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To ensure that your online business runs smoothly, you need to arm yourself with certain basic resources.

As a solopreneur, I can tell you that the Web is a fun place from which to run a business. But if you’re disorganized, all that fun can turn into stress overnight.

Once the work starts streaming in, it can become difficult to devote your full attention to it, because the administrative tasks begin piling up quickly. This is why you must have at least a few processes in place right from day one of your business.

Your online presence is for the benefit of potential and existing clients. What you need is a sturdy behind-the-scenes setup to manage all your work-related tasks. Christian has already covered the big picture involved in setting up an online business from home Self-Employment Works: 6 Tips To Set Up Your First Online Business From Home Self-Employment Works: 6 Tips To Set Up Your First Online Business From Home With the explosion of digital technology and fast Internet speeds, more and more people are looking for a way out of the drudge of the commute and the threat of short-term contracts to work from... Read More . James has even written a detailed guide on starting your online store. In this post, I will take a look at some of the most common resources every solopreneur wanting a thriving online business must have.

A Reliable Tool

A major portion of your work online will require some piece of software. It could be a word processor if you happen to be a writer, a vector program if you’re a designer or an illustrator, a code editor if you’re a developer, etc.

writing-app

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This software is something you’ll be using on a daily basis, so instead of blindly picking one from the popular choices available, put some serious thought into it. For example, if you’re a writer, experiment till you find the perfect writing app The Secret To Finding The Perfect Writing App That Works For You The Secret To Finding The Perfect Writing App That Works For You Writing is difficult enough as it is. Stop making it more so by wrestling with an unfriendly writing application. The choice of distraction-free writing tools requires some serious experimentation. We distill the process here. Read More .

Of course, based on the nature of your work, you will also need other tools like a blogging platform, an image editor, a ticketing system, or maybe a slideshow creator.

A System To Manage Money

An advantage of being a Web entrepreneur is that you can start your business with zero to low overhead. But as your business expands, it demands more resources. Whether you want to buy a new laptop for your work or get your website fixed from someone, all of it costs money.

Pretty soon, it can become difficult to make sense of where your money’s coming from and where it’s going. For this reason, it’s best to have a system to keep track of your income and expenses, so that you can handle your business-related finances better.

Even if you want to keep things deliberately simple, it’s still wise to have some kind of a stable process to manage the money generated by your business. A bank account for online transactions, a payment service like Paypal or Stripe, a free invoicing app like Invoiceable, and a spreadsheet for bookkeeping should be good enough for a start.

invoicing-app

A Networking Setup

No matter what kind of business you’re into, you need an audience/client for your work. It is not enough to put up a website and call it a day. To build your client base, you must to do at least some amount of networking through social media, cold calling, emails, etc. to introduce yourself and your business to people.

The good news is that even if you’re not adept at business interactions or if you’re not a big fan of social media, you can still manage to network fairly well either by gradually learning how to or by choosing methods that appeal to you. For example, if the formality of Linkedin is not your thing, how about choosing an informal network like App.net or Facebook?

A Streamlined Workflow

A well-defined workflow can simplify your business to a huge extent. Spend some time creating a comfortable workspace, sorting out your calendar, and organizing your to-do list. Keep all your files in one place, using apps like Dropbox, Google Drive, or SkyDrive. Back up your data regularly and also schedule a day specifically to take care of administrative tasks.

cloud-backup

Maintain a handy record of items such as your ideas, financial transactions, and client details, preferably in the cloud. I personally use a single spreadsheet (named All-in-one tracker) for this task. It has separate sheets for tracking my finances, posts, idea outlines, etc.

Like any other entrepreneurial venture, an online business has its fair share of ups and downs. There will be times when you won’t feel motivated enough to work or when working with a troublesome client gets to you. But as a professional, you’ll have no choice but to keep going. If you have a plan of action ready for such situations, you’ll be able to handle them calmly and rationally when they arise.

An important thing to remember is that Web trends are always in flux. Stay up-to-date on them so that you can do what’s necessary to improve your business and keep it both fresh and in demand. Pick up new skills when you can, interact with your peers, promote your business Get It Right: 5 Creative Ways To Promote Your Home Business Online Get It Right: 5 Creative Ways To Promote Your Home Business Online Just because your business is not an Internet business doesn't mean you can ignore the Web. Here are some simple ways that anybody can utilize the Internet for some affordable business exposure. Read More , and stay open to new opportunities.

A Life Away From Work

Save articles that inspire you and read them when you’re feeling down, take frequent physical and mental breaks, pursue a hobby or two, practice meditation Meditation Made Easy: Tools & Resources To Aid Your Well-Being Meditation Made Easy: Tools & Resources To Aid Your Well-Being If you have come to the conclusion that meditation is a method to calm your mind and achieve well-being worth trying, then we can help you with resources and tools. Read More , spend time with friends and family. In short, have a well-rounded life away from work. It can go a long way in rejuvenating your self and your passion for your work.

relaxation

The Verdict

The income from an online business is not as steady as it is from a 9-to-5 job with a guaranteed paycheck at the end of every month. But the satisfaction you derive from working on the Web can be immense, which is a big reason to keep doing it. By having well-defined processes like the ones listed above, you can free up plenty of mental space to focus on your work. And that’s when the fun begins!

In your experience, what else is a must-have for every solopreneur? Add your thoughts in the comments.

Image Credits: Woman working in the kitchen by Victor1558 (Used under CC), Final image is a derivative of Untitled Image by Alexandra Mavroski (Used under CC)

  1. Emily Taylor
    May 5, 2016 at 4:03 am

    Thanks for sharing the tools.

