It’s no secret that operating a small business has its challenges. One of them is selecting the proper office tools to do the job without overspending on unnecessary items. The items in this list are ones I have found to provide the greatest value and flexibility.
While I’ve never been one to advocate going overboard with doodads to get the job done, I do consider binder clips to be one of the more flexible and affordable office tools available. They can handle large stacks of paper more efficiently than paper clips by far, and can even attach items to a narrow shelf when whiteboard space is running low. Bonus? You can even use them in the kitchen in place of those expensive chip clips. (See also: Budget Business Strategies for Entrepreneurs)
One of the most powerful ways you can reduce overhead costs when starting a small business is to avoid overspending on expensive office furniture. Enter, metro shelving. It always makes my list of favored affordable office tools because it does indeed function more like a tool than furniture. Easily rolled out of the way for project needs, it’s also affordably customized with extra drawers, shelves and even racks for barware if that’s the biz direction you’re going towards. It comes in a flat box from hardware chains like Lowes, and can be assembled with a rubber mallet and two hands, although four hands is preferable. It can also be used to make a healthy and affordable standing desk, as I covered in a previous Wise Bread article.
The last thing you want to do is negate the cost saving opportunities of working from home by exceeding your budget when it comes to software. Sure, there will be certain programs you’ll need to purchase, but going for broke isn’t necessary when so many freebies are out there for startups to use to their advantage. Irfanview for example, provides me with a free tool for manipulating digital imagery while XS Invoicing allows me to bill clients without buying an expensive accounting program. Both are designed to meet a variety of small business needs. (See also: Helpful Free Software Programs for Small Business Owners)
My husband and I actually have a handful of headsets kicking around our home office, in large part because we have a fairly large two-story home and a blended work and family lifestyle that requires us to take a call or tune into an online event from various places in the house. Headsets make our list of fave flexible office tools due to their affordability and low-maintenance space needs when it comes to storage. For those who are balancing work-at-home jobs with the launch of a small biz, headsets are of particular value. Many at-home contracts revolve around taking support calls or tutoring English online among other things. Headsets are a huge part of that equation.
One of the most helpful office tools on the market today for those managing a mobile office is a tablet device. A number of essential tasks can be coordinated from these devices, including document review, email checking, social media promotion and more. They are also helpful when you need to use time productively before a flight, but don’t have enough time to fire up a laptop.
Granted, tablets aren’t necessarily available at the bargain basement prices you’re able to score for things like sticky notes and staplers, but compared to even one month of office rental costs or a fancy desk I’d argue they provide a great deal of bang for the small business buck. Additionally, some tablets are a greater value than others depending on how you personally will use them. I detailed the reasons I purchased a Kindle Fire over an iPad as my tablet of choice in a previous article. It looks like Windows may be on the verge of offering a solution more suited to content developers, but at this time their latest offering falls short on battery power and the ability to run as many programs at once as I typically need to. Their pricing is also way over the top in my opinion.
Again, we’re not talking a $25 dollar office tool option here. However, compared to the cost of monthly office space or a delivery van, how expensive are they really? Decent models can be purchased for between $600 and $800 that meet the needs of many small business owners, and they provide you with a piece of equipment you can use on the road as well as at home. Freelance writing, tutoring and affiliate marketing are all cheap business ideas you can earn a living from on a mid-priced machine.
More on Kids & Money
Whether you’re trying your hand at travel photography as a way to build passive income, or simply need to take images to spice up your food blog, a decent DSLR will serve you well. There’s no need to dish the same amount of money you’d pay for a high-end Vespa by any means. The mid-priced model that sank me between $700 and $800 several years ago now lists for a little more than $400. All you need is something that gives you a high enough resolution to work for basic publications and stock agencies. That being said, if you find you’re making a decent living with imagery, upgrading to something with even higher resolution will allow you to sell certain images for more money depending on your niche and clientele.
Bottom line? Certain office tools are worth dishing out the dough for from the beginning. Others, not so much. Knowing which ones will take a strong knowledge of your business needs and personal work style. The suggestions for office tools made in this article were chosen because they meet a wide range of business types and needs. Do you have a favored piece of equipment you use to do your work effectively? What items could you not live without?