Working from home is the dream gig for many Americans, with the flexibility to set your work schedule and work when you are most productive, even if that time is between midnight and 3AM. It also eliminates the frustrating daily rat race known as the commute, saving both time and money. However, if you are going to go that route, you have to do it effectively. Remember that this may be your home, but from eight to ten hours a day, it will also be where you conduct your business.
I worked from a home office for over twenty years, first as an independent musician and songwriter, and now as a blogger on the subject of water damage and water mitigation. So I think I know a thing or two about properly equipping your home for work related chores.
For starters, determine what you are going to need. Different businesses have different requirements, but they all share certain common denominators. Things such as desk, computer, fax machine, printer, telephone etc. are pretty much givens. If you are a graphic artist or designer you may need a larger drafting table to conduct such work. If like me you were a musician, space for keyboards or recording equipment may be required. If you will be entertaining clients in your workspace, it should be of sufficient size to accommodate several additional chairs or a couch.
Determine how much room you are going to need, and where. Ideally your home office should afford a measure of privacy. My own home office was the lone finished room in an otherwise unfinished basement, but it was an effective distancing from my wife and kids and allowed me to get into the mindset of “going to work”. My office in our previous house was an enclosed formal living room just off the front door entrance. If you are going to be entertaining clients, the latter suggestion might work much better for you.
Get organized. I am unorganized by nature, but always found that I got a lot more done, and more efficiently, when my office was clean an uncluttered. Rather than the commonly held “a pile for everything and everything in its pile”, find a way to creatively store your office items, files, papers, etc. Even if it means storing them in another room, a spacious uncluttered work area is far more inviting than an unmitigated disaster.
Use proper lighting, and plenty of it. I loved the feel and look of a brightly lit office, which is why I had large windows installed and kept the blinds open most of the time. You’ll need to position your computer screen so that glare is eliminated, but beyond that caveat, a well lit room is extremely conducive to a positive and productive working environment.
Have a dedicated phone line for your home business. I know it costs extra, but few things will ruin your corporate image faster than having an important call answered by your three year old who is very proud of the fact that he can now go to the potty all by himself. You don’t need anyone questioning the legitimacy or validity of your business. Spring for the extra line.
Working from home, or worse, for yourself, you may find yourself tempted to scrimp on the essentials and spend money on things designed to make your office space look attractive and appealing. This is a mistake. I don’t care how nice your walls look, having a desk that isn’t big enough or an uncomfortable chair or an Internet connection that is iffy at best will take the wind out of your sails rapidly. Spend the money it takes to equip yourself properly. The decor can come with time.
Keep work at work. This is very difficult to do when working from home. Of course you will want to establish a separate bank account for business ventures, and keep home and business expenses separate. It will also help you during tax season when meeting IRS mandates regarding home businesses.
Maintain above board business practices. Keep good records, pay your bills on time, and make a record of all expenses and mileage as thoroughly as possible. Organization is a must in any business, and even more vital for those with no one looking over their shoulder.
Establish office hours and keep to them. There is no substitute; you have to put in the time it takes to run a successful home business. Even if you do your best work in the wee hours of the morning, your clients most likely maintain traditional hours and they need access to you during that time. In addition, limit interruptions from spouse or children. They need to understand that when you are in this office you are working and it needs to be treated just as if you were working in an office building downtown.
Leave at the end of the day. You don’t go back to your regular office after you’ve gone home, so after you have put your time in, leave, close the door, and enjoy your home time. Much like the downtown cubicle, your home office will still be there when you walk downstairs tomorrow morning.
Follow some common sense preparations and procedures, and your home office might actually be the answer to prayer that you have been seeking in your career endeavors.