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Small Business Software Shopping Tips

Choosing the right small business software for your home-based
internet business can be a confusing undertaking to say the
least. It’s a good thing most women love to shop because
otherwise it could be really frustrating. The challenge in
choosing small business software is striking a balance between
what you have to have and what you can afford. There are many
small business software packages that have a number of features
included, even though you may not use all of them. Then, there
are some that are sold in individual modules where you buy only
what you need.

The first step in shopping for small business software is to
distinguish between what you need now, what you want, and what
you might need in the future. The second step is to define your
budget. Never start buying small business software until these
two steps are done. Otherwise, you are likely to buy some of
those things you want, rather than the things you definitely
need, and then you’ll end up with a busted budget and you won’t
have the small business software that is crucial to running your
business.

At a minimum, most businesses need a recordkeeping system, a word
processor and an email program. Other small business software
packages you may or may not need include spreadsheet programs,
database programs, web design and graphic design programs, time
management programs, and desktop publishing programs.

Some small business software packages, like Microsoft® Office
products for instance, have several basic programs that are most
commonly used by small businesses packaged in one small business
software package. Some of the basic recordkeeping or bookkeeping
packages also have several commonly used components included in a
low-priced package. If these small business software suites have
what you need, in addition to things you will need in the future,
sometimes it is most practical to purchase them rather than
buying individual small business software products that may be
more expensive.

Before you spend a dime on small business software, familiarize
yourself with the types of software that are available and their
features as well as their benefits. You may find that there are
software packages that can save you loads of time in operating
your home-based business even if you didn’t previously know what
they were or what they were capable of doing. Research is vital
when choosing small business software for your company.

Here is a quick overview of the very basic, commonly used small
business software:

Word Processors

Word processing capabilities are something that just about every
business needs from its small business software. Word processors
are primarily used for preparing written communication such as
letters and reports. Word processing software can also be used to
prepare information products and web copy for your internet based
business.

Most word processing programs have spelling and grammar checkers
which are important to ensuring that your communications are
grammatically correct. Some word processing programs don’t have
these features, so that is something to watch for when reviewing
small business software that will be used for preparing business
communications.

Email Programs

Many of the small business software packages that include email
programs. A basic email program is usually included with computer
operating systems. Some of the more advanced email packages
include time-saving organizational features that are great for
small businesses. For instance, some have contact organizers with
the capability of grouping your contacts so you can send email
messages to a particular group.

Some have built in SPAM filters that will send junk mail directly
to a junk mail folder, and some have features that automatically
organize your messages into folders for you. While a basic email
program may be sufficient, some of the more advanced email
programs can sure save a lot of time and aggravation.

Recordkeeping Programs

For most businesses, recordkeeping is accomplished through the
use of small business software programs designed for accounting
or bookkeeping, although recordkeeping can be accomplished using
database or spreadsheet programs. A comprehensive recordkeeping
package will have modules for tracking sales and expenses as well
as paying bills and managing accounts receivable.

If you have employees, you need payroll processing capabilities
and if you carry inventory, you need inventory control features.
Some bookkeeping programs integrate with reports from online
sources like eBay® or Elance®, so if you are working with such
marketplaces it may be wise to see what types of recordkeeping
programs are capable of uploading their reports. This capability
will save you lots of data input time.

There are many other types of small business software that you
may find useful. For instance, if you are going to be designing
your own websites, you will need an HTML editor and website
design software. The trick to getting the small business software
that you need is to determine exactly what you are going to do,
then evaluate small business software packages and explore the
numerous capabilities of each. Compare the features, benefits and
prices, and select the small business software that best meets
your needs within your budget.

Business Opportunities – 9 Things to Watch Out For

If you are considering striking out and starting a new business, you have probably been investigating what are known as “business opportunities”. A business opportunity is usually a complete package that contains a product or line of products, and a marketing strategy for selling that product.

