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Not long ago, if you wanted to start a business from home, your options were typically limited to a one- or two-person company based in the community where you live. Today, buoyed by the Internet and the rapid spread of technology, home businesses have become international in scope. Some of them even employ a host of people who also work from the comfort of home.
A 2012 survey conducted by Babson College and Baruch College revealed that 69 percent of businesses now start in the home. Furthermore, 59 percent of the established businesses that are at least three-and-a-half years old continue to operate from home.
Take Advantage of Technology
You should consider several factors related to technology if you’re going to operate a successful business from your home.
- Internet bandwidth is important. Do some research and find the Internet Service Provider (DSL, cable, fiber optic, etc.) in your area provides the fastest speed and is the most reliable. If you are running a business, Internet speed is one place you shouldn’t pinch pennies.
- Even if you spend most of your life working with your smartphone and tablet, you’ll still need a reliable personal computer and software that will help you run your business efficiently and effectively.
- Wireless is now the way to go. Wires connecting computers to keyboards, mice, printers, routers, monitors, remote drivers and speakers are a relic of the past. With a wireless system, however, be sure to use strong passwords and enable all security features.
- Multifunction machines that can be used for scanning, faxing and printing and as a telephone are getting more useful, more reliable and less damaging to your financial bottom line.
- Email and texting are popular forms of communication, but your business will still need telephone service. Almost everyone has a cellphone, and many small businessmen also have a land line. Others use a VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) plan with a PBX as their primary business phone service. VoIPs are usually fairly inexpensive and can easily interface with email and other devices. Keep in mind that faxing is still widely used in business, especially for legal documents. Another thing to consider is that texting has exploded in the last 10 years and is becoming more common in business settings. Consider adding texting capabilities to a business line to meet the needs of business prospects and customers that prefer this mode of communication.
- Network attached storage (NAS) devices provide an excellent option for a home office network, especially if you need a lot of storage space.
A Cloudy Day
Another option, if storage space is critical to your business, is the cloud. If you can host your business software or website in the cloud, you won’t need large servers or remote drives for your home office. A computer and an Internet connection will suffice. Among the cloud services for small businesses are applications such as:
- Google Docs
Embrace the Technology
Home-based small business startups are diverse; they aren’t just Mary Kay Cosmetics or Jim’s Radiator Repair. The fact remains, however, that home businesses face a different set of difficulties than those located in traditional stores or office buildings. Setting up and operating a business from home requires a level of communication that is both comprehensive and cost-effective.
So how does a home-based entrepreneur compete with larger companies that have vastly greater resources? The answer is to turn to the tech options that made your home business possible in the first place.
- Use an online service that automatically backs up your files. Among your options are:
- Consider buying a receipt scanner. When you feed your receipts through the scanner, the software automatically extracts important information and organizes the data. This option is especially useful if you itemize deductions.
- Google AdWords allows you to post online ads that will help drive business to your company.
- A virtual attendant phone service allows you to screen calls, forward calls and check messages, among other options.
- Services like eLance allow you to hire a virtual workforce, including developers, marketers, writers and more.
- File-sharing applications such as Dropbox let you share large files, those that are too big to email, with your employees or your clients. Other possibilities when your reports, artwork, photographs or proposals are too big to email include WeTransfer, DropSend and FilesDirect. Most of these are free unless you need to upgrade your level of service.
Technology will help you compete. Just because you’re running your business from home doesn’t mean you are any less professional than a company chief executive officer who is running his business from commercial space. By exercising a little bit of innovation and utilizing today’s technology, you can compete on a level playing field with companies that are much larger than yours.