If you do not yet have a computer for your business, you should seriously consider buying one. You should not buy one simply because "everybody else has one," nor should you think that a computer will suddenly save you enough time to drum up twice the amount of business you already have. Instead, you should consider buying a computer so you can take advantage of what it can offer your business, in terms of organization, automation, and information processing.
A computer allows you to operate dozens of easy-to-use organizational and bookkeeping computer programs on the market today. Database programs, for instance, allow you to electronically record your client addresses, inventory, quotes and invoices. The programs can even tie all of these items together so that you only need to look in one place for any of them. Should you need to, you could access all the sales generated by a particular customer for any given year with just a "point-and-click." You can even use these same programs to generate a "personalized" mass mailing to each of your clients or potential clients, complete with usage of nicknames, or references to the name of the city in which they are located.
Organizational programs can help you save time and money by keeping track of the jobs you have to do, meetings you have to attend, and people you have to call. You may have heard of the popular datebook called the Franklin Planner. Backed by training seminars conducted by its makers, the Franklin Planner is successful because of its method of keeping track of both short- and long-term goals. Companion software is now available which further enhances the usefulness of the datebook. Another useful organizational program is Now Up-to-Date, which lets you post a calendar on one computer and have people from other computers (even remote ones) see your calendar, in order to check or update the current status of projects. The program can even be set up to remind you at specific intervals what you should be working on, or which appointments you are running late for. As a rule, these programs do not require a degree in computer science to master, either. The software manufacturers know that people won't want to use their products if they aren't easy to use.
If you aren't yet convinced that buying a computer will benefit your business, you should know that income tax programs are also available--programs that could save you the cost of hiring a professional to do your taxes. (This self-employed writer uses them exclusively.) The software costs about $60, which is a lot cheaper than hiring an accountant. The programs are really easy to use; some even ask you questions about all of your income and expenditures, then tell you what the law says you can and cannot do. I spoke with a self-employed statistician who has used the tax programs for years; she once consulted with an accountant to make sure she wasn't overlooking any juicy deductions, and she ended up telling him a few things about the tax code!