Any business opportunity worth considering will either have a track record that you can investigate and evaluate, or it will have a clear statement of the plan, the potential, and the up-front costs. Before investing any time or money in a specific business opportunity there are some things you should consider. Here are some of the more important ones:

  • How long has the business opportunity been in business? – Before investing time and money in marketing a business opportunity it is important to determine how long that business opportunity has been operating. If it is a new concept that has not been proven in the marketplace, you have no assurance that it will even work.
  • Does the company have a fixed address and phone number? – This may seem obvious to you, but the fact is, thousands of “companies” operate with nothing more than a website and an email address. Many of them are here today and gone tomorrow. Make sure the business you intend to deal with has a fixed address, physical location, and established phone number.
  • Does the business opportunity have some successful members you can talk to? – Most business opportunities will show you “testimonials”, but these are often untrustworthy. They could even be completely fabricated. Ask the owner of the business opportunity for names of real people you can talk to. Call them on the telephone and ask them to share their experiences with the program. This will not only provide you with valuable first-hand information about the program, but it will give you a list of advisors who many be happy to help you along the way.
  • How much initial investment is required? – In many cases a proven business opportunity with a successful track record will involve some kind of initial investment. This could involve an initial amount of product inventory, a program subscription fee, or possibly a piece of equipment required to produce or finish the product. You should not assume that a business opportunity that is free to join is a better investment. Usually a free-to-join business opportunity will involve other costs such as marketing and advertising fees. Nobody gives away “opportunities” for free. What you have to determine is whether a specific business opportunity has a successful track record, is managed by honest people, and offers you a realistic chance of actually making some money. These are the things you must weigh against the entry costs.
  • What is the realistic income potential of the business? – Have a careful look at the numbers and projections provided by the business opportunity. Then talk with actual members who are using the program to determine if they have been able to turn those numbers into reality.
  • Are there extra fees such as yearly or monthly subscription fees, shipping costs, or minimum purchase requirements? – Make sure to get a detailed list of all the fees involved in operating the new business. These things may not seem significant now, but they can easily eat into your profits later.
  • Who controls the money? – When you generate sales for the business opportunity what assurance do you have that you will get your share of the profits? This is the primary reason not to deal with “fly by night” outfits that have no track record. Again, the best way to get an accurate reading on this is to talk with people already using the program.
  • Does the business opportunity supply marketing materials and person-to-person mentoring? – One of the most difficult parts of starting a new business is “learning the ropes”. It can be extremely helpful to have advisors who have first hand experience in making the program work. The same goes for marketing materials. You will have enough to do without having to create brochures, ads, and newsletters for your new business.
  • How much control of your new business will you have? – Be clear on who owns the business, and who controls the way it is developed and marketed. You may want to diversify your product offerings in order to avoid being at the mercy of “head office”. Remember that you are trying to create a business that has long term value. This will involve considerable investment of time and energy on your part. You don’t want your business to be completely dependent on the stability and integrity of a single supplier.

The ideal business opportunity is one that is offered by a stable company with a proven track record. The business opportunity should require low initial investment and have high profit potential both in the short term and in the long term. It should allow you to build a profitable business of your own that will be a source of income far into the future.

How to Rocket Yourself into Your Own Profitable Internet Business

So you’re ready to bring out the entrepreneur in you. Or you already are an established entrepreneur and would like to push the bar even higher. Whatever your situation is, this article will help you to start a profitable Internet business.

The first step is to decide on the commodity or service that you would like to trade in the Internet. If you are still not decided, here are some tips on how to choose:

Make a list of things that you’d like to do. Make each activity the heading of a clean sheet of paper.

On each activity sheet, list all types of business that can be related to such an activity. This is where you should be imaginative on new products that can be offered that is not yet in the market.

Encircle the businesses that can last even during crisis. Basic human needs such as food, shelter and clothing, for example, will have demand at any point in time, so these maybe businesses that will last. One of those encircled items maybe your business of choice.

Once you have a shortlist of businesses in mind, ask your self the following questions to narrow your choice further:

Will I enjoy doing this? Most successful businesses thrive because the owner is passionately dedicated to it. Thriving in a business requires endurance, especially during the start-up phase, so you must love what you’re doing in order to continue doing it for a long time.

Can I be an expert in this field? When you have a toothache, you don’t go to the Family doctor and expect to be relieved of it. You naturally go to the dentist, because he specializes in tooth care and repair. Your intended internet business will be preferred by consumers if you are specialized in the field that you intend to do business in.

Will this succeed in an internet-based set-up? Traditional business schools will teach you that the location of your business is a key factor to its success. The Internet is, as any address, a good location for your business. In fact, since 2001, internet-based transactions have been growing exponentially from 14% to 44% per year. This alone can inspire every businessman out there to carve his own niche in the world of e-commerce!

