Freelancers: Shape Your Success at the Library

Do you have friends who ask you to proofread their reports? Or maybe they want your help designing a logo or building website? Do people ask you to photograph their wedding? Perhaps you’re the go-to person for tech help among family members?

Whatever your skill set, these friendly requests could be highlighting opportunities for freelance work.

Fast Company reported that 35% of the U.S. workforce is now freelancing, around 57 million people, with income that “currently makes up almost 5% of the country’s GDP, or close to $1 trillion.”

Before you go and quit your day-job for the world of freelance work, there are few things to consider to make sure the decision to go solo is right for you.

And the Poudre River Public Library can help! In addition to having a dedicated Business Librarian and Career Librarian available to do research and work with you one-on-one, the Library has a variety of resources and materials to help you take those first steps toward freelance success.

1. Research

Some quick market research will tell you whether or not your freelance business is viable in your area.  Is there demand for what you’re offering? How large is your potential customer base? Who are your competitors?

The answers to these and other critical questions will determine whether becoming a freelancer is feasible.

Among the many market research services provided by our Business Librarian are industry overviews and trends, competitive analyses, demographics, lifestyle statistics, mailing lists, and more. Online reports and statistics can be accessed for free using Library eResources like Statista, First Research, Reference USA, Encyclopedia of American Businesses, and others.

2. Plan for success

Start your freelance journey off right with a plan. You probably don’t need a 25-page structured document, but spending time writing up your goals, financial needs, and plans for growth is helpful for keeping yourself accountable and for measuring success. If you’re anticipating moving from a freelancer to a solopreneur and expanding your business, then a business plan is useful

In addition to the many business planning books and eBooks, Library staff can help you navigate the Business Plans Handbook Collection. Sample plans serve as examples of how to approach, structure, and compose business plans.

3. Forming the business

Are you forming a business or just doing a side gig for extra cash? As you’re planning, you’ll need to determine the type of entity to establish and register with the CO Secretary of State: a sole proprietorship, a limited liability company (LLC), or something different.

The legal and financial aspects of forming a business should be researched carefully before putting everything together. You’ll want to ensure you have any necessary licenses or permits and are appropriately set up with the CO Department of Revenue for taxes.

The Library can help you access registration forms and point you in the direction of digital resources to guide you in forming your business. One of the most useful resources is Colorado Business Resource Guide which is available at the Library and online. A frequently-used database is the Legal Information Resource Center which includes legal guides and forms for ownership structure, accounting and audits, and more.

4. Work space

Where you’ll work is a big consideration in planning your new venture. Do you have space for a home office? What about leasing co-working space?

Did you know the public libraries have available space for you to work? In addition to the open work spaces at all three Poudre Libraries, there are also collaboration and small group / study rooms that can be reserved for free at Old Town Library. These rooms are useful for connecting with clients, holding meetings, and even conducting conference calls and video calls.

5. Marketing

If your freelance gig is marketing, then you’re probably set to promote your services to potential clients. But not everyone has marketing skills and strategies up their sleeve. The Library has a number of great books and eBooks covering marketing how-to’s including social media strategy, creating a website, and email marketing. There are also databases like First Research and Reference USA that allow you to examine demographics, consumer trends, and other useful customer data to find and target potential customers.

6. Contracts and agreements

The Legal Information Reference Center offers an entire section on consulting and contracting, including samples forms for specific services like bookkeeping, social media consulting, and others. These contracts are useful for project-based and hourly services.

There are also useful reference books like “Contracts: The Essential Business Desk Reference” that can guide you in setting up work agreements.

7. Taxes and finances

It’s always important to consult a professional in legal and financial matters. But to help you understand some of the critical concepts, you’ll find library books and eBooks on topics from basic accounting to QuickBooks how-to.

The Legal Information Reference Center will also help. It includes the eBook “Home Business Tax Deductions” and also has resources for business accounting and audits.

For other legal and financial questions, our Business Librarian can help you get in touch with local professionals and consultants, and find additional support through our partnership with the Larimer Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

To get started on your freelance journey, visit the Library District’s online Business Center or request an appointment to meet with Business Librarian Matthew West.

This guest post is by Katie Auman of the Poudre River Public Library District.

