Organizing Your Home Office Tips
Almost everyone who starts their own business does so with a goal of
achieving success on multiple levels. These levels of success
include financial independence, personal satisfaction, and the control
of personal time. Since you are reading this book, you are
getting ready to, or have, already joined the ranks of the work-at-home
entrepreneurs. This is one of the fastest growing industries
for a couple of reasons. The internet provides easy access to
customers around the world. In addition, worsening economic
conditions leading to employment uncertainty has led many people to
seek alternatives. Of course, even before the internet there
were plenty of work-at-home businesses, but their ability to expand
into markets outside the local area were limited.
Unfortunately, many new at-home businesses will fail. That is
because you can have access to a larger number of customers, but you
still have to run your operation like a true business and not a hobby
or else customers will not be plentiful. This means you need
to be organized in order to handle the various tasks which are
required. One of the first things you need to do is make sure
your home office is organized. There are lots of ways to
improve office efficiency and to make sure your office is set up as
well as possible to meet your needs.
In the following sections, you will read about the use of space,
keeping schedules and using technology to develop an efficient and
WELCOME TO MY OFFICE
When you decide to work at home, and have established the kind of
business you want to run, one of the first steps to success is creating
work space dedicated to your business. It does not matter
whether you will be greeting customers in your home or only meeting
cyber-customers. Part of the process of maintaining
professionalism is making sure you operate your business like a true
When you go to a traditional storefront office, you will notice there
is floor inventory space, check out counters and a designated
office. You may be living in an apartment and thinking there
is no way you will be able to handle such extensive space
requirements. But the main point here is not that you need a
lot of space, but that you need to have designated space.
There is a big difference.
When you look at your business space from this perspective, you realize
you need to set aside a specific area that is comfortable for work
while handling your equipment, inventory and customer needs.
So you may have to re-arrange your furniture so a corner of your living
room becomes your office. Or you might even decide to convert
a spare bedroom into an office. Either way you have to have
designated office space that has been maximized for efficient use on a
day to day basis.
In order to determine how to best arrange your space, the first thing
to do is make a list of what you need to be able to handle in this
� Do you need a desk large enough to
handle a computer, monitor, keyboard, printer and writing space?
� Do you need additional desk space for
spreading out materials such as order or shipping paperwork?
� Do you require a meeting table for
meeting with customers?
� Will there be a need for a file cabinet
for organizing paperwork?
� Will you have one or more employees
� Do you need work space for any kind of
product assembling or for packing orders?
� Do you need inventory storage space?
� Are there any special equipment needs
such as postage equipment or envelope sealers that will require space?
Once you have a good list of what kind of space and equipment you need
it makes it much easier to begin arranging the area where you will
work. Since you know the type of furniture and equipment you
will have, it is possible to then decide how much minimum space you
need to set aside to accommodate it all. From there you can
begin purchasing the right sized furniture and equipment you don�t have
on hand already.
One common mistake people make is trying to �make do� when it comes to
space organization. This does not refer to making your space
work for you, because you only have a certain amount of space
available. �Making do� refers to not taking the time to organize your
space for maximum efficiency. It also means not making
available the right kind of equipment to get the job done
efficiently. In the end this will catch up with you when you
lose orders because you tried to skimp on your filing space or refused
to buy a filing cabinet. As will be discussed later, you also
will need filing space for your financial records.
When it gets down to actually setting up your space, you will need to
measure your available space and then decide what kind of furniture and
equipment will fit. Don�t be upset if everything doesn�t fit
at first, because there are always different ways to arrange an office
to make the space work. There is also a number of
space-saving office furniture and storage units you can buy that will
make your limited space look a lot more spacious.
KEEPING WORK AND PERSONAL LIFE SEPARATE
When you are setting up your office, the goal is to make sure you have
enough space to efficiently handle your operations. But you
still have to learn how to manage your time. The most
beautiful home office in the world is still not going to produce income
if you don�t manage your time. In a later section, there is a
more thorough discussion about time management. But the
important point to remember is that your business is only going to be
successful if you are able to keep your work and personal life separate.
