If you have decided to work from home, one issue you will need to settle is where to set up your office.
Creating an office for your freelancing business is largely about personal choice. Some people just need a laptop and can do their work anywhere. Others want a dedicated space where they are able to focus better A lot more will depend on the property you live in and how much room you have spare.
Here we take a look at all the options for creating a productive office space in your home and why it’s important to find something that fits both your personality and your budget.
Do I Need an Office if I Work from Home?
The short answer is: It depends.
If most of your work is done on a laptop, you can work practically anywhere. You could tap away on the couch, lie on the bed, even pop down to your local coffee shop if they have free Wi-Fi.
You may spend most of your working day out visiting clients. If you are a builder or landscaper you will probably just need the office for doing your accounts or updating your website or Facebook page.
Should you need more equipment and facilities for your office, you will probably want to keep it all in one place. Perhaps you prefer to work off a desktop computer with a big screen or you need a filing cabinet for hardcopy records, a printer or a host of other sundries.
You might want to create an attractive office space to help keep you motivated – a place separated from the rest of the house where you able to close the door and be in your own little world.
In the end, it comes down to personal preference. Some people work at the kitchen table, others decide to build a dedicated garden room. Find what works for you based on what your individual needs are.
Why Your Home Office Needs to Be Useful
If you are going to create an office at home, of course, it needs to have a purpose. You will need to use it. That may well sound like common sense. It is. Sometimes basic common sense just doesn’t work.
I’m lucky to have quite a bit of room and I created a home office for my freelancing business at the very start. I rarely spend much time in it. I bought a desk, a new computer, even a pinboard to put up the latest jobs so I could keep track of everything. Ten years on, there’s still just one thing pinned to that board – the password for my internet account. And the desk is covered in dust.
I’m one of those lucky businesses that just needs a laptop and somewhere to sit my backside. I’ve concluded that a home office looks nice and professional but it’s not always completely useful.
Before you spend a lot of money in creating your office space, therefore, sit down and think about how you are going to use it and, more importantly, whether you are going to use it at all. If you have a family, for instance, you will probably need a place you can work where you aren’t distracted by the cry of children and the hustle and bustle of family life.
Don’t feel that you definitely, absolutely do need to have a regular office though. For many businesses that simply depend on an internet connection and a laptop, it’s not entirely necessary.
Options For Creating Your Office at Home
Now I’ve done my best to convince you that you don’t need a dedicated office at all, it’s a good time to look at all the options. The good news is that you can locate an office practically anywhere in your home.
The Spare Room Office
The spare room is usually the first choice when it comes to creating a dedicated office space. It’s self-contained and currently isn’t used much except for storing the junk you don’t want hanging around the rest of the home.
Converting it is relatively easy and you can close the door and have some privacy when you are working. When someone does come to stay, you can easily throw in a camper bed and give them somewhere to sleep.
The Kitchen Corner
Not everyone has a spare room they are able to use as an office. The next best choice is to use a section of a room and cordon it off to create your personal space. This could be somewhere like the kitchen but you can do it anywhere, including the living and bedroom. For most people, this is a cheap and easy option though it does lack privacy.
My personal favourite, I do a lot of work sat on my bed. There’s nothing wrong with this in terms of productivity. But it isn’t very good for your health.
If you have limited space and all you need is a laptop, however, it and the couch are cheap and cheerful options. Just remember to get up quite often and get your blood moving.
Building a Brand New Office
Should you have the money and you are sure of the success of your business, you may want to consider creating a brand new office space from scratch. Garden rooms seem to be quite popular at the moment. For those that have the area in their backyard that can be developed, it’s a way to create a dedicated office space and add value to the home at the same time.
Another choice, of course, is the loft conversion. Even if you don’t end up using it for your office, this sort of space is great for adding more room and resale value. The cost is usually the limiting factor here. A standard loft conversion is around £15,000 and garden rooms aren’t much cheaper.
One component of your office space that you should not forget about is the lighting. While you may be constrained with the areas that you can use to create a great office at home, always make sure that you have some source of natural light.
