There are now more than 20 million freelancers in the United States alone who have traded the comforts of a regular employee for the flexibility that freelancing affords. A big part of this flexibility is being able to choose where to work from, and many freelancers have successfully built home offices. You are probably looking to have your own home office, too.
Working in a home office has great appeal. It can help you cut down on office rent expenses and skip hours of tiring travel time. You can turn part of your home into a dream office with a workstation designed to your exact specifications. For you, nothing beats waking up and taking a very leisurely breakfast safe in the knowledge that your office is literally just a few hops away.
But how can you build the perfect home office? Below are some tips to make sure you make the right decisions every step of the way.
Home Office Advantages
But before we jump into the tips, it’s important for you to realize the benefits of the home office compared to the two other viable options: Renting your own office and share a space with other freelancers.
- Save on transportation and office rent expenses. Renting your own office will likely be the most expensive option, while sharing a space with other freelancers will still leave you with a monthly rent contribution. But with a home office, rent is absolutely free.
- Free up the time you spend going to and from office. You can arrive to and from the home office in a few minutes (even seconds!). Renting an office space downtown, on the other hand, may take you half an hour or even more per trip. Working from home effectively saves you days per year, days which can be spent working, resting or simply being with your loved ones.
- Wear what you like to the office. The home office is the only work set-up where you can go in your pajamas. (But we insist on you dress up when meeting clients or if you have staff coming in to your home office.)
- Design your dream office. Do you want red walls (we hear it improves creative thinking) or a long glass table for that sleek minimalist look that your old office would never have allowed? Go do it. You are the master designer of your home office, and it’s up to you to pick furniture, electronic gear and decorations that will suit your taste and hopefully help you become more productive.
Tip 1: Don’t Make the Home Office Too Comfortable
Just having encouraged you to go wild with your home office design, it does come with a big caveat: Make sure you do not make it too comfortable to the point of distraction from your work.
Many freelancers fall into the trap of treating their home office as a living room extension, filling it with a television set, video game consoles, and even an eating nook stacked with every imaginable guilt snack. Unless your work directly benefits from having these leisure items in your home office, then you would be better off banishing them to avoid the distractions.
If you need a break, then step out of your home office. Your productivity will improve once you treat your home office as a place where work gets done.
Mantra: “A home office is still an office. It just so happens to be in my home.”
Tip 2: Invest in Home Office Equipment
The average freelancer home will be under-equipped, often lacking the essential machines and services that are essential for work. Use the checklist below to make sure your home office is prepared to do whatever work comes your way, and that its runs as efficiently as possible:
- Fast and reliable Internet connection. A must for sending emails, chatting with clients, and research. For digital-based freelancers, the Internet also functions as their workspace.
- Landline. Primarily as a failsafe back-up if your Skype and other Internet calling services are down.
- Printer. You may think this is no longer needed, but aside from design-related freelancers and writers, everyone else will find need to print documents or images.
- Comfortable office chair. You will spend the majority of your time sitting in your home office chair, so buy the best one that you can afford to avoid developing back problems from settling for that dining chair or beanie bag.
- Profession-related equipment. Think of the equipment you will need, and consider if you can buy it instead so you can save on rentals. Graphic artists, for example, can splurge on a large computer monitor, custom mice and other drawing peripherals.
- Digital and physical storage. External hard drives and filing cabinets are invaluable safeguards for your business information. If your computer crashes and deletes your whole hard drive, then you will have backups to shrug off this potentially devastating data wipe.
- Productivity aids. Calendars, organizers, notebooks and other stuff that will help you get things done. Stock up on these and keep them within easy reach.
- Lighting. A lot of homes have lighting that is suited for comfort rather than productivity. Choose energy-saving bright bulbs to save on costs and lessen the strain on your eyes.
Mantra: “Man invented tools to increase productivity. Use them relentlessly.”
Tip 3: Section Off Your Home Office
Clearly mark the boundary between your home office and the rest of your home. If you set up your home office in the living room, which is probably the most common location freelancers choose, then you should erect partitions and screens.
Sectioning off your home office is a great way to keep the kids out, and prevent them from messing up your work files or breaking your pricey gadgets. Divisions also block out possible distractions. It also keeps your home office private should guests arrive.
Only freelancers who live in very small apartments can consider skipping this tip as the partitions may consume space that could otherwise be used for productivity tools. Home offices may also be placed in a separate room like a guest room or the basement, although these choices come with their respective inconveniences such as having to move your home office when hosting guests or bearing with the stuffiness of a basement home office.
Mantra: “My home office is a sacred space.”
Tip 4: Think About Your Business, Then Plan the Layout
Well-designed corporate offices use space efficiently, boost worker productivity, enhance creativity, foster teamwork and even reduce stress. The same can be true with your home office. And it all starts with thinking about your freelancing business, and anticipating what activities you will need to do in your home office.
Here are some questions you should ask before finalizing the layout:
- Will you be receiving guests? Where will they sit?
- Do you like to pace around while thinking?
- Will co-workers and collaborators be dropping by to work with you? Where will they sit? Will they be able to set up their laptops and other gadgets?
- Do you plan to eat in your home office?
- Is your work table wide enough to hold all your stuff?
- Are the electrical sockets accessible for your gadgets?
- What gadgets and items do you need to be within your easy reach?
Mantra: “Planning is the master of productivity.”
Tip 5: Get Inspired By Other Home Offices
Browse any freelancer forum and you will almost always find a discussion on home office set-ups. Freelancers like to share photos of their home offices and explain why they arranged the furniture this way or picked an Apple iMac over the more prevalent PCs. You can even befriend the freelancer and ask more details on how they were able to pull off their fantastic-looking, functionally efficient home office.
Don’t be afraid to try out new ways of arranging your home office. In all honesty, it may take you a long series of improvements until you find the most compatible set-up for your work style and needs. But you will eventually get there if you are constantly on the lookout for tweaks that make your home office better and more beautiful.
Mantra: “Perfection is the product of a million iterations.”
Greg Mosk, editor at domainraccoon.com provides tips & advice on domain name registrations and frequently blogs about the nature of freelancers, internet marketing solutions, registrar choices, and more.