Four cheap resources to jump-start your small business

Even though it's a great time to start a small business, it's not a cakewalk. Funding is still an issue, and accurately assessing your business plan is tricky without an objective party. There are plenty of self-proclaimed gurus and experts out there who are willing to take your money in exchange for cookie cutter advice, but don't go paying up just yet. Here are four free or cheap services that will help you launch your small business and hang on long enough to make sure it's seaworthy.

Starting a small business requires planning and paperwork and if you haven't hung on to your college textbooks it can be a pain to find quality business forms for free. Thankfully Office Depot has a section of its website dedicated to small business forms. It offers all kinds of forms, including start-up forms, general finance paperwork, federal and state tax forms, worker safety and many other documents. Having started a small business straight out of college, I can definitely say that access to these forms would have been a huge help in getting started.

If you still need some help after working your way through these forms, set up an appointment with your local Small Business Administration office. They can help you get a better understanding of what you'll need to proceed, and will help connect you with other professionals in your area who will be of service. They can even be a good source of funding if you need capital to get off the ground.

Don't stop there; be sure to search for a local center for entrepreneurs. These resource centers, sometimes called start-up incubators, are becoming increasingly common, and leverage the power of a group to help launch small businesses. For a look at a sampling of services available at such a center, check out the numerous services offered by my local center; including shared A/V equipment, financial and legal help, business planning and access to facilities. And this is all available in a village of 4,000 residents!

If you need to secure funding, banks aren't your only resource. Thanks to the Internet, you can connect with investors anywhere who believe in your business plan, and get funded through a peer-to-peer lender. To learn more about this route, check out WalletPop's past coverage of small businesses funded by their customers.

These are just a few of the numerous resources available to potential small business owners. For more information about small businesses, be sure to check out AOL's Small Business section, where you can stay on top of the latest news and trends.
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