Setup a Home Office for Success
When you are thinking of how to setup a home office for your business, there are four key areas you need to keep in mind. Ideally, try to setup a home office in a room where you can close the door and keep your family and other distractions out and use it exclusively as an office. That is the best scenario to maximize your home office tax deduction. But that is not always possible. It is better to setup a home office as best you can rather than postpone important business activities until you have the “right” setup.
Setup a Home Office: Furniture
At a bare minimum, your home office needs a desk or table or shelf large enough to handle your laptop or computer monitor and keyboard and at least a standard notepad. Even a study tray table can be used if necessary. Your kitchen table is fine. A desk will often be a little better. Heck, I’ve been known to work off a folding card table. It needs to be located reasonably close to an electrical outlet and positioned so that wires and cords do not impede your family’s travels through the house or cause any safety concerns for you.
Along with your flat surface you need a comfortable chair. It doesn’t need to be an “office chair.” It can be any chair that is comfortable for you to sit in as you type or talk on the phone.
Your home office space needs to have good lighting. If the overhead lights aren’t enough, then get a good lamp. You want to make sure you can block any distracting glare or reflection from direct sunlight.
If you are going to work from a home office, you will need some sort of filing system. If you have a file cabinet, great. If not, you can use a drawer or even a banker box. But starting on day one, you need to have a plan for filing. You will need to keep track of receipts of your business-related expenses, your utility bills, your contracts, print-outs of important emails, your marketing material originals, and more.
Setup a Home Office: Equipment
For most businesses, a computer is essential. But you get to choose what type of computer works for you. A desktop with a CPU unit, monitor and keyboard can work for most businesses. A laptop or tablet is often a space-saving choice, but not essential.
A printer is extremely desirable for a home office. A simple black-and-white printer may be all you need, but the cost for an All-in-One is usually just a little more and you get a fax, copier and scanner in addition to your printer. Most businesses do not need a color printer. But if you have a color printer, make sure you keep track of the cost of your color ink cartridges. If you do a lot of color printing, you’ll find that it makes sense to invest in a good color laser instead of the inkjet models.
Another essential piece of office equipment is a phone. If you were at my presentation on building business credit a couple weeks ago, then you know that having a dedicated telephone number for your business is a prerequisite to build a solid business credit profile. But if you have to use your personal phone for now, that’s okay. Just make sure your charger is nearby.
A piece of office equipment that may not be essential, but it should be high on your want list is a document shredder.
Setup a Home Office: Supplies
Office supplies are essential even if you are working in a home office. You need pens, notepads, file folders, labels, a stapler and staples, a staple puller and paper clips. You may be surprised at how often you need scissors or a piece of scotch tape. You can keep your supplies in a small box with a lid and just pull it out when you need something, but having those essential items handy and organized will go a long way to making you more efficient and effective.
I also highly suggest that you invest in a couple 3-ring notebooks and some page protector sleeves. I find it easier to organize my documents in sleeves and notebooks. For instance, all of my company organization documents (filing with Secretary of State, EIN letter from the IRS, Business Plan, Corporate By-laws, and other documents are all in one notebook so I can grab it and reference those items easily). Especially if your space is limited, filing in notebooks is a terrific option.
Setup a Home Office: Software
And finally, no matter what your business, you need access to a word process and a spreadsheet program. There are free option like OpenOffice if you need them. When you are first starting out, you can keep track of your income and expenses on a simple spreadsheet (just make sure you record your income and expenses frequently!) but eventually you will want to graduate to an accounting software like Quickbooks. Or you can check out online services like Mint.com for accounting in the cloud.
You’ll also want to make sure you’ve got the latest Adobe Acrobat Reader downloaded. If you can afford the Adobe Pro, which includes Adobe Writer, it’s well worth the cost, especially if your business is document-heavy.
I’m sure I’ve missed several items, but use this guide as a starting point when you setup your home office and you’ll be well on your way. Leave a comment on what are your must-have items in your home office below.
Here’s to your success,
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