When you work from home, it’s super nice to have a quiet place designated for your business, especially if you live with others. Having a home office has a number of advantages. If you’re working from the couch or the kitchen table, it’s much easier to become distracted. The TV’s right there. The fridge is a few steps away. Not to mention the havoc the living room couch can wreak on your lower back if you sit there all day (been there, done that). You’re also right in the middle of things. My husband has always worked long days, but he only works four days a week (three now that he switched to night shift). He’s home a lot, which I love, but it’s really hard to keep focused if he’s a few feet away laughing at videos on the computer or asking me things or doing anything that looks more fun than what I’m doing. If you have kids, I’m sure the distraction is even worse. The closest thing I have is a corgi. She’s a nice work companion most days, laying at my feet, making me laugh with the way she plays with her toys, but on days when my sister’s dog comes over, Lord save my sanity. If I didn’t have an office door to shut and keep them out, I’d lose it. Another great advantage is that having a room in your home designated solely to your business is a tax write off. Woo-hoo!
I’ve taken some pictures of my home office, and I’m going to use them to give some examples of items that are absolutely essential when you set out to create a home office, and a few extra things that I personally enjoy having in mine. I’m also going to be adding some affiliate links to products that I have or that are similar to those I have so that you can get easy access to them should you be inspired for your own home office. If you don’t like affiliate links for some reason, no need to click; I won’t be offended. (What’s an affiliate link, you ask? See my disclaimer page)
1. A Desk
Well, duh, right? But it’s the most essential of all essentials, so I can’t leave it out.
Of course you want it to look nice, but desktop space and storage space are the most important. I’ve had this desk since I was young. The drawers are really deep, so they hold a whole lot. It’s not the biggest desk in the world, though, so I’ve expanded my space a little bit by lining up a file cabinet to create a little nook. Without it, I’d have to keep that organizer for my pens, paperclips, staples, Post-Its, etc on my desk.
2. File Cabinet
That thing is a lifesaver. Before I set it up, there were papers everywhere. I kept copies of my work contracts in the pocket on the back of my chair. Important papers that pertained to our everyday lives and not just my business, like insurance papers, car repair records, etc. were all ending up piled on my desk or in drawers. It was ugly. Now everything’s tucked away and organized.
I have a very large, very wide cabinet, like this one …
But, I got it secondhand. If you want something cheaper, it’s still a good idea to go for one with wide drawers, just maybe not so big, like this one …
3. Comfortable Chair
To me, this is the absolute most important piece of office equipment you will purchase. Working in this business means sitting down and staring at a computer screen for most of the day. During the first year and a half of freelancing, I started developing back and neck problems. I’m twenty-four, so my body can bounce back pretty well, thank goodness, but I was starting to get really concerned that I was going to screw something up for life. The problem was that my desk chair was stiff and uncomfortable, my kitchen chairs were basically lawn furniture, and my couch is very hard to sit up straight on. Don’t know why I put off buying a new chair for so long. We lived in an apartment, and my desk was crammed into the main living area for one thing, but I still could have made it work. When we moved into our house, and I started planning for my office, I finally bought a good chair, and holy crap the difference is unbelievable.
I suggest a high back with a headrest. The headrest helps your neck. Make sure the back sort of bows inward to support your lower back. I also suggest swivel capabilities, especially if you have an L-shape setup like I do. All I have to do to grab something while I’m working is swivel a little to the right. I have a mesh chair. I find them more comfortable than say a leather, cushy chair. They are firm without being hard, they provide the right about of resistance, and they breathe, unlike leather, which can get sticky and gross. I found mine in a little store similar to Marshalls or TJ Maxx, and it doesn’t have a name on it, but this one looks so close, I’d say it’s at least made by the same company. It’s even got the pocket on the back.
I work in books. When I write books, I need other books for research. I’ve also accumulated books from clients. I have copies of the work I’ve ghostwritten, and I also try to purchase my editing client’s books once they are published. So my office bookshelf is both a research hub and a portfolio.
I’ve also got a Jane Austen collection randomly stuck in there because it matches and its pretty cover makes me happy.
My mother got me this bookshelf for my birthday. She started with just a plain wood four-shelf bookshelf and painted it herself. This not only helps you save money in a lot of cases, but also lets you completely customize the piece. If you’re super artistic, you can paint your own design on it if you want.
5. Organizational Tools
I am in love with those cheap little plastic drawer sets. I have them all over my house, in the bathroom, the laundry room, my bedroom closet, and of course, my office. The one I keep next to my printer is full of office supplies: pens, stamps, push pins, paper clips, etc.
I also have another taller one next to my file cabinet that I haven’t totally filled yet. It’s full of odds and ends, like things to decorate my bulletin board with.
As much as I love those plastic things, they aren’t the cutest items out there. So I also like using little wicker baskets. I have some on my bookshelf that hold my printer paper, business cards, etc. They come in about a million styles and colors, too.
Too bad these pink ones don’t really match my color scheme.
6. A Printer
My old printer recently crapped out on me, and boy, what a hassle. If I wasn’t able to electronically sign things in Adobe, I would have been screwed. Still, I prefer to sign contracts by hand, and I need a printer to do that. I also like to keep paper records of all my contracts and tax forms. I also bought a bulletin board to create a business goals collage type thing to keep me motivated, but it’s sort of hard to pin up pictures that represent my goals or cute banners with cool fonts when you can’t print anything out. I just got a new OfficeJet Pro 6978 for my birthday last week, and oh baby do I love this thing.
