Are you starting a small business on your Mac? Here are 10 steps on using your Mac for your small business startup.
The first 5 steps are not Mac-specific; they outline the tech you’ll want to set up for your business.
Yes, you’ll need internet. Get FiOS if you can (it’s super fast); if not, go for cable. DSL is the slowest of the three. If you want to make your internet wireless, don’t get the wireless modem from your internet provider; instead buy a brand-name wireless router. If you have a large space to cover, we like the AirPort Extreme.
Get an all-in-one printer so that you don’t have to run to Fedex every time you need to copy or fax something. We recommend a black & white laser printer all-in-one that can do printing, scanning, copying, and faxing–unless you’re working in a visual field (and then you’ll probably need a color printer). These days you can get a decent laser all-in-one for under $300. Go on Amazon and read the reviews to help you choose which to buy. All name-brand printers are Mac-compatible although you may need to download a Mac printer driver from the company’s website.
3. Custom domain
In order to look professional, you need to buy your own domain name for your business. While their ads are quite offensive, GoDaddy is a great deal for purchasing a domain. Most domain hosts are around $12 per year. Don’t let them suck you into buying any additional services you don’t need.
You need to have a website to be professional. It doesn’t have to be extensive but at minimum should have info about the company, info about you, and contact info. Your website will need to be hosted at a web host; that might be the same company doing your domain hosting. Usually there’s a small monthly fee. An inexpensive way to create your own website is to use WordPress.org, hosted at your web host; you’ll need to hire an expert to set it up for you at your webhost, but you can update the content yourself. The great news is that WordPress is free, and there are thousands of free design templates and plugins to increase functionality.
Don’t have an email address that’s [email protected] or [email protected]. Have a real professional address, that’s [email protected]. Your domain host may offer email hosting for a fee, or you can set up Google Apps to host your email using your custom domain name, which is free (although you may need to get an expert to set it up for you).
The next 5 steps are specifically for Mac users running a small business.
You must absolutely set up a backup system for your Mac ASAP. Hard drives fail all the time. Thefts and fires happen too. We recommend 2 backups for your Mac–one onsite (located next to your computer) and one offsite (to a server in the cloud, somewhere else). For onsite backup we recommend Time Machine software which comes free with every Mac. You will need to purchase an external hard drive (at least 500GB in size, can be a pocket size or larger one). It backs up once an hour. For offsite backup we recommend CrashPlan or Mozy; for a small monthly fee they’ll back up your files continuously.
7. FInancial software
Don’t use Excel to keep track of the business finances–use financial software for that purpose. The best known for Mac are QuickBooks for Mac and MYOB, and they can both invoice customers, track expenses, and create various reports. The benefit of financial software is that you can run detailed reports to analyze your gross receipts and your expenses, so it’s easy to see your cash flow situation and your business health at a moment’s notice. You can also see who owes you money.
8. Customer management
You need to put a system in place for keeping track of client information–phone numbers, emails, project developments, business leads, last contact with a client. There are a few systems available:
- Address Book can be used for basics but it can’t do sophisticated customer management.
- Capsule, BatchBlue, and Sales Force are all online CRM systems, which means you can use them from any computer–and multiple people can easily use it. There’s a monthly fee.
- Daylite is the most sophisticated of the CRM options (and costs the most as well). It can also be used by multiple people at your company.
So you can work anywhere, you should set up your email, contacts, calendar, and files to sync between your Macs (if you have multiples) and your iPhone (which of course you have, right?).
- For email, the way to set up sync is by having your mail set up as IMAP. That means all your folders and mail messages are the same on every device.
- For contacts and calendar, you can either use MobileMe or Google Apps to set up sync.
- To set up your files to sync between your home computer and your work computer, for example, DropBox and SugarSync are the best options. When you edit a Word document on one computer, it shows up as edited on the other one, and vice versa. No need to think about where you last made changes to a file.
10. Password storage
Don’t use the same password for every website. Instead, use 1Password to keep track of all your passwords. You need to remember the 1 master password, but that’s it–it does the rest, including putting a button in your Safari or Firefox web browser so that with one click you can log in to all your websites. 1Password can also create safe passwords for you.