Originally published on Entrepreneur, this article is a great piece.
By Jared Hecht.
With so much competition in the field today, being an entrepreneur has never been harder. Only the best ideas thrive and turn into growing, successful businesses. Yet entrepreneurs also have more opportunities than ever before to compete on level playing fields with more established brands. These opportunities range from coworking spaces to productivity tools to outsourced HR and accounting options.
Let’s look at seven of the industries that have helped to fuel modern entrepreneurship.
1. Co-working spaces
We’ve all heard stories like the one about Steve Jobs founding Apple from his parents’ garage, or Mark Zuckerberg starting Facebook from his Harvard dorm room. But more recently, the first step for many an entrepreneur has been a move to a local co-working space.
In cities all around the world, independent and networked coworking spaces are packed with entrepreneurs hard at work on their latest, greatest ideas. Many of these spaces are think tanks that spur significant connections between and among future business partners, and collaborations that may create the next generation of amazing businesses.
Other, more established small business owners, meanwhile, can recruit and use talent worldwide by collaborating virtually with these employees — and providing them a co-working-space stipend instead of a home office.
Along with thousands of local, independent co-working spaces, national global chains like Regus and WeWork have fueled the global startup scene by adding member-based co-working locations and turnkey office spaces in more and more cities around the world.
2. Workplace productivity tools
Whether from co-working spaces, coffee shops or the beaches of Bali, more and more entrepreneurs have “gone mobile” by finding ways to run their businesses from anywhere in the world. Depending on the industry and type of business, many small business owners need little more than a laptop and a solid Internet connection to maintain productivity.
Increasingly, this means that even large teams are able to get their work done without being in one place. Workplace communication tools like Slack and HipChat help team members communicate from wherever they are. File-sharing resources like Dropbox and Google Drive allow teams to collaborate on documents without being in the same network. And project management tools like Asana or Trello help entrepreneurs keep their projects and teams moving forward simply and efficiently.
3. Small business lending
There was a time when it was almost impossible for a rookie entrepreneur to borrow funds for his or her business. The local bank was the only available source for a loan, and most banks would approve applications only from established businesses with solid credit histories.
In the last five years, though, the alternative lending industry has exploded to offer more borrowing opportunities to entrepreneurs than ever before. Online lenders offer a variety of loan products to fit almost every business need. As a result, entrepreneurs are more often able to act on their best ideas without financial challenges holding them back.
4. Venture capital
Other businesses in need of funding may choose to turn to venture capital firms, which help grow small businesses into industry leaders using a combination of investment funding and strategic expertise.
If you have a great idea, but need more than just cash on hand to take your business to the next level, hundreds of angel investors and venture capital firms are ready to help new companies make the leap. Just remember: It takes a lot of work to secure VC funding.
5. Outsourced HR
As an entrepreneur launching a very small business, you’re often a one-person show. In addition to the actual work of building your business, you’re also the receptionist, bookkeeper, marketer and — yes — the human resources manager.
But there’s no bigger buzzkill for an entrepreneur’s big ideas than wading through health insurance paperwork or managing a payroll. Those tasks are confusing, time-consuming and just plain exhausting. Luckily, a handful of awesome companies have turned up to make the work of managing employees’ needs easier than ever before.
Companies like Zenefits and Justworks will manage the benefits paperwork and processes for your employees, leaving you with one simple interface to deal with. While Gusto — formerly Zenpayroll — has also recently joined the outsourced-benefits ranks, the company also provides easy-to-manage payroll services for employees that integrate easily with common accounting software.
What’s more, if you’ve spent too many Saturday nights sorting time cards for your hourly employees, TSheets may be able to help. And if you have a retail business or restaurant that relies on shift workers, check out WhenIWork to make scheduling a breeze.
6. Accounting software
Out of the many learning curves that a first-time entrepreneur faces, there may be none more intimidating than learning to manage “the books.” Not only are there hundreds of rules, including foreign ones, to follow, but correctly managed accounting lays out, right there in black and white, the details of whether your business is succeeding or failing.
Fortunately, an abundance of accounting software solutions are available that any entrepreneur can understand. Tools like Quickbooks, Wave, Xero and Freshbooks make it easier than ever for even the most mathematically challenged entrepreneurs to maintain accurate accounting.
7. Social media and analytics tools
The new world of social media has created a direct avenue for business owners to identify qualified leads and connect with their prospective customers. Of course, generating quality content to connect with prospective customers is a time-consuming process, and with literally billions of people communicating about different products and services, a company will find it a challenge to identify particular customers and hear what they have to say.
This need has birthed a growing industry of social media scheduling, listening and analytics tools created to help businesses communicate with their consumers. Tools like Buffer, Hootsuite and SproutSocial help businesses plan their interactions with customers online and are a huge help to entrepreneurs needing help finding and connecting to their audiences.
Though these seven industries are diverse, and the services they provide are numerous, all have in common their offer of a tangible benefit that gives back to to entrepreneurs their single most valuable resource: time.
Because every minute an entrepreneur doesn’t spend reinventing the wheel of loan applications, health insurance paperwork or accounting spreadsheets is another minute that those entrepreneurs can devote to the big picture of their most important mission: their business.