By Constantina Kokenes
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 home-brewed coffee every second of everyday. However, despite the many joys, there are challenges to working from home, and you need the right tools to be prepared. Check out these 10 tools your small business needs if it operates from your home.
1. Time tracking tools
Whether you’re working for an employer or 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.
2. 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 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.
3. 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 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.
4. 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 account so you can easily purchase items as needed without dipping into your personal savings.
Depending on your finances, you may want to use a business checking account, a dedicated business line of credit or a business credit card.a
5. 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. These apps also allow your remote and work-from-home employees to track their business expenses easily.
6. Social media engagement tools and forums
One of the common downsides of working from home is the lack of community and culture that comes with an office setting. You can help offset that by engaging with online groups 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 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 join existing business groups on LinkedIn or Facebook. You can often find community support on these social channels.
7. Social media management tools
Of course, social media is more than a place to meet other professionals. These platforms are also useful places to find clients or learn about professional opportunities. To make the most of your online presence, create professional profiles on the sites where your customers are most engaged. You can find demographic information about who uses which platform online.
Then, follow influential companies or individuals 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.
8. 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 for your employees. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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 when you need extra help. Especially as a small business just getting started, there’s no need to put every task on your shoulders. Freelancers are great for your business if you don’t have enough funding to hire full-time remote employees yet. Sites like Fiverr, Upwork and PeoplePerHour offer a wide variety of professionals, from marketing and accounting to content creation. These sites can help you fill any gaps you need in your small business without seriously hurting your budget.
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 high productivity across the team. With these 10 essential tools, your small business is ready to succeed from home.
Constantina Kokenes is an SEO & Content Specialist at Kabbage, a fully-automated online lender for small businesses. She holds a Master’s degree from Northwestern University.