Tool #1: Your desktop/laptop
A laptop and desktop combination is your best option, but if you were to only get one of these, go for a laptop all the way. You can have support software on there, training aids, reference material, code and more. All this is very handy to have when you are at a clients.
Get a middle of the road machine. You don’t have to go for top of the range as you pay a premium price for cutting-edge technology. In fact, I recommend you spend as little as possible when you first start out. Get the good stuff when you are established. And a good business maxim to follow is never spend money unless you absolutely have to.
Ensure you have plenty of RAM to enable you to run multiple applications simultaneously. I often have over 10 programs running at once, including email clients, web browsers, Word and so on.
Go for lots of hard disk space since you may be storing client projects which could eat up space.
Tool #2: Evernote
You must have this. It is an indispensable software tool that lets you store a collection of all your most valuable knowledge. You can store text, images, pdf files and more. There is a free version and also an inexpensive subscription version, where you can store your data in the Cloud, where you can access your data from phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. Also, there is no need to then backup your data, as its already stored in the Cloud.
Imagine this. You are at a clients and you need to seek help from a discussion forum. You cannot remember the website address for it. So, you load up Evernote on your phone, do a search and Voila! There it is.
It will prove to be an excellent investment.
Tool #3: Microsoft TechNet subscription
Want to know where to get over $10,000 worth of Microsoft software for under $300? Look no further than the Microsoft TechNet sbuscription. Microsoft wants to encourage developers, suppliers and partners to use their software for a multitude of reasons, so they give crazy discounts. These reasons include ensuring there is plenty of support out there for their products. Also, so that IT industry business promote the use of Microsoft products, with a view to providing support amongst other things.
The TechNet subscription is an annual one, so you need to renew each year should you want to download the latest and greatest Microsoft software. Software includes various versions of Windows, Microsoft Office, programming suits, beta versions of software and more! It really is fantastic value.
Tool #4: Your business card
I started with a cheap business card. It was plain, had no colour and lacked my website or email details. Six months down the line I upgraded my card.
You don’t have to go for fancy color, as that can be quite expensive. Just get something neat and professional to get you off the ground. You might like to explore the option of having a bulleted list of services you offer on the back of the business card. It won’t break the bank, but it will give you the feeling that you are now “in business!”
Hand them out to clients, friends and associates. Get the word out that you’re in business.
Tool #5: Your own website
Get yourself a decent website and you may be surprised at who knocks at your door. My websites got me into all sorts of companies, both large and small. Sometimes my website visitors think I’m Microsoft!
Its very difficult for the visitor to tell how large a company you are from your website and that definitely works in your favour when you start out.
Don’t make it flashy with lots of moving pictures. Just a neat and tidy site is all you need. To a large extent, the graphics don’t sell. The words do (so you better start reading those marketing books, right?).
Use WordPress. Its the fastest and easiest way to get a professional site up and running with minimum skill. Then, using what you learned here, you can sell this skill on to your clients!
Tool #6: A smartphone
Do I really have to explain this one? If they can’t contact you when you’re on the move, you will lose business – not a bit, but lots. Being accessible to clients at all times is of major benefit to them. Having them leave their name and number on your answerphone is not good enough. Do your damn hardest to be contactable.
Otherwise, this might happen:
Secretary: “Tried phoning computer guy but I couldn’t get hold of him.” Manager: “Shame. OK, what about that other guy we used last year. Give him a try.”
They call him, they speak to him, he gets in the door, he sells them on his services and kicks out all your other business opportunities with that client. Don’t lose a client because of this.
But why a smartphone? Because then you have access to essential tools such as Evernote and Anki, both of which benefit from being accessible at any time or location.
Tool #7: An answerphone
You must have one of these but try to make sure clients don’t have to use it. Let it be your last resort. And check it regularly! If possible, have your calls redirected to your mobile phone. That way you can return calls in-between client visits or during your lunch break. Or even answer the call the and then.