Finding the Free: No-cost guide to professional services
Is there a free alternative that could help you?
by Alberta Venture Staff
As a small- or medium-sized enterprise, you can’t afford to leave low-hanging fruit on the tree. That’s why, when it comes to using professional services, you should first make sure there isn’t a free or government-funded alternative out there that could do the same job.
Law Society of Alberta
Like most professionals, lawyers typically come with an area of expertise. The Law Society of Alberta’s legal referral hotline matches businesses with the right lawyer. After calling the hotline and describing your concern, you will be given the names of up to three lawyers who have experience practising in the area of law that suits your needs. Each will then give a free 30-minute consultation to determine if they’re the right fit. Even before that, you might want to call Dial-A-Law. Operated by Calgary Legal Guidance, the hotline provides guidance to Albertans on a wide range of legal topics.
The Business Link
Designed to introduce businesses to the professional services available to them, Edmonton’s Business Link offers guest advisor programs on a seasonal basis. For a period of 12 weeks each spring and fall, clients can meet with professional advisors – on a walk-in, first-come, first-serve basis. Each appointment lasts about 20 minutes. So while it’s not enough time to have an accountant do your taxes, it is enough time to ask specific questions about challenges that you’re encountering.
For those who don’t live in the Edmonton area, they offer a toll-free assistance hotline.
Calgary Legal Clinics
Some sole proprietors may also be eligible for services from the Legal Aid Society of Alberta, based on income. However, for those low-income Calgarians who don’t qualify for Legal Aid, Calgary Legal Clinics offer free legal advice most Monday to Thursday evenings at outreach clinics.
College Alumni Mentorship Programs
If you are an alumnus of an Albertan institution, inquire to find out whether there’s a mentorship program you can participate in. By networking with others in your field, you may be able to connect with professionals who will be willing to help support your business, free of charge.
Alberta Community Futures Association
If you are starting a business in rural Alberta, Community Futures will provide support, regardless of whether you’re looking for assistance with marketing or with new technical training. Community Futures advises companies on which professional services they should be retaining at what point in their life cycle, and maintains a database of professionals that may be able to help you. Loans are available, which may be used for buying equipment or other assets. Alberta Futures also funds working capital startup, which can include identifying a strategy that’s going to be implemented by an external professional.
Alberta Women Entrepreneurs
For Albertan women looking to grow their businesses, Alberta Women Entrepreneurs offers a one-year Excelerator business program. In addition to strategic planning and developing business skills, a core component of the program is mentorship. Through the program, women connect with professionals, which can help your business grow.
AWE also offers lending programs through which it provides ongoing financial advice. Finally, through the NextStep to Success Business Plan Learning Series, aboriginal women are provided with guidance, expertise and peer-mentoring through their early stages of business.