If you’re serious about working at home, you’ll need to create a comfortable space where you can work undistracted.  Whether your home office is a corner of the family room or a separate room altogether, this primer can help you get started.  What follows are your home office essentials.

The Basics

Computer – While you may be tempted to pick up an inexpensive model, consider buying the best computer you can afford. It pays to purchase a model that will last for several years than to continue to pay for multiple upgrades. Busy parents should consider a laptop for those moments they need portability. A small laptop can go with you to the play room, back deck and playground.

Software – There’s no way around it. If you want to work at home, you’ll need the essentials. If you haven’t yet installed Word, Excel and other necessary Microsoft Office software, you’ll need to do so. Most employers expect you to use Word, Excel and PowerPoint, but these programs can be expensive.

If money is an issue, visit openoffice.org and download Open Office for free. Open Office offers software alternatives compatible with the Microsoft programs. Another free program that’s an absolute must is Adobe Reader. You’ll need this to open PDF files.  Download this at Adobe.com.

If you’re not sure how to use these programs, there are plenty of free online tutorials to help you. The library also offers plenty of “how-to” books and tutorials.

High Speed Internet –
Dial-up is no longer acceptable in today’s busy home office. Employers want reliability and speed. Dial-up may be cheaper, but it’s not better. Considering how you can write off many home office expenses, including your Internet service, why would you use a slow connection?

Desk or work station – You don’t need to have anything fancy, but you do need to have a work area that’s sturdy, holds all of your equipment and supplies without being crowded, and allows you to move in comfort. For some people this is an old kitchen table, for others it’s an entire work cubicle. Decide what will work best for your space.

Dedicated Phone Line – Depending on your line of work, you might need a dedicated phone line. If you will be spending a great deal of time on the phone you’ll want your own line, one family members won’t be using all of the time.

Headset – If you’re going to be working a job requiring you to spend a lot of time on the phone, a headset is a must. Nowadays, headsets are lightweight, comfortable and many consist of a single piece fitting over one ear.

Comfortable Chair – If you’re going to be sitting for hours at a time, you’ll want a chair offering good back support and comfortable seating. A wheeled chair allowing you to move freely between stations is best, but not mandatory.

Scanner or Fax – This too depends on your work at home job. If you find you need to copy or send documents on a regular basis, these items are necessary staples. If you only need to fax the occasional contract or paperwork, it’s probably more cost-efficient to visit your local copy center.

File Cabinet – This can be a one drawer or four drawer depending on your needs. Even if your job doesn’t generate a lot of paper, you’ll still need to store check stubs, receipts and contracts.

No Printer?
Notice I didn’t say printer? That’s because most home workers don’t need one. In fact, most of us email our work directly to the client. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t have a printer for household or family business, however. If you can’t afford to give up spare work space, there’s no shame in keeping the printer in a closet until you have something to print.

Keep Organized
Once you have the essentials, you can start to set up your office. Think carefully about where to put each item. For instance, a bulletin board should be in your direct line of sight so you can see calendars and reminders at a glance. Often used office supplies work best within a hand’s reach, while others can be stowed away in a drawer.

Keep your work area neat and tidy. Consider buying slotted trays and file holders to store important papers. You’ll waste less time having an organized work space than if you have to hunt through clutter to find paperwork.

A Quiet Space
It’s best to have a door you can shut keep out the noise. Of course this is easier said than done when working in a home with children. After they are in bed however, you may need to close out the world and take a few quiet hours to work.

It’s What You Make of It
You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on the latest equipment or have an addition attached to your house. Your home office can be any space where you can work comfortably and in a productive manner. Whether that’s a card table in your basement or a 20-piece work station is entirely up to you.  (Author Deborah Ng)

I highly recommend installing at least (3) different types of antivirus/antispy software on your computer.  Free versions work fairly well, but it is always a good idea to invest into one individual FULL version application, which you will provide you with greater protection in the long run and employers are more apt to consider you for many projects to come.

To Your Success in A Home Career…