You probably became an independent consultant because you like working with technology and the freedom of being your own boss. But you’ve likely found that one of the trade-offs for that freedom is that you now spend a great deal of time preparing documents such as contracts and letters, as well as taking care of all the other minutia of maintaining a business.
CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit is a Web site that might be able to help you alleviate some of the drudgery. It isn’t designed specifically for consultants, but it does offer several free tools, as well as small-business advice that could give you more time to spend on the part of your work you actually enjoy doing.
Go to the site’s home page and click the Business Tools link, and you’ll get access to hundreds of ready-to-use business forms in such categories as starting your business, recruiting and hiring, employee management, business finance, firing and termination, marketing, vehicles and equipment, and government contracting.
Within these categories, four types of documents are available:
- · Checklists—These can help you assess start-up costs, rent property, lease equipment, interview or terminate employees, and determine if you qualify for a home-office deduction.
- · Model business documents—The site provides sample letters, forms, policies, and contracts (including a sample independent contractor agreement). Just download the documents and customize them.
- · Financial spreadsheet templates—You can plug your own numbers into these to help you manage various aspects of your business finances.
- · Government forms—Here you’ll find a collection of forms most commonly used by small-business owners when they file taxes or serve as contractors for the federal government.
Besides the sample documents, CCH Business Owner’s Toolkit offers small-business news, a free e-mail newsletter, and the complete text of the SOHO Guidebook. This helpful book is divided into such topics as starting your business, getting financing, marketing, winning government contracts, controlling your taxes, and building personal wealth.
You can get advice on everything from developing a business plan, choosing office equipment, and instituting an accounting process to preparing an exit strategy if you shut down a company. Both a table of contents and an index are available online so you can jump to the specific information you need.
The site also includes an online store where you can buy products from the sponsor, CCH Incorporated, a publisher of business, legal, and tax information and software. Among the products offered are several how-to books from the Business Owner’s Toolkit series, including such titles as Small Business Financing, Win Government Contracts, and Business Plans That Work.
More free advice is available from the site’s Ask Alice feature. It provides words of wisdom from small-business advisor Alice H. Magos, who has more than 35 years experience running a number of small businesses.
You also can consult theAsk Alice FAQ page for solutions to common small-business problems. If you still don’t find the information you need, send Alice your own questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas Pack is a freelance technology reporter.
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