Motivate Yourself More by Setting Up the Perfect Home Office

Posted in Freelance, Tips, Web Design2 years ago • Written by 11 Comments

Being a freelancer is something of a foreign lifestyle choice to those that have grown accustomed to and are quite fond of typical employment. The random spots of high and low-income, no interaction with coworkers, responsibility solely resting on that one person’s shoulders, but there is one that probably baffles most of all — working from one’s own home!

Of course not ALL freelancers work from home, many have their own offices somewhere in close proximity to a coffee shop or cafe. However it is safe to say that a large number do indeed work out of their home, and that baffles those not living the freelancer lifestyle. There is one assumption that does make sense though, and is a good question. How professional can the experience of meeting clients at your office actually be?

Well after reading this article, you’ll have the knowledge to present a home office to clients that will more than appease them. In addition, make you more giddy than a school girl with a crush.

The Right Room


*Image Credit: practicalowl

The real difficulty in getting a home office just right starts with picking the right room to set up in. At the end of the day this is still your home, and not an office space, so having your work everywhere is not acceptable. Here are some tips to help achieve this balance:

  • Choose the closest room to your front door. This is always the best place because this provides an automatic separation for office and home. In addition, it will keep your personal stuff private from clients because where they need to go is a straight shot from the door. There is nothing worse than a potential client, or client in general even, seeing too much of your home life. Also it’s not nice having them walk around to the back either.
  • Make it as sound proof as possibly needed. This depends on your living situation mostly. If by yourself, then just enough so that normal outside interferences don’t leak in. If with others, especially kids, make that baby a room of isolation. There is nothing worse than being in a meeting or on the phone and having to hear the noises of a child at play.
  • Pick the best space match. All of the prior things mentioned are of course important, but making sure that the necessary space available to properly hold your office is just as important. The space has to be the right amount to hold everything you’ll need (desk, printer, coach/chair for visitors, etc) and a good amount of moving room. As we all know, not all rooms are created equal.

Desk Positioning


*Image Credit: TranceMist

Where your desk is placed is very important. The wrong position can cause a lot of annoyances that could have otherwise been avoided with a different position. A good example would be placing your desk right behind a window. This placement will give your computer a glare on it at all times, and not to mention have the sun beaming right in the face of every client you meet. This is not a good way to make a good impression. Here are tips on choosing the best location:

  • Place desk perpendicular to your window, with you facing east. This allows for the sunlight to be used at its best when it is brightest, and still not affect anyone sitting in front of you.
  • Leave your view from directly in front of your desk as bare as can be, avoiding things like bookshelves. These cause instant distractions on those less focused days, try just one calm painting instead.
  • If at all possibly not conflicting with the first tip listed, place desk directly in front of door. It is a nice subtle touch that clients respond well to without knowing.

The Chair


*Image Credit: massdistraction

This is a chair that I’m going to be sitting in for most of the day, a good portion of the year. These facts about the office chair automatically give off the assumption that it is best to get the chair that is found to be the most comfortable and suiting of one’s own personal style. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Honestly, a chair is just a chair here. All the extra thoughts and feelings that first pop in anyone’s head should be thrown out the window because they do nothing more than create a distraction. Think about it, if your office chair is really comfortable, what is going to put a halt at taking a snooze break in the middle of working on something? How about if it is so unique that you have to spend more than half a second figuring out how to sit down in it? Seconds add up over time!

The only qualities that matter most are reliability and durability. Here are a few tips on finding that office chair you NEED.

  • Avoid the good looks. There are many chairs available that look good and are well put together, but after a little time of use, begin to crumble. Having your own office will hopefully mean you’ll be calling your own shots for a long time. So make sure that you’re looking for a chair that matches that ideal time frame.
  • Find suitable material. The material used to make your chair must match the conditions that you like to work in. Say you’re the type that likes it to be hot, would a leather chair really be your best bet? Or how about someone who likes it cold, would a material that tends to harden in cold weather be your best bet?
  • Decide between rolling or stationary. This is more so related to how your office is organized. If your office space is somewhat spread out, then the ability to just roll around would be most beneficial. However, if everything is close enough to not need to get up regularly throughout the day, then a stationary is best. Avoids the temptation of spinning around too, :).