Meet Matthew West, Business Librarian at Poudre River Public Libraries

The Poudre River Public Library District welcomes Matthew West to its team as the new Business Librarian. Matthew comes to Poudre Libraries from Loveland Public Library where he managed various library services, programs, and outreach initiatives.

“I truly appreciate the spirit of entrepreneurship throughout our community,” says Matthew West. “It’s a testament to a business ecosystem that understands and values startups and small businesses. I’m excited to be part of that system and help people successfully create and grow their businesses.”

Matthew brings a deep knowledge of data and market analysis, strategic planning, and research to his work as a Business Librarian. He is located at the Harmony Library and is available for one-on-one meetings to discuss business research and analysis and to teach methods for effectively using the many free business resources available at the libraries.

In addition to providing business services and programs at the libraries, Matthew will lend his expertise to the Larimer Small Business Development Center where he’ll work with clients interested in industry and market trends, and customer, demographic, and competition research.

To learn more about the Library District’s various business resources or to request an appointment with Matthew to discuss your small business or startup, visit the Library’s Business Center webpage:

You can meet Matthew at Fort Collins Startup Week 2020, where he’ll be on-site for the Scale-Up Week sessions.

Visit the Library During #SmallBusinessWeek (April 30-May 6)

Did you know that more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business? And according to the Small Business Administration, these small and often family-owned companies “create about 2 out of every 3 new jobs in the U.S. each year.”

Every year since 1963, the President of the United States has read a proclamation for National Small Business Week highlighting the importance of small businesses and entrepreneurs as outlets for ingenuity and creativity, job creation, and economic stimulus.

We’re lucky here in northern Colorado; the Fort Collins area has a vibrant and thriving small business community with exceptional local support. And one of the biggest supporters is Poudre River Public Library District!

In fact, serving our small business owners, developers, and startups is one of our primary goals, and not just during National Small Business Week (April 30-May 6).

Here are just a few ways the Library District is helping local small businesses get off the ground and succeed.

  1. Offering free research services for all stages of the startup lifecycle
  2. Providing industry, demographic, and competitive analysis research
  3. Connecting you to digital resources for business-critical data and reports
  4. Assisting with business plan information
  5. Identifying key demographic information
  6. Developing prospective customer lists
  7. Scheduling one-on-one consultations with our Business and/or Nonprofit Librarians to discuss specific needs
  8. Providing business-focused workshops, presentations, and classes
  9. Lending current and useful business-related books, magazines, and other materials
  10. Offering private meeting rooms and collaboration rooms
  11. Teaching free computer skills and technology classes
  12. Partnering with community organizations and agencies like the Larimer County Small Business Development Center to boost small business development

Stop by one of the library locations during #SmallBusinessWeek for information about our dedicated small business and entrepreneur services as well as to browse our digital and print resources including research databases and business books.

You can also access information and resources online through the Business Center webpage or the Nonprofit Center webpage on the Library District’s website, sign up for our Business or Nonprofit eNewsletter. Or contact the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.

Looking for other great community resources to get started with your small business?

Our friends at the Larimer County SBDC are holding a number of workshops around startup basics and business literacy coinciding with Small Business Week. You can register for these fee-based classes on their website.

5/2 – Marketing Strategy for Success

5/4 – QuickBooks (Desktop Version) 3-Part Series

5/4 – So You Want to Start a Business

5/5 – 3 Ways Financial Information Can Make Your Business Thrive

Happy National Small Business Week to all of our local business owners and entrepreneurs, and good luck to those of you just getting started!

We can’t wait to meet you at the library!

Get Smart About Your Money

A recent Motley Fool article described the finances of an “average American.” Their research suggests improvements in Americans’ financial literacy and management including a 5-point higher average FICO credit score of 700 and an increase in the average personal savings rate from 1.9% in 2005 to 5.5% today. (However, experts still recommend saving at least 10% each month.)

But the report also pointed to areas for improvement and reminded readers that the majority of us don’t fall into the “average American” category, and there is still plenty for us to learn.

So what can you do you improve your financial literacy and success?

Join us for workshops and activities during National Money Smart Week, April 24-29.

