Home Office Basics for Freelance Workers
A “home office” may sound like a lofty title for the corner of the kitchen from which you’ve been running your freelance work, but no matter where you are when you work from home there are certain home office basics that will make your work life a lot easier. Working from a desk, with a computer, printer, Internet connection, telephone line and fax machine, having a copier on hand and a place to organise and store your files are all basic home office basics for freelance workers.
DeskA dedicated desk is a home office staple, but if you can’t afford one or don’t have the room for one then any dedicated, flat surface should do. Make sure that you have room to lay out your materials, keep an “inbox” and “outbox” for business correspondence and can fit your desktop or laptop computer as well.
ComputerThe modern freelance worker can not be without a computer. Without a doubt, computers make it easier to work from home and cut down on the time, energy and money you would otherwise spend on communicating with clients. When you set up your home office, decide if you prefer a desktop or laptop computer, how much memory you would like it to have and what kind of software you will need. Most freelancers find that word processing software, the ability to make spreadsheets and invoicing software are all relevant. Software for graphic design may also be desired.
PrinterAs much as you might like the idea of a paperless office, most freelance workers will need some paper in their lives at some point. Finding a printer, preferably one that prints in both black and white and colour, which works well with your computer is essential for printing out client communication, invoices, submissions and more.
Internet ConnectionMuch like the computer, a modern freelance will find it very hard to work without an Internet connection. Not only can you apply for job ads online and list your own, but you will likely find that you’ll soon want your own website and possibly even a ‘blog to carve out your own corner of the Web. You’ll also need an Internet connection to send and receive email which is rapidly becoming the preferred communication channel of freelancers.
Telephone LineYour home will likely already have a telephone line, but you may find that having a private home office line is helpful. With such a private line you can be sure that no one else in the family answers your calls and you can leave a professional voicemail or answering machine message for clients. You may even find that you can get a telephone line bundled with Internet for your home office only. This may be especially helpful come tax time when you are trying to sort out your business and office expenses.
Fax MachineFax machines have somewhat fallen out of favour recently given the popularity of Internet and email, but you will likely still find a fax machine helpful for when you need to send something immediately either with a signature or that has no electronic copy. Some computers and printers are built with fax capabilities already installed, so find out if yours do before necessarily spending money on a separate machine.
CopierYou may find that you need to make copies in the course of running your freelance business so having some sort of copier in your home office may make sense. Many printers come equipped with copying facilities, and some software allows you to make PDFs (a kind of electronic copy), so investigate all of your options before deciding on a separate machine.
File StorageLast but not least, file storage is imperative for a freelance worker’s home office. Ideally such storage will come with a lock, be fireproof and be able to hold several years worth of files. All contracts, client communications, tax paperwork and any other business-related documents should all be filed in a central location. A similar system of organisation should also be put in use for email messages. However, if your email is not Web-based then you’ll want to print copies of each communication as well just so that you have hard copies of everything should you have a crash or other emergency.
Outfitting a home office may take a couple of days and some initial cash, but once you have your home office up and running it will be some time before you need to update or upgrade. For more information on home office basics for freelance workers, speak with others in your particular field to find out what they would recommend.