Physical Equipment/Supplies - Hardware: Skimp or Splurge?
For most, budgetary issues are a crucial part of establishing a WAHM career. Among the things to factor into your budget are the pieces of essential equipment that you need for your business/industry. Many of the items you'll find that you already have or have access to, such as a computer and an Internet Service Provider (ISP). Some things you might not have yet or if you already have them, might want to beef up for more memory, better security or larger space. Also, depending upon the nature of your business, you might have some equipment provided for you.
Let’s look at where you can start fresh, and where you can skimp a bit at first. I don’t recommend skimping for the long term; this is, after all, a business/your profession, so give it the same attention that you would give it (if not more) were you working for some corporate giant. But because it’s your time and your finances on the line, paring down a bit at first may be the most cost effective way for you as you figure out which programs, equipment and services are best for you and your line of work.
Computer: If you have a fairly new computer, and most of your work is not electronic, you probably don’t need a new one now. If you’re doing a lot of electronic work and need the memory and speed, or if your household only has one computer, you might want to purchase one that’s dedicated to your business. (Hint: It’s a business expense, and can be factored into your deductions at tax time.) This way there is no conflict among family members for computer time and it eliminates the chances of someone accidentally erasing that report that you just finished for your client. Suggestion: Don’t Skimp. But look for special sales/promotional offers. Do your research first before buying, so that you’re getting a “splurge” at a skimpy price. In some cases, you can also upgrade an older model by purchasing more memory so that you have the speed and ability to handle faster and multi-media programs.
Printer, Fax Machine, Copier and Scanner: Like with the computer, you need to consider whether you need a dedicated printer that is only for business, along with the capabilities you realistically need. As much as all-in-one or multifunction printers can take up less space, you may be sacrificing performance of one feature over the others. For example, copying may be so painfully slow, that you might as well go to a copy center. Research the various models carefully along with your greatest needs. Also consider how portable your WAHM career is. If there are times when you need to “take the office on the road,” you’ll want equipment that is more portable (such as a small printer or flatbed scanner). Suggestion: Don’t Skimp. But look for special sales/promotional offers. Do your research first before buying, so that you’re getting a “splurge” at a skimpy price.
Telephone /Cell Phone; Consider how much business calling you will be doing either from your landline or your cell phone. Do you need a phone with all of the bells and whistles? Chances are, probably not; you just need it to work. Here is an area where you can skimp a bit, but be sure to keep accurate records of which calls are business-related and which are not. If it gets to the point where business calls are eating into the household utility budget (or using up all of your minutes), you might want to consider a dedicated number for your business. Suggestion: Skimp. But be sure that you are getting the most for your money from your telephone service provider.
Office Furniture: Do you need to go out and completely furnish the spare room that you’ve turned into your office with new stuff? Absolutely not. A chair from here, a table from there, a lamp from somewhere else and you’re done. Make sure you have space for files, inventory and the other tools of your trade. If you need bookshelves or filing cabinets, check out Freecycle, Craigslist and eBay. And for those who don't care what the neighbors think, there are always people throwing out perfectly good items on trash day. Suggestion: Skimp
Office Supplies: From regular printer paper, ink, pens and other small office supplies, you can skimp. You can get them on sale at big box stores and in bulk. Just make sure that you have the space to store them when buying in bulk. Don’t forget to get a corporate or small business membership so that you can save even more on the items you use the most and to be able to take advantage of special deals for “preferred customers.” Suggestion: Skimp
Small Office Electronics: When it comes to connectivity, don’t skimp. You need your electronics to work and to work well. As always, do your research ahead of time to make sure that you are purchasing the type of equipment for your daily needs. Suggestion: Splurge
Business Checks, Deposit Slips, etc.: While your bank will issue standard business checks, you may be tempted to get really cute ones that match your logo or business identity. Don’t. You don’t need to—not at the beginning anyway. You will want an automatic stamp to cancel checks, and probably a register that creates automatic carbonless copies, but beyond that, don’t go overboard. Suggestion: Skimp
Business Cards, Stationary, Brochures and Other Marketing Materials: If you can afford to have these professionally printed, do so. It will give your WAHM business a professional edge and not scream “mommy playing at work.” It’s an unfortunate reality of being a WAHM. Despite the fact that WAHM numbers are increasing, the shift in thinking that WAHMs are legitimate business women hasn’t fully been embraced outside of the WAHM community. Give yourself the competitive edge by having your materials look as good as a “traditional” business. If you can’t afford a professional printer at first, consider bartering with another WAHM who does graphic design, so that your logos look stellar (unless you’ve got an eye for design yourself). If you do print them at home, make sure that you buy the best quality do-it-yourself papers and print on the best quality. You can also take advantage of companies such as VistaPrint and iPrint, which often have special deals and freebies. Suggestion: Splurge
Knowing when to skimp and when to splurge will also be helpful for keeping to your business budget and for calculating your business deductions at tax time. Always do your research so that you’re not only getting the best deals for your money, you’re getting the best equipment for your needs. Don't forget to keep a wish list for things that you want to upgrade later or as your WAHM career expands or evolves.