The 10 best websites for small business owners

March 19, 2012

Starting your own small business isn’t easy, and there are lots of reasons why small businesses fail. That’s why it’s incredibly important to keep your mind sharp by continually educating yourself as a small business owner. Fortunately, there is plenty of help, advice and support out there on the web for entrepreneurs. However, the key is finding the resources that best fit your needs.

Here are our top 10 picks of the best websites for small business owners:

Bplans

We’ve said before how important it is to have a plan for your small business. Even if you’re not seeking an outside investment, a plan helps keep you focused, chart your firm’s progress and, in the bad times, reminds you as to why you got into it in the first place. Bplans has the biggest single online collection of sample business plans so you can see how it’s done and follow the templates. There’s also plenty of practical advice on running a business written by entrepreneurial guru Tim Berry, the founder of Palo Alto Software and the owner of Bplans. www.bplans.com

Business Owner’s Toolkit

If you’re a small business owner with a tricky problem, like not knowing what a cash flow worksheet looks like or wondering how to write a company drug-testing policy, this is your “go to” site. It has over 5,000 pages of free advice and is packed with tips on how to cut costs, easy-to-follow checklists and real-life case studies. www.toolkit.com

Business Owners’ Idea Café

Their motto is “a fun approach to serious business.” True to form, thousands of users love this award-winning site (run by successful entrepreneur Francie Ward) for providing them with a forum to share ideas, opinions, guidance and problems with like-minded entrepreneurs in an informal, humorous atmosphere. www.businessownersideacafe.com

Entrepreneur

This glossy monthly magazine has been writing about what it takes to be a successful “trep” for over 30 years. It’s all about tapping into the mindset of a winning small business owner, so its cover stories focus on inspirational entrepreneurs who are living the dream. But its online version also offers a vast archive of articles and practical info on how to set up a business and make it flourish. www.entrepreneur.com

Freshbooks

This is a great resource for those of you bootstrapping your start-up. Its “mission” is to provide invoicing and time tracking services that are fast and simple to use, make your business look like a Fortune 500 company (no matter how big it actually is), allow you to manage your books without an accountant, and to keep your data safe but accessible around the clock. www.freshbooks.com

Launch While Working

It’s often good to test the water with a small business idea before you take the plunge and quit your job to concentrate on your start-up. It is possible to run a successful business while still holding down a 9-to-5 job, and this website tells you how to become a successful “employedpreneur.” www.launchwhileworking.com

LinkedIn

A social media forum with a business focus, it’s great for self-employed people. If you haven’t already, set up a profile, and get in touch with a wide network of business contacts. You can explain the concept behind your current business and catalog your specialties, providing a free shop window to display your talents to prospective clients or employers. www.linkedin.com

Mint

Streamlining your business so you can focus on what you’re really good at is important for entrepreneurs. Mint helps you run your financial life efficiently by pulling all your financial accounts into one place, allows you to set a budget and financial goals, as well as track them, and also offers free financial planning software. www.mint.com

NFIB

The National Federation for Independent Business is the lobbying group for small businesses on Capitol Hill and in the 50 state capitals. It also fights issues affecting SMBs through the courts and publishes well-regarded research, including the monthly Small Business Economic Trends. Its website has a good “Business Resources” section, with advice for starting a small business, marketing and advertising, finance and accounting, legal help, and much more, including tips on selling your business. www.nfib.com

Score

If you want more hands-on help, then take a look at Score’s website. This non-profit organization has been going strong for over 40 years and has 364 chapters spread out across the country. It has over 13,000 seasoned business veterans who act as volunteers to provide face-to-face mentoring and free advice to entrepreneurs. www.score.org