Sep 29

10 home office money saving tips

Getting some cheap furniture for your home business is always a win, here are some cheap ie free tips for setting up the furniture in your home business.

1.  Build your own desk.  Check out your local home improvement store for clearance counter tops then find some cheap table legs, cut out some posts, or use filing cabinets as the base.

2. Use VOIP for an office phone.  Vonage, Magic Jack, or Google voice all provide free to low cost monthly phone service with free voice mail.  You can also forward those numbers to a cell phone when your out and about.  No reason to run a new phone line to your home office when you already have internet.

3. Use e-fax instead of a fax machine.  Paper, toner, and printers add up.  Instead of paying for these physical goods, go electronic with your faxes and just view them online.

4. Use a consumer level PC for your office computer.  Unless your going to be doing high end graphics work, or running some kind of high end CAD software (and you probably already know what kind of computer you need) then don’t waste your money on a cutting edge PC that is good enough for your teenager to game on.  If your running QB, checking email, and updating a website, then your $500 consumer grade PC will be just fine.

5.  Back up to the cloud instead of a hardware solution.  Automated backups are a must, hardware solutions that require human interaction either a) don’t get done b) are very expensive and there is still a chance that the hardware can fail.  Cloud backups are cheap, they run behind the scenes and they allow you to access your information from anywhere.  Just make sure you are careful on what directories your backing up.  You DO want your business database, you don’t need to back up images from your vacation.

6.  Buy used furniture.  While a $700 Herman Miller chair is nice, is it really necessary if your only in your office for an hour or two?  If so take a look at local used furniture stores, ask your friends on facebook, or visit a thrift store.  Often times you can find a nice two hour task chair for little to no money.

7.  Decorate with your own photos.  Nobody will spend time judging the photos or paintings on the wall.  They are back ground and they should make the room look nice but you don’t need to buy some kind of new age modern art to help generate serenity.  Just frame up some nice photos you took with your digital camera, or frame some art done by your toddler.  When in a nice frame nobody knows if it was done by a five year old finger painting or a European post modern artist.  It’s just background art, don’t think about it so much.

8. Do you really need a conference room table?  Are you planning on having big board meetings with all of your clients?  Would your desk work fine?  Would it be better to meet at their location or at a local office space rental location instead?  Conference room tables are one of the big dust collectors, don’t buy it unless you need it.

9. Outsource – Value your time.  If you spend most of your time doing busy work or running errands instead of focusing on the tasks that only you can do, then consider getting a low wage helper.  With some basic time clock software and a free payroll service you can afford to have someone work for you and make you more productive.  Just make sure that you are actually using your time to generate more income and aren’t just being lazy.

10.  Consult the experts – When it comes to the technical side of your business find someone that knows what they are doing and can take care of that for you or advise you.  You do not need to know every detail about merchant services, it’s a good idea to make sure your getting a fair rate, but don’t feel like you have to spend weeks trying to figure out if a .10 transaction fee with a 2.1% rate is better then a .11 transaction fee with a 2.0% fate.  Merchant service providers have calculators that they can use to find the rates that are preferable for your business.  They can know more about it then you and it is in their best interest to get you a good rate so you stay with them.  Same goes for point of sale software.  Consult an expert that sets up point of sale systems for a living, they’ve seen all that is out there and can advise you on what you should be using.  There is a reason that not every business has jumped on the iPad band wagon.

Sep 22

Quickbooks and Point of Sale

Business of all sizes are going to use Intuit Quickbooks, it’s recommended by business owners that own small one man operations to mega corporations with locations all over the globe.  So if your starting your business you just go buy Quickbooks Pro and then your good to go right?  It’ll do all your AR, AP, POS, inventory, etc. right?

Not so fast.

While Quickbooks is fantastic software there are multiple versions for a reason.

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First off if you just need basic invoicing, AR, and AP, you don’t have physical goods being stocked and sold then yeah Quickbooks Professional may be just what your single man operation needs.  Service industry businesses that typically just bill man hours and/or have items that typically are not stocked like a plumber, electrician, or general contractor can use QB and it’s basic invoicing features to a great success.

