There’s no place like home, and because of that, working from home can be an absolute treat. You get to wear what you want, listen to the tunes that inspire you at the volume you like and have ready access to your favorite homebrewed coffee every second of everyday. However, despite the many joys, there are challenges of working from home, and you need the right tools to be prepared. Check out these 15 tools your small business needs if it operates from your home.
- Time tracking tools
Whether you’re working for an employer or just for yourself, time tracking tools are essential. Programs such as TSheets and TimeClock Plus allow you to punch on and off the work clock so your employer can easily see how many hours you’ve logged. If you’re managing a remote team of employees, these tools are essential, as they allow you to conveniently see when and where your team is putting in time.
To track the amount of time you put into projects for individual clients, check out apps such as Top Tracker and Due Time Tracking. Track your hours, and then invoice clients for the time with the tap of a button. These tools are essential if you want to track the financial value of each of your clients, as they allow you to break down projects based on pay and hours worked.
- Collaboration apps
If you work with a team, a collaboration app is critical. It replaces long meetings, shared notes and whiteboards full of ideas. Instead, all of that moves online, and each member of the team can add and update information to the project as it goes along.
In that vein, Trello is essentially a collaborative list making tool with a host of other cool features. Beyond that, there’s a bevy of collaborative tools on the market, and you may need to experiment until you find the right one for your needs. Slack, Evernote and even Google Drive are all ones to consider.
- Cloud-based storage
If you’re sharing a lot of documents or producing a lot of work for clients, you may need extra storage on top of what you have on your computer. Cloud-based storage can help. It can also work as an essential backup so you won’t lose everything if you have a hardware malfunction. Consider applications like Dropbox, Mega, OneDrive, iCloud and Box.
- Headphones with built-in microphones
Even if you use the best collaboration apps, you may occasionally need to attend a virtual meeting. When using tools like Skype or Google Hangouts to connect your team, you want to ensure the meeting runs efficiently and effectively. Keep room noise or outdoor noise down with headphones that come with built-in microphones. Find a space that is private (here the background won’t be a distraction, and your team can be focused on the call.
- Use Cloud collaboration for document signings.
Signing documents is a part of every business – from contracts to legal forms, every employer and employee will sign a document at some point in the business. However, you shouldn’t rely on snail mail to get these documents signed. In today’s age, you can avoid the time delays associated with standard US postage by utilizing the convenience of sending the documents via email. Tools like DocuSign and Adobe Reader allow for automated signatures, making signing documents that much easier and quicker. There are many tools that also allow you to print the documents, sign and rescan them into an email. If all else fails, you can always dust off the old scanner.
- Separate business account
When you work from home, you can write off your business expenses on your tax return. Forgetting to do that can unnecessarily drive up your tax liability. Consider opening a business account that’s separate from your personal account so you can easily purchase items as needed and have a record of the expense.
Depending on your finances, you may want to use a business checking account, a dedicated business line of credit or a business credit card.
- Expense tracking apps
To bolster the role of your small business account, consider using an expense tracking app. From Shoeboxed to Expensify, there are countless options on the market with all kinds of price points and amenities. For example, you can get apps that allow you to shoot a picture of your receipt, apps that sync with your accounting software and apps that even track your mileage so you don’t forget to claim that expense as well. This also allows your employees to track their business expenses much easier from their homes or remote offices.
- Social media engagement tools
Working from home can get lonely, so you may want to connect to a community virtually to avoid potential loneliness. There are all kinds of online forums for work at home professionals. You can join a group based on your gender, parental status, religion, industry or whatever community you want to connect with.
Alternatively, you can look for a group based on your profession. That can be a great way to bounce ideas off of others in the industry, find out about new gigs and just touch base about how others are coping with various work-from-home challenges. To find forums, do a few searches online, but you can also get onto platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook. You can often find community support on these social channels.
- Social media management tools
Of course, social media offers more than just a place to meet other professionals. These platforms are also useful places to find clients or hear about professional opportunities. To make the most of your online presence, create professional profiles on the sites that your clients are using. You can find demographic information about who uses which platform online.
Then, follow companies or individuals who are likely to post things of interest to your clients. Repost interesting things, but also don’t forget to write your own posts and share links to your blogs. Invest in a social media management app, like HootSuite or Salesforce tools, so you’ll never get behind on social media posting.
- Accounting and financing tools
Managing your finances can be tedious, whether it’s your strong suit or not. One mistake, even a small one, can negatively affect your small business. You could miss out on opportunities, lose revenue or even be audited. Tools like Quickbooks Intuit, FreshBooks and Xero are great options for small businesses. These tools often offer customizable dashboards and online payment receipts. All accounting tools integrate your accounts, show you your financial overview, your expenses, help you with payroll and other financial necessities for your small business.
- Invoicing tools
If your home business runs on invoices, you know the importance of being paid on time by customers and clients. When they’re late on payments, it hurts your cash flow and your ability to expand and grow your small business. Tools like Wave and Due offer free options to send your invoices sooner so you can get that revenue back in your business’s pocket. If your customer or clients are struggling to pay their invoices, consider using Kabbage’s invoicing payment tool to give them the option of using funding to pay you back.
- Freelancer tools
From time to time, you might need freelancers to help run aspects of your small business that might not be your forte or that you might need some extra help with. Especially as a startup, there’s no need to put every task on your shoulders. Freelance employees are great options for your business if you don’t have enough funding to hire full-time remote employees just yet. Sites like Fiverr, Upwork and PeoplePerHour offer a wide variety of professionals, from marketing to accounting to content creation. These sites can help you fill any gaps you need in your small business without seriously hurting your budget.
- Job posting sites
When your home business is ready to expand to hiring full-time employees, it’s a great sign of growth. You don’t want to slow down that growth by not using the proper tools. Job posting sites like Indeed, Glassdoor and Monster can help you reach out to job seekers and find the best talent to help you expand your business even more.
- Scheduling tools
Planning meetings around everyone’s availability can always be difficult for any small business. However, working remotely (and having all employees work remotely) can add to this difficulty. You might be working with different time zones and work schedules, making scheduling meetings seem like an impossible puzzle. Using scheduling tools, like Calendly, Hubspot Meeting or through virtual assistants, can help ease the stress of scheduling these meetings by connecting with your calendars to see when other employees are available and generating meeting times during your and their availability.
- Payroll tools
One in three small businesses gets penalized by the IRS for having errors in their payroll. Payroll is essential for keeping your employees happy and your business in good legal standing, and having multiple errors looks bad for your small business. Fortunately, tools like Intuit Payroll, Xero and Namely, offer a variety of plans for you can use to help you with legal aspects, automated payments, saves you time and more.
Working from home can be relaxing and a dream come true. You can be as comfortable as you like, focus on your tasks at hand without the noise of an office and tailor your home office the way that helps you best. However, you still need the right tools to ensure productivity is as high as it would be in an office. With these 15 essential tools, your small business is ready to succeed from home.