27 essential tools to kick-start your business (Part 4)

Tool #22: Quickbooks accounting software

I use Quickbooks because it is easy and straightforward. This package has found favor with many entrepreneurs because of its simplicity.

It is also useful to create invoices for clients. In fact, it is so quick that I can turn out an invoice in less than 2 minutes using Quickbooks. Doing invoices in Word is too slow and is to be avoided.

In your first few weeks, don’t spend money on this package. See how much income you generate first. Don’t spend money before you get it or you will go bust, even if you do have space on that credit card.

Tool #23: Skype desktop sharing

Skype is a fantastic tool for many reasons, but one of these is one which you may not be aware of, namely desktop sharing. What Skype allows you to do is to view a clients desktop remotely. This is very useful, because it allows you to:

  • Troubleshoot problems your client has been experiencing
  • Help with some training aspects, without having to book up a whole appointment just for a small item that needs learning.

Tool #24: YouTube

When you do computer consultancy, there is so much to learn and so many problems to solve. It is what you get paid for. Watching videos on how to solve your technical tasks is very useful and often a lot easier to understand than ploughing through a manual. That is the very same reason people get you in to do training, so they can see you visually carry out the task together with your commentary. So, next time you want to learn how to do something technical, turn to YouTube!

Tool #25: Letter headed paper

You can start by using something created with Word. However, beyond your second month I recommend spending a few dollars getting something done professionally. It need not cost much but get 500 letterheads that have the following information:

  • Company name and address
  • Office phone number and fax
  • Email address
  • Company website address

If you put your mobile number on there you risk looking like a small, sole proprietor. Only put the mobile number in the text of the letter when signing off.

E.g. “If you have any questions then please contact me on xxxxx xxxxxxxx (office) or xxxxxx xxxxxxx (mobile).”

While a logo is not essential, it can help add credibility to your image. Get a graphic artist to create one for you. They will do a much better job than you ever could, unless you have good experience in this area. Go to fiverr.com where you can get something basic for 5 bucks. You can always upgrade your logo later once you are established and making good money.

Tool #26: Typing tutor software

You need to learn to type using all your fingers. Your primary method of communicating with the PC is via the keyboard so you should be quick. Nothing looks more amateurish than stabbing away at the keyboard with two fingers.

There are several software products on the market that help with your typing skills, such as Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. They are inexpensive but bring a high return to you because you’ll save time “communicating” with your PC.

Come on, take the time and effort to do this right. Once you have these skills, you will never lose them.

Tool #27: Collection of magazine CD’s

Regularly purchase your favourite PC magazines to keep abreast of developments in the IT world. Often they come with a free CD on the front cover. These CD’s are usually packed full of utilities – such as Winzip – that come in handy when at a client’s site.

Put several of these CD’s in your briefcase so that when you go to appointments you will always have a copy of, for example, Winzip to store on their system. Nothings more frustrating than travelling miles to solve something and finding the client doesn’t have the most basic of utilities needed to do the job.

How to buy these tools with serious discounts

Shop around. Look on the net in several places and compare with local stores. You would be surprised at how much you can save. When buying stationary, I phone up office suppliers who have stationary magazines with their standard prices shown. Then, periodically they send Sale catalogues with discount prices.

More often than not, the main catalogue prices are works of fiction. They are the top prices they charge and only the ill-informed end up paying these.

So, to help you get a discount, make your stationary purchase list and say the following:

“I’m a buyer for XYZ Company and we are looking for a more competitive stationary supplier. We haven’t used you before but we wondered what kind of deal you could do for us, as we are particularly price sensitive.”

They will probably take your list of items and give you a price that is significantly lower than those shown in their catalogue. If you are really hard nosed, you could always add:

“Is that really the very best you can do?”

This may sometimes cut the price a little more.

A penny saved is a penny earnt, so the expression goes. Try to get discounts on everything.

When buying software and hardware, the net is one of the cheapest places to shop. Go to several of the major suppliers and compare prices. Quite often you will see a significant difference in price between two different websites. But don’t forget to take their delivery charge into consideration.

I used to think the cheapest place to go would be the trade suppliers but that is often not the case nowadays. Most of the time I have found the major retail suppliers have the cheapest prices! They buy in such large quantities that the margins are next to nothing. That’s why I have recommended only selling peripherals to get in the door and not to make a profit on them.