The early days of running a small business out of your home are simultaneously exhilarating and overwhelming. No matter how efficient or organized you are, there just aren't enough hours in the day for everything you need to do. Between drumming up new business, completing the projects you already have, sending out invoices, tracking receipts and a dozen other everyday tasks, a small business can consume every minute of your time. But you can automate your home business to eliminate much of that stress.
Automation can help eliminate time-consuming extra steps and simplify the day-to-day process of running your home-based business.
Here are some tips for implementing automation to find more time in your day and make your small business a success.
1. Use IFTTT to help with bookkeeping
One of the most important, yet tedious, parts of running a small business is tracking your business spending. Business expenditure can be a huge write-off on your taxes (and help lessen the blow from the self-employment tax).
The tough part is staying on top of it.
IFTTT (if this, then that) is a web-based service that helps automate your home business by letting your devices and programs “talk” to each other. For example, you can create an IFTTT rule to automatically add information from an email to a Google spreadsheet, so when your credit card sends you an e-receipt, it shows up on your expense report.
You can also use IFTTT to add new addresses to your contact list if you receive more than four emails from the same person, or to update your calendar. I use IFTTT to automatically add deadlines to my calendar to help me stay on top of things while juggling multiple projects.
Gone are the days of old-school timecards. With today’s smart locks, you can monitor workers’ time simply by them walking through the door. Smart locks open and close automatically for people who have the proper code. By assigning each employee their own code, you can track when they arrive to work at your house.
If you enable geofencing with the smart lock, you can also track what time they leave. While this might not be feasible if you have a business that involves customers, it works well if your business is mostly online and employees work from a central or home-based office.
3. Simplify the closing process by integrating the lights and security system
When you open or close for the day, there is a checklist of tasks to go through: arranging the merchandise, turning off the lights, turning on the security system and more. Smart lighting can combine several aspects of this process into a single click, helping automate your home business.
When you activate the security system, you can set the lights in the building to come on, and vice versa at the end of the day. You can also set this action to occur at the same time each day, or even remotely if you are away from the office.
What’s more, most smart lights are LEDs, which have an estimated lifespan of 23 years. The act of climbing on a chair to change a bulb in the ceiling will become a thing of the past.
4. Monitor deliveries and customer arrivals with video doorbells
If you run a home-based business, few things are as counterproductive as someone arriving at your door unannounced. A video doorbell will let you see who is at the door — and even hold a conversation with them from your phone — without ever getting up from your desk.
5. Cut down on energy costs with a smart thermostat
When you automate your home business, it’s about more than improving productivity. A smart thermostat can help cut energy costs by as much as 15 percent. When you consider that most homes spend 29 percent of their energy bill on heating alone, it makes sense to leave it up to a smart thermostat to regulate the temperature in your office.
6. Install security cameras to keep an eye on the office when you aren't around
With a motion-activated security camera, you really can be in two places at once. If something moves inside your office space when you aren't there, you'll receive a notification on your phone, so you can check out exactly what's going on inside. Some security cameras have optional professional monitoring, so even if you don't receive the notification, the monitoring station can contact the authorities for you.
7. Create a smart hub by combining the features that automate your home business
When you control everything you use to automate your home business — from your security system to your heating system to your lights — in one mobile app, you save the time it takes to manage these systems separately. Your internet service provider can help you find a solution that integrates all of your small business automation needs.
You might not realize how much time you spend on the small parts of running your business. Whether it's tracking expenses, managing time cards, or even keeping an eye on your security, small businesses require a lot of maintenance and upkeep. With a little bit of smart technology, you can eliminate those extra steps and streamline every facet of your work life.