Free Image Resources
Whether you are building a website for your business or publishing articles online to establish a reputation as an expert in your field, you will need engaging, alluring images. Thankfully, you do not have to have an extensive personal image library or stock photo budget to populate your web properties and content with beautiful images. Simply utilize the various sites online that provide Creative Commons and Public Domain-licensed images.
Our favorite sources include:
- Flickr's Creative Commons: Full of unique, high quality images created by a wide variety of amateur and professional photographers
- Wikimedia Commons: A great place to find historical images
- Pixabay: A convenient, easy-to-browse site featuring images with more of a stock photo feel
For more information, visit our guide to finding and attributing photos for commercial use.
The Small Business Administration
Though lacking the trendiness and shine cache of popular accelerator programs, the Small Business Administration is a robust and truly useful resource.
Online, the Small Business Administration offers:
- Guides to starting a business
- Guides to managing a business
- Information on getting small business loans, surety bonds, funds through the SBIC Program, grants, venture capital, and money through local programs
- Guides to government contracting
- Features such as video tutorials, chat sessions (and archives you can review), and a competitive analysis tool
The Small Business Administration maintains local brick-and-mortar offices where one can find additional counsel and even enjoy one-on-one mentoring with business experts and lawyers. Should you be serious about starting a business, but have no budget and no idea where to start, a visit to your local SBA office may make a world of difference.
Many of the professionals and entrepreneurs with whom we have interviewed cite professional associations as invaluable career resources. In addition to introducing them to new ideas and lifelong friends, these groups have a tendency of yielding professional opportunities and new clients.
It may be very worthwhile to consider joining:
- An association related to your professional position
- An association related to your industry
- A local charity
- An active, involved online group related to your profession and industry
We do not recommend joining a professional association if you have no intention of actually being involved (that is, contributing to dialogue, attending events and meetings, and showing up for volunteer efforts). Should you not invest time and effort in a professional association, you will have done nothing more than open your inbox to more distracting newsletters and spend money in the form of membership fees on an organization that is doing you, personally, no good.
It may be difficult to determine whether an organization, club, or association will be valuable and worth your time before you join. Whether a group will work for you is contingent on your personal resources (especially time), its location, your location, and its presently active members. You may need to test the waters with several groups before committing to one or two that appear to be worth your time. Do not maintain membership or invest time in organizations that take away from your career (e.g. contribute drama to your life, are unrelated to your work, do not yield worthwhile relationships, etc.). Also do not bother with organizations that do not yield personal enjoyment; even if they may be "useful," they won't do you much good if you detest attending their events.
Co-Founders & Professional Partners
It is incredibly difficult to start a business all by oneself. Co-founders can help by:
- Sharing your workload
- Expanding your personal network (which will typically yield your first clients or customers)
- Complementing your skills with talents you may lack
- Providing a sanity check
- Helping with strategy
- Catching mistakes before they cause damage
Though one typically considers business partners within the entrepreneurial world, you may also benefit from working with a partner as you develop your reputation as an online professional. Sometimes two experts in a field, bringing different assets to the table, can build a more far-reaching and impactful reputation than one professional working independently.
Though co-founders and partners can play pivotal roles in professional success, they can also speed professional downfall. When starting a company with one or more co-founders, be sure to set very clear (and mutually acknowledged and understood) expectations with regard to responsibilities and equity. Should you be working with a several co-founders and not be sure how to fairly determine equity, consider using a third party calculation tool, such as the Co-Founder Equity Calculator, or a mediator to establish basic proportions.
Also be sure to establish a relationship of mutual respect. Professional partners and co-founders typically experience intense amounts of strain and stress. Should their relationships lack patience, respect, and understanding, rough times will become all the more difficult to navigate.
Entrepreneurs and co-founders alike frequently depend on vendors, who play pivotal resources in their business' success.