    I've been using Invoiceable for my invoicing and suddenly they moved to a new service and made it compulsory for us to move for a higher price. They are so unprofessional and I don't recommend them to anyone.

    No response to my emails and how can you trust a business like that to deal with your financial data? I am currently evaluating Freshbooks for invoicing.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 12, 2016 at 1:44 pm

      You're welcome, Emily :) And that is a shame about Invoiceable. It has been such a perfect tool so far.

  2. Mark Goodwine
    February 9, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Hi Akshata!
    Thank you for this interesting list. Personally, I use Nutcache to manage my day-to-day finance. Nutcache is packed with all the functionality I need to run my graphic designer business. But what is really appealing for me as a self employed is that Nutcache is totally free! You should take it for a spin!

    Mark

    • Akshata
      February 17, 2014 at 4:10 am

      Hi Mark,
      I'll check out Nutcache. It sounds useful. Thanks for the tip!

  3. David A
    January 22, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Akshata- you forgot #6: surround yourself with blank sticky notes, especially on your CRT!? monitor... :)

    • Akshata
      January 23, 2014 at 2:28 am

      Haha yeah, David. I have a 16-year-old printer lying around at home, might even work, so I won't be surprised if someone does have a CRT monitor even now. The blank sticky notes go well with the CRT, don't you think :)

  4. Jon G
    January 13, 2014 at 10:16 pm

    One small plea, from someone who's started and/or run several small companies: please, *please* don't rely on a spreadsheet for your accounting. Your accountant will hate you for it, because they've got to turn it into something they can actually make into formal accounts, and their additional labour in doing so will cost you far more than a proper accounting package. Worse, home-grown spreadsheet formulas often contain errors, not least because they haven't been designed by accountants. And spreadsheet formulae don't track changes in company or employment taxation or legislation. (Or you think they do, but there's always one or two that you miss. Which means your accountant has to start over again...again.)

    A proper accounting package is the "Reliable Tool" for this job, and it's not optional - unless you never expect to move beyond a small part-time business. Let's be professional about this, people. If you don't want to do your own monthly accounts, hire a book-keeper - but make sure you do it properly one way or the other, because it'll bite you, and cost you more, if you don't.

    But if you're based in the US or Canada, really want to run things on a shoestring, but get it right at the same time, you might want to check out Wave Accounts. (https://www.waveapps.com/) It's a mostly-free, cloud-based accounts system. In the UK, take a look at http://www.thepayrollsite.co.uk for payroll. Not free, but cheap, effective and does Real Time Submission. There's a burgeoning market in similar low-cost but professional tools that are undermining the traditional hegemonies of Sage, Intuit and the like.

    [Declaration of interests: none. I've looked at Wave, and been quite impressed. I use ThePayrollSite for my consultancy. I get no benefit from mentioning either.]

    • Akshata
      January 14, 2014 at 4:57 am

      Thanks for these tips, Jon. I agree that spreadsheets are a very basic solution to keep track of any business, which no doubt has several aspects to it and requires much more sturdier setup like Wave to handle finances.

      But, I do think that many freelancers without a registered business, or with a part-time one, don't have even that basic system in place. In such a case, starting to record transactions properly, if only on a spreadsheet, can give them the start they need to get things in order.

  5. Ken. E
    January 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    Streamlining my workflow helped simplify my processes last year. We get so caught up in getting the work done, that we forget how we got to the finished work (and clients who care will ask). The best investment that I made in 2013.

    • Akshata
      January 14, 2014 at 4:46 am

      Hi Ken,

      I also have been focusing on doing more of that. Good to know it worked out well for you.

  6. likefunbutnot
    January 13, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Social media only matters if your target audience expects you to USE social media. I know this might come as a shock, but that's something that not every business does or needs to do. My own customers are far more interested in my ability to respond to e-mails and phone calls in a timely fashion.

    Social media is a fad. It's going to die or fade into the background, just like any number of other half-assed communication tools.

    • Akshata
      January 13, 2014 at 3:51 pm

      When I speak of networking, I'm not referring to social media. I'm talking of exactly the kind of interaction you're doing with clients. Keeping in touch with people through emails, telephone, and in person is also networking. Just because we overuse the term networking in the age of social media, we have come to associate the it only with social media websites.

    • Akshata
      January 13, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      I mean I'm not referring only to social media.

    • likefunbutnot
      January 13, 2014 at 5:30 pm

      @Akshata,

      Your post singles out social media as a communication tool, then uses Social Media services as examples. Perhaps you should edit your article to be more clear?

      One of the worst aspects of social networking tools is that there are so damned MANY of them where someone might expect you to have a presence. If you're trying to be attentive to your customers through them, you'll wind up with a huge time sink from just trying to keep up with the daily activity of X different weirdo sites, in addition to monitoring traditional communication tools. I suspect that it simply isn't a productive use of time, especially for freelancers.

    • Akshata
      January 14, 2014 at 4:44 am

      You're right about social media taking too much time to be productive, but there are many freelancers who would prefer it as a communication tool because they're comfortable with it.

      I do think that in these times, social media can function as a central communication tool, if you use it mindfully i.e. you can choose to skip the daily monitoring of unnecessary websites and focus on what's important to your business.

      A good thing to do would be to focus on just one social network that you like (of course, this is not a rule) and use email/phone/face-to-face meetings for clients who prefer those.

      I have recently started using App.net, and keep the rest of my communication through email/IRC. Communication is the priority here, the medium is secondary.

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