Anyone thinking of starting a home business would do well to heed some old industry advice: plan with the end in mind. When you’re starting your home business, you should plan as though you are a larger company. That way when you do grow, you can grow into your skin, rather than shedding it and having to start over.
A few weeks ago Henry Conrad discussed how to set up a home business. Now it’s time to talk about what you’ll need once you start. The following tools will help you right from the get go, but they’ll also help you as you grow and need more powerful software and tools.
There are some web hosts that are great for small websites. The problem is, once the site starts to grow the hosting is no longer able to handle it. This can lead to periods of downtime, which can kill a budding business. Choosing web hosting is important not only for your site now, but for what your site will become in the future.
The best way to find web hosting that will accommodate your company now and your company in the future is to ask questions. Talk to people in your industry. What web hosting are they using? Talk to owners of larger, older sites. Chances are they’ve had experience with web hosts. However you conduct your research, make sure that your web host not only can handle your site as it’s currently built, but also how it might be built in three, even five years.
Every business makes money from selling something. The best businesses make money from direct sales, where they’re selling a product to a consumer, with no middleman. That means accepting various forms of payment. Yet many web-based businesses go with low-resistance solutions, such as PayPal. But while those are low-resistance for businesses, they’re potentially high-resistance for consumers. The higher the resistance, the lower the chance of a sale.
Payment systems are quite flexible these days. Most of them require no money up front, since they take a cut of every sale (this is unavoidable). Some merchant services offer more than others. Merchant accounts by Intuit.com, one of the oldest names in online payments, offer various options for growing businesses, including smartphone payments. As with web hosting, this is something that can grow with your company, as your sales strategies grow.
One reality of running a home business is having remote employees. With modern communication skills this usually isn’t a problem. Instant messaging and email can go a long way. But sometimes you just need that face-to-face exposure. You also might need to take long-distance face-to-face meetings with clients as well. This means having a high-quality video conferencing system.
While there are plenty of custom video conferencing services, there is one that is familiar to us all: Skype. While its free tier can take you a long way, its Premium service adds a number of features crucial for home businesses. The ability to host group video calls means you can hold virtual meetings with all employees. Screen sharing can make training easier. Unlimited calls can make it easier to communicate with clients across the country. Best of all, a Skype premium account runs just $5 per month, which is affordable for any small business.
One of Henry’s rule for how to set up a home business was to not get easily sidetracked. One way to accomplish this is to set up a daily task list. If your employees are working at home, you might fear that they are getting sidetracked. You’ll want to set up to-do lists for them as well. While you can take care of that through email, a dedicated apparatus can prove helpful. The task manager Toodledo is wonderful for small organizations.
Toodledo is compatible with the popular Getting Things Done management style, but it easy to customize for any environment. You can create due dates and priorities, letting employees know what’s important. With the premium service, which costs just $40 per year, you can add collaboration features. This allows you to share task lists with employees, with the added ability to delegate tasks to them. With applications on all mobile platforms, Toodledo task manager is a great web app for any budding business.
Starting a home business is hard. Growing a small business is harder. In order to grow, a business must plan for growth. These tools can help any small business not only succeed in the moment, but also prepare for growth in the future.