Laying Out Your Office


*Image Credit: Andy Caster

Spending enough time in the corporate world will make it easy for anyone to become accustomed to walking at least a few yards to reach the printer, get new paper for said printer, grabbing something out the refrigerator, or other walking tasks office life entails. Like it or not, it gets into your head and becomes what you are used to. Considering that, how would things be for someone finally being able to set things up the way they need? Let’s just say, the best ideas might not be implemented.

Freedom is a wonderful thing, which is why you’re freelancing in the first place, but it can’t be abused. Here are some tips for setting up the layout of your office:

  • Always have a clear walkway to and from the desk to the door. The experience from having to maneuver around your desk, and other objects, just to reach the door and vice versa is not a good experience. Especially when it’s done multiple times during your work day. Add in the times when you are just so frustrated and everything can irk you even more, it can easily take your mood further in the wrong direction.
  • Always aim for slightly undersized furniture. It is hard to resist that nice big oak desk, but having it take up the majority of your space is a huge negative. It throws off the entire flow, makes it harder to accurately place other items, and everything extra that you’d need to put in a bigger piece of furniture could be in something smaller and separate with better placing.
  • Keep in mind how you do things. The way anything personal is laid out, should match a personal approach in how one likes things done. An example would be someone who likes to do a few light stationary exercises at the beginning of the work day, it would be ideal to have an open space right by the entrance to do that. How about if you like being able to choose from an assortment of food items throughout the day to enjoy? Something like a mini-fridge would be convenient. It’s all about the little things here.

Organization


*Image Credit: Sean MacEntee

Being in a home office, working for yourself, makes every document that you receive via paper or email three times as important. So while those who work in a corporate office have multiple people with the same documents, and being on file somewhere, the self-employed only have themselves to turn to when something goes missing.

This is why being properly organized is a critical necessity for anyone looking to be successful at being their own boss. Here are a few tips at keeping everything neat and tidy:

  • Properly arranging documents with the three A’s. All documents, whether physical or digital, should be arranged into the three main A categories and subcategories by year and month. These being archiving, active, and anticipating. Each A represents a stage in the typical life cycle of a project, or anything else really. Using this system will help easily identify documents when the need comes for them to be found.
  • Never leave your desk cluttered for more than two days! It is quite easy to be so busy with work that needs to be done to forget about the environment you’re working in. One day of not noticing and coming back the next morning to see all the papers and items relating to what was being worked on yesterday all over the place is acceptable now because of the vague memory from yesterday about what everything is, but the next day is another story. Things will be looking quite unfamiliar. That is why two days is the max!
  • Unpack briefcases/travel bags regularly. If your schedule requires to leave the office on the regular, its understandable why it would make sense to keep things put in your bag of choice. However, this will become a problem when you become so accustomed to those items being there so much that they are forgotten of. So, it is always good to regularly take things out and get them back into your organization structure of your office.

Any successful advice from your home office you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments!

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I code, write, and stuff at Five Alarm Interactive. Tweet me: @5alarmint.

11 Comments Best Comments First
  • Evelyn Wallace

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 14:47

    8

    There’s a lot of great information for building an office that works. Important BUT I must also add that a home office would not be the proper environment for a client you have not met before or is new. That office is going to be personal at home and potential clients might perceive that to be too intimate. Meeting at the nearby coffeeshop first would just be good secure business and the personal home office reserved for clients well established and well known to you.

    +1
    • Rean John Uehara

      Thursday, April 26th, 2012 04:41

      9

      I agree. Home offices are only perfect for people who work through the internet 100% of the time, like I do. And coffee shops are a perfect meeting place, they’re relaxing enough and inviting!

