One of the most fun parts of working at home, besides making money, is setting up the home office. Like most women, I enjoy shopping for shoes and clothes, but I also love office supplies. Folders, pens, business cards, paperclips, doo-dads and gadgets — you can find it all at the office store. Not only that, you no longer have to use plain old beige manila folders and olive green hanging files. Today, just about everything for your office comes in bright colors and styles to suit your aesthetic needs.
With that said, if you’re starting out and don’t have a huge budget, you don’t want to go overboard. When setting up your home office, start by using what you’ve got and purchase what you absolutely need. Once you’re successful at home, then you can splurge on the fancy furniture and office supplies. Here are some tips to help you set up your home office on a budget.
1. Make a list of what you need to do your work or run your business. Although I try to work digitally as much as possible, I still need items such as paper, pens and printer ink.
2. Get comfortable, ergonomic furniture and good lighting. This is one area you don’t want to skimp on. Old furniture and poor lighting can cause all sorts of physical problems.
3. Figure out your filing system first, then buy the supplies. I’m organizationally challenged, so filing is a chore for me. I have a 4-drawer file cabinet that is full and yet not organized and hardly ever opened. That’s because I’m a piler and like to work where I sit (as opposed to getting up and filing). What works for me is filing bins I can keep near my desk. Some people are switching to digital filing, but I prefer to have paper (I print online receipts), so I have something tangible if my computer blows up, my backup fails and the cloud disappears.
4. Decide how you like to plan, then choose a planning system. My calendar is online, but my to-do list is on paper. I like to see my calendar in month view, but my to-do list is in a week view. Adopt a system that supports your work style.
5. Identify your tech and communication needs. I don’t see how you can work-at-home without a computer, but you may not need a new one unless yours is really old. You might be able to get away without having a Smartphone, but I’d save my pennies to get one if I were you. They are incredibly handy for dealing with important or emergency work while on the go or when your Internet isn’t working. You probably don’t need a fax. The only reason I use mine anymore is to fax stuff out (I never receive faxes anymore), but you can use an all-in-one machine or scan and email instead.
So what are the basics a home office should have? Here is my list of the most common needs, but you’ll need to evaluate your work duties and style, and inventory what you have already to determine your needs.
- Binders – I have a binder that houses everything from my planner, details of each of my income sources, and my goals. I love binders (and pretty notebooks/journals) to store information and ideas.
- Business cards – I’m surprised at how stingy people are with business cards. They’re relatively cheap and are designed to be given away. So get a bunch and share them with everyone!
- Calculator – I use one almost daily.
- Folders and files and a place to keep them
- Paper – Even in a digital world, I still use a lot of paper. You can have a green office by buying recycled paper and recycling the paper you throw away.
- Paperclips, stapler and staples. I use these a lot during tax time.
- Planner – You can buy digital planners or fancy binder planners.
- Printer and toner or ink.
- Shipping materials, if your work involves shipping.
- Surge protector. Don’t skimp on this. The first time your computer blows up from a surge, you’ll wish you had one of these. (Note, computers don’t really blow up, but it can get fried and become unusable in a surge.)
- Recycle bin and wastepaper basket.
- Software based on your work needs. Don’t forget anti-virus software to protect your computer and identity.
Most office stores carry all this stuff or you can visit Memoetc or other online store. When you get your supplies, set them up in a well-lit space designated for work.
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Leslie Truex is an ideaphoric writer, speaker, entrepreneur, social worker and mom trying to do it all from the comfort of her home. Since 1998, she's been helping others create careers they love by providing work-at-home information and resources through Work-At-Home Success.
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