Owning a business is like a road trip-- full of steep cliffs, scenic overlooks, and the occasional flat tire. Like all great road trips, it can get pretty scary if you run out of gas.
No one is a born startup wizard— you don't have all the answers, and that's okay.
That's why we've put together this list of places to ask your deepest, scariest questions.
Read on to find places full of knowledgeable and experienced peeps who can give you answers. They won't be able to grow your business for you, but they'll certainly do their best to help.
1. U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Community -- Learn The Nuts and Bolts
SBA.gov is the digital arm of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA is a government-run organization with the mission of supporting the country's small businesses. On the site, you can post to discussion boards dedicated to subjects like starting and registering a business, filing and paying taxes, and marketing and advertising.
Here are some example questions from SBA users:
How much money does it cost to open a small e-commerce store from your home?
What is the best online fax service for a small business?
Looking for advice about how to research for and complete a financial forecast for my business plan.
I am planning to do some SEO but do not know where to start. Can anyone please suggest me something about SEO for the website?
- You have questions on the nuts and bolts of running a business.
Or you're wondering...
How to become an LLC.
How to get funding for your startup, or
Where your local SBA office is located.
2. Local Meet-ups -- Meet Your Peeps
Ok, so going to a local meet-ups doesn't happen online, but you can find the perfect groups and events using the web.
Everyone knows meet-ups are an awesome way to meet like-minded business-people, but they also present an opportunity to get tough questions answered.
Many meet-ups are location and industry-based, such as the Boston TechJam and the NYESN Food & Entrepreneurs Networking Party. You can find a meet-up near you on Meetup.com by searching with keywords such as “tech,” “nonprofit,” or “automotive.”
You can also connect with local peeps through your local BNI chapter or Chamber of Commerce. Both bring smart people together to discuss best business practices.
You do business in a prominent industry, like tech or food service.
You’re in or near a medium-large metro area, like NYC or Boston.
You work by yourself (trust us, you need facetime!).
3. QuickSprout's Forum -- Discuss Web Traffic
QuickSprout is all about website traffic and conversion. Conversion— turning website visitors into customers— is an important way to measure how effective your website is. With 182,363 forum users, QuickSprout offers info on everything from SEO and content marketing to conversion optimization and traffic growth.
QuickSprout is a great resource for anyone doing business on the web. Conversion and traffic numbers are key to spending your time and efforts wisely. QuickSprout is the perfect resource for advice and tips on how to improve these numbers.
You’re interested in improving your online marketing efforts.
You have questions about improving your marketing ROI.
You want traffic and online sales.
4. AMEX's OPEN Forum -- Unite With Others
American Express’s OPEN Forum is the broadest on our list. You can find answers to questions ranging from money & financials to marketing to leadership & management.
OPEN Forum gives you access to industry experts and peers who have been in your shoes. Once you join OPEN Forum, you can submit questions, get answers, and share your own advice with others.
Your questions are about money: funding, pricing, finance, collecting, etc.
You’re looking for quick tidbits if advice.
You want answers from varying perspectives, from peers to industry experts.
5. StartupNation's Community Forums -- Go to The Community
StartupNation emphasizes both networking and getting answers. The forums cover a pretty wide array of topics, and they focus on the basics for people just getting started in business. Most of the people answering your questions are startup entrepreneurs just like you.
What’s neat about StartupNation is the Getting Inspired forum. Entrepreneurs share success stories, inspirational quotes, and questions like, “Who is your business idol?” It’s your one-stop shop for motivation and enthusiasm.
You’re just starting out or you’re looking for some inspiration.
StartupNation is aimed at young entrepreneurs, so it’s great for tech startups.
Getting Inspired forum is a great place to find inspirational stories and motivating advice.
6. mosaicHUB -- Contact The Experts
MosaicHUB is a little different from the other places on this list because questions are answered by “experts” who are contacted by mosaicHUB. The site has access to experts on just about anything from legal, accounting, and IT to social media, graphic design, and HR.
Answers on mosaicHUB come in a friendly, informative way and usually result in more conversation.
