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Setting Up Your Home Office

You’ve made the decision to leave your office job and become an entrepreneur who works out of their home office .. like a virtual assistant. Maybe you didn’t like being micro-managed, or maybe you just got tired of working too much for too little with too much grief. You wanted more work-life balance, and the ability to work in your pajamas (not that I ever encourage that!).

Welcome!

Regardless of your reasons, if you plan on working from home, then you need to set up a home office. The size of your home or apartment doesn’t matter; you can essentially make any space workable. The key things to focus on are:

  • Finding the right spot
  • Getting your equipment set up
  • Finding cheaper, easier solutions
  • Reducing possible distractions
  • Choosing your view wisely
  • Using productivity tools

Finding the Right Spot

Being successful at working from home has a lot to do with the space that you create for yourself. You will need a dedicated space that you can set up for your business, and you shouldn’t be moving things from place to place. If you have an extra room, you can easily turn it into a home office. Unfortunately, most people don’t have that luxury, so they have to find another solution.

If you’re in an apartment, you can commandeer a closet and make it into a small office. If you have no spare closets, take over a corner of a room and section it off with dividers or curtains, or keep your “office” in an armoire. When you’re done at the end of the day, close those doors, so that work isn’t impeding with relaxation time.

If you do own your own home, then consider converting your attic or garage space into your new home office. Maybe a shipping container converted into an office, or a tiny home constructed just to be your office.

Whatever solution you settle on, just remember that your office needs to be separate from the rest of the house and allow you to be away from everyone else. You need a spot that you can dedicate to your work and that will allow you to concentrate.

Working from your bed or the kitchen table aren’t good options. Ergonomics alone preclude you from working in bed or at the kitchen table. Working from a Starbucks? No thank you. It isn’t ideal, sustainable, or secure.

Where is my office? I have an isolated small room located in the front of the house. It has a lovely set of French doors, so when I’m done at the end of the day, I walk out and close the doors. I only work in there, so if I’m in that room, I’m fully focused on working.

Getting Your Equipment Set Up

You’ve chosen your spot and you’re ready to get outfitted. If you don’t already have it, get yourself the best of everything that you can afford. Unlike working in an office, if any piece of your equipment breaks, you can’t just ask the IT Department to get you another one. You will be responsible for replacing all broken and outdated equipment, so make sure you’re starting off with something that will last. Always upgrade hard drives, add more RAM, to computers before running out and buying the latest and greatest.

Working on the internet means that if you have no internet, you have no clients. No clients, no income. Don’t buy into the lease expensive internet plan that your service provider offers. Get yourself the fastest internet that is affordable, not just because it’s more efficient, but because some clients require that you take an internet speed test before they will even think about contracting you as their virtual assistant.

Depending on what kind of workspace you’re used to, you might also want to invest in a second monitor. Dual monitor set ups can make things far easier when you’re working across lots of different platforms at once. Wireless keyboards and mice are also good investments, and don’t forget about those rechargeable batteries! Your wireless devices can churn through normal batteries fast and it will add up.

What’s in my office? Except for video recording, I have transitioned completely to my Microsoft Surface Pro 3. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, it can replace a laptop. Yes, it’s really easy to tote around. Combining the screen with 2 external monitors, I have more visual space than I need.

In addition, I have a wireless Natural Ergonomic Desktop 7000 and a Logitech M325 mouse (because I really didn’t like the one that came with the Ergo keyboard). You can also get a wired version: Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000

Tip: When the letters disappear, and trust me over time they will, pick up some stickers from Amazon.

Finding Cheaper, Easier Solutions

In order to make money working from home you need to really be aware of your spending. When it comes to buying items that aren’t technology, you should consider buying used or second hand items first. If you’re decorating your office, try to use items that you already have and that match the rest of your house or office color scheme.

Be green and try to reuse or re-purpose something you already have (or check on your local Freecycle). Colorful cups can act as penholders and wicker baskets can be good for storage if nothing else is around.

If you need something for your office, think about what you can use that you already have in your home and you might just be able to save yourself money.

How do I keep it simple? I don’t need a lot in my office, so I simply don’t buy it, don’t bring it in here. To have a clear mind, to be productive, you need to have a clutter-free, clean desk. However, I do keep a betta fish here next to my monitor.

Reducing Possible Distractions

It’s very easy to get distracted when you work from home, especially by anything that’s happening outside of the room that you’re in. Make sure you keep your door shut, or create a physical barrier in some way.

Snacking is one of the best ways to avoid your work, and with a fully stocked kitchen so close to your workspace, you’re bound to go hunter gathering. To avoid the constant trips to the kitchen, and the temptation to make big meals when it’s not meal time, make a little snack area near your desk. The more time
 you spend at your desk focusing on work, the more money you will make.

Train your mindset of treating your home office like the office, just like you did back in your corporate days.

Distractions? Yes. Since my office is right on the road, I see all the traffic, joggers, baby strollers, and so on. I also see when UPS and FedEx arrive. Over the years, I simply tune out the traffic, unless of course, I’m expecting a package.

Choosing Your View Wisely

I’ve written many times on incorporating Feng Shui into your home office. The direction that you point your desk can make a big difference to your productivity. If your window is facing out over a busy highway or your neighbors’ yard, you might find that it’s better to face your desk into your own office. If you’re lucky enough to have beautiful, natural scenery outside your office, then it might be a good idea to face the lovely view.

You want to choose an option that is both enjoyable and but still allows for good productivity.

What do I see? My office faces SSE and, in addition to traffic, I get a healthy dose of morning sun in the office.

Using Tools to Increase Productivity

It can be a really nice break to not be micromanaged, but just remember that you’re now in charge of managing yourself. Finding ways to free up your time and make things easier is essential. Find ways to automate the little things, so you can concentrate on the larger things. Use tools like IFTTT and Zapier to automate web tasks. Set your computer to automatically load everything you need every day, and set your browser to open all the tabs you use every day. This will allow you to do other things while your system loads.

Personal productivity tools will help you to track your tasks and can also remind you of other daily errands you should be running. For instance, you have very little motivation to get out of your chair now, so you will need to use timers to remind you to take breaks, stretch, and move around.

Don’t forget, getting a standing desk is a great way to get up and stay up. “Sitting is the new smoking,” or so they say, but I have to admit, since I invested on a standing desk, I’m have no back pain and have more energy at the end of the day.

Being able to work from home can make you not only more productive, but happier as well. In order to start off on the right foot and succeed from the beginning, you need to set yourself up properly. Putting everything into place when you begin working from home will ensure that you keep a healthy work/life balance and get more done.

About Out of the Office Virtual Assistance:

Since 2006, Out of the Office has offered ideas and ways to increase your productivity, decrease your workload, and work more efficiently. We nurture a successful business relationship, while continuing to grow as your business partner. We are focused on streamlining your administration, social media planning and execution, content writing and offering creative solutions for your business success.


Originally published on the Out of the Office Virtual Assistance Blog on January 26, 2016.

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