      0
  • Tim Wayne

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 11:51

    2

    I love this blog and have been reading it for some time. I finally read something I disagree with:

    “Honestly, a chair is just a chair here.”

    You could not be more wrong. Sitting for long periods of time on a piece of crap chair is effortless in your twenties but not so great if you’re in your thirties and, for a lot of people (like me), absolute Hell if you’re older than that. A chair is not just a chair. It should offer proper lumbar support, it should move when you move, it should be highly adjustable and should fit your body.

    I picked up a swing seat (swingseat.com) at Macworld five years ago and it changed my life. I don’t live with constant back pain anymore. I bought one for my mother as well. Swingseats are not cheap – I bought floor models that were half off. Even so, you’re spending a lot more time in your chair than you are in your car (and the most important time of the day, too) so don’t be afraid to invest in a chair that fits your body well and moves when your body moves.

    (and, by the way, those Aeron chairs look nice but they are thousand-dollar pieces of shit. I had one at a dot com startup in 2000/2001, and I think that’s what gave me my back problem in the first place)

    “Think about it, if your office chair is really comfortable, what is going to put a halt at taking a snooze break in the middle of working on something? ”

    I’ve thought about it and what you’re saying is nonsense. If you’re sleepy enough that you need to take a snooze break, then you should take one. When you get up, you will be more productive. COUNTLESS studies say people who take naps are more productive and healthier. The Japanese are way ahead of us on this (Google “Japanese nap pod”).

    Second, the only chair that ever made me tired is a barstool. In a bar.

    “The only qualities that matter most are reliability and durability. Here are a few tips on finding that office chair you NEED.”

    I do agree that it doesn’t matter what the chair looks like. Everything else in this section is folksy nonsense and it doesn’t seem to be based on any actual data.

    “For many people who work in an office setting, sitting in an office chair without adequate back support can create a great deal of stress on the lower back. This is largely because in the seated position, the lumbosacral discs are loaded three times more than standing, and sitting without back support usually leads to poor posture, which stresses the soft tissues and joints in the spine. For many people, sitting in an office chair either causes or exacerbates lower back pain.

    “Part of the problem is that today’s lifestyle often includes long periods of sitting—at work, during the commute to and from work, at home watching TV or at the computer, watching kids’ soccer games, and so on. And it’s in this sitting position that poor postural habits tend to develop— hunching over, slouching in the chair, etc.

    “When sitting in an office chair, shifting one’s weight forward increases stress on the soft tissue, joints and discs, and this in turn can create muscle tension and pain in the lower back and legs (e.g. sciatica).

    Office Chair Lumbar Back Support is Important

    “The lower portion of the spine, just above the buttocks, naturally curves inward toward the belly (the lordotic curve). A lumbar back support helps promote good posture by simply filling in the gap between the lumbar spine and the seat, supporting the natural inward curve of the lower back.”

    0
    • Jamal

      Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 14:10

      3

      Hello Tim,

      Thank you for pointing out something in my article you disagreed with, and mention what you thought should be added. I think you may have taken some things to the extreme here, so let me help you out here. Its good to take note that this article is written from what personal experience taught me and worked for me to this point. I’m only 19, so yeah some things may not all apply to older readers directly, but the thoughts behind each thing I mentioned should. I’ll explain:

      “Honestly, a chair is just a chair here.”
      From this, I am referring to how when most people go to buy that first chair they spend too much time on how things look. In the first tip I mention, I’m advising to avoid the looks and go for a chair that suits the timeframe you plan to spend freelancing. Which for many may not be too long.

      I also say to make sure you find suitable material. I admit I did not admit to look for something that suits whatever ailments might frequent someone, and making sure to find a chair that doesn’t do any type of harm, but I did say FIND SUITABLE MATERIAL. Which should be translated into finding something that suits you, and is a good fit for your body.

      “Think about it, if your office chair is really comfortable, what is going to put a halt at taking a snooze break in the middle of working on something? ”

      From my experiences, there are some chairs that are so comfortable you can’t help but fall asleep while sitting in them no matter how much quality sleep you’ve already gotten. This has happen to me a lot in my short life time btw. Maybe you haven’t experienced this, so you can’t understand this. However once you have, it will make clear sense.

