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Grasshopper is everywhere

Original Article

Aspiring entrepreneurs: Here's how to set up shop for less than $1,000

What does it take to set up an office in your home? Is a budget of $1,000 or less realistic if you’ll need the latest technology?

Using that budget (and assuming a modest amount for a desk and a chair), Your Money talked to various experts about affordable choices.

Of course, you’ll need a computer — a starter laptop can be purchased for $399. You’ll need Internet access — save money by bundling it with your phone and cable.

You’ll also need a phone — land line or mobile, depending on whether you’ll be on the go. And an all-in-one printer, scanner, fax and copier can be had for less than $100.

A big change from several years ago is the money-saving advantage of Web-delivered services. By maximizing low-cost, Internet-accessed software, capital expenditures can be kept to a minimum.

“I like being organized,” said Ezra Shiram, who started a computer service and support business about two months ago in his home in Flatbush, Brooklyn.

To help track sales and customers, Shiram signed up for software designed for workers who charge by the hour.

Bill4Time allows Shiram to generate invoices right from his BlackBerry. “This means no loss of information by waiting until I get home to try to read my scribbles on Post-it notes,” he said.

Shiram initially used a limited, free version; he now uses Bill4TimeLite for $19.95 a month. “I’ll probably be moving up to the full system soon,” for $39.95 a month, he said, since he’s close to its 20-client limit.

Bill4Time’s president, Morris Tabush, suggested another worthy idea for home office entrepreneurs: “We found GotVMail, that’s now called Grasshopper, which lets us have a single phone number that rings no matter where we are or on what phone — at the office or our cells,” he said.

To sound big league, users’ phones play hold music and a choice of “professional voice talent for that big business sound,” Tabush said.

Experts offered one more idea: With college students finding good jobs scarce, hire a summer intern. For a student eager to learn, this could be a valuable tradeoff. And help keep you from busting your $1,000 budget.

- QuickBooks, available for $199, is the No. 1 small business finance software. It can create invoices, pay bills and track expenses all in one place.

- GoToMeeting.com, $49, allows users to meet online with colleagues or with potential customers.

- Google Apps, $10 a year, provides an Internet domain and e-mail address, a calendar feature and Google Docs for word processing.

- Grasshopper, $49, offers 2,000 minutes for two toll free and/or local numbers, two existing number transfers and unlimited extensions that forward callers to any phone, anywhere. Voicemails follow you and can be delivered to an e-mail account.