If you are considering a home office, you may feel a little overwhelmed at the logistics of getting started. After all, there are a lot of things that need to be considered. Setting up your home office should be an exciting time, not a stressful one. Taking it one thing at a time will make it easier and a lot more fun. Most of the things that you will need fall into 3 categories: work station, organization, and communication. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Your work station will most likely involve the most planning and expense. This is going to include your desk, chair, and computer among other things. You can go simple or extravagant. If you are just starting out and don't have a big budget, keep it simple and put your money into the things that will help you work more comfortably and efficiently first.
Keep your desk functional and space appropriate without being flimsy. There will be plenty of time to upgrade to that cherry desk with the marble table top later. One with a file drawer and CPU cubby built in will help you maximize the use of your space. An "L" or "U" shaped desk has the advantage of giving you a workspace for your computer and keyboard while also allowing for space to spread out documents that you are working on and/or a writing space. Many people find that a desk that has a keyboard tray allows them to sit more ergonomically correct while others prefer to use the keyboard on the desktop. The other ergonomically important aspect of your office will be your chair.
Your chair should be something that you splurge on. You will want a chair that has adjustments for height and back support. You should be able to sit at the back of the chair, with your feet flat on the floor and have about 2 inches between the seat of the chair and the back of your knees. For those people with shorter legs that are not able to set the height of their chair to comfortably reach their desk, and still have their feet flat on the ground, a foot stool is recommended. A cushioned chair with fabric is also usually preferable to leather or a hard surface. The cushioning will pad your backside while the fabric allows it breathe during extended sitting. You may be spending a lot of time in this chair talking on the phone or staring at a computer screen and you want to make sure it is comfortable.
Next you will need to consider your computer and monitor. If you already have a computer, evaluate its efficiency and ability to handle the increased demands that will be put on it while going from recreational use to full time business use. Do you have enough memory and processing speed to handle the additional files and workload? You may be able to either simply upgrade your current computer to handle the extra load, or it may be necessary to buy a new computer. The major computer makers (Dell, Gateway, Mac, IBM) can usually help you with what you will need in terms of memory, processor speed and hard drive space for what you plan on using the computer for. Check out the websites or go to your local electronics store and talk to the sales people. They are generally very knowledgeable and willing to help.
Your monitor is going to be a work station tool that you don't want to skimp on. A flat screen is best. They take up less space, they are better on your eyes, and also use 50% less energy. Shoot for 19 inches if you can get one within your budget. If you do a lot of detailed graphics work, 21 inches will be preferable. Just like your chair, the return on your investment with your monitor is going to be less stress and strain on your body and allow you to work more comfortably for longer periods of time.
As I stated before a desk that has a file drawer built in will save you the most space, but the most important thing is that you do have one whether it is attached or not. Some people may also be tempted to combine their personal and business file cabinets. I wouldn't recommend this unless you can devote a complete drawer or drawers to business only. The co-mingling of personal and business files only leads to confusion and you will be able to find things much more quickly if they are separate.
Another organizational tool that you may consider is a contact manager. Only you will know if this tool is something that you can use, but if you deal with a lot of different clients or if you need to keep a list of potential clients and business contacts, a contact manager is going to help you tremendously. It will allow you keep a list of all of your contacts and their essential details such as where you met, personal details about them, and what services they may be interested in. It will also keep track of your appointments and to do list to keep you organized and on task.
Your communications are going to be vital to your new home office. This is another place where you want to make sure that you don't skimp. Make sure that your entire communication system, from Internet access to fax is efficient and projects an image of professionalism.
First of all, dial up just won't do. It may have been fine for your occasional surfing or for the kids to do their homework. But dial up does not move at the speed of business. You will be wasting enormous amounts of time waiting for your downloads whether it is web pages or email. It will be worth it to upgrade to DSL or cable.
For your phone and fax communications there are a number of options. When establishing your home office communications important things to consider are image, flexibility, and space. Instead of the expense and hassle of installing a second phone line, consider a virtual phone system that will forward your calls to your already existing phone line. There are a number of advantages of setting up your communications this way.
Your image is going to be very important as you establish your home office. One of the first impressions people will get of you and your business is when they call you. First and foremost, it is important to keep your personal calls separate from your business calls. Nothing screams unprofessional louder than your child answering a client's call. A virtual phone system will assist in the professional image department in a number of ways.
One, it will allow you to have the call announced to you so that you, and your child, know that it is a business call coming in and can handle it appropriately. Two, most virtual phone systems have an automated attendant, just like the Fortune 500 companies have, that will allow you to greet your callers with a professional recording such as, "Thank you for calling ABC Consulting. For sales press 1, for billing press 2". Third, it will have voicemail that you can access online, through email or over the phone. That way, if you do miss a call, and regardless of where you are, you can get your messages quickly, easily and get back to your clients in a timely matter.
For flexibility a virtual phone system can't be beat. It will allow you to transfer your business calls to anywhere you are. So when you are in your home office your calls will forward to you there and when you need to leave, your business calls can follow you on your cell phone. After all, one of the advantages of working from home is the freedom to step out when you need, or want to.
For saving space in your new home office, combine your fax communications with your new virtual phone system. Fax machines take up a lot of space, not to mention ink, paper and maintenance. Most virtual phone systems will have fax features as well that will allow you to send and receive your faxes right from your computer. With electronic, or virtual, fax you can scrap the fax machine completely.
Establishing a home office is an exciting time. Don't let the logistics of it overwhelm you. Breaking things down into categories helps you to focus on one thing at a time. You need a work station, organization and communications. Taking each one separately and determining what you will need for each will make things easier on you. You'll have your home office set up in no time.
Brandi Cummings, an expert author writing on topics relating to small and home based businesses, recommends checking out www.Freedom800.com for more information about how a virtual pbx will enhance your home sweet home office. For a downloadable Home Office Essentials Checklist click here.