      “The only qualities that matter most are reliability and durability. Here are a few tips on finding that office chair you NEED.”

      Tim you bring up good points here, but those other points I’ve addressed or referred to. Its also good to take note that not everybody will be sitting at their desk all day while working too. There are many people that work in a variety of places around their home office, and their general area. I’ve never been a fan of being in the same place too long, and like to change my space quite often. This is especially true while I’m working, and there are many people who can agree with this. Actually the majority of the people I meet.

      You bring up a lot of GREAT points, and I appreciate you mentioning some areas I may have missed out on for those that read this. However, I do feel I addressed what was brought up in my article. Not so much directly, but still being addressed.

      0
    • T Irvin

      Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 07:29

      5

      Your initial premise is correct. A good chair for those of us that sit for long periods is very important, in fact critical. But your criticism of the Aeron chair is ridiculous. It’s the best chair I’ve ever had. It solved an incredibly painful lower back problem I had for years. If a particular chair didn’t work for you fine, but to claim that one of the best designed chairs (both ergonomically and design-wise) in the world is a piece of shit, is simply incorrect and dilutes the rest of your argument .
      Regards,
      Trevor Irvin

      0
  • Sri Ganesh.M

    Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 07:51

    6

    Jamal, nice article and i need a help – can you suggest me ” how to keep the Dual monitor setup. i have two 23″ hd monitors and i dont know how to place it straight or one straight to me and other in the side-view.
    you understand what i mean

    0
    • Jamal

      Thursday, April 26th, 2012 14:29

      10

      Well, this depends on your desk really. I have my dual monitors set like one straight in front of me and another to my set to my right at an angle. From my experiences, its always been good to have at least one screen facing directly in front of you and another at the angle you find most comfortable looking to. Mine just so happens to be my right.

      0
  • Sarah

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 11:43

    1

    Hello Jamal,
    I agree with you, to do a good work you need a good place.
    Sometimes my desk is full of papers and my motivation go down so i clean all and i’m up to make a good day of work.

    0
    • Jamal

      Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 19:37

      4

      Hey Sarah,

      My desk was like that before I came up with the three A system. It feels a lot better reaching for my sketchbook, knowing I don’t have to push stuff around to make room :)

      0
  • kabeer khan

    Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 01:10

    11

    Really really awesome information about office !

    0
  • kelly

    Monday, April 23rd, 2012 20:13

    7

    A home office gives you the opportunity to think outside the box in setting up your work space. So why limit yourself to just a chair at your desk? Research has shown that sitting all day is quite detrimental to your overall health, even if you regularly workout. So why not have a treadmill instead of a chair and move all day? It’s a trend that’s gaining momentum.

    I switched from an Aeron chair to a treadmill a year ago and the nagging hip pain I was experiencing disappeared entirely. It’s best to have a treadmill that will go as slow as 0.5 mph, it helps you focus on your work rather than your walking as you acclimate to moving while you work. It will take a little while to get used to this setup, and you should increase your time on the treadmill over a couple week period as your feet need to acclimate, too. You can vary your speed through the day to keep things interesting—sometimes I find that the slower speed slows my mind.

    There are a lot of article you can find on creating a desk setup for a treadmill. Geek Desk is the best value I’ve found so far. I bought the frame-only version so I could make a customized desktop. I did a lot of research using http://officewalkers.ning.com/forum before I bought my treadmill and desk.

    0
  • kabeer khan

    Wednesday, May 9th, 2012 01:10

    11

    Really really awesome information about office !

    0
  • Evelyn Wallace

    Wednesday, April 25th, 2012 14:47

    8

    There’s a lot of great information for building an office that works. Important BUT I must also add that a home office would not be the proper environment for a client you have not met before or is new. That office is going to be personal at home and potential clients might perceive that to be too intimate. Meeting at the nearby coffeeshop first would just be good secure business and the personal home office reserved for clients well established and well known to you.

