by Odette Pollar
Time Management Systems
Question: I am going to start a business from my home, but I am worried about being taken seriously by my customers.
Answer: More and more people are working from home and hence it does not carry the same stigma it once did. Before going “official”, particularly in a condominium or a co-op, be sure that you check for ordinances or zoning restrictions with which you must comply. Restrictions take various forms, including prohibitions on advertising, signs on your home, etc. To avoid some of these potential difficulties, as well as the perception in your customer’s mind if your home address happens to be 123 Daisy Lane Drive, you can subscribe to a remote business service which provides you with a commercial address, business telephone listing, and even a conference room where you can meet clients and customers. You would still do the bulk of your work from your home but have all of the advantages of a 5th Avenue address. Calls can be forwarded to your home office as well. No one will know that your corporate world headquarters is a small spare bedroom.
Question: What’s the ideal size for a home office?
- Answer: There is no ideal size. You are limited only by how creative you can be in transforming your work area. There is probably such a thing as too little space but rarely too much. You need to have enough room for a desk or worktable and space to hold equipment and supplies to which you need easy access. Be sure that you are not unduly cramped or located where ventilation or lighting is poor. Another important and often overlooked issue, particularly for older homes, is electrical needs. Have an electrician check for power requirements. Office equipment electrical needs could exceed the wattage required by other household devices and the last thing you need is to blow a fuse every time you print a document.
Question: How should I choose my office furniture?
- Answer: Ask first, do you really need new furniture or simply want it? In a startup situation, the budget is usually tight, so don’t spend more than you must. Choose furniture that functions well and fits into your available space. If clients are not going to visit you in your office, it is less important that everything match. If it is a choice between attractive appearance and functionality, choose functionality. It need not be an eyesore but style should be secondary to comfort and utility. After all, you will be using it everyday. Before dashing to the office store, measure twice. Double-check your dimensions. Think also about placement. If you are in a tight space, will you be able to turn your chair while seated and open the file drawer behind you? If you must stand up every time you need a file folder, that will soon drive you crazy. Some furniture requires assembly, be sure that you are willing and able to do so. Often, it is more convenient and a time saver to have the store assemble and deliver it. There is a charge for this service but your time is also valuable.
Question: There is so much equipment to choose from, how do I avoid making mistakes?
- Answer: There are some essential pieces of equipment you will need and that is determined by the type of work you will be doing. Resist the temptation to overspend. Initially, do you really need a shredder, even if it is on sale? Ask friends and associates for any product recommendations, and about what mistakes they made. They can be a wealth of information and can save you from making costly mistakes. You can always consider used or refurbished equipment which will stretch your budget. A secondary benefit is that this can see you through until you need a more advanced model. You will probably be using a computer with a modem and a fax machine. Save yourself headaches and clients frustration by installing a second line in your home dedicated to office use. This is particularly important if you have a large family or teenagers who use the phone often. Researching on the internet can tie up a phone line for hours. One of the great things about a home office is that there is no rule or law as to what it must look like. So long as it is functional and practical, it can look anyway you choose. Let it reflect your personality and be a place you look forward to going to each day.
Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. Her book, 365 Ways to Simplify Your Work Life is available at bookstores.
Her company, Time Management Systems, is based in Oakland, CA.
For more information, please feel free to call 1-800-599-TIME or e-mail Odette Pollar at Opollartms@aol.com.