Whether you want to work full time out of your home or you need a place to use for those days when you can’t make it into the office, making sure you have what you need to get the work done from home can be a life saver for anyone in business.
Here are some of the essential items needed when setting up a home-office or as I like to call it, my h-office:
- Computer – This is the brain of your business. A computer is an investment in the future of the business and it can be claimed on next year’s taxes. That’s not to say you should buy the most expensive. Use www.pricegrabber.com and check out Tiger Direct for refurbished (but still under warranty) computer. Things to avoid: Celeron processors (get Intel or AMD), Vista operating system and any PC with less than 3 GB of RAM memory (which is the memory used to run the programs, not store information).
- Telephone – A separate incoming line prevents personal calls from getting mixed in with business calls. For the virtual professional, image and communication are key to winning more clients. Rather than sign up for a 2 year contract with a telecomm, use a little known, inexpensive tech called unified messaging to send your calls to existing phones (cell/home/office). This is your best option to control all the incoming – calls, voicemails, faxes and, depending on the service, even e-mail, on a budget.
- File cabinet – Most of the information a virtual professional receives these days is in the form of electronic documents and files, e-mails, etc.* However, that does not mean you don’t need to have a place to keep your papers neatly organized. For privacy and business purposes, contracts and other important/client documents should be stored in a file cabinet with secure lock.
- Comfortable desk and chair – You will be working from your h-office most of the time and, more to the point, sitting in that chair. Make sure your equipment is set up with the keyboard and monitor at the correct height; you can comfortably keep your feet flat on the floor and have enough lighting to at least keep a solar powered calculator running on a dark day!
- Separate work area – For tax purposes, it is essential that the home office be separate. With so much sensitive data coming in and out of your hands, a virtual professional needs an area dedicated to the business and nothing else. Use a spare bedroom, the attic, den or garage. If you don’t have a spare room, use bookshelves to section off a corner of a room. The point is to not be able to see your desk or think of work when you are “at home”.
- Printer combo – Simple printers are a thing of the past. A printer that can scan multiple page documents, send and receive faxes and copy documents is more of value and a lot less expensive than purchasing each separately. Always purchase a unit that uses toner instead of ink. I recommend the Brother multi function machines.
- Software – Along with a computer and telephone, all businesses need licensed software. Common software needed includes word processing, accounting, e-mail management, graphic design and desktop publishing. A free and stable .pdf application is http://www.primopdf.com. To save costs on word processing, use Corel’s WordPerfect instead of Microsoft Office and for e-mail, you can use Outlook Express (which comes pre-loaded on all PCs) or download Thunderbird which is a free e-mail mangement tool.
For a virtual professional, the office is the main workspace. Besides being functional it also needs to be comfortable; have good lighting and the proper tools and tech to get the work done.
If you have any tools, tips or tricks to add, please comment below.
*Use my D-A-F-T system to keep those under control.