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INTRO

So youíve decided to work from home, but where do you start, and what will you need to get going?

 

COPY

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 disruptive.

 

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 it.

 

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.

 

PHONE HOME

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 line.

 

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.

 

POWER PROBLEMS

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.

 

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R. Maybury 1995 1609

 


 

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