Setting up and organizing a space for your home office is essential for the livelihood of your home-based business. Delegating a room or area as your home office will help you stay focused while working and will make it clear to others – i.e. family members who may want to constantly interrupt you – that your home office is a professional place of business.
Organized and Efficient
The key to making your home-based business a success is setting it up and operating it like any other brick and mortar business. That means purchasing the necessary equipment and professional office furniture, getting wired, streamlining your operations, and stocking up on essential office supplies. When you treat your home-based office like a professional business venture, no one will guess that you are able to do your work in your bunny slippers.
Location, Location, Location
Even for a home-based business, location is key. The best home office is one where you can work in isolation, free from distractions. A separate home office also makes it easier to calculate percentages of home business expenses at tax time.
Look for a space that can be easily wired for all of the office equipment you will need: computer, Internet, phone, etc. It also helps to use a room that has ample lighting, ventilation, and space. If you plan on meeting with clients or colleagues, make sure you choose an area that is presentable, somewhere far from the kids’ playroom, for example.
Professional Office Furniture
Desk – Having a place for everything is the key to keeping your home office organized and looking professional. Office furniture is designed with that purpose in mind. Look for desks that come with ample storage, such as filing cabinets and shelves, and that maximize space. Most home offices are set up in small rooms or areas that do not provide a lot of room for equipment and supplies.
Office Chair – Shop around for a good quality chair that provides sufficient back support and safety. Try out different chairs and compare prices before splurging on the most comfortable chair you sit in. Cheap isn’t always the best option when you consider how much time you may be spending in the chair.
Second Phone Line
Having a separate phone line for your business is more professional than sharing your home line. This way, you can also establish a professional greeting, such as, “Bob’s Landscaping Services. Bob speaking. How can I help you?
Have a system for quickly dealing with loose papers, such as receipts and bills. A rolling five-drawer storage unit makes it easy to organize and find necessary paperwork. For papers that you will not need immediately, such as last year’s taxes, keep them in a filing cabinet out of your office to free up space.
Use a corkboard for papers that you want quick access to or that require your immediate attention. Hang one on a wall near your work area to display calendars, important contact info, coupons, and reminders. Online systems work well, too, but sometimes having something hanging up ensures that you will remember important tasks and dates.
You should also set up a paper shredder and recycling bin to help you dispose of unwanted papers and documents. Having a disposal system will help you conquer clutter before it consumes your work space.
If you don’t already have a computer, fax, scanner, and copy machine, purchase them immediately. You should also have an external hard drive to backup files and critical information. Saving a second file to your external hard drive will save you a headache – and nervous breakdown – in the event that something disastrous happens to your main computer.
You will also save a tremendous amount of time if you utilize email folders to help you organize and tackle incoming mail. Rather than trying to handle all of your email immediately, divvy up the mail into folders based on a task. When you have time for email, you can then work on a given task at a time.
One of the biggest challenges of working at home is staying on task. Use an egg timer to help you stay on task for short increments of time. Set the timer for 15 or 30 minutes, for example, to limit how much time you want to spend on email. Work on all of the email you can during that time period and then set a new time for the next task. Each time the timer goes off, you will feel like you are making some progress.
Business Web Site
Even if your business is not an e-commerce venue, having a Web site will help you establish professional credibility and will give you another opportunity to reach your targeted market. Hire a professional Web site designer to help you make your site look professional and user friendly.
Setting up a professional work space will help you stay focused and reach your small business goals. Take the time to shop around for and invest in essential home office pieces to organize and streamline your day-to-day tasks.