To use mosaicHUB, simply create an account (for free!) then type your question in the box, and click “Ask an Expert.”
Some questions people have asked:
What are some good tips or a better way to either gather clients or keep clients involved without the usage of the internet?
How will charitable contributions (on behalf of my business) impact my business's taxes?
SEO. Do it myself or farm it out?
You want a free option with high quality answers
Expert advice is invaluable, and mosaicHUB has thousands of experts in all different fields
The overall experience is very interactive. Most questions result in a multi-person discussion of the topic.
7. Reddit -- Ask The Crowd
Reddit is a crowd sourced news website. Users can post a story, comment, or question and others respond & comment on it. Posts are voted up or down by users, so all of the most useful and relevant information finds its way to the top where it’s super easy to find. You can follow subreddits to create a custom front page that’s relevant to you.
Subreddits work like tags to categorize posts and make them easy to search. And there are tons of subreddits that are awesome for entrepreneurs like:
The crowd on Reddit can be snarky (clever and witty comments get updated the most). Be prepared for the absolute truth—redditors won’t sugarcoat it!
You want a lot of answers and opinions.
Everyday users provide a wide variety of perspectives.
Large millennial user base means a tone that is casual, witty, and a little snarky at times.
Reddit can be your go-to for tough love and honest feedback.
8. Google Search -- Let Google Do The Work
As if you hadn’t thought of that, right? Sometimes we overlook Google, but there’s something to that magic algorithm. If you have a question, chances are the answer is somewhere on the web, and Google will find it.
All you have to do is type your question into the box and Google will take it from there, bringing together the most relevant answers and information into one convenient place.
Your questions are somewhat general.
You’re looking to get a feel for a new idea or concept.
You’d prefer descriptive, informative pages and articles, instead of a one sentence answer.
9. Quora -- Ask A Question
Quora is an awesome question and answer web forum. It’s not just business and entrepreneurship, it’s everything (users have even asked what the trick is to parallel parking!). Think of Quora as similar to Reddit, with up and down voting of answers, but with a lot more emphasis on the Q&A format.
What’s neat is that you can submit questions anonymously. This is where you can get down to the deep and scary questions. Users on Quora are very straightforward and honest.
You want to ask anonymously.
You want reinforcement of answers from other users through up and down voting.
You don’t mind if honesty comes with a little brutality.
You’re looking for an informal place to ask questions.
10. Clarity.fm -- Call an Entrepreneur
Clarity is unique because you can actually call top experts like Mark Cuban and Eric Ries. The site has over 30,000 experts. They’re not all famous, but they’re all successful and knowledgeable in their fields. You can talk to whoever you want, ask questions, and receive expert advice.
Pricing varies by expert, but you’ll be charged by the minute. After each call, experts are rated and reviewed.
You want a more personal interaction than an online forum or discussion board can provide.
You’ll get realistic, proven advice from successful entrepreneurs themselves.
You can build relationships and make vital connections with prominent entrepreneurs.
11. StackExchange -- Get The Right Answer
When you ask a question, StackExchange users answer. The best or most correct answer is selected and moved to the top of the page, so it’s readily accessible. This makes it super quick and easy to find answers if your question’s already been asked.
StackExchange is full of specific Communities like:
The Workplace, and
StackExchange is extra awesome if your questions have a right answer. The most popular Communities are programming, engineering, math, and science-related because there’s no wading through a thousand different answers that may or may not be the right one.
StackExchange works best for subjects like math, science, engineering, and programming—where there is a right answer that just works.
These Communities are the most frequented and by pros in the field, so you’ll get the quickest, most accurate answers.
You’re interested in learning how to use a particular tool or program.
Some questions are hard to ask, and some answers are scary to hear.
All of the places on our list are great for connecting with experienced people who can give you the answers you need.
Whether you want the cold, hard truth, or some inspirational stories, there's something for everyone. Pick the place that's right for you and ask away!
Your Turn: Where do you take your deepest, scariest questions? Let us in on it!