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When Deanna Lewis, 35, president of Unique Faces Model Search, started her Baltimore-based business last year, she operated out of her living room. But after one week, Lewis redefined her work space.
“There was too much noise in the living room because everybody wanted to watch TV, bring friends in the house or use my computer to surf the Internet,” says Lewis. “So I moved my home office into my bedroom. Now I can get up in the middle of the night and work without disturbing anyone else in the house. And during the day, I can shut people out if I don’t want them to come in.”
Like Lewis, most home-based business owners will use an isolated part of their home to set up their office. Lisa Kanarek, the Dallas-based author of Organizing Your Home Office for Success, says ideal places to use are a spare bedroom, den or study. However, you can also work out of your attic, basement, enclosed porch or garage. Avoid working in the kitchen, family room or living room: these are high-traffic areas that could disrupt your business activities.
Of course, where you decide to work is up to you. But before you set up your computer, ask yourself these questions:
Will clients visit my home office? If your business requires that customers, suppliers and/or employees have access to your office, select an area that’s cut off from the rest of the house. If feasible, set up a separate entrance, especially if you operate out of your basement or garage.
- Can I afford to renovate the space? A few structural changes-a separate, detached building, wood paneling or carpeting-may help you convert that dusty old shed into the perfect home office, but can you afford the modifications? When defining your work space, pay careful attention to cost.
- Will I actually work in the area I’m designating? Home-based business owners often spend a lot of money to create an ideal home office but never set foot in it. Instead, they find themselves working in another part of the house. Make sure the area you choose will be used to conduct business. If you are unsure about a particular spot, use it temporarily before investing money in renovations.
- Can my area support electronic equipment? Make sure there are enough outlets. Determine whether you can run phone lines for a fax machine, telephone and the Internet without experiencing outages.
- Do I have room to grow? As your business becomes more successful, you may need to expand your office or add personnel. Project how much space you’ll need for at least five years to allow for future growth.
Once you select a work space, determine how you will furnish and organize your office. If you have only a small, open area from which to work, consider purchasing dual-purpose furniture such as a computer armoire.
When organizing your area, always keep items that you use daily or weekly within reach. Omit any nonbusiness-related items. Use filing cabinets and bookshelves to store important papers and reference materials. Create a daily