When you work for yourself, the right tools can help you save time and money. Aside from the obvious tools: a computer with plenty of memory, a space-saving All-in-One (link to Brother), shredder and other tools mentioned on Startup Nation, there are other not-so-obvious tools that can help you start and grow a business.
Reliable backup systems
Hardware is easy to replace, while data and everything you create on your computer, usually is irreplaceable. The time to think about having a reliable backup system is before, not after, your computer crashes.
A good way to protect your data is to have more than one backup system. In fact, three backup systems is the ideal number. Start with an external hard drive in your home office, add another external hard drive that you keep off-site, and then use a virtual backup, for example Carbonite, Mozy and iDrive. You never know when your computer is going to die, or in my case, drown in a cup of coffee I spilled, so it’s important to be prepared for anything.
Anything that leaves your home office needs to be professional. That includes sales materials, business cards, posters and brochures. Unless you have design and layout skills, you may need some help.
The Brother Creative Center (it’s free) has easy-to-use templates to help you create the promotional materials you need to increase your exposure and spread the word about your business. The templates will help you save time that otherwise you would have spent trying to think of layout ideas and choosing the right fonts.
Whether you use cable, your phone company, or another company as your Internet provider, go for speed. The time you wait for images and files to download is time you could spend doing something else. One Internet provider’s prices may seem cheaper, yet if they can’t help you save time, you’re not saving money.
Also make sure that you have consistent service. If your service goes out even for an hour or two a day, that’s time you can’t be productive and you’ll have to resort to using your handheld all day.
When I first started working from home many years ago, I had a business line and a fax line. Now my cell phone and e-mail account can handle business calls and any info I need to send to anyone. If you’re not in your home office often, a cell phone with good coverage is invaluable.
When your cell phone doubles as your business line, it’s important to consider whether you should switch carriers if you drop too many calls. Not only do you come across as unprofessional, you’re going to annoy your clients when they can’t hear you on the other line.
Cell phone plans change often, so don’t forget to check with your carrier every six months to see if they are offering any specials. I’ve been able to drop my monthly charge twice.
If you’re serious about starting and running a successful business, you need a website. Some people pride themselves on word of mouth marketing and that’s fine for them. Most of us, though, need more exposure and a website is the best place to start.
For a small cost — actually think of it as an investment — you can have a site that provides valuable information and of course, a reason for others to contact you for your services or to buy your products.
Don’t be surprised if the first site you use for your company changes over time. Most people go through several site makeovers before they settle on one that works for them. As your business changes, so will your site, so it can reflect the feel and culture of your business.
Starting your own business takes time and money. The right tools, even the ones that aren’t so obvious, can help you save both.