The following is an excerpt from our eBook, “How to Start a Lucrative Virtual Bookkeeping Business.”
One of the things I see a lot of when it comes to bookkeeping is laptops…lots of laptops. Some work incredibly well (whether for bookkeeping or anything else) while others work horribly. Thus, I have compiled a list of features to consider when shopping for any laptop, whether for bookkeeping alone, or for business in general.
(If you have any further recommendations, please leave them in the comments so that other readers will know what to consider.)
- Must-Have Features For Your Bookkeeping Laptop:
- A DVD Burner: Don’t be cheap and skip the DVD burner in lieu of a CD Burner; they are not the same thing. CD’s can only burn a fraction of the information a DVD can burn, and you will want to give your clients DVDs when you back up their work.
- An SD Card Slot: This will come in handy whenever you need to transfer digital files from a camera to your computer. Although it may not make much sense now, you’ll be glad you have it later.
- Bluetooth Access: It just comes in handy.
- Wireless Access: You will want to be able to get on the Internet anywhere, especially coffee shops. In fact, you may even consider signing up for a monthly service from AT&T or Sprint so that you can get Internet access from the middle of a field, if you so chose.
- Optional Features For Your Laptop To Consider:
- A 10-Key Keyboard: The reason I have NOT made this a “Must-Have” feature is because this is actually a “Preference” choice more than anything. Yes, it can be incredibly handy to have your 10-Key right on your keyboard when you open your laptop, but the problem is, a Laptop with a 10-Key Keyboard is a very heavy laptop. It can add an extra 5 to 10 pounds of weight, and it can add a couple hundred dollars to the price tag. If you buy this kind of laptop, you will also probably end up investing in a bag with wheels just to tote the thing around. So now, you have a heavy laptop with a heavy AND bulky bag that you have to schlep from house to car to office and back. On the other hand, you can buy a 10-Key Keypad that plugs directly into your laptop for a cost of $10 to $20, or a Bluetooth 10-Key Keypad for $30 to $40. These are compact, lightweight, and can fit right in the pocket of any computer bag. On top of that, you can buy a computer that weighs as little as five pounds, and now taking your computer with you is no longer a hassle. So, make the decision for yourself on how important that 10-Key is before you buy a laptop. (Notice, the Kensington keypad-with-calculator to the left has a calculator screen on it as well, which allows you to quickly tally numbers without having to access your computer.)
- LightScribe Burner: If you’ve never seen a Burnt LightScribe CD or DVD, you are missing out. This feature allows you to burn any picture or text on the top of a certain type of CD and DVD, and can really give you (and your business) a very professional image. Imagine giving your clients a Backup Disc with their Company Name, Logo and date on it. You will convince your Clients you spend a lot of time and money to produce high-quality products, even when you don’t. This feature does not come standard on all laptops, but is usually only $25 more if you’re buying a “custom computer.” So, if you want to give an appearance of being Professional and “Tech-Savvy,” add this feature…you won’t regret it. (Because quite frankly, if you’re not doing it now, your competitors will be doing it soon.)
- My Laptop Recommendations:
- AVOID AT ALL COSTS: One of the benefits about being an Independent Bookkeeper is that you see a LOT of computers. As such, I would NEVER recommend a Compaq (even though it’s made by HP) or a Gateway. I’ve seen major issues with Compaqs, and I’ve heard Gateway has the worst customer service when a problem arises (this from a very computer savvy person). Acers are super-cheap options, but there’s a reason for that…they won’t work well with a whole lot of business programs. The IBMs I’ve seen have been heavy, awkward and incredibly expensive, but aren’t really any fancier than a Toshiba. Dells are great because they’re inexpensive, you can customize them, and they have decent customer service, but I’ve seen more Dells freeze up than not and then you have to do a “hard reboot.” But again, your laptop choice is always a preference thing.
- ALSO AVOID: Mini Netbooks. While Netbooks are a fabulous deal price-wise, they are not good choices for a business. For one thing, the keyboards are small, which makes it hard to type (and EXTREMELY curse-worthy if you type a lot). For another, there are usually NO DVD/CD Burners, only USB ports. And for a third, without a DVD drive, it is nearly impossible to get many computer programs on the laptop – including QuickBooks. I have tried to download QuickBooks onto computers from the internet before, but even with the QuickBooks key code, you really need the disks to install the program. So skip the Netbooks for your business and go with something larger.
- To find the best price on a laptop: If I don’t buy my laptop from the manufacturer’s website, then I like to go Best Buy or Office Depot. They often have incredible sales and decent financing. On top of that, you can usually take your computer to Best Buy if you need to get something fixed, and Office Depot now offers free computer check-ups whether you buy from them or not. Check their catalogs regularly and you will be amazed at the deals.