Setting Up a Home Office on a Budget

Plenty of successful businesses have started in the garage, study or spare room of someone’s house; including a few greats like Dell, Google, Nike and Apple. It is the most economical way to start a smaller business without having to take out a substantial loan. There are several ways to set up a home office without breaking the bank, and we’re going to tell you how:

Furniture

Shopping for furniture is one of most fun things you can do when setting up your home office; scouring through magazines or visiting online websites for inspiration. However, the best way to save money on office furniture is to find companies that are upgrading their offices, and in the process of disposing (not so raggedy) pre-used furniture. Liquidators are another option, as are companies that are closing down and need to sell their office furniture ASAP. Other great ideas for finding cheap office pieces are: scouring hard rubbish in your local neighborhood or visiting thrift/charity Shops – these two are a great idea if you’re the creative type and are handy with upholstering and painting! Keep in mind when you are bargain-hunting for affordable furniture, that with certain items, you get what you pay for. Certain pieces may take up more of your budget than others. For example: a good, comfortable, sturdy office chair is always worth spending a little more on to make sure the ergonomic design of the chair is suited to your body type, height and size.

Electronic Gadgets

Shopping for laptops or desktop computers is usually more expensive than shopping for regular home office furniture, as you’ll need a semi-decent one to get started. Like regular furniture, you will also need to consider the ergonomic design of the electronic device you’re purchasing; you may be able to buy a cheap mouse, but if doesn’t fit correctly in your hand, it could be damaging your wrist. If there is a tech-wiz in your family or circle of friends, you could always buy the necessary parts like motherboard, processor, computer fans and compensate them with a delectable dinner at their favourite restaurant or a case of beer, to put it together for you. You’ll be amazed at how much you can save by doing this, compared to buying a computer from a retail store.

Buying a brand new printer for your home office is often unnecessary; in fact printers are one of the cheapest and easiest electronic items to obtain for your home office. Depending on your industry, you may need a fancier, more expensive printer, but a regular home scanner/printer/copier should suffice for the purposes of a regular home office. If you don’t have a printer currently, great places to look are on websites like Gumtree and Craigslist which often list items at incredibly cheap prices, or even free if you are willing to collect the item. Ebay is a great website if you are after the fancier, more high-tech printers. Alternatively, ask amongst friends and family if anyone has a spare to lend you.

Office Supplies

Now that your home office is decked out with furniture and electronics, you’ll have to start thinking about office supplies. Things like staples, pens, folders, paper, printer toner and books may be affordable on their own, but can quickly add up. Thrift Shops often have a wide variety of new office supplies at half the normal price of what you pay in major office supply stores. A way to save on toner for your printer is to buy online, or get your old cartridges refilled. Another point to remember is to use email when you can, this will save on paper, ink and envelopes, and is also more environmentally friendly! Hunt through your drawers, boxes, nooks and crannies and you’ll be sure to find enough old pens, postage stamps, half-used books and old files which you could use. You can even utilise some old vases and transform them into nifty pen and pencil holders.

Environmental factors

Look around your home office. Do you have windows in the room you’ve designated to be your office? Take advantage of this and set up your table near the window,  the natural light will help brighten the room, creating a more productive environment, and lessen the need to turn on all the lights, hence, saving you cash on electricity.

There you have it, a few handy tips to turning a spare room into a home office without sending you broke. After much planning and (lots of!) scavenging, it is possible to magically transform an empty space into a home office, which will save you money to invest in those things which are essential to making your small business a success.

 

 

Working from Home: How to Avoid ‘Cabin-Fever’

For many women who are writers, editors, coaches and multi-passion entrepreneurs, the core element of their work is to be writing content, planning systems and organising services that start out by sitting at home in front of a laptop. The dream of working from the comfort of your own home comes alive as you sip a cup of tea while sitting on a comfy cushion or even while snuggled up under a duvet on the sofa…except this sumptuous idyll lasts all of about half an hour before either the deafening silence of quiet suburbia or the rattling noise of the city centre’s comings and goings start infiltrating one’s thoughts and highlighting that almighty sense of isolation. Or at least, this is how things can sometimes end up.

No doubt, having a carefully chosen office space and comfortable (but not too comfortable) furniture around you helps with finding the fun and ease of working from home, as opposed to a cubicle in an open-plan office, but there are ways in which all this can not only become a little mundane but actually downright stifling. It’s no good trying to focus, plan and creatively assess one’s ideas when your eyes have locked into a kind of sleepy blur and you’ve got the beginnings of pins and needles. This is not the path to a healthy working life.

5 Ways to maintain the ‘spark’ in your creative working life:

1. ‘Mix-it up’ a bit: 

Break the spell of the office space you’ve created by taking breaks to pop down to the local cafe and write, laptop at the ready, while listening to the background noise of cappuccinos being made and even babies screaming at the table next to you. There’s nothing like taking things ‘out on the road’ to appreciate the quiet of your flat when you get home. For some, this kind of background noise really helps to focus on prioritising work that needs silence to concentrate and the work that can be done over a cup of coffee. You could even decide on the days in the week that you’ll do this ahead of time, or if you have more space at home than in the average cafe, you might want to consider days when you de-camp to the kitchen instead of your comfy office, just for a change of scene.

