Business Software Starter Pack Checklist
Jacques du Rand 2022-05-15
Somewhere along everyone's career they've dreamt about owning and running their own business.
A number of people were forced to look at income generating alternatives when the pandemic was at its peak. Many of these turned to starting a business venture of their own, or are considering doing so as a way to be more financially secure.
"You need money to make money", is quite a popular misconception.
Those that venture down the path of starting a business might stumble on one of the first entrepreneurial hurdles thinking that it takes quite a bit of money to get things started. However you don't need much to get the basics up and running so you can start earning.
For anyone that has the courage to venture down the road of business ownership we've compiled a Business Software Starter Pack checklist to help you get started for little-to-no initial investment.
The Software Tools You Need When Starting A Business
Depending on the kind of business you're creating you might want to start out with just having the basics and then growing into the nice-to-haves once your business or idea gets off the ground, or you might want to go full-on and get it all done from the get-go. The latter will require a bit more investment initially, so we've broken those steps down into Stage 2.
Stage 1: Starting out
Most of us already have a bank account so there is no reason to create a new account and pay more fees if you have a perfectly fine working one. You can put any name on the invoice you send the client as the bank does not authenticate against the name for transactions, only the account number.
If you really want to separate your personal banking from your business, most banks allow you to create a separate savings account linked to your primary account. Else Capitec still has the lowest bank fees if you prefer to run things completely separately from the start.
Google Workspaces - Basic Gmail Account
Laptop software can get quite expensive, especially if you're using a Microsoft environment as one example and still have to buy and pay for a Microsoft Office Suite of products. Google offers an alternative for free and has made this really, really easy for anyone to use and set-up. (Also see their Chromebook range of laptops if you're needing to also acquire a laptop too.) Although they offer a Business Suite for a nominal cost, you can stay on the free tier to start, if you so wished.
Emails - You can create any email address for free using an "@gmail" extension. The moment you want your business name as an email extension is when you'll move to the Stage 2 tier.
Documents, Access, Sharing, Storage & Meetings - The same Gmail account you create will also give you access to your own Documents section, called Workspace. This is the free Google alternative for Microsoft Office suite of products. Here you can create documents and spreadsheets and download them in any format (even a Word document).
You can share these documents with other people for collaboration.
You can also store items like photos, videos (or documents) in your free 15GB, and upgrade for a nominal amount should you require more space.
You receive a digital Calendar to schedule meetings, events or reminders, and you can host video calls through the Meet facility (their Zoom equivalent) for free.
Every business requires some way of speaking to their intended audience. A website is a great way of getting the word out for your business, product or service.
If you're testing the waters you might opt not to build a website initially and only use Social Media sites, such as Facebook, Instagram or even TikTok to help your business grow. This might not make sense for all business types though, so it depends on your business activity.
If you prefer having some kind of website presence initially, there are cheap website builder options to consider, which we'll cover in Stage 2 below.
Social Media Presence
- Facebook - Creating a Facebook Page is free and you can immediately claim your business name (after 10 Likes) without having any Company documentation. This will also help with your brand recognition and brand building. You can of course advertise your Page by boosting content or creating adverts for a nominal fee.
- Instagram, TikTok, Twitter - All channels allow you to create a free profile. Finding the channel that is right for your business is however the trick.
Insurance - Laptop or Tech item insurance
Initially your business will, for all intents and purposes, be your laptop. Although a grudge purchase, insurance is the one thing we would recommend you do spend money on from an early stage. There are new services available such as what is offered by the new insurance provider, Naked Insurance, which allows you to access insurance on a per item basis at an affordable rate too.
Stage 2: Nice to haves that could come later as you grow
Register Business Name & Entity with CIPC
To fully register your business you need to register the name on the CIPC (Companies and Intellectual Property Commission). You will receive a registration number to confirm your Company. The process can be a little bit tricky and clunky, as is dealing with most governmental departments. There are services that will help you get this set-up for a fee of course. They will help you with understanding the rainforest worth of legal documentation (that you can do online these days) and jargon and help you get set-up for VAT if that is what you choose to do. We say choose, as, if you're going to fly under R3 million turn-over for the near future, you probably don't need this, but being VAT registered does help you claim stuff back come tax season. Some of these companies cost upwards of R2,000 to assist with this service.
A more convenient option is that FNB has now started offering various business solutions, including CIPC registration. If you're an FNB customer, save yourself some headaches and opt to go this route. This is currently the cheapest and fastest way to register your business with the least amount of headaches.
Fee: R125 CIPC Registration + R50 Company Name Reservation
Business Bank Account
If you're an existing FNB client, this is definitely the simplest route to follow as you can access your entire portfolio from one login. If you've opted to use the FNB CIPC services this step will be part of that process too.
If you're not part of the FNB ecosystem, most other banks offer this service too. We're just a little biassed as we find FNB's interface incredibly easy to use and it also integrates with other payment facilities such as payPal which is not easy to set-up with other providers, amongst other benefits.
Google Business Suite
now called Workspaces
Google Workspaces is the evolved version of the Gmail Workspace which we discussed in Stage 1.
