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January 9, 2016

When you’re running your business empire from the comfort of your own home, software and the internet become your best aids to success. Not only do they add a sheen of professionalism to your new home business but they’ll also talk you through some of the more basic elements of running a business. These elements relate to business areas such as accounts, human resources, project management, etc. By helping you get to grip with the basics, you will be free to spend more time on the areas of your business that will help you succeed – such as sales, product developing, networking, etc.

What’s more, the growing shift of all kinds of utility and application to “the cloud” has resulted in many applications becoming available at what can be considered very reasonable prices. These products are designed for flexible use and often only require an internet connection to set up. Not all the following home business software packages are cloud-based but they can all make your life a little easier when running a home-based business. Here are some home business software applications that do just that.

Microsoft Office is perhaps the most obvious and still one of the most widely-used suites of basic officeware. By all means go for the much cheaper (i.e. free) open source options such as OpenOffice and LibreOffice but Microsoft remains the bar that everyone else must not only reach but also be compatible with (after all, almost all of your clients and customers will probably be using it).

For easy (and free) interactions with distant clients, customers, team members and suppliers, Skype offers free face to face communication and instant messaging services with the added capability to being able to send a variety of documents and images.

For secure cloud storage and document sharing, Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive are still the leaders but there are dozens of similar services – so take your pick. Often, for home businesses, the cheaper option of Dropbox.com, which offers free online storage up to certain data sizes, is a good option.

If your business is in retail, then inventory management and sales tracking are essential – RetailEdge provides easy monitoring of both wrapped up with credit card point of sale functionality.

Are you shipping goods and packages? There’s no need for repeated trips to the post office when sites like Stamps.com and Endicia.com allow you to buy and print postage from your home office. Stamps.com also integrates with QuickBooks, the leading accounting software that walks you through invoicing, customer records, inventory tracking (mind the overlap with RetailEdge!) and all your business finances. It also offers add-ons for payroll and credit card transactions. Quicken is from the same company with more of a focus on personal finances but for small businesses the simpler functionality is perfectly suitable. Other accounting options to explore include Xero, inDinero, Expensify, ZenPayroll, and Zenefits.

If you have a flair for design and want to develop your own business website (and have the time to do so) then Adobe Dreamweaver may be for you; although if your business doesn’t need anything too fancy, good results (with patience) can be got from one of dozens of website builder sites; some of the current best are Wix, Weebly, Jimdo, and Squarespace.

For desktop publishing and designing your own promo materials or newsletters, Adobe InDesign is a leading package albeit a little expensive. Another alternative is the classic Microsoft Publisher, or then again, free open source options include Scribus and Fatpaint.

Finally, with your business’s heavy reliance on web access and fully-functioning PCs or Macs (or some kind of ‘terminal’) don’t forget internet security. Norton, McAfee, and Kaspersky all offer market-leading proprietary packages; whereas depending on your needs, there are a number of free download options too – including Avast, Panda, AVG – to keep you secure, up and running.

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