If, after careful consideration, you are still not decided on what product or service to sell, there are other options into establishing an Internet Business, described below:

Resell Products You Bought in Bulk. If you are at a loss for your own product, why not sell those of others that already established their name? Wholesalers often sell at a lower price for those buying in big volumes regularly. This mode of Internet business is ideal for products that have not reached rural areas due to limited distribution capabilities.

Internet Business with Direct Sales. There are companies who choose direct sales as a mode of distribution for their product, that is, they do not go through retail stores or don’t have their own retail chain. They partner with individuals or small companies to sell their products. The advantage of partnering with these Direct Sales companies is that they have established a structure for sales, marketing and after-sales support. All you have to do is apply those and you earn commission.

Affiliate Programs: This last type of Internet Business deals with marketing someone else’s products by being their affiliate. By taking on an affiliate program, you are paid based on the percentage of sales made through your referral.

By now, you would have picked one specific business among the four types above. Now it’s time to begin your e-venture.

Create a Business Plan. This step is important in the success of your Internet business. A well-written plan is specific narration of your business’ objective, strategies, financials and success measures. This will be the entrepreneur’s guide in breathing life to his Internet business. Also, he can use this document as he invites investors, business partners or suppliers. The plan can be further developed into the business proposal, which he will use to entice his buyers.

Carve out your E-Niche. The best way to take a place in the Internet is to have your own website. Before learning how to crate one, you need to understand the following terms:

Web Host – the company that provides the network of computers to stores the files of web sites.

Domain is a group of networked computers that share a common communications address. Examples would be .com, .org, .ws. In order to obtain a place in this network of computers (e.g. http://www.yourbusinessname.com), one must register with the company owning (or more aptly hosting) the network and pay the corresponding fee.

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. This is the standard way of specifying the location of one’s website. In the example, http://www.yourbusinessname.com, is the URL, and .com is the domain, where the URL is located.

Server – a computer hardware that that provides the file hosting services to other computers (like yours and mine) that access the websites it stores. Some web hosts can offer dedicated servers for websites, while other have multiple websites in a shared server. Depending on the reliability that your Internet Business requires and also the speed that your clients need in accessing and operating your website, you may choose between a dedicated and shared server. Consequently, prices for web hosting will vary.

Now that you understand those terms, you can think of a name for your Internet business in order to carve out your e-niche in the World Wide Web. Things to remember about naming your website:

It is best to purchase your own domain name instead of using a sub-domain for free. For example, a free name would be http://www.internetserviceprovider.com/yourbusinessname. A purchased domain name is http://www.yourbusinessname.com. To customers, having your own domain is more professional than being just a part of another business.

Pick a name that is easy to remember and immediately identifies your Internet business. If you are trading books over the Internet, for example, naming your website [http://www.bookstore.com] will ensure that all those looking for books will visit your website.

If your capital can afford it, buy all domain names that maybe closely related to your Internet business. By the above example, you may choose to buy also http://www.bookstore.us, http://www.book-store.com, etc. You may channel all those addresses into a single webpage (called domain forwarding), which ensures you have a monopoly of the trade.

Upon registration of your domain name, you will also sign-up with a Web hosting company. Make sure to research the best deals and offers of each company before signing up. Aside from file size (amount of data you can store in their server) and band width (speed of data transfer from your website to the users), ask about website designing, e-mail hosting, historical uptime (amount the server is up and running, you want this 100%), back-up schedule and 24/7 support. The last thing you want is for your business to suffer just because your clients cannot access your website whenever they need to.

Lastly, promote your Internet Business. The first step is to make sure that your website ends up in the top 10 listed sites of search engines like Yahoo, Google, etc, called Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As a beginner, you may opt to sign up with companies that do this professionally for a fee. However, you can also do it on your own by reading up on tips on how to do SEO.

Another way of promoting your Internet Business is to use your e-mail signature to inform your friends about your new website.
You can easily program your e-mail to have an auto signature to include your website name and a catchy phrase to lure your readers into clicking it.

You can also have an affiliate program. Above, this was discussed as another Internet Business in itself, but it can also be a means of promoting your website. Affiliate program means asking other people to promote your website through their website or e-mail programs. Sale made from referrals by your affiliate will be tracked and will be the basis of their payment, as a percentage of the sale. This is a very effective tool in getting wider coverage for your Internet Business.

With the Internet Business still rocketing, there are endless possibilities !