6 Must Have Apps and Bookmark-Worthy Sites For Home Business Owners

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It’s a tough economy. Lay-offs, plant closings, higher taxes, higher costs for everything from food to fuel, and in most homes, two incomes are the norm. In fact, two incomes is almost a requirement these days.

However, not all couples have the time to work full-time jobs. Let’s face it, a lot of us want to stay home and raise our kids. NP. There’s plenty of web-based work if you’re willing to hustle for it and you’ve got some skills.

Typing, data entry, simple bookkeeping, concierge services, proof-reading – these are the kinds of things home-based business owners do in this outsourced world – and they can do it from anywhere for any company. And still keep an eye on the kids.

Here are some “must haves” for the budding, home-based business owner. Work at home, earn some cash and raise a family. In the age of outsourcing, you can build a profitable business in a matter of weeks without shelling out a lot for tools, or even job leads.

1. Skype


Skype is a popular VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) tool that hooks you up to anyone, anywhere via computer.

Calling another Skype user is free, and dialing a phone, even half-way around the world, is just pennies a minute. You can talk to your clients on the other side of the planet for 20 minutes. Total cost using Skype or some other VoIP system? A couple of bucks. Really.

Skype also has a messaging service, serves as an e-mail client and you can even hook up a video cam to show off the professional you. Today, your clients for outsourced virtual services can be anywhere. And staying in touch is part of your work-from-home job. And while there are other VoIP plans you can purchase through your cell phone provider or Skype owns the on-line VoIP market.

Cost: $5.00 to open an account.

That buys you $5.00 of Skype time so the service is a give-away. You can also set Skype on auto-pilot by giving your credit card number. Then, whenever you run short of Skype time, your card is charged automatically so you never get cut off mid-sentence.

This is a must-have app for the work-from-home start-up that doesn’t want to see profits gobbled up by phone charges. VoIP cuts costs down to nothing, or at least keeps communication expenses under control.

2. Zoho


Zoho delivers a strong menu of virtual office applications because, as a virtual business owner, you need a virtual office for everything from conferencing to customer support.

And while Zoho won’t handle every task smoothly, it’ll simplify the home-based business task list with everything from virtual web conferencing (very cool, very simple, very essential) to on-line collaborations with clients in some distant corner of the world.

I also like Zoho because it provides the tools that enable the start-up, work-at-home business owner to expand his/her list of service offerings from day one. Not a total fix, Zoho solves daily problems and cuts workload down to manageable levels. It also equips you to do more for your clients – and that’s how you build an ever-expanding client base. Deliver more services faster and more reliably and they’ll be knocking on you virtual door looking to sign on for your service offerings.

Cost: $0

3. Basecamp


Basecamp isn’t free but the basic package, which is all you need, won’t be a budget buster, and you can chalk it up to the cost of doing business.

Basecamp is an on-line, virtual office and project management suite that delivers the flexibility your clients expect.

Using Basecamp, you set up work rooms for each client. Examine your work postings for the day from clients, mark projects complete on delivery, upload super-sized files in any format, track project progress at a glance and control your business from an adaptive, intuitive graphical user interface, also called a GUI.

And because each client around the globe has his or her own “virtual” space to share with you, that client feels special, and that’s what keeps clients coming back with that next assignment.

Cost: $24 a month for the basic membership; handles up to 15 accounts simultaneously.

4. Meebo


Meebo is an instant messaging service that links into all of the most common web portals – at least the ones used by the biggest percentage of your client base.

With this one app, you can send and receive instant messages over AOL, Yahoo, My Space, MSN, Jabber, Facebook and other IM services – all from a single launch pad.

Meebo runs in the background, unobtrusively, and keeps you in touch with clients quickly and simply and, today, that’s what your clients want. Fast communications simplified.

Regardless of what IM service your new client uses, you always get the message with Meebo, all on a single page GUI that also serves as CRM – customer relations management – software, keeping a complete record of all communications with clients. This tool is designed to prevent misunderstandings.

Cost: $0

5. Kappix DRoster

kappix droster

Kappix DRoster is a robust scheduling tool that you use to schedule the activities of your clients. No matter what type of work you do from home – from virtual assistant to web designer – you can absolutely be certain that one client will screw up YOUR work schedule by failing to submit docs or other information required to get the job done quickly.

Kappix DRoster replaces a manual client scheduler, like MS Outlook, automating messaging and scheduling of client-side deliveries, approvals and other work-related activities. You control the actions of the clients with this app, not the other way around.

Working from home means organizing the activities of your clients, and this scheduling tool let’s clients know what THEY have to do (and when) to keep the work flow smooth and your work-at-home business sailing along.

One disorganized client can shred your whole schedule in seconds, but with this app, YOU notify each client of what’s due and when. Sure, you’re the service provider but if your clients don’t cooperate, your business suffers. It’s as simple as that. Kappix DRoster keeps clients up to date on what’s expected of them. tTat collaboration and pro-active approach to client scheduling is critical to work-at-home success.

Cost: $0

6. Elance


Elance is, perhaps, the best known site for finding work in a range of categories. Are you a work-at-home programmer? Sign up with Elance. Administrative Assistant? There are 323 jobs listed under this category today – from data entry gigs to concierge buying requests.

Copy writer, lawyer, architectural services – regardless of what services you offer from home, Elance has job listings.

This service will cost you, however. Elance does have an entry-level, FREE plan but it’s really limited. You can’t connect your Elance profile and you’re limited on the number of jobs you can bid. (Yes, you bid on jobs on Elance and each bid costs 50 cents.)

Also, Elance takes an 8.75% chunk of the cost of any gig you get. That percentage goes down as you earn Elance more cash, but they will get their money from you, that’s a fact.

Tiered packages are also available for a monthly fee. The basic membership will set you back $9.95 monthly and the professional-tier goes for $19.95 a month.

However, you’ll make that back on the first job you land through Elance. Keep your bids low (give it away) until you get feedback from happy clients. Then gradually, raise your bids and earn more. The competition is fierce on Elance, but some of the jobs pay well by web standards and it’s a great way to network your way to home-based business success.

Instead of sitting around watching soap operas, or playing solitaire on that shiny new computer you just bought, earn some money working in your slippers, keep an eye on the kids and be your own boss. Millions of people are earning money from home.

Are you the next one to join their ranks?

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