    +1
    • Rean John Uehara

      Thursday, April 26th, 2012 04:41

      9

      I agree. Home offices are only perfect for people who work through the internet 100% of the time, like I do. And coffee shops are a perfect meeting place, they’re relaxing enough and inviting!

      0
  • kelly

    Monday, April 23rd, 2012 20:13

    7

    A home office gives you the opportunity to think outside the box in setting up your work space. So why limit yourself to just a chair at your desk? Research has shown that sitting all day is quite detrimental to your overall health, even if you regularly workout. So why not have a treadmill instead of a chair and move all day? It’s a trend that’s gaining momentum.

    I switched from an Aeron chair to a treadmill a year ago and the nagging hip pain I was experiencing disappeared entirely. It’s best to have a treadmill that will go as slow as 0.5 mph, it helps you focus on your work rather than your walking as you acclimate to moving while you work. It will take a little while to get used to this setup, and you should increase your time on the treadmill over a couple week period as your feet need to acclimate, too. You can vary your speed through the day to keep things interesting—sometimes I find that the slower speed slows my mind.

    There are a lot of article you can find on creating a desk setup for a treadmill. Geek Desk is the best value I’ve found so far. I bought the frame-only version so I could make a customized desktop. I did a lot of research using http://officewalkers.ning.com/forum before I bought my treadmill and desk.

    0
  • Sri Ganesh.M

    Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 07:51

    6

    Jamal, nice article and i need a help – can you suggest me ” how to keep the Dual monitor setup. i have two 23″ hd monitors and i dont know how to place it straight or one straight to me and other in the side-view.
    you understand what i mean

    0
    • Jamal

      Thursday, April 26th, 2012 14:29

      10

      Well, this depends on your desk really. I have my dual monitors set like one straight in front of me and another to my set to my right at an angle. From my experiences, its always been good to have at least one screen facing directly in front of you and another at the angle you find most comfortable looking to. Mine just so happens to be my right.

      0
  • Tim Wayne

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 11:51

    2

    I love this blog and have been reading it for some time. I finally read something I disagree with:

    “Honestly, a chair is just a chair here.”

    You could not be more wrong. Sitting for long periods of time on a piece of crap chair is effortless in your twenties but not so great if you’re in your thirties and, for a lot of people (like me), absolute Hell if you’re older than that. A chair is not just a chair. It should offer proper lumbar support, it should move when you move, it should be highly adjustable and should fit your body.

    I picked up a swing seat (swingseat.com) at Macworld five years ago and it changed my life. I don’t live with constant back pain anymore. I bought one for my mother as well. Swingseats are not cheap – I bought floor models that were half off. Even so, you’re spending a lot more time in your chair than you are in your car (and the most important time of the day, too) so don’t be afraid to invest in a chair that fits your body well and moves when your body moves.

    (and, by the way, those Aeron chairs look nice but they are thousand-dollar pieces of shit. I had one at a dot com startup in 2000/2001, and I think that’s what gave me my back problem in the first place)

    “Think about it, if your office chair is really comfortable, what is going to put a halt at taking a snooze break in the middle of working on something? ”

    I’ve thought about it and what you’re saying is nonsense. If you’re sleepy enough that you need to take a snooze break, then you should take one. When you get up, you will be more productive. COUNTLESS studies say people who take naps are more productive and healthier. The Japanese are way ahead of us on this (Google “Japanese nap pod”).

    Second, the only chair that ever made me tired is a barstool. In a bar.

    “The only qualities that matter most are reliability and durability. Here are a few tips on finding that office chair you NEED.”

    I do agree that it doesn’t matter what the chair looks like. Everything else in this section is folksy nonsense and it doesn’t seem to be based on any actual data.