Though specific methods used for finding and working with vendors varies significantly from industry to industry (and from the startup world to the world of large enterprises), all professionals can benefit from seeking and holding on to vendors who:
- Maintain a robust and talented team of sales representatives
- Show respect and give careful heed to your orders and needs, no matter how small a client you may be
- Have a fast turnaround
- Produce high quality products
- Have a friendly and responsive support staff
Personal relationships with crucial vendors cannot be overlooked. A vendor who knows you personally (e.g. because you took the time to visit their headquarters, took him or her out to lunch, know about his or her hobbies and family, and send the occasional thoughtful note) is far more likely to prioritize your needs than a vendor who sees you as nothing more than another demanding client.
Though many entrepreneurs and professionals start out working with nobody beyond co-founders/professional buddies and vendors, there comes a time when it becomes impossible to handle everything independently. While one might be loathe to "waste" money on additional staff members (whether running one's own business or contemplating requesting additional staff from an employer), support staff can make the difference between your efforts reaching an entirely new level and your business leveling off (or, in a worse case, stagnating and sliding backwards).
If you cannot manage everything yourself, you will need to ask for help: not because you are weak or incompetent, but because you need to scale up. Support staff can take on routine tasks that keep you from doing things that only you can do. The key to using support staff well involves:
- Knowing when you need help
- Getting the right kind of help
- Hiring the right people
We offer more tips on hiring talented and valuable employees in the best practices lesson of this course.
While many consider colleagues to be people with whom they just happen to share an industry, role, or office, colleagues can be an invaluable resource with regard to:
- Professional development: Colleagues may introduce you to useful groups and associations, key industry events, and important trends and concepts
- Introduction to new clients: Close colleagues often send each other clients when their workload prevents them from accepting more work
- Specialized resources: Colleagues may be hired as contractors or freelancers to help you with an important client project or aspect of your business
Many people attribute mentors as key individuals in their professional lives- those who acted as the ultimate catalyst for their major successes. In addition to providing you with invaluable advice, mentors can strengthen your professional network and broker relationships with potential clients and employers.
To find an ideal mentor:
- Carefully think through your professional goals and the type of professional role you would like to fill in approximately five years
- Look for people (ideally within your industry) who presently fill a similar role
- See if you might get a personal introduction to one of these people through a shared contact
- Reach out to choice individuals directly to ask if they might be willing to occasionally meet or speak over the phone (ideally, you will be able to meet with your mentor in person)
Some organizations and professional associations have special resources designed to introduce professionals and entrepreneurs to mentors. Though these can make a big difference, it is absolutely possible for you to reach out to someone independently: just be authentic, succinct, respectful of his or her time, and honest about what you want.
In some cases, one must obtain a specific type of certification or degree to enter into a profession. Should school attendance be mandatory, make the most of it.
In addition to learning crucial skills and earning required credentials, build a network and leverage your access to tools and resources that might otherwise be out of reach (e.g. special facilities, advanced equipment, academic databases, etc.).
Even when specific training or a certain degree is not mandatory, school might provide some value. Though not something we would recommend to those who are on a budget, going back to school can be useful to entrepreneurs and professionals in that, in addition to all the obvious benefits (information, connections, prestige, etc.), full-time universities and schools can give you the time and space you need to focus entirely on your career or business.
The academic world provides a sanctuary in which one can design, strategize, outline, and conduct research without having to also devote significant resources to one's present job.
Our goal is to never charge for the educational materials we provide. If you’d like to give back, please share our lessons (and Gigaverse in general) with your friends. Who knows- you might introduce someone to an entirely new career path and change their life!
Only take this lesson’s quiz if you are enrolled in the course and want to prove your skills and earn official credentials. Credentials related to a course are useful if you would like to find work related to this course’s career, as we direct businesses and entrepreneurs to our membership page when they approach us looking for specialists.
Finally, make sure you have reviewed this lesson’s required reading (displayed at the top right of the page) before taking the quiz- you will be tested on information covered in those guides!