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Starting a Home Office: A Few Thoughts

In recent years there has been a significant rise in the number of home-based businesses. The idea of lounging around the house in your pajamas, sipping coffee and "working" is a thought that appeals to many workers. Avoiding the stressful commute, no boss looking over your shoulder, plenty of peace & quiet… sounds great- right?

Well, before you take the leap, here are a few pointers that can help.

Dedicated Space – Working and living in the same space can bring a unique set of challenges. If at all possible, create a separate place where work is to be done. Establishing this spatial boundary will help you get in and out of the work mode more easily. Everyone needs to get away from work, but it’s much harder when work is just a few feet away. And unless you happen to live on your own, defining a "work zone" also helps others adjust their behavior.

Distractions – If you aren’t the kind of person that can stay focused, you might find working in a home office a bit challenging. Daytime television, personal phone calls, web browsing and email are all tempting diversions that can make it difficult to stay on track. Self-discipline is an important characteristic if you want to succeed in any business pursuit, but it’s especially critical for home office dwellers.

Technology - The technology tools required to succeed in a home based business are sometimes referred to as "the big four". Phone, fax, copier & computer are essentials for most. Depending on your line of work, a combination phone/fax/copier may be a good way to go at the start. And you might be surprised how reasonably priced one of these units can be. Very fast & powerful computers are available for a fraction of what they cost a few years ago. And many manufacturers offer in-home service support for a nominal fee. If you aren’t techo-savy, you might want to consider it. As for an internet access, most home office workers I know have abandoned phone line connections and upgraded to DSL or cable. Software programs to help market your product or service, manage the books and other tasks are easy to find.

Furnishings – At first, you may think setting up your home office using the dining room table and chairs makes sense. Not so. In addition to the importance of creating the Dedicated Space that we addressed earlier, it’s also important to furnish that space properly. The good news is, when it comes to home office furniture there are lots of options. You’ll find many ergonomically correct seating alternatives that are very affordable. Desking and filing solutions that are designed for home use can also be obtained without breaking the bank. Selecting the right home office furniture can significantly increase your productivity and comfort.

Relationship Risks - If you share your home or apartment with others (spouse, kids, roommates, etc.), working from home can test even the strongest relationships. It’s wise to set the ground rules at the start. An open discussion with everyone who will be affected will help clarify expectations. As with all ventures that involve the "human element", expect to deal with stress and occasional conflicts. But if you keep lines of communication open, you’ll have a better chance of keeping hick-ups to a minimum.

Solitude – This is a big one. Often, working at home means working alone. Unless you schedule appointments that take you out in the field to get "face time" with others, a feeling of solitude can be an issue. Even if you regularly speak with clients, prospects or business contacts via the telephone, you can still easily experience a sense of isolation. On balance, the home office workers I’ve polled say they really miss the social interaction with co-workers. If you are a social personal, you’ll want to keep this in mind.

Seek Advice - Lastly, (and this might be the best advice I can give you) do a little networking. Find people who have gone the home office route and hear what they have to say. How do they like it? What would they do differently? Would they do it again if they had a choice? You’ll get mixed reviews, for sure. But it is wise to heed the advice of people who have been down this road already.

In the final analysis, with a solid business plan, a lot of hard work and a little luck, a home office can offer the ideal solution. Done right, it can contribute to your career advancement while adding to your quality of life.

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