Online Opportunities for Small Firms

Despite the recession small start-up firms have been popping up all over the place in recent years. In fact, during recessions the unexpectedly unemployed often find that the only way back into employment is to create a job for themselves. It’s a common feature of recessions and some big household names have started in this way. Technology also seems to be driving the growth in self-employment, with a host of online tools to aid the entrepreneurs of the Great 21st Century Depression. There are so many tools, in fact, that it can be hard to know where to start in choosing the most useful. Here are a few suggestions to get you on the road to business world domination.

You Can Get the Staff

Finding the right staff has never been easy; however, for a small start up firm it’s now remarkably easy to outsource a range of tasks. Online freelance sites including People Per Hour and Elance offer access to workers around the world. Taking on freelance workers in this way has some obvious advantages; there’s no need to create a long term contract and you can find workers as and when you need them. Additionally, if you do need a longer term relationship this is usually possible. From accountants to admin assistants or designers, business writers and translators, just about every service can be sourced online. This type of working also increases access to services that would previously have been out of reach of the smallest of firms, which makes competing on a more level playing field more possible. You can employ these services on an ad-hoc basis or on a more long term arrangement if necessary.

Office Space – or The Garden Shed?

When it comes to sharing documents and working collaboratively with your global team there’s no need to have them around to your head office/back bedroom/garden shed. Cloud computing and document sharing options are available that make collaborative working with employees in any location (well, more or less) simple. Dropbox and Google Documents are popular options. Using cloud based document storage and tools you can effectively create a virtual office and continue to save rent on office space. The advantages, in terms of overheads, are clear and unlike bigger firms, with large overheads, small firms can be adaptable during recessions.

Corporate Conferencing – From Home

Web conferencing tools are a great money saver, whatever size of business you run. They have some very specific advantages to the smallest of firms, in particular. The obvious advantage of web or video conferencing is the saving it offers on travel. Communicating with your team of professionals or freelancers in geographically diverse locations is a significant advantage with this kind of tool; it makes working with remote employees far easier. For team work it also has obvious benefits, allowing you to hold meetings without the need to physically get people together. In terms of communicating with clients, again, by cutting the need for longer journeys you’ll save money. Time saving is absolutely essential for small business owners and self-employed individuals. You’ll need to be involved with most aspects of running or managing your business and the time cut on travel is valuable. Some meetings, to build new relationships should still be considered, but in most cases web conferencing is ideal.

On The Go Accounting

Cloud accounting is becoming increasingly common. In the past accounting software was either expensive or required at least some accounting knowledge. FreshbooksQuickbooks and even good old Paypal offer a range of simple accounting solutions for small firms. Increasingly, these services include options for taking payments from clients on the go, with easy to use apps to compliment their web-based versions. Small business owners in the past found that accounting tasks and invoicing could take up significant parts of the day, usually when employed friends and relatives were finished for the day! Online accounting, invoicing and payment systems allow these tasks to be completed on the go, leaving you at least the chance of carving some down-time out of the week.

Free Calls to Cut Costs

When it comes to office bills, one of the more unavoidable is often the phone bill. However, voice-over-internet (VOIP) technology can cut this significantly. SKPYE is one well known option and there are increasingly more every year. Cutting your calls to clients and colleagues, using these tools, is a great way to keep costs down and still stay in touch. While email and social media are great tools for interacting with clients, a call can sometimes add that personal touch.

Freelance writer and (very) small businessman Jeremy S looks at how technology can help small firms compete on equal terms.