Setting up for Success – Tools and Tips for Home-Based or Virtual Business Operators
If you’re new to working from home (or virtually), it’s important that you have the right resources to enable you to operate successfully from your office – no matter where it is located. For some people, this will be a home-based office with a PC, printer and all the other mod-cons required for a business in today’s world. For other people who perhaps travel or maybe even ‘hot desk’, they will need to be able to operate from anywhere with confidence.
Here are some simple tools and tips to ensure you are set up for success from the word go:
Internet / WiFi
The ability to be connected is absolutely critical to a virtual or home-based business, so PLEASE don’t skimp on this. Seriously… I mean it! If you have access to the NBN, lucky you! If not, then invest in the best you can. It’s worth it because your ability to stay online directly influences your ability to ply your trade. If you’re not sure who is the best service provider in the area (even if you DO have the NBN), then I would suggest speaking to your local IT professional. They will know the best and the worst – so listen to them. Don’t rely on the advice of Aunty Joan who lives in Timbuktu (unless you also live in Timbuktu, and Aunty Joan is a techno-whiz).
If you aren’t sure what speed your current connection is giving you, run a speed test (yes, it’s free) – http://www.speedtest.net/
A no-brainer for home-based / virtual business operators who are heavily reliant on the internet. It will protect your data and, importantly, your clients’ data. If you’re not sure what’s best for you, speak to your local IT guy.
Disasters happen every day, so don’t think you are immune – especially when your whole life (and potentially that of your clients’) is stored digitally. There are a whole range of programs out there that provide you with peace of mind when it comes to backing up your data. I personally use Carbonite, but I encourage you to do your research. And a tip here – it’s worth paying for this service!
Time Management Software
Tracking your time will help you understand how productive you are being in your business – regardless of whether you package your services or charge by the hour. There are numerous programs out there – I use a program called MyHours (and it’s free). Again, spend some time researching and you’ll come up with at least half a dozen free solutions worth thinking about.
It’s important to have an understanding of how to safely share and manage files for yourself and / or your clients. There are a variety of options, but I recommend the following:
- Dropbox – https://www.dropbox.com/
- Google Drive – https://www.google.com/drive/
- SendthisFile – https://www.sendthisfile.com/
If you are a home-based business owner or Virtual Assistant, communication is the lifeblood of what you do and how you do it. Tools that support effective communication are vital for business success.
I use and recommend the following communication platforms in my business:
- Skype – https://www.skype.com/en/
- Google Hangouts – https://hangouts.google.com/
- AnyMeeting – https://www.anymeeting.com/
- Facebook Messenger – https://www.messenger.com/
- Slack – https://slack.com/
Project Management Software
As with most platforms, there is a wealth of project management software that is available – many being free to use. Do a bit of research, or perhaps even ask around your colleages about what they recommend.
I personally have used and can recommend following software options for managing projects and collaborating with clients and colleagues on a day to day basis:
If you’re starting out, you may be happy to record your business transactions on an excel spreadsheet, but if you’re looking for an option that can grow with your business, there are quite a few alternatives available.
Be aware that each software option will have different benefits, and whilst some are free, I personally choose to pay for a higher end product that is accessible online, and will support me into the future (and as my business grows). Perhaps talk to your accountant about the software they use, and also get recommendations from trusted colleagues.
Here are some reputable and popular options you may wish to consider:
- Xero – https://www.xero.com/au/
- MYOB – https://www.myob.com/au/accounting-software/compare
- Quick Books – http://www.intuit.com.au/
- Freshbooks – https://www.freshbooks.com/
As the majority of our work is done online, we will undoubtedly accumulate a gamut of login details for a variety of programs we access in our day to day business. It’s important to be aware of the risks that poor security can pose to your business – and also to your clients’ businesses.
By investing in a secure strategy for password storage that is both safe and accessible to you at all times, your clients will have the added reassurance that their valuable files are being protected because the passwords are safely stored.
There are a few programs around now that provide safe and accessible password storage options, such as:
- LastPass – https://lastpass.com/
- Dashlane – https://www.dashlane.com/
- KeePass – http://keepass.info/
- 1Password – https://1password.com/
Disaster Backup Plan
Despite the fact that you may have your IT correctly and safely set up, be aware that things can AND DO go wrong.
For example, your WiFi dies, your PC has a heart attack, your toddler drops your laptop and breaks it…
What is your disaster plan? What contingenies do you have in place if the worst should occur?
Key points you need to consider are:
- Have a reliable (spare) laptop you can use for travel and to bridge the gap if you can’t use your computer or main laptop for whatever reason. Make sure that laptop is set up with everything you need so that you aren’t caught short if a disaster should prevail.
- Research internet alternatives that you can fall back on if you have lost your internet connection. For example, you can tether your mobile, invest in a pre-paid WiFi dongle that you can use in emergencies (or when travelling), or perhaps there’s a coffee shop or internet café that you could work from until your internet is back up and running.
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