However if your running a small retail operation where you do have a store front, people walk in, and you want to use a register with a barcode scanner and receipt printer then you don’t want Quickbooks Professional, what you want is Quickbooks Point of Sale, this point of sale software has store front capabilities that are geared to integrate point of sale software, track inventory, assist with re-ordering of goods, handle multiple sales tax rates, and overall run your store front.  There is also an ability to export out daily totals to traditional quickbooks as well.

All intuit software are somewhat complex to use.  They do have “wizards” developed to help with simple tasks, but these wizards can often be long and time consuming when with point of sale your really looking for speed.  Because of this it is strongly recommended to buy from a point of sale vendor that offers training or pre-configured point of sale systems that have the hardware already setup and the software already installed and configured to work with the hardware.  These systems also come with a training session where a senior tech will help guide you through the basics like adding items to your inventory, taking credit card payment, or tracking customers.

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Yes, piecing out the hardware yourself can save you some money, but how busy are you and how valuable is your time?  Do you really want to figure out how to download print drivers and setup the USB port for your barcode scanner?

Additionally Intuit offers some really nice rebates via certified resellers like POSGuys if you sign up for a merchant account with them.  And because of how their software is setup you really have to use their merchant account services unless you want to use an external payment terminal instead of the integrated software capabilities.

Sep 17

Getting funding for your home business

One of the challenges every single business faces whether it’s new, old, big, small, traditional, cutting-edge, or any myriad of differences, is trying to get funding for your project.  Especially when you are a brand new business getting funding is really difficult.

Traditional Funding Option – Bank: The place that most home businesses start is the bank.  Usually you’ll talk to a branch manager, or business specialist and ask for a start up loan.  What the bank is going to want to see is collateral, business associates, and your business plan.  The Better Business Bureau, has some helpful hints for developing your business plan, and to get funding from a banking institution your really going to have to know the ins and outs of not only your business but the accounting side, the tax side, insurance, etc.  They are going to want to know to the penny how much it is going to cost to run your business, how you are going to get your income, and how they are going to get their money back.  The bank does not want to take a risk, it wants a sure thing.

Traditional Funding Option – Family: The next place that people reluctantly look is to family.  The best thing about going with a family loan is that the interest rates are low if not absent altogether.  The problem with a family loan is that if you miss a payment, or are having any kind of financial strife it can grossly strain your relationship, and as the famous quote goes “you never want to mix family with business”.  You also leave open your business for ridicule if you are getting money from a family member.

Modern Funding Option – Leasing: Besides banks one of the largest lenders to businesses are leasing companies.  Lending companies such as National Commercial Capital, or National Equipment leasing, have various plans that are setup to help purchase equipment or software for businesses.  The terms are negotiable as are the rates, but if your are a start up don’t expect to get anything near what you would get on a home loan, think high rate credit card instead.  The leasing companies may also require you to sign a personal guaranty that will use your personal credit and personal collateral should you default.   If your purchasing a POS System check out the financing page to see what leasing options the Point of Sale provider is used to using.  For example POSGuys.com uses https://posguys.com/financeinfo.asp for their leasing and they also have an on page monthly payment caculator.

Modern Funding Option – Merchant Account: One of the things that merchant account providers are doing now is tacking on the cost of doing business into the monthly fees until that initial loan is paid off.  If you are an existing business with months of merchant account statements then a merchant service provider may be willing to lend you money based upon how much you are processing.  The terms for this can be very flexible as they have a good sense on how your business is doing.

Cutting Edge Funding Option – Kick Starter:  If you have a great unique idea, one that you know the public is going to love then why not take a chance on kickstarter, post your great idea up and if the public agrees with you then you can get some funds to get going.  One thing to note is that it is all project base, you can’t just go on and say give me money because I’m cool, you have to have an idea, but part of getting that idea off the ground is getting a computer and point of sale system.