2. Allow time for properly allocated breaks.

If you set yourself a task to be done in three hours, give yourself the option of two or three five minute breaks in between, or a 15 minute break at the halfway point. Regular breaks are essential for better productivity. Even just allowing yourself a small target of getting a certain amount of content written before you next check emails and stop to watch one favourite video on YouTube, can help you pace yourself well enough to get through the work and appreciate the breaks. Don’t try to skimp on breaks and cut them down to the lowest amount, because this will ultimately backfire, just as too strict a diet could leave you craving favourite snacks so much that you over-indulge at a later stage. It works the same way. Also consider that this is the key way in which setting your own timetable is your opportunity to make things work best for you. Don’t squander it with bad time management. If you promise yourself the evening off, stick to it as though your evening off is another commitment you cannot get out of.

3. Think about your health

Drink plenty of water – it sounds like a cliche, but if you don’t keep yourself hydrated and only drink teas and coffees which are diuretics, you won’t be keeping your body going at optimum efficiency, and that means less time left over at the end of the day for YOU to do your own thing. Which foods make you sleepy if you have them at lunchtimes? Avoid them until dinner in future. Do you have regular exercise scheduled each week to help keep your energy levels up? If not, think about where you can fit in half an hour minimum, three times a week to just do some running, or dancing to your favourite songs. Adding in some Pilates or other stretching and toning activities will build up your strength and flexibility which will help you avoid injuries while doing the cardiovascular work. If it sounds like too much of a time commitment to enrol in classes at your local gym, consider following along while watching a DVD or online video so that you don’t need to waste time going out to classes if the travel time makes this impossible.

4. Eliminate money-related stress

Health should be top of your priority list of course, particularly if you’re self-employed. But even if you’re employed, working from home the majority of your time, you must look at ways to keep to your commitments, meet deadlines and generally show your reliability for the sake of maintaining a regular income and building up to a promotion. Money-based anxiety is a common source of stress which can threaten to undermine your carefully-structured diet and exercise plan. Many people in today’s financial climate need to take more care in their budgeting. Without some kind of income protection insurance there can be unexpected costs or losses which can end up being very stressful indeed. This kind of stress can affect your work and even weaken your immune system, so consider getting some outside advice and reassurance with regard to savings, insurance and pension plans. Setting up some kind of emergency fund as a ‘buffer’ for any unforeseen expenses is recommended by top entrepreneurs such as Marie Forleo and endorsed by financial gurus such as David Bach and Ramit Sethi, so this should be top on your list of monetary essentials.

5. Surround yourself with inspirational things.

If you need to think creatively for your work, you’ll need creative things around you. Putting pictures on your wall or having your favourite paintings on rotation as a desktop background will help to motivate you to keep up your creative output. Otherwise, a scheduled monthly or fortnightly trip to an art gallery, museum or exhibition of some kind to keep your ‘inspiration pool’ topped-up could work well. Musicians and writers have often used museums and galleries as a kind of working space too, as you may find that the cafe there offers a great alternative hide-out to the regular coffee chain places that can get a bit same-y. Consider booking in a monthly online search for the best places to go for the month ahead. If you’re really pushed for time however, watch out for the temptation to spend a few spare minutes searching through pictures on pinterest. You might find those few minutes turn into hours and end up robbing you of that evening off after all.

 

Can working from home hurt your career?

Today I came across this article on Forbes. It talks about how working from home can inadvertently make your employers think you are not working as hard as employees who are in the office. You miss out on “passive face time” which is simply being seen in the workplace during normal office hours. However, the article then goes on to give advice on how to compensate for the lack of face time.

This article got me thinking about the recent trend of working remotely or telecommuting. What are the pros and cons? Are we moving to be a strictly digital society? Is it even possible to run a company with all of your employees only communicating via email? So many questions and not very many answers.

For now, I suppose we have to evaluate our individual situations and let our employers decide if they can work with a digital employee. And if we are the ones deciding if we want to let our employees work remotely, we can test it out. This may be the new wave of how business is done, and after all, we have the technology to make things happen and communicate just as quickly as in person. I think it’s worth trying out this new digital workforce. However, if you are the one working remotely, make sure to stay in constant connection with your boss, follow-up on emails and calls quickly, and still make time to meet with your employer face to face.

As far as the harm to your career…well that’s up to you to decide. If you have nothing holding you back from being in the office, I would say spend as much time there as possible. However, if you have a family or other circumstance that requires you to be at home or simply just out of the office, do your best to maintain relationships and do such a good job on your work they don’t even realize you’re gone.

I’m curious, what are your thoughts on working from home? Do you think it is harmful to your career?