In today’s world, technology is at the heart of any successful business. A home-based business is no different. Without appropriate technology, you cannot hope to compete, even if you are a solopreneur.
To start with, it is important to think through your technology policy. You may prefer to invest in the cheapest (such as free) alternatives for your own personal needs, but, if you’re serious about your business, you should invest in technology that lowers your risk and improves your productivity.
All home-based businesses that operate from a home office will require:
1. A computer. Desktop computers are declining in popularity for two reasons. Firstly, the price of laptops and notebooks has declined significantly. And, secondly, laptops offer as much power as desktops with the significant benefit of mobility. The choice of business laptop computer is very much a personal choice. However, we strongly recommend a well-known brand with strong support. Check the manufacturer’s website to verify their credentials.
2. Printing, copying, scanning and faxing. We have used an all in one copier, fax, printer, scanner for our own home business for many years. It saves an enormous amount of room in our home office and it integrates into our home network with the minimum of fuss.
Amazon has a great selection of the best all in one printers.
3. Small business phone solutions. The best business phones are portable phone systems with integrated answering services. A portable system gives you the flexibility to work from any location in the home. Similarly, your cellphone is an important tool for personal productivity. It is important to ensure that it is synchronised with your Office software so that you can communicate and organise from anywhere.
4. Internet connectivity. We started our business using a personal internet account and soon realised that the quality of service was affecting our producitivity. It pays to discuss your needs with your ISP to see if there is a package for small business that will give you better connectivity. When we switched to a business package the quality of the upgraded router alone made the switch worthwhile.
5. Business-specific equipment. Draw up a list of specific equipment you will need – point of sale payment processing, electronic scales, packaging, mailing, and so on. It pays to do some research on the best business options. In our previous business, for example, we needed to shrink-wrap our product. So we found a specialist packaging supplier. It seldom pays to use the consumer equipment you have for personal use.
The internet is a daunting place to look for the right home business software. Everyone has an opinion and few are totally objective.
To simplify things, here are 3 essential and 3 helpful types of software for a home-based business.
1. An Office suite. There are 2 options – Microsoft Office, or an open source alternative, like OpenOffice or LibreOffice. The open source option has several advantages – they are free, integrated and customisable (if you are inclined to do so). However, for a business, it is important to be compatible with your customers and suppliers and have access to support and upgrades. That is why we recommend Microsoft Office for a home business.
2. Accounting or bookkeeping software. The gold standard for small business is Quickbooks. Intuit, the company behind Quickbooks, also makes Quicken, which is a lighter version that may be suitable for a small home business.
3. Paper handling. A service like Shoeboxed makes paper clutter a thing of the past. It is like an online filing cabinet for your paperwork. You can scan and organise things like receipts, business cards, accounts or any paperwork you need to process and file.
1. Stamping. For businesses that use the mail extensively, having to purchase stamps from the US Postal Service is inefficient. A service like stamps.com will give you the ability to prepare mail at home.
2. Point of sale software. For businesses that need to be able to accept physical payments, point of sale software is essential. It is important that It integrates seamlessly into your accounting package. Most accounting software packages have a point of sale option as an add-on. It is worth comparing its features with those from a specialist point of sale software developer.
In future articles on this site we shall be looking in more detail at the individual technology options.