.
- SCORE — SCORE is a national nonprofit association with 364 chapters that’s also supported by the Small Business Administration. Its program offers access to free mentoring sessions, both online and in-person, with experienced business professionals. Choose from categories such as business planning, legal issues, or marketing, and SCORE will match you with a relevant volunteer counselor.
- National Entrepreneurship Week — National Entrepreneurship Week is a time when many local organizations and universities sponsor free events for entrepreneurs, such as mentoring sessions with experienced professionals, free seminars on social media topics, or feedback about a pitch for funding from a team of venture capitalists. The 2013 event takes place from February 16 to 23. Find out what’s happening in your state.
- MicroMentor — This nonprofit organization links new or would-be business owners with volunteer professionals. Mentees can submit requests for help, view the profiles of interested mentors, and choose the one with the skills and background needed to help solve a specific problem. The mentor and mentee are free to communicate as often as they’d like, by email or phone (or in person if they’re based in the same region). Once you’ve grown your business, you can pay it forward by becoming a mentor to a new entrepreneur.
- LinkedIn — If you’ve built a network on LinkedIn, you’re likely to have contacts who are linked to prominent business leaders. Is a friend connected with someone whose business acumen you admire? Request an introduction and ask the professional to lunch or coffee. You may get some free advice out of it and, if the two of you click, that person may be willing to mentor you. You can also make the most of LinkedIn’s groups by posting specific queries about problems you’re facing in related message boards; fellow members are likely to chime in with helpful responses.