This is a guest post from Brian Tanner, who is a freelance writer for HP.
“There’s no place like home, ” said Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, and for the budding entrepreneur looking to launch a new business, that statement is more applicable than ever. Being that most home based startups have limited resources, setting up a workable, cost-effective home office can be challenging.
Here are six tips for creating a home office that is both functional and affordable.
Begin with the end in mind
Face it. With today’s technologies, pretty much any area in your house could serve as an office at any given time. But to do business effectively, you need to evaluate your needs and then choose an area that will best meet them. Having a well-defined space that is dedicated to the sole purpose of doing business should be your number one priority.
Not only does a designated office space offer tangible benefits when it comes to claiming the home office tax deduction, it helps you to take your business more seriously by having a place to report to and stay focused in. Setting ground rules with family members to avoid interruptions during designated work times is also important, as a quiet background will help you establish a higher level of professionalism with your clients.
Adapt a do-it-yourself mentality
Turning a room into an optimal office can take organization, creativity, and perhaps a few do-it-yourself skills. You can save money by tackling these tasks yourself. If a room needs some upgrading, like a fresh coat of paint or new window treatments to create a brighter environment during the workday, try to do as much of the work as you can before calling in a professional.
If creating an office calls for an actual remodel of an existing room, or other structural modification to the home, try making do with a room divider to postpone a renovation until your business generates enough income to justify the added costs.
Buy used furniture
Being that an office requires certain furnishings not always found in the home, purchasing some necessities, such as a proper desk and chair, may be unavoidable. By resisting the urge to buy new furniture and running not to the local office supply store, but to the neighborhood thrift store, you can save substantially without compromising quality.
Just be sure that the desk and chair you purchase are compatible, and that the chair is sufficiently comfortable for long periods of sitting. Medical supply stores can be a good source of inexpensive, supplemental cushioning.
Economize on equipment
When buying office equipment, an honest evaluation of what equipment you actually need, as opposed to what you want, will help you avoid the urge to splurge. If you anticipate the need to copy, print out, scan, and fax documents, you might consider taking advantage of an all-in-one machines, as opposed to buying several different pieces of equipment to accomplish the same tasks. This not only reduces your costs, but also reduces clutter.
Likewise, do you really need both a desktop and a laptop computer? What about using a more powerful laptop that can be docked to a large display and standard keyboard? While you might pay a bit more for this sort of laptop, having one allows you to take your computer into the field.
Of course, you can save even more by purchasing refurbished equipment from reputable retailers. Just make sure that the equipment in question won’t become obsolete too quickly as your business needs expand.
Buy supplies on sale
Regardless of whether your business is product or service oriented, the fact remains that a functioning home office requires office supplies. Although the practice of buying items as you need them may seem the most practical, you can reap substantial savings by purchasing office consumables either in bulk or on sale. Establishing a small business account with companies such as Office Depot or Staples, which offer modest credit lines to small businesses, can also help in establishing business credit and improving cash flow.
Once you know you needs, a warehouse club, such as Sam’s Club or Costco, can be a good source of bulk supplies. Just be sure you don’t get caught up in the excitement of setting up your new home office and end up rushing out and buy a ton of stuff that you don’t need.
Learn to leverage your time
When starting a new business, the old adage that “time is money” readily applies. You may have a well-appointed, state of the art home office that is the envy of any entrepreneur, but if you fail to “show up” on a regular basis and hold yourself accountable for the effective use of your time, you run the risk of failure.
If you need help to better serve a growing client base, use your internet skills to find and hire a virtual assistant. If a legal issue arises, or some other aspect of your business that is beyond your abilities to resolve, hire the appropriate professional to address that particular issue (e.g., an attorney or tax pro).
Virtual staffing is one of the most efficient and cost-effective ways to maximize home office productivity and business profitability. By outsourcing things that are outside of your specialty, you can spend your time doing what you’re best at.