7 Tools You Need to Run Your Home Business In 2016

Tools to help you focus, organize, coordinate and more for Home Business Success

Online Tools
Online tools to build your home business. Credit: Arda Guldogan | Getty Images

It’s quite likely that, unless you’re working in an extremely niche market, your business faces some pretty tough competition on a daily basis. Especially if you’re in growth mode and constantly looking for places to drive down costs and expand margins, you probably feel a lot of pressure to make sure every aspect of your business is functioning as efficiently as possible.

Many businesses in the current climate choose to lower major costs by scaling back their offices, and in today’s world of connectivity, many entrepreneurs even start their businesses without ever stepping foot in an office to begin with.

Operational costs such as rent, computers, printers, telephones, and other office supplies can take up a pretty big chunk of the budget every month, and studies have shown that letting employees work from home can boost productivity, which can be extremely beneficial for the bottom line.

Of course, this setup is not without its obstacles. Whether it’s distracting home environments or difficulties with optimizing a distributed team, there are many challenges to running a home business. The key is to do everything in your power to conquer those challenges so that your home business runs just as efficiently as any traditional office-based company.

With that in mind, here are seven tools you need to run your home business in 2016:

1. Focus Booster

A personal productivity timer based on the classic Pomodoro technique, the web and desktop app Focus Booster helps you eliminate distractions and maximize productivity while you work from home.

It’s an unobtrusive app whose analytics dashboard offers a great breakdown of your working habits, so you can figure out how to maintain an optimum work schedule. The app also shows both productive and idle time, so you can learn to strike a good balance between work life and personal life, a task that can be a bit tricky when working from home.

2. Slack

This communication platform is a must for distributed teams. Even the free version of Slack comes loaded with all sorts of functions to help maintain clear communication and boost productivity within a team. You can organize your various teams and subgroups into separate channels and use direct messaging to speak with individual team members. Slack also has a great archive feature that easily retrieves any old conversations or uploaded files, and it syncs with many other apps, allowing it to serve as the central communication hub for your business.

3. TopTracker

Designed and released for free by Toptal, a worldwide network of elite freelance programmers and designers, TopTracker is meant to be a task manager and work timer that goes completely unnoticed by its users. Its simple timekeeping function pairs nicely with the more advanced features, which include everything from timed screenshots to activity level tracking and detailed productivity reports. It even includes a centralized view of all your projects so you can easily keep track of other team members’ progress and productivity in addition to your own.

4. Hello Bonsai

One thing that distributed teams often struggle with is payment.

When you’re not in the same place, it’s not as simple as just dropping a paycheck in everyone’s mailbox at the end of the week. The process becomes even more complicated if you’re paying freelancers, who don’t necessarily operate on your same pay schedule and may not even be in the same country as you. Hello Bonsai solves all those problems for you. It can quickly generate solid freelancing contracts based on your project requirements and a series of vetted templates, and its platform allows you to keep track of invoices, payments, and the various methods of money transfer you use to keep your business running.

5. Asana

Founded by former Facebook executives Dustin Moskovitz and Justin Rosenstein, Asana is a team collaboration tool designed to make communication between team members simple and clutter free—that is, unlike email.

Asana has a whole host of top-notch investors, and for good reason: its checklist-style project manager and easy-to-use dashboard make it the simplest team collaboration platform currently on the market.

6. Wave

Payment alone can be tough when operating out of your home, so imagine how much of a headache running the rest of your finances can cause. For one thing, if you do have an accounting department, they’re probably not working in your home with you. Wave helps eliminate some of the difficulty that comes with that. Lauded by some reviewers as “the best free accounting software for small businesses,” Wave allows you to enter your business’s information and then automatically generates an accounting dashboard for you based on your company’s specific needs and financial activity. It can handle everything from budgeting to invoicing to payroll management, and it’s entirely cloud-based, so you can access it from anywhere.

7. Calendly

Scheduling can be hard for any business, but it can be especially difficult for a home business with a distributed team where people might be in completely different time zones with different working schedules. Calendly solves that issue by generating meeting times based on your availability. Calendly connects your Google calendars to its own site and blocks out the parts of your schedule where you have prior commitments, automatically generating meeting times during your free hours. You can then share the Calendly link with team members and clients, who can in turn schedule a 15, 30, or 60-minute meeting. Events are customizable based on your own personal work schedule, and the paid version includes a group scheduling function.