If you run a small business and want to streamline your efforts to make everything more efficient, you need to retire the old cash register and use a POS system. But,thesesystems can be expensive, especially the legacy ones that require you to purchase a lot of hardware to go along with the software. The most affordable one you can get today would be an online POS system, which would only require a stable internet connection and minimum hardware because everything would be web-based and saved in the cloud.
So if you’ve got a limited budget and need to install a POS system for your small business, where does that leave you? DIY! Yes, even a point of sale station can be done if you have some computer skills and a can-do attitude. Here’s how to do it.
1. The Search for Software
The first thing you need to do is research. Find out what your business needs to grow and be more efficient. Make a checklist of what you currently have, from your stock to how many employees you have. From there, you can have an idea of what you need and what type of POS system you should get. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of system per se, because you really need to get a system that fits your business type. A POS system for a retail store would be different to one that’s used for a restaurant.
2. Decide if you want to go Free or Paid
If you can afford a paid system, go for it. If you can’t or don’t want to, there are some generic point-of-sale software that you can download and use for free. These systems are often open-source and freeware, which is great if you don’t want to spend money, but be aware that you won’t get any training, set-up support and they probably won’t get updated as much, if at all. But hey, this is a DIY project after all, so consider getting free if you want to try a system out.
3. Get your Hardware
Once you sort out your software requirements, it’s time to secure your hardware. Most POS systems will run on any PC or Mac, so if you happen to have an extra one lying around gathering dust, take it out of retirement and put it to good use! Just make sure it’s still working well and the HDD isn’t full or corrupted. Get a portable HDD and save as often as possible!It’s also a good idea to have a separate back-up online. Get Dropbox or any similar service to back everything up. Don’t use your personal or home PC as your POS system. Laptops and even tablets work too, as long as the software is cross-platform and supports tablets.
4. The Peripherals
With the hardware out of the way, it’s time to tie it all together with the essential peripherals. You’re going to need an automatic cash drawer, a bar code scanner, a receipt printer, a magnetic strip reader and PIN pads if you’re going to accept credit cards and debit cards. If you’re running a retail store, a pole display is a great addition to your set-up so your customers can see what item is being checked out, the total due and change owed.
5. Plug and Install
All of the peripherals are plug &play and are connected to your computer via USB, so make sure your system has enough ports to support all of the items above plus your mouse and keyboard. If you have limited USB slots, you can purchase a universal USB hub and plug your keyboard and mouse there. Once everything is connected, power on your system and install your software. Follow the set-up instructions and once installed, let it detect all the peripherals you just connected.
6. Go for a Test Run
Once everything is up and running, do a test-run by setting up a few items in your inventory and making a mock sale. Use the bar code scanner and print a receipt. When testing your new DIY POS system, involve all your staff so that they can get a hang of it. If you installed a paid system, there should be training and set-up support. Also, some providers have their own preferred credit card processing gateways, which usually come with MSR’s and PIN pads, so be sure to ask first if you taking the paid route.
You shouldn’t have to pay thousands of dollars for a POS system, especially if you run a small business. It’s just not feasible. There are a lot of online and mobile POS systems you can get for a quarter of what you’d pay for a legacy system. And of course, you can do it all yourself with just a couple of items, an old PC and a system that works for you.