This is the twenty-fifth article in the series
"90 Days to Transform Your Job Into a Business"
Never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.Erma Bombeck
Or, more likely, were you subjected to odd ringtones from others' cell phones, commotion, conversations you'd rather not hear, and constant interruptions?
If your work place was the factory floor, a customer's location, or a retail shop, perhaps you didn't need a space to call your own because of the nature of your job.
Now that you have your own company, you need to have a base of operations to work on the business, not just work in it.
An Office of Your Own
Earlier in this series I talked about choosing your business address. That article focused on choosing the right space in which to create your products or deliver your services to clients or customers.
This article is about a dedicated space from which to run your business, your personal office. (That's my office in the picture on the right.) It's where you take care of the administrative, marketing, planning, and financial tasks that help you manage your business.
Small or Large, What Matters Is It's YOURS
Hopefully undisturbed by others, your office is central command, a sanctuary, or a think tank. It should fit you like a glove yet have room to grow.
The right office for you could be anything from a corner of your living room to an closet-turned-office to an entire addition to your home complete with your own fireplace and bathroom.
The key is to keep it simple and minimize start-up expenses. For the first seven or so years of my business, I shared a home office with my husband.
Then, during a home spruce-up project, we decided to set up an unused guest room as my own office. By that time, wifi home networks and cordless phones with remote bases came along, which meant we didn't have to run wires.
Furniture: Used or New Works
The basics are:
- An ergonomic chair (you will spend a LOT of time in it).
- Excellent lighting: task lighting and ambient lighting.
- A solid desk, preferably with at least one small drawer for pens and supplies and one large one for files.
- Lots of grounded outlets with high-quality surge-protected power strips for powering everything (desk lamps, computers, monitors, printers) and charging your smartphone, tablet, laptop, etc.
- Office supplies: Stapler, paper clips, scissors, pens, pencils, printer paper and cartridges, folders, notepads, etc.
Plan for Storage
You'll be amazed at the stuff a business accumulates: invoices, receipts, catalogs, magazines, current client projects, finished projects, business projects, books, employee records (if you have any), tax records, and more. You'll need one or more of the following:
- A quality filing cabinet. Buying used works well. Just don't go with cheap cabinets, either new or used. They can't take the load of a lot of paper and still roll smoothly. If you can't place it near your office, put it as close as you can.
- Sturdy plastic storage bins with covers. If you don't have room for a file cabinet or don't feel you have enough stuff to justify getting one, buy one or more of these bins, preferable see-through all the way around. They fit under desks and in closets, so they can stay handy.
- Storage boxes. I bought a bunch of these from Staples when we spruced up our home a few years ago and needed to pack up every room so each could be painted. They are perfect for storing old records (taxes, client, etc.) as well as packing books and anything else. Their size keeps their weight manageable when loaded. They can be stacked without the sides buckling.
- Bookshelf: Even if you don't use them to store books, bookshelves offer flexible storage. Use bins to organize things on the shelves.
There are many layout ideas out there that you can find by Googling. The main point is to organize your space so you can lay your hands on anything you need without having to hunt or dig for it. In my opinion and experience, U-shaped space with continuous countertop all the way around it is the most productive.
You might also consider the ancient principles of feng shui when placing furniture and objects in your office. Use them to create a vibrant and successful energy in the space; a positive, comfortable environment works wonders to reduce stress and improve your outlook.
3M Command Strips
I should be a spokesperson for these things because I recommend them so much. Command Strips are another fantastic brainstorm from the same people who brought PostIt® Notes into the world. The strips allow you to put a great many things on your walls without making any holes. And you can remove the objects and the strips leaving no trace.
Before Command Strips, I was totally afraid to put up pictures as I could never be sure I put them in the right spot. Now I'm fearless! And you can be too. Use them to hang anything light (read their labels to find weight limits) like calendars, pictures, posters, etc. They have a huge variety of hooks, picture hangers, wall-mounted containers, cord runners, and more. You can find them in Walmart, Target, JoAnns, Lowes, Home Depot, and many other places. Not every place stocks all the items, however.
Optional But Helpful
In my own office I have two whiteboards, one large bulletin board, and an easel pad. I use them for brainstorming or working out schedules, presentations, book outlines or anything else where I need more space to write than a computer screen.
When I've finished, I take a picture of what I created, recycle the easel paper, and erase the whiteboards. That frees up the whiteboards for the next project and reduces the visual clutter.
I also love my Brother P-Touch (PT-1950) Label Maker. It has come in handy for things far beyond making file folder labels (and that's another potential article down the line).
- Laptop. Unless there is a specific reason you need a desktop, I recommend a laptop for its portability and flexibility.
- Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for items without batteries, such as a desktop computer. It keeps your computer and printer powered for at least a few minutes if the power fails so you can safely shut them down.
Include Things That Remind You Why You Are Doing This
Without adding clutter, include things that make you happy to look at: family photos, a wall calendar with a favorite hobby theme, favorite sayings, comics or cartoons, a live plant.
Your Office Can Make or Break You
With a comfortable base of operations, there's one less limit on how far you and your company will go.