Setting up a home office: Furniture essentials

There's no IT department at home. It's up to you to arrange phone lines.

It’s great – you are quitting your boring office-bound job for the freelance life. You have half a dozen half made contracts and are optimistic business is going to boom. But as day one looms you realise that there is no longer an office stationery cupboard with everything from paperclips to a coffee pot.

Equipping yourself for life as your own boss will depend on your chosen field but all of us need a few basics. We will all have to manage our own accounts and do the office admin.

Communications

These days communication has to be the key for any homeworker. Relying on the vagaries of the postal service and one telephone line for home and office alike is unlikely to be sufficient. However, it’s still worth knowing which postbox has the latest collection time – after all, invoices will probably still travel by post.

When it comes to phone and broadband contracts, with so much competition for our business, it is well worth a little research into the best deal. Think hard about your actual requirements and then start calling a few providers. Several have good deals for those making lots of overseas calls, others sell packages of phone lines and some have preferential business rates that might suit a small startup operation.

Having decided on the service provider, you will need to consider the equipment. Do you need several different phones or will a cordless suffice?

Most of us will not sit at our desk religiously from 9am to 5.30pm so will need an answer machine or a divert facility. If you need a fax machine, perhaps it makes sense to buy a machine that also operates as a computer printer or scanner. However, if you are considering such a machine, check that the print quality will deliver and not leave you wondering why you did not invest in separate machines in the first place.

Mobile phones are another issue. Again, as many of us travel around a bit, we need that contact with our clients. Shopping around is the answer once more to achieve the best package.

The Virtual Office

With all this supporting technology, it is easy to disguise the size of your business from your clients. Not everyone is happy to deal with a one-man band and having the appearance of a ‘proper’ office may give them the confidence they need in you.

Virtual offices operate much as business centres do. One person answers the phone, using your company name. They can take a message or connect the call to your home or mobile.

People often use a London number because it gives them more “street cred” while they actually operate from deepest, darkest Devon, for example. It is surprising how many office-bound folk think the economic world ends on the edge of London and that you cannot possible offer a proper service if you are outside the M25.

As with mobile and broadband packages, there’s a lot of competition out there for this service now so make sure you shop around to get the best deal

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