The traditional image of the business man or entrepreneur is, if not quite dead, definitely on life support. The suit, the tie, the smart office and the obligatory gender implied by the term business “man” are beginning to seem archaic. Today an average business man can be as easily located in the kitchen, in pyjamas, dishing out bowls of cereal between dealing with emails, updating the accounts and planning the diary. He can even be a she. Thanks to some fairly big changes in attitudes in recent years and the opportunities that technology has brought with it, traditional roles and traditional ways of doing business have finally not only been challenged, but binned. Doing business from the kitchen, the attic, the retirement home, the beach, or the local library is all now possible. If you’re joining, or have recently joined, the multitudes taking control of their own lives and running their own firms here are some of the essential tools that will help you on the way.
Basic Online Tools
There are some basic tools and tasks that all businesses need in order to run smoothly. Accounting software, invoicing software and financial management solutions are among the most crucial. Hiring an accountant is plan A in the early days but having software to hand will also help. Many of us may feel that managing a firm’s accounts is beyond us, but this is where good quality accounting software comes in most useful. QuickBooks online accounting software, Freshbooks and Xero are all popular, with the former being designed with the smallest of firms in mind. Easy accounting management saves a ton of time, and small firms will need that asset more than most.
Managing your Biggest Asset
Even if you have plenty of that elusive asset time, which you won’t, you’ll need to manage it carefully. While QuickBooks online accounting software will free up some time, managing it carefully will really be one of the most crucial aspects of your success. Google offers a range of simple online tools and one of the simplest is Google Calendar; it’s available wherever you have an Internet connection, can be shared with clients and colleagues and ensures that you are where you should be nearly 100 per cent of the time. Other useful tools available online include Goplan, which offers project management tools, and ActiTime, which is a free time tracking tool. This last is very useful indeed in understanding exactly where all those hours went and why there never seem to be enough of them in the day.
They’re Saying What About Me?
We all like to think that we have a perfect reputation and for small firms it’s easier to build quality links with their customers. I have a great relationship with my milkman and a rotten one with my mobile provider. However, not all customer relationships are face to face these days and even small firms need a bit of ‘reputation management’. Thankfully, these days this doesn’t mean the services of a PR team or agency, and is more often to do with online reputation management. Great tools include Google Alerts, Yahoo Alerts, Technorati and ClaimID. These all offer simple to use tools to identify who is saying what about you. With this information to hand you can quickly address any negative issues and bask in the glory of the positive ones.
We all need a little help from time to time and hiring staff can be daunting. If it’s your first website that you need, a little data input or other background admin work, you don’t have to run to your nearest employment agency in a panic. Hiring online is the new hiring offline and today there are a range of freelance sites are only a click away. Check Elance, PeoplePerHour, oDesk and Guru. These sites allow freelancers to sell their services, while as an employer you can post jobs in a huge range of categories. Study profiles carefully, they range from simple statements like “I can do design on the web” to full professional portfolios. The latter are usually the ones to go for.
Harnessing the Power of the Web
While working alone can be daunting, it can also be hugely rewarding. The tools above can also open a world of opportunities which can make the process simpler to manage and goals easier to achieve. With a little innovation and a lot online support, running your own business can be a hugely fulfilling way of making a living.