Workspaces is available to those that want to run their business through Google using its easy to use infrastructure. The system is not that different to what you were used to in Gmail, however the main difference is that here you can choose your own domain extension for your email and your documents, storage and sharing will all belong to this business entity.
Storage space: 30GB per user included. This can be upgraded if need be.
Fee: R100 per user per month
Additional Storage options - Dropbox still offers great options for pure storage solutions should you wish to have an additional storage facility (starting from R170 per user per month for 5,000 GB), or if you opt to use Microsoft 365 platform (which now also starts at R100 per user per month) the offering is similar to Google Workspaces, however it is quite cumbersome to use - and not as user friendly as Google's offering.
Once your business starts to grow you may wish to invest more money into your marketing presence to attract more interest and leads.
Website - There are some great platforms available that
make creating a website very easy for any technical level. You can build
your own website and not need to find a developer or designer to do the
work for you.
Platforms we like include:
- Wix.com - the option for service related or basic brand websites. Prices start from R250 per month.
- Shopify.com - the option if you are going to sell products. Prices start from R450 per month.
WebFlow - the option if
you want a little more control, but don't want to be concerned with
hosting. Prices start from R185 per month.
What is quite nice with the hosted platforms above is that it is an all-in-one solution, including your website hosting. You do not need to pay more for web-hosting.
When you want to grow a little more and have more control of your website structure, you could move to a platform such as WordPress where having more technical and graphic design knowledge is recommended. WordPress does offer managed hosting versions also (starting from R340 per month) or you can opt to host your own website too for full control over every aspect.
Website hosting is still one of those services that can get a really bad reputation. The reason for that is that there are some small companies out there that charge quite a bit for reselling another companies services, or worse, put you on a web server with hundreds of other websites and then charge a low fee for your website hosting - but in the meantime you're going to get penalised by Google for potentially sharing space with not great neighbours (websites that potentially follow bad practices or offer gambling or porn even), and you might find that your website performance lacks because all the other sites are dragging the server performance down. How to get around this? Work with a well known hosting provider such as Afrihost, WebAfrica or Xneelo. And one day when you're big you can use Google Hosting (Compute Engine) or Amazon Web Services.
Fee: Basic website hosting should start from around R99 per month.
When you start wanting to spend more money and have more control over your advertising on Facebook and Instagram, opting to sign-up for a Facebook Business profile will make things a lot easier. You can assign a specific business banking profile to your Advertising account, you can also assign various people to work under one umbrella as opposed to making mistakes by posting on their own wall, or yours as their personal profile! Facebook Business is free to use, but requires a little patience to set-up and navigate through all the various windows.
- Website - There are some great platforms available that make creating a website very easy for any technical level. You can build your own website and not need to find a developer or designer to do the work for you.
At this stage you might want to invest in more laptops if you've acquired more employees, or upgrade your existing technical infrastructure. You may wish to acquire additional insurance for items, or renew item value.
If you're planning to expand to an office environment, or even having employees work from your home office, getting additional insurance coverage for the premises (household/business or liability) may be beneficial.
The online provider, Naked Insurance, which allows you to access insurance on a per item basis also provide home contents and business insurance.
If you're considering upgrading your spreadsheet based invoices to something that is able to capture things more automatically, and perhaps even send invoices automatically, periodically, you may wish to look at an online invoicing system. This is a great option while you're still small enough and growing, and not needing to invest in the service of a half- or full-time accountant or bookkeeper.
Most of the platforms include a free tier, but usually have their brand stamp on the invoice. If you want to have an invoice without a brand stamp, you usually have to pay a small fee.
Platforms we like include:
Invoicely - Invoicely is a
powerful, easy to use online invoice generating tool. It also allows
you to track time (if you wanted) and accept payments from credit
cards working with providers like PayPal and Stripe.
Fee: There is a free tier, but the basic tier starts at R155 per month.
Zoho - Which is a
great option if you're planning to branch out to subscription
billing, inventory management and payroll.
Fee: Free. The add on services is where you'll start paying for integrations.
- Has been a much loved programme by many small businesses.
Its the full accounting system you might want to start off
with. It includes invoicing and payment solutions (credit
card payments as well), time tracking and additional
offerings like proposals and accounting systems all in one.
Fee: The pricing is based on billable clients, starting at 5 for R85 per month (usual price R200) and the next tier up is up to 50 clients for R150 per month (usual price R370). These are special rates they offer throughout the year.
- Invoicely - Invoicely is a powerful, easy to use online invoice generating tool. It also allows you to track time (if you wanted) and accept payments from credit cards working with providers like PayPal and Stripe.
Phone - VoIP
If your business needs to regularly call clients or you want to offer a helpline for clients to call, you might not want to invest in a Telkom line. Using Telkom can get pretty expensive especially if you're making many calls per day.
Using a VoIP solution might be the most affordable way in which to offer this service as it relies on a good internet connection.
Sometimes all you need to see if an idea is viable is Stage 1. You'll quickly see if it is viable and then can opt to spend more money on building out all your tools and resources properly.
Whether you're in Stage 1 or Stage 2 of your business venture, you'll certainly require a good and reliable ISP to conduct your business. Use Fibre Tiger to compare service offerings and prices quickly and effortlessly. Sign-up or switch to a new internet provider seamlessly.