So youíve decided to work from home, but
where do you start, and what will you need to get going?
Most people who work from home quickly
discover how many services and facilities are taken for granted in a normal
office. If youíre thinking about setting up a home office itís worth planning
ahead otherwise your first few weeks could be very unproductive.
The first thing to do is establish an office
space. If youíve got a spare room, so much the better, but if you havenít, set
aside a clearly defined area for your work, and try as far as possible to keep
it separate from the rest of your living accommodation. This is important,
particularly if you have a family, or thereís children around, they can be very
At the very least you will need a desk and a
chair. You might be able to save some money by using an old dining table for a
desk but whatever else you do get a properly-designed office chair, thatís
comfortable and gives plenty of spinal support. Theyíre not expensive, basic typist/operator
chairs start at less than £40 but itís worth paying extra for something a
little more luxurious, after all youíre going to be spending a lot of time in
A desk is preferable to a table, it will give
you extra storage space, which will help reduce clutter, and you wonít have to
worry about spoiling polished surfaces with cups of coffee. If space is tight
then consider a purpose-designed work-station. Most of the leading furniture companies
now have well-stocked home office departments, Ikea are particularly good in
this respect. While youíre at it decide on any specialised fittings or supports
for your computer monitor, and donít forget the filing cabinets, bookshelves
and storage units. You will also need a good desk lamp, watch out for those
trendy designer contraptions, which look smart but often perform quite badly.
Assuming you have a room to yourself the next
thing youíll need is a phone. At a pinch you could use a cellphone or cordless
phone though theyíre not much use if you need a fixed line for a fax machine or
telephone modem. BT will happily fit an extension socket for you, but if the
rest of the household use the phone throughout the working day then itís a good
idea to have a second line installed. If youíre going to be sending and
receiving a lot of faxes, or e-mail then you should consider another dedicated
The phone will be your main link with the
outside world, but it can be a mixed blessing. If youíre working alone youíll
have to answer it yourself, that might not sound like a big problem but without
a receptionist to filter incoming calls youíll have to personally deal with
every time-waster, wrong number and double-glazing salesperson. The phone always
rings at the worst possible moment -- usually when youíre in the loo -- it can
ruin your train of thought and take up quite a chunk of the working day.
Of course many calls will be directly related
to your business, but how can you tell
the difference? Thereís several solutions. You can get a telephone answering
machine with a screening facility, so you can hear the caller, before deciding
whether or not to answer it, though itís far from ideal, and not very professional;
a lot of people hang up if they find themselves connected to a machine. Another
alternative is ĎCaller Displayí. Itís an optional BT service, costing £3.99 per
quarter. The displays are fitted to some phones, or you can get a little module
that plugs between the phone and the line socket. Both will show you the
callerís number, without picking up the phone, so you can check to see who it
is. Incidentally, itís worth talking to
BT about some of their other services, (available
on phones connected to digital exchanges), such as call waiting and divert. You
can find out more by calling them on 0800 708040.
Spare rooms and back-bedrooms never have
enough power points, one or two if youíre lucky, but even a modest home office set-up
will need half a dozen or more mains sockets. A couple of multi-way extensions
will get you out of trouble, but itís far better to have some extra outlets
installed, that way you wonít overload the fuse-box, especially if your
house-wiring is getting on a bit.
Now we come to the serious hardware. These
days itís difficult to get by without a fax machine, theyíre not expensive, but
it might be worth looking at models with a combined answering machine facility.
Check out our in-depth survey in the June/July edition of Personal Office. Most
fax machines can be used as photo-copiers as well but theyíre not as good as
proper plain-paper copiers. A few fax machines work with plain paper, but theyíre
still rather expensive. Personal copiers start at around £300, though itís worth
looking at second-user models, if itís only going to be used occasionally.
And finally. Stationery and computer
consumables can be a major expense, it usually comes as a nasty shock to home
workers when they have to pay for it themselves. Thereís several ways of
reducing costs, but the number one rule is avoid buying small quantities from
retail outlets, unless you can help it. Once youíre in business for yourself you
can buy direct, from wholesalers and suppliers. A few companies may require
proof of trading, or VAT registration, but there are plenty of others who will
happily deal with people who work from home. These companies often give very
favourable discounts, though you will normally have to buy most items in bulk.
One of the biggest is Viking Direct, they
operate a very efficient tele-sales service and will normally deliver your
order the next day. Call them on 0800 424444 to get on to their mailing list.
Wholesale warehouses are another good source of low cost supplies. Makro are
probably the best known national chain, you can apply for a trade card by writing
to them at: Freepost Ellsmere Port, South Wirral L65 3EB, or check your local
Yellow Pages to see if thereís a branch nearby. Specialist stationary outlets
like Staples are also worth visiting for bulk buys, and they operate discount
schemes for businesses, call (0345) 386386 for details of your local branch.
” R. Maybury 1995 1609