    “For many people who work in an office setting, sitting in an office chair without adequate back support can create a great deal of stress on the lower back. This is largely because in the seated position, the lumbosacral discs are loaded three times more than standing, and sitting without back support usually leads to poor posture, which stresses the soft tissues and joints in the spine. For many people, sitting in an office chair either causes or exacerbates lower back pain.

    “Part of the problem is that today’s lifestyle often includes long periods of sitting—at work, during the commute to and from work, at home watching TV or at the computer, watching kids’ soccer games, and so on. And it’s in this sitting position that poor postural habits tend to develop— hunching over, slouching in the chair, etc.

    “When sitting in an office chair, shifting one’s weight forward increases stress on the soft tissue, joints and discs, and this in turn can create muscle tension and pain in the lower back and legs (e.g. sciatica).

    Office Chair Lumbar Back Support is Important

    “The lower portion of the spine, just above the buttocks, naturally curves inward toward the belly (the lordotic curve). A lumbar back support helps promote good posture by simply filling in the gap between the lumbar spine and the seat, supporting the natural inward curve of the lower back.”

    0
    • Jamal

      Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 14:10

      3

      Hello Tim,

      Thank you for pointing out something in my article you disagreed with, and mention what you thought should be added. I think you may have taken some things to the extreme here, so let me help you out here. Its good to take note that this article is written from what personal experience taught me and worked for me to this point. I’m only 19, so yeah some things may not all apply to older readers directly, but the thoughts behind each thing I mentioned should. I’ll explain:

      “Honestly, a chair is just a chair here.”
      From this, I am referring to how when most people go to buy that first chair they spend too much time on how things look. In the first tip I mention, I’m advising to avoid the looks and go for a chair that suits the timeframe you plan to spend freelancing. Which for many may not be too long.

      I also say to make sure you find suitable material. I admit I did not admit to look for something that suits whatever ailments might frequent someone, and making sure to find a chair that doesn’t do any type of harm, but I did say FIND SUITABLE MATERIAL. Which should be translated into finding something that suits you, and is a good fit for your body.

      “Think about it, if your office chair is really comfortable, what is going to put a halt at taking a snooze break in the middle of working on something? ”

      From my experiences, there are some chairs that are so comfortable you can’t help but fall asleep while sitting in them no matter how much quality sleep you’ve already gotten. This has happen to me a lot in my short life time btw. Maybe you haven’t experienced this, so you can’t understand this. However once you have, it will make clear sense.

      “The only qualities that matter most are reliability and durability. Here are a few tips on finding that office chair you NEED.”

      Tim you bring up good points here, but those other points I’ve addressed or referred to. Its also good to take note that not everybody will be sitting at their desk all day while working too. There are many people that work in a variety of places around their home office, and their general area. I’ve never been a fan of being in the same place too long, and like to change my space quite often. This is especially true while I’m working, and there are many people who can agree with this. Actually the majority of the people I meet.

      You bring up a lot of GREAT points, and I appreciate you mentioning some areas I may have missed out on for those that read this. However, I do feel I addressed what was brought up in my article. Not so much directly, but still being addressed.

      0
    • T Irvin

      Wednesday, April 18th, 2012 07:29

      5

      Your initial premise is correct. A good chair for those of us that sit for long periods is very important, in fact critical. But your criticism of the Aeron chair is ridiculous. It’s the best chair I’ve ever had. It solved an incredibly painful lower back problem I had for years. If a particular chair didn’t work for you fine, but to claim that one of the best designed chairs (both ergonomically and design-wise) in the world is a piece of shit, is simply incorrect and dilutes the rest of your argument .
      Regards,
      Trevor Irvin

      0
  • Sarah

    Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 11:43

    1

    Hello Jamal,
    I agree with you, to do a good work you need a good place.
    Sometimes my desk is full of papers and my motivation go down so i clean all and i’m up to make a good day of work.

    0
    • Jamal

      Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 19:37

      4

      Hey Sarah,

      My desk was like that before I came up with the three A system. It feels a lot better reaching for my sketchbook, knowing I don’t have to push stuff around to make room :)

      0

Comments are closed.

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