Posted on June 2, 2008
Filed Under (Advice, General) by jennifer

People ask me all the time what it’s like to work from home and if I have any tips for setting up a home office.

As for the first part, like everything, working from home has its advantages and its disadvantages. The advantages: I am (for the most part) in charge of my own schedule, so if I want to go to the gym or need to run errands or pick up/chauffeur my daughter, I can – with proper planning. The disadvantages: Work is always there, lurking, even when I shut the door and walk away from my office. And it can be lonely. (Hence the need to build in time to get out of the house and be around other adults.)

As for how to set up a home office, whether you need a quiet place to pay the bills or are running a small business, having a home office makes good sense – and can even save you money at tax time. While setting up a home office may seem daunting if you have never done so before, carving out or creating a space to take care of business is actually pretty easy with a little planning.

Following are my Top 10 tips for helping you set up the perfect home office:

1. Before you begin, ask yourself: Why do I want a home office? How will I use this space? Write down the answers and use them to guide you. If the space is to be used for business, contact an accountant to find out what is permissible in your area and what the tax advantages are.

2. Survey your territory and pick a quiet, low-traffic room or nook with access to electrical, cable, phone, and network outlets (or has the ability to have these installed).

3. Get a desk that can accommodate all of your equipment (computer, monitor, scanner, telephone, printer or combination printer/copier/fax) and supplies (desktop organizer, pens, pencils, Post-Its, note paper, calendar or planner, paper clips, stapler and staples) and an office chair that will support your back. Comfort and support are very important, so go to your local office store and try out different office furniture/desks and chairs, so you find a setup that fits your style and build.

4. Pick a computer that fits the work you do. If mobility is important, get a laptop. If your work involves graphics or video, get a computer with a big enough hard drive and memory to support that – and a separate, large, flat-panel monitor. You can learn more about picking the right computer and find a computer that’s right for you by checking out sites like PC World and Consumer Reports Online.

5. Get a high-speed Internet connection. The two basic options are cable modem or DSL. Find out what’s available in your area and weigh the pros and cons of each.

6. Set up your own email account. Many Internet providers, as well as Google, MSN, and Yahoo, offer these for free.

7. Choose a printer. If color copies are important, get a color ink jet printer. If speed is important, consider a grayscale laser printer.

8. If you need to fax or make copies, consider a combination printer-fax-copier.

9. If you are running a business, think about installing a separate phone line, either a traditional land line, supplied by the phone company, or a service that works via the Internet (called VoIP), such as Skype or Vonage or Optimum Voice, which tend to be less expensive than traditional land lines but also less reliable in the event of a power outage (they won’t work).

10. Set some rules, with yourself and your family. It is very important when working from home to get dressed and organized every morning, as if you were going to a non-home office, to set a schedule, and to let your family know when you are working and what the rules are for interrupting you when they need something.

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