Equipment for Your Home Office
So much is going to depend on the type of business you are involved in. If you are a wedding photographer, you’ll need space for your cameras and lenses as well as a desk and computer for editing pictures. If you make designer cakes, you could well have a whole library shelf of cookery books though you may want to make the kitchen your office. A freelance writer needs nothing more than a laptop and a good broadband connection.
For a basic home office you will want to include:
- A good desk: it needs to be big enough and sturdy enough to do your work on. Cramped spaces can get in the way of productivity. The good news is there are plenty of budget options available online.
- A comfortable chair: There’s nothing worse than sitting on a bad chair if you are trying to concentrate on your work. My advice is to take your office chair selection seriously and be prepared to pay extra to find one that supports you and is comfortable.
- Computer and accessories: Invest in equipment that works for your business. You may want a desktop and large screen or you might prefer just a portable laptop. Just make sure that you can fit it all in and pick a high-quality model rather than a cheap one.
- Broadband connection: It’s not something that you worry about when working for someone else but ensure your internet provider is reliable if you are now operating from home. The last thing you need is trouble getting online or slow connections because of broadband issues.
Creating a Personal Office Space
Most people want to create a personalised space. That may include putting up certain pictures, laying down a new carpet, giving the walls a paint and including some plants. Ideally, you want a space that is yours and which you feel comfortable and productive.
Again, you don’t want it to be too cluttered but the more you can personalise the better it should be for productivity.
Some Home Office Etiquette
Once you’ve designed your space, you may also want to think about some of the most obvious home office dos and don’ts.
I keep the TV on while I work. Most times I will have the news on in the background but if there’s a cricket match on you can pretty much guarantee it will be playing.
Now, some home workers are going to say this is the surest way to put a damper on your productivity. I don’t agree. It works for me. And I like cricket, though I’ll often look up and suddenly find that four wickets have fallen and I’ve missed the best action.
Distractions are only usually distractions if you allow them to be. You may prefer to work with AC/DC belting out on Spotify. If it works for you, then don’t worry. There is no set rule – you are the master of your own office space.
Hours of Work
This again comes down to personal preference. It’s useful to set working hours and try to keep to them if, like me, you have trouble with being distracted by what I call the shiny-shiny. This is where you decide to clear the garden path rather than write that article or pop down the shops to get some milk or other sundries when you should be working.
Creating a dedicated office space reinforces this type of practice. You pick a set time to sit down and work and you keep to it.
Do Not Disturb
Another issue with the home office is other people (or, in my case, cats). They are a distraction. If you have a family, you may have kids running around at certain times of the day, especially during half-term. That’s probably why having a whole room dedicated to your office environment where you can shut the door is the most desirable option.
All I can say is make sure that people understand that you are working and that you need at least some peace.
Another issue for those who work from home (and which happens to me regularly) is the number of friends and family who think you can drop everything and help them out. I find pretending not to be in the most appropriate action.
Should I Wear a Suit if I Work at Home
You’ve designed your great new office, now all you need to do is sit down and get to work.
Should you dress the part? There’s a pretty apocryphal point of view online that you should put your suit on or at least dress smart before you start work. There are numerous bits of advice about not sitting in your pyjamas or your underpants.
I think this advice is bunkum. Wear what you like. I haven’t worn a suit, except for the odd funeral, for the last 20 years.
It makes no difference to your productivity whatsoever and don’t let anyone tell you any different. If you’re talking to a client on Skype or out visiting them, of course, you may want to smarten up.
But don’t get too obsessed with your attire. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons why we work for ourselves in the first place?
Alternatives to Creating a Home Office
Finally, if you don’t have enough room in your home to create a useful office space, you might like to consider hiring an area to work in. With the number of people choosing the freelance life nowadays, there’s been a growth in companies offering workspaces. This can be great if you want to work for yourself but like to have other people around you.
Most cities have them nowadays and they provide broadband and other facilities for a set fee. You can even hire by the hour or by the day and they are worth considering.