Sometimes starting a business can be like the first day of school. You've taken yet another big step toward the future, and while you may be cautiously optimistic about what lies ahead, you're also eager to put into practice everything you've known and been taught up to this point. It's an exciting and nervous time.
And just like the first day of school, when you're starting a business from home, you need supplies. To make sure you're well equipped, be sure to get your hands on these 7 must-haves for your home office:
1. High-speed Internet connection
This one should go without saying, but it has to be mentioned: broadband Internet connection is an absolute must-have if you're starting a business from home. This will allow you to conduct business without being burdened with slow internet speeds, which will interrupt downloads, add noise and breaks to VoIP phone service or Skype calls, weigh down on the speed of running applications, and kill productivity (and sanity!).
2. Business phone number
Setting up a phone number specific for your business not only reinforces a professional image, but also allows another way for prospects and customers to get in touch with you. No matter the nature of your business or the kinds of products or services you're selling, you shouldn't be surprised with the number of customers that still want to do business over the phone. Being able to reach you directly is a huge advantage for many.
You can set up a virtual phone number, such as one through Google Voice, so that one dedicated number can ring all of your phones -- cell, landline, or home office, for example. This ensures you're not missing a single important call. Or, you can get a second business-only line through your current cell phone carrier or phone company.
3. Computer dedicated to work
It's critical that the laptop or computer you use to start a business remains a business-only computer. It's not only important to distinguish for tax purposes, but it will also give you peace of mind that your business documents and applications are not being tampered with or accessed by family members. Keep your business laptop in your home office, and have a frank discussion with your family that your shiny new Macbook (or Dell, or ThinkPad) is off limits.
4. Printer / scanner/ fax / copier
Do yourself a favor and be sure to get your hands on an all-in-one printer that also scans, faxes, and copies. This will save you countless trips (and valuable time) going back and forth to Staples, FedEx, or the post office to get things shipped, signed, faxed, etc. Think of all the contracts, forms, agreements and work documents you deal with, and you'll quickly realize the value of this must-have. Even better, they're relatively inexpensive at $100-200 for something that can withstand moderate use.
5. Cloud account
You never know when you're going to need that one critical document or spreadsheet. Storing all of your documents, images, videos, and charts on your laptop may be the easiest route, but if you're traveling or out with family, cloud storage puts all of your work in the palm of your hand. Store your documents with Dropbox, CloudApp, or options created specifically for small businesses, like Carbonite or SugarSync.
6. Backup storage
Speaking of Carbonite and SugarSync, backup storage is also something you should invest in when you start a small business from home. And though it's kind of like flossing (in that you know you should do it, but never really get around to it), when it comes to your small business, there should be no excuses. Running a small business means having to keep all customer information safe and secure; imagine the disaster you'd be facing if something were to happen to your computer. If it get damaged or stolen, you're looking at a ton of frustration, and potential trouble, if it gets into the wrong hands. Do yourself a favor and backup your computer at least once a quarter, if not more often.
7. Organization system
Not only should you keep your digital files and assets organized, but it's critical to keep yourself organized as well. Come up with a system that works for you. This could include a work-only filing cabinet or desk drawer for forms and contracts. It could be a schedule that you adhere to, ensuring you stay productive at certain times of the day. Running a small business means that you control your time and environment. This freedom can quickly become a burden if you let it. By sticking to a system, you're likely to keep yourself and your business organized, and are able to deliver great products and results for your customers.
What else might you add to this list? What are other must-have items for you to have to start a business from home?
Photo source: TonerMax.com, ehow.com