If you’ve ever worked from home, you know how wonderful it can be. You get to sit in your own house, surrounded by your own things, and you don’t even have to get gussied up to head into an office. It opens up a world of flexibility…and did I mention that the commute is great?!? By starting a home-based business, you never have to worry about getting caught in traffic ever again!
Still, working at home takes some getting used to. When you’re at home, there are distractions everywhere. It’s hard to stay focused when you have laundry to do and a kitchen to clean. If you aren’t careful, you could end up spending the bulk of your time on projects that don’t make you any money!
Once you’ve made the leap to working at home, the last thing you want to do crawl back to an office job. I know. I’ve been working at home for nearly a year, and that sounds like torture to me. That is why it is super important that I stay productive. Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that keep me focused and my business running efficiently.
Table of Contents:
16 Tools to Make Your Home-Based Business Run Efficiently
Have an Office
The most important part to effectively managing any home-based business is creating a space that’s dedicated to work. An organized work space limits your distractions and prepares your mind and body to focus. If you have the space, a home office is typically the best solution. Go to the same place every day you work. Doing so will help you increase your efficiency immediately.
Set Business Hours
If you aren’t careful, it’s easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole and lose precious hours each day to distractions. That’s why it’s extremely important for home-based entrepreneurs to set a daily work schedule. Just like a regular office, you need to create your own office hours. Set these hours aside each day for work and work only.
This is not the time to visit friends, camp out on social media, or go on lunch dates. It’s time to make money. The cool thing is that you can make these hours whatever you want. But, keep them consistent and in blocks of several hours at a time to stay in your most productive mindset.’
If you’re a home-based business owner, you might have a great website already. If you don’t, you need to get one ASAP! Your website can serve as a wonderful advertising tool, a point of sale, or a business all in itself. Better yet, you can make it all three. You can even learn how to build your own website by clicking here.
As a home-based business owner, you need a laptop computer – even if you prefer a desktop. Any time you’re away, you’ll need access to your business…and traveling with a desktop could create a few problems. Depending on the type of business you run, your laptop doesn’t have to be that fancy. Spending a few hundred bucks should do the trick. Better yet, save a few bucks and use your laptop as your main computer every day.
If you’re just starting your own home-based business, you may not realize how much copying and printing your’re gong to do. Trust me. It’s a lot. Having your own printer/copier/scanner saves you oodles of time. Even if you keep most of your records electronically, you’ll still want to keep hard copies of your receipts, business records, and tax forms. Also, you’re going to have a bunch of people asking you to scan documents and send them via email. Do yourself a favor and get an all-in-one printer, copier, and scanner.
A Good Coffee Pot
Running a home-based business means that you need to keep records of your financial transactions. Depending on how your business is organized, you may even be legally required to keep certain business records (like balance sheets, cash flow statements, and income statements). You can do this all by hand, but why? Using a bookkeeping software makes this part of your job much easier.
Personally, I use Avanquest Bookkeeper, a locally stored software that is both affordable and easy to use. It has everything I need, including invoicing, tax forms, and payroll assistance. Other types of bookkeeping software are cloud based. Quickbooks has an online version that many small business owners swear by. I’ve also heard good things about Freshbooks, although I have not used either of these two products myself.
Checklist for End of Month, Quarter, and Year
One of the things that makes bookkeeping so confusing is all the forms that need to be kept and filed. You’ve got business reports that need to be saved, tax forms that need to be sent to government agencies, and other reporting requirements that can easily get lost in the shuffle. Keeping it all straight can be a mess. That’s why having a checklist for your bookkeeping tasks is essential to staying organized.
I’ve broken my checklist into three categories: End of Month, End of Quarter, and End of Year. At the conclusion of each month, I just bust out my checklist to make sure I’m getting all of my paperwork done on time. It took me about an hour to create on a simple Word doc, and it’s one of the best tools I have to stay organized.
Speaking of software, getting a good do-it-yourself tax software can save you time and money. Try using a program like TurboTax or H&R Block. Each of these tax prep products guide you through the process, prepare the correct forms, and help you electronically file your returns.
As a small business owner, you can choose how you’d like to be paid. However, the more convenient you make it for your customers to pay you, the quicker you’ll get your money. Having a Paypal account makes getting paid easy, plus the account itself is free. As a professional freelancer, I often use Paypal to bill my clients. You do need to know that Paypal charges a small fee for each transaction, so you should build that percentage into your cost of doing business.
Skype and Google Hangouts
Sometimes your clients are going to want to speak with you face to face. These days, you can have a virtual conversation via Skype or Google Hangouts. They’re both free, easy to install, and simple to use. Simply create an account, and you’re good to go!
If you aren’t using Google Drive yet, you’re missing out. Google Drive provides free tools to create documents, spreadsheets, forms, and more. These items are stored in the cloud and are available to share with whomever you wish. Once shared, you can allow other users to edit the items as well. Google Drive allows you to save up to 15GB of information, which is a lot of free storage.
On my websites, I make several different PDFs and spreadsheets available to customers as educational tools. For these documents, I like to use Dropbox. With Dropbox, you get 2GB of storage for free, but you can earn more free storage by referring others. You can then save and share these documents with whomever you want. Amazon also offers a premium online storage service. Currently, you can get unlimited photo storage and up to 5 GB of space for videos and files for just $11.99 per year.
When you work for yourself, you need to stay organized. You’ve got phone calls, meetings, and deadlines to meet…and nobody is helping you keep track of them. That’s why you need a calendar. Using an app like Google Calendar helps you organize your work life and track of important dates and appointments. You can even invite other users to join appointments, making slick work of scheduling.
I use Google Calendars some, but I prefer the old fashioned way. Since I don’t keep a lot of appointments and don’t want to waste time entering stuff into a calendar, I use a simple paper day planner. I jot down what I need to know, when I need to know it, and it’s done. It’s simple, it doesn’t take any time, and I’m able to stay organized.
Daily To-Do List
For me, it is super important to keep a daily “to-do” list. It helps me organize my thoughts, keeps me on task, and I love being able to check items off once they’re completed. Personally, I just add these items to my calendar each day, and that’s it. It takes about 2 minutes, and I’m off and running for the day.
As a home-based business owner, there will be times when you can’t get to your computer. That’s where a smartphone comes in. Just connect your email account to your phone, and you’ll be able to help and answer customer questions from almost anywhere.
Having a home-based business is a great way to add flexibility to your life, but there is an art to being productive. Use these tools to stay on task, work efficiently, and get the most from your working hours.