Small Business Center

Many people dream of starting their own business. Most are daunted by the risks and costs. But freebies online can help you start - and manage - your business.

I've been down this road. Back in the day, I blundered around with marketing. I worried about making the payroll. Fortunately, it eventually worked out.

There was help available. Without the Internet, though, it was harder to access. I wasn't even aware of some of it. Today, things are different. The Web delivers it right to your computer.

You still need a few good ideas. And you have to work hard. But here are some things that will help fill in those potholes.

Loan guarantees

Financing is perhaps the biggest obstacle to starting a business. You could seek outside investors or ask family members for a loan. Either's better than maxing out your credit cards.

The best solution is probably a bank loan. Before you visit your banker, visit the Small Business Administration's website.

The SBA offers a wealth of business. Quizzes will help you determine if you're suited for business ownership. They will also help you consider your business' needs.

The Small Business Administration also offers funding programs. It will guarantee your bank loan. If you fail to repay your loan, the SBA will cover it.

You need a good business plan and solid credit rating. But a guarantee from the SBA will help open bankers' doors.

Business advice

The Service Corps of Retired Executives provides business advice on its  website. Despite the organization's name, some members are still working.

You can arrange to meet with business owners and executives for free advice. You can meet in person or communicate via e-mail.

SCORE also sponsors entrepreneurial workshops for which it charges a small fee.

Tax information

Believe it or not, the Internal Revenue Service also has freebies.

Search the IRS's home page  for "Tax Calendar." You'll find the Small Business Tax Calendar. It provides instructions and options for filing business taxes. It also lists filing deadlines.

You'll also want to check out the IRS's introduction to federal taxes for new businesspeople. You can watch the video on the IRS site or order a free CD.

Shipping materials

If you ask, the United States Postal Service  will send you shipping materials. You can get boxes in all shapes and sizes. Additionally, free forms and stickers will help you prepare mailings.

The USPS also provides information on direct-mail marketing. It offers templates for creating your own mailing pieces. Or, you can find links to private providers.

If you just want to save on shipping costs, you can do that, too. You'll find information on bulk mailings, shipping rates and classes of mail.


The federal government requires the display of a number of posters. You can get them free from the Department of Labor.

The DOL also has information about retirement and health benefits. You can also read up on workplace health and safety.

The DOL provides average wages for various positions. This is helpful if you don't know how much to pay. For more details, visit the DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics.

More Help for Your Business