From the October 1999 issue of Startups

Back in the old days, starting a homebased business meant you were absolutely on your own. No company benefits, back-office functions or even the volume buying discounts that the corporate hive provided. In fact, without such services, entrepreneurs and start-ups waste an average of 3.25 hours each day on administrative functions like billing, filling out timesheets and organizing receipts and records, according to TimeBills.com, a provider of Web-based business services.

If you don't want to be all by yourself anymore, check out the plethora of Internet-based services and cooperatives providing access to everything from inexpensive insurance to competitive bids on back-office functions like accounting and timesheets. Whatever you need, you can probably find it at costs previously unavailable to the individual homebased business. "This is applying microeconomic theory to the Net," says Varda Lief, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

The list of providers is as stocked as the supply closet of any budding corporation. Intuit offers payroll, accounting and other financial services-Lief claims it costs less than hiring an accountant and offers best-of-breed technology. Similarly, TimeBills.com has created a Web-based billing service to let entrepreneurs track hours, create invoices, manage expenses and reduce administrative overhead-without complex software downloads or training and management.

Journyx's free timesheet and expense report services can be run online by up to five users or downloaded from Journyx's Web site, accommodating some of the 8 million business professionals who, according to Journyx, must track time hourly for billing and profitability management.

More than portals and warehouses of supplies, some organizations pair goods with services to become one-stop shops. Onvia.com has put thousands of office supplies and pieces of computer hardware and software, along with e-commerce extras such as paging services, business credit cards, merchant accounts and collection, temporary employment and recruiting services on its robust site. Want to bid out a project? Imandi sends your request for bids-on travel, construction, insurance and more-to both local vendors and service providers anywhere on the Web.

Looking for benefits? The Home-Based Business Owner's Association of America, CorpHQ, SOHO Station and the American Association of Home-Based Businesses offer buying services or aggregation of such services for thousands of paying members.

Homebased business owners can expect such services to become the wave of the future, allowing them to focus on business-building rather than business administration, says Lawrence San, editorial and creative director of Aquent Magazine, which offers marketing, financial services and collections for free agents in the marketplace. San adds, "We target people who haven't been doing [these functions] for years and who aren't comfortable handling all the back-office functions themselves." Apparently, that would be quite a few of you-some $220 billion in services will be purchased online by 2003, according to Forrester Research.


Contact Sources

Forrester Research, http://www.forrester.com

TimeBills.com, (617) 351-0230.