Thanks to advancements in technology and small business friendly service apps (we’ll get to that), there has never been an easier time to start a business from your home. Armed with only your entrepreneurial spirit, even those of us with average computing skills can muddle their way through to launching a website in just one day – thank you WordPress!
But whether you are starting a dog-walking service or finally making the leap and quitting your day job to launch your accounting practice – there are a few technology basics you need to have in place.
Let’s talk hardware and connection. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to connect effectively and efficiently with a business you are trying to do business with. Customers want exceptional service. If they can’t reach you in the manner in which they are used to, or if your website takes a long time to load (after 3 second 40% will abandon a webpage), then you are going to lose business no matter how great your product or service may be.
While some of these may be obvious, we need to say them anyway:
High speed Internet with adequate bandwidth and Wi-Fi capabilities. A slow connection or low bandwidth can cause your computer to time out and important emails with large attachments to be rejected and bounce back to the sender. This is not the area to cut corners. And while you are setting up your connection, make sure you get a Wi-Fi router so you can work anywhere in the house and easily connect new hardware, like printers, wirelessly. TIP: make sure set-up a password that can’t be easily hacked. No pet names.
Smartphone. This may feel like a nice to have but a smart phone is like a mini-computer you can take anywhere with you, meaning you can tend to business emergencies while on the go. TIP: become familiar with the various business apps – they will save you time.
Laptop. Convenience, unparalleled computing power and you can bring it with you to client meetings. TIP: Many stores offer some limited user training with the purchase of their laptops. Signup. You never know what short cuts you might learn in leveraging the technology that comes with the computer.
Printer. Even though we are moving to a paperless society, some legal documents may still require a hard copy. TIP: Depending on your needs, this might be the place to look for deals. Also, look for a printer that has scanning and fax capabilities.
Surge Protector: After investing in hardware, protect it from power surges. TIP: Watch for sales and pick up a couple of surge power bars when they are on sale.
SaaS (Software as a Service) is the way to go for small business. It provides you with affordable and flexible options to use a variety of software applications that you can access online – from any location, with any device.
While we can’t recommend which software or service will work best for your situation, here are a few that are popular with home-based businesses:
WordPress – This is one of the easiest platforms to use to launch a website, and some of the templates are free. They have great forums if you run into trouble, and some of the companies that create the templates will set you website up for a small fee.
Gmail – Another great, option for setting up a business account, and it can be integrated with all Google products.
Dropbox/ Google Drive – Keep your files safe and accessible with a cloud based storage service.
Skype – Affordable long distance calls. And, you can download the Skype App and use it on your phone.
GoToMeeting – Easy to use video conferencing and screen sharing capabilities for client and business partner meetings.
FreshBooks – Cloud-based accounting software designed specifically for small businesses. You can track expenses, send invoices, and create reports. Perfect for keeping your accounts in order.
PayPal – Accept payments online. Consider a mobile payment app if you accept payments from clients in person, outside of your office. Options to consider include Square, PayPal Chip Card Reader, and PayAnywhere.
Many of these options offer a free (but limited) account with the option to upgrade, so try out a few until you find the right combination of software and online tools for your home-based business.
Perhaps most important is having a go-to tech support person to help you when you have issues with your technology – Apple Care is ideal if you use Apple products or Geek Squad for IT troubleshooting. A local computer IT support person will also do the trick.
If you are having issues with your business insurance, or if you simply want to explore your options, contact us at uBiz or get a free home-based business insurance quote online, anytime!