You can think of it this way. If you held a traditional job,
you would only spend lunch time taking care of personal
business. If there are errands to run you would either do
them before or after work. You would not drop your work and
start doing a load of laundry in the break room. You don�t
sit on the phone talking to friends and family. You don�t run to the
hairdresser in mid-morning leaving work undone.
Your home business is your job whether you are doing it full or part
time. You have to set a schedule which insures you spend the
right amount of time on your business without being distracted by the
personal surroundings you have in a home. You may be
thinking, �Where does the freedom of being an entrepreneur begin if I
have to follow a schedule?�
The freedom is in the options you have. For example, when you
are working in an office for a corporation, your supervisor determines
your hours. You are told when to be at work and when you can
leave. Even if you are an executive, there are expectations
as to when you are supposed to be in the office.
When you own a home based business, you can set a schedule, but you can
determine your hours. For example, you may like to start work
at 9 AM instead of 8 AM. You may prefer to work evenings
instead of mornings. One of the main influences on when you
need to work is the type of home based business you are
operating. If you are selling products that appeal to the
stay-at-home moms, then you can work during the day. If you
are selling products or services to people who work in offices, you
will probably have to work some evening hours in order to make contacts.
One of the reasons home businesses fail is because there is no time
schedule set. If you say you are going to work your business
from 9AM until 5PM everyday, then you need to be at your home office
desk working by 9AM.
You also should set a schedule which accommodates the many tasks
associated with operating a home business. It is so easy to
spend a lot of time on important functions such as bookkeeping, but
while you are posting expenses, you are not selling. So your
schedule should address how much time you need to spend on contacting
customers and how much time will be needed for office maintenance tasks.
As will be discussed more thoroughly under time management, the most
important step you can take to be a better manager in your home
business is to keep your business and personal office activities
By the way, it is highly recommended by the experts that you dress
appropriately for work. You do not have to wear a dress or a
suit and tie, but on the other hand, you should not wear pajamas
either. It is much easier to treat a business professionally
if you treat it like a real job.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO IMPROVE EFFICIENCY
We live in the computer age and that means you can use technology in a
number of ways to build a successful business. To put it
bluntly, you have to live in a cave to not know about the
internet. But what many people do not understand is the
variety of e-commerce tools that are available, affordable, easy to
access, and productive.
Following is a short list of the various internet tools now
available. This list is presented to just to give you an idea
of the different kinds of internet tools that can help you get customer
leads on a regular basis through the development of your internet
� Email for correspondence and marketing
� Website including counters for
� Online ads and banners
� Online catalogues
� Online customer payments
� Chat rooms and forums
You can use the internet to communicate with your customers in a way
never before possible for the small business. Of course
having access to the internet is only possible if you have a
computer. It is recommended you get a high speed internet
connection, because today�s online graphics are complex and slow to
download unless you have the right connection setup.
Other technology tools that have made it possible for the home business
person to literally run a million dollar business out of a corner of a
room in the house include the scanner, cell phone and laptops for
making personal presentations.
Speaking of phones�.the newest technology allows you to run local,
domestic and even international calls through the internet at a greatly
reduced price compared to what you would pay for a regular phone
service. The Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) is quickly
being embraced by small businesses that need to make expensive
Other equipment you can use in your office to make your business more
efficient includes a printer, fax machine and copier. Today
you can buy combination units that perform all 3 functions.
You can attach document files in emails too and send quotes, orders,
invoices, letters and whatever else you want over the
There are a number of software packages you can purchase that let you
do many tasks on your computer. You can buy letter writing
software, inventory management programs, or publishing software which
can create newsletters or marketing material to name just a few
There is one other important piece of technology you need to maintain a
successful home business. You should purchase a bookkeeping
or accounting software package which will enable you to organize your
tax records and keep you informed as to the financial condition of your
Keeping good financial records is crucial to any business and that
includes the home based business. In the next section we will
talk about the importance of maintaining those financial records on a
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