When we think of starting up a home business, we might have a tendency to feel overwhelmed by all of the items and tasks requiring our attention. Ordering inventory (if you have to), keeping track of customer contact information, handling invoices and billing (everyone’s least favorite part) and all of the other loose ends that need tying up as you grow. Today we look at how to keep most of this information manageable and run the financial side of a business for less than $100.
Keeping Track of your Clients
There are more than a few free ways to track this information, all of which can be very helpful.
To make sure your information will always be in a safe location, try using Google docs. There is some skepticism associated with the privacy and security of the service, but you can rest assured knowing your documents won’t be used by Google for any promotional or “evil” purposes. (At least not yet…)
The biggest advantage is that you can access these files from anywhere you have an internet connection. (Including the new smart phones everyone is walking around glued to). Spreadsheets, slideshows and Word docs are all contained within Google Docs and you can even download the document to your home computer in a format of your choosing.
OpenOffice is essentially everything in the Microsoft Office package, except free. Sun Microsystems provides regular updates and a solid build of office software to the average consumer. Though it might be worth it to look into upgrading your software to a paid app in the future, Open Office will be an excellent place to get a free general document generator. (You can even find lots of free templates to be used in your various projects).
Billing your Clients
Billing your clients can be a difficult process with many stages. If you are freelance contractor, you may be required to give estimates of work, or provide detailed billing invoices. If a product is sold, you may want to keep track of the status of your inventory and generate reports based off of the trends of your customers.
MyInvoices And Estimates is useful for printing out estimate sheets and generating sales reports. Want to know who your most active clients last month were? Try using MyInvoices to track your customer activity to better help you gauge whether you are hitting the goals of your business and its target market. If you have an E-Business, you could set up a PayPal button within your emails that will directly automate the entire billing process as soon as you hit the send button.
MyInvoice will generate reports for accounts receivable, cash receipts, current inventory on hand, keep an invoice journal and provide a quick sheet of sales made to each individual customer.
Keeping Track of the Back End of your Business
What is the back end? If you’ve been around marketing people, you might hear this term thrown around a lot. It simply refers to the behind the scenes work (such as accounting and branding). If you are just beginning your business, chances are you don’t have the money to hire payroll and accounting, so why not manage it yourself?
BookKeeper is a great tool for handling the financial side of your operation. Quickly track your expenses and sales while you prepare the tax information for your home business. The package (whether downloaded or boxed) comes with three months worth of credit card processing, but there is an advantage to picking this package up at a store.
BookKeeper comes with a value pack that really adds value. You get a free card swipe unit to read credit cards and ATMs, 3 months of credit card transaction processing free with your purchase an additional data backup CD Rom, useful for protecting your files and contacts. You also get MyLabelDesigner to customize your paperwork, invoices and envelopes. (MyLabelDesigner is actually embedded in the downloadable version of BookKeeper)
Grand Total: $80 US
I’ve just shown you how handy collaboration software, awesome free office software and a few paid apps can help you get your home business under control. Here in the states, you could probably get a deduction for purchasing most of this software as well. When you are trying to cut costs and remain efficient, know where to invest in you and your business for the best results.