It can scan and copy in addition to printing, which I absolutely recommend if you’re going to be printing out, signing, and sending back contracts or W-9 forms to clients. It can even fax, but who the hell needs that anymore? It’s touch screen, totally wireless (you can even print from a phone), and super fast. It’s also designed not to waste ink, which is what sold me on it over another similar model that was slightly cheaper. It even comes with a free trial to HP’s new Instant Ink program. It has a sensor inside it that tells the company when it is low on ink, and they send you a new set of cartridges automatically. I’ll probably keep up the service after the trial since it’s only $2.99 for the 50-pages per month package. And that’s all you pay. It’s not like an extra service fee tacked onto the ink price. Just a fixed $2.99 a month. I didn’t buy new ink when I bought the printer, just stuck with the demos. As soon as I set up the Instant Ink program trial, they shipped me new cartridges the next day, so I got them for free!
1. Pure Decoration
Is it essential to make your space look pretty? No. Is it worth the time and money to pick out some decorative elements? Yes. My office was pretty plain until about a month ago. It was just mostly barren walls, white desk, black filing cabinet, and plastic bins. Sitting in a whitewashed room isn’t all that appealing. Yes, it was super nice to have my own space and a cozy office chair, but I kept finding myself slipping back into the living room with my laptop in the middle of the day. Color, spacial organization, and decoration can really affect the mood of a room. I needed something more inviting. Something I would enjoy sitting in all day, not just for an hour or two in the morning. I got some ideas from Pinterest and then my mom helped me out one day when she came into town. If you have no eye whatsoever for interior design (guilty!), I highly suggest asking someone else for help. Like I said, spacial orientation counts for a lot, and if I had done this myself, the feng shui would have been disastrous, not to mention downright ugly. Instead, I got this.
Nothing super fancy, but the room feels different. It sounds a bit strange, but try working in a whitewashed space for three months, and I’m pretty sure you’ll be able to feel the difference too as soon as you add in some color. Once I get that goal board up and running, I’ll really be cooking with grease.
All we used for this was some plain wood baskets like these …
… and painted them. If you want, you can use them for functional storage rather than pure decoration.
The rest is just knickknacks I already had around the house. Easy peasy.
2. A Window and a View
Especially in the spring and summer, it is so nice to work in natural light and to have something to look at other than four walls, even if they are fabulously decorated. My windows take up almost a whole wall, and I made sure to place my desk right in front of them. I live in the Tennessee mountains, and my house is on a hill so steep that going up the driveway feels like clicking your way up to the first drop on a roller coaster, so I have a bird’s eye view from my window. When you’re designating your office space, even if you don’t have the space to have your own room, claim a window all to yourself.
3. A Treadmill Desk
I have saved the very best for last, my friends. The sad truth is that even a comfy office chair can’t save you from all the health risks of sitting at a desk, hunched over a computer all day. Yeah, my back and neck don’t hurt when I use my chair, which is great, but I’m getting zero exercise. It’s very easy to become an immobile hermit when you freelance. It can be really hard to take the time to get out and go to a gym or just on a walk in the park if you’re slammed. It takes time to get in the appropriate attire (because we all know you were totally in your pajamas, if not just your underwear), get in the car, drive to your destination, get some exercise, and drive back. Time you may not have if you’ve got multiple projects going. How do you get yourself up and moving and still hit your deadlines? Make yourself a treadmill desk!
I suggest a walking treadmill that doesn’t go above four or five miles per hour. According to my smarty pants husband, walking treadmills have more torque so that you can walk for long periods of time without burning out the motor. Also, you aren’t going to be able to jog or, God forbid, sprint and still get your work done. You need a steady hand, and you don’t want your head bobbing all over the place while you’re trying to see the screen. Plus, if you’re anything like me, the whole thing will be pretty short lived if you’re pushing yourself at full capacity. This isn’t necessarily about dropping pounds; it’s just about getting yourself in an upright position and moving around. So, I asked for this bad boy for Christmas.
My sweet husband made the actual desk part for me (Thanks, Stephen!). The slab of wood he twisty-tied around the arm bars was just supposed to be a temporary fix so that I could start using it right away, but it has just stuck around. If it ain’t broke …
If you want something cuter, I’m sure you can find a thinner piece of finished wood or something. I’ll probably paint that slab I’ve got eventually. The next thing you need is a shelf to hold your computer. What I did was just buy a plain black shelf and some separate decorative wall brackets from Lowe’s.
You just need to make sure the shelf is wide enough for your laptop. I have the extra benefit of a laptop and can flip around like a display screen, so I can have the screen right in front of my face rather than pushed back on the shelf.
Then all you need is a keyboard and a mouse. I have a wireless mouse because I don’t want to have to deal with a chord on something I move around, but I went for the cheaper option when it came to the keyboard and just got one that plugs in with a USB.
Is creating a home office the cheapest undertaking? No. But remember, you can write all this stuff off on your taxes, and the home office itself gives you an additional tax break. If you have the space, it’s well worth it to have a private, quiet, comfortable space that you genuinely enjoy working in. I didn’t buy all these things at once, and some of them were gifts. Ask for some things you need as your birthday or Christmas gifts if you want. Get what you need week by week or month by month, however you need to do it.
The best part of all? That office makes you feel like a legit badass. It’s a little harder to sell yourself short in a space made just for your freelancing business.