Poudre River Public Library District will host focused presentations by financial experts, institutions, and community agencies designed to help you learn to better manage your personal finances. The Library District participates each year in #MoneySmartWeek to bring awareness to the importance of strong financial literacy and personal money management skills. Any lack in financial knowledge has broad implications for budgeting and saving, purchasing a home, planning for retirement, and other critical financial choices.

The Library District also offers many year-round financial education resources. We hope you take advantage of the variety of classes and activities available to you next week, from understanding credit scores to basic budgeting, but don’t overlook these additional great resources.

Money Matters Program Series

Each month the award-winning Money Matters Series, presented by local financial planning professionals, examines financial topics like estate planning, student loan strategies, understanding social security options, and others. Each presentation is free and does not require registration.

eResources for Financial Education

Search for articles on any number of financial topics using the Library’s “Article Search” option on the website. You can also do a “Catalog Search” for books, eBooks, and more.

Read full-text articles from Consumer Reports through MasterFILE EBSCO about everything from marketplace economics to consumer product reviews.

Jump$tart is a coalition of diverse financial education organizations working together to offer financial smarts for kids. This resource offers educational materials, activities, and initiatives for lifelong financial success.

The FDIC Money Smart financial education program is a curriculum available in both English and Spanish for consumers of all ages.

The comprehensive com resource includes access to free courses on QuickBooks, Quicken, personal finance tips, investment basics, and much more.

Morningstar Mutual Funds database provides fast and easy access to Morningstar’s investment research, mutual fund information, and more.

Information about more than 1,700 stocks, the economy, and the stock market is available through Value Line, an in-library eResource for new and veteran investors. (In-library use only)

Zinio offers access to 55 popular magazines including Economist, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, and Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.


For more information, visit the Library District website or call the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.

20+ Reasons Why to Use the Library to Start Your Business

Use The Library!

“What? I never knew the library had these things!”

It’s a statement Poudre River Public Library District librarians hear a lot when it comes to our small business and entrepreneur services. Many people think the library is just about children’s storytimes or senior programs, but in fact, we have an expansive collection of business resources and research databases and our professional business librarians provide invaluable research services and education.

We’ve come up with 20+ Great Reasons why you should take advantage of the library’s business resources and services!

  1. Because entrepreneurs can’t afford business journals and newspapers on a ramen noodle budget.
  2. Because you value the difference between a web search and research.
  3. Because the library has information and research experts available to meet with one-on-one.
  4. Because the library is about more than just books. (Though we do have more than 340,000 print volumes.)
  5. Because it’s 3AM and you need to read the profile of the United States yogurt industry.
  6. Because easy access to information and research equals increased business opportunity.
  7. Because free business classes, workshops, and tutorials are only a click away.
  8. Because research is formalized curiosity and librarians help you Connect to Curiosity.
  9. Because the library is the startup community’s “fast casual” information hub.
  10. Because you need to know how many people ages 20-54 live in Fort Collins. (It’s about 81,715, by the way.)
  11. Because marketing is more than just building a website.
  12. Because who says you can’t do business research in your pajamas at the kitchen table.
  13. Because there’s no single source for information. (Sorry Wikipedia.)
  14. Because why should you pay for information you can get for free.
  15. Because you need a comfortable place to meet clients without paying monthly fees.
  16. Because those business templates you found on Google aren’t very useful.
  17. Because there are more than 986,000,000 search engine results for “how to start a business.”
  18. Because your competition was just at the library.
  19. Because one of the best business tools you have is curiosity and the library is the place to Connect to Curiosity.
  20. Because why shouldn’t you be able to bring your grande half-caf caramel macchiato.
  21. Because you understand the importance of a knowledgeable business partner.
  22. Because you have questions and the library has answers.

To learn more about the library’s free business services, visit our Business Center webpage, request a one-on-one appointment with Anne Macdonald or Sarah Scobey, our Business & Non-Profit Librarians, or subscribe to our business and entrepreneurs eNews. We look forward to working with you on your startup venture! For more information about Poudre River Public Library District, visit our website or call the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.

We look forward to working with you on your startup venture! For more information about Poudre River Public Library District, visit our website or call the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.

For more information about Poudre River Public Library District, visit our website or call the Answer Center at 970-221-6740.

Poudre River Public Library District