Working from home has its perks, but it also has drawbacks—namely, the tendency to get sidetracked with non-work obligations. These are the ingredients for a professional “escape” where you can really get business done.
- A room that works. Before you decide where your home office will be, evaluate every room in your home. For each room, ask yourself: Will distractions be kept to a minimum? Is there ample lighting? Is there enough room for all my equipment, files, and supplies? Are there enough electrical outlets? Would it be difficult to run a phone line and Internet access wiring into this space?
- Quality furniture. You don’t have to spend a fortune to have a presentable office. When purchasing furniture, look for an ergonomically correct desk and chair. Function matters more than appearance. If space is limited, an armoire with space for your computer equipment is ideal. Measure your space before you buy; you may see a desk or filing cabinet that fits your decor but is too large for the room.
- A reliable phone and messaging system. When people call your home office and you’re not there, are they getting a professional response? Consider forwarding your business line to your cell phone when you leave your office so you don’t miss important calls. Use an effective voice mail system, and check your outgoing message after you record it to make sure you’re the only voice and sound on the recording.
- A computer and printer. Buy the best you can afford. A slow computer can cost more in lost business than it would to upgrade or replace. Add a backup system—Zip, Jaz, or tape drive—to back up the irreplaceable information stored on your computer. Back up your data daily or weekly, depending on how often you use the computer. A quality printer also is a must. The most potent image some prospects will have of your company is what you send them, so whatever leaves your office needs to be top-notch.
- An easy-to-use filing system. Use hanging folders for main, general categories and interior manila folders. The maximum number of documents you want in each interior file folder is about 20 sheets. Periodically go through your files and toss papers that you no longer use. Remember, the easier it is to use your filing system, the more you’ll use it.
- An effective planner and organizer. Whether paper-based, computerized, or electronic, you need a planning system so that you can keep track of daily and weekly tasks and store client information. A good system ensures you remember your appointments and lets you retrieve client data quickly.
- A place to store stationery and extra supplies. Store such items in a closet, on shelves, or in drawers. Group supplies by type so that you have only one place to look for that type of item. Save money by buying in bulk, but buy only what you have room to store.
- Other tech tools you use often. How often do you use a fax machine or copier? If the answer is not often, then don’t bother making a purchase. But if you need to use them many times each day or week, do some research on different models and buy one that fits your budget and your specific needs.