How to Set Up an Effective Home-Based Office on a Budget

By Kathi Burns

The minimum furniture requirement to set up a home-based office is a desk, desk chair, and file drawer or cabinet. A computer, printer and scheduling device comprise the equipment that will round out your office set-up. You may possibly need to post your own website, but that is another article!

Your desk can be a large table (think dining size) or an actual office desk. Small folding tables are too restrictive and won't hold your computer plus other necessary paperwork. The best desk set-up leaves 60% of the flat area free for paperwork. This is why you need a large surface, at least preferably.

An ergonomically designed desk chair is worth more than the money it costs. Your old dining room chair will fatigue you quickly and possibly leave you with a tweaked back by the end of the day. Check at your local thrift store if you need to save money as you start your business. You may also wish to look into ergonomic wrist or foot rests.

File drawers will keep all of your papers from overtaking your business as you grow. Many women try to use "pretty" or inexpensive file boxes for their paperwork. File boxes run several hazards: you pile things on top that need to be moved to access your file; they fall apart; they don't hold hanging files, so your files fall down inside and don't have proper separation, etc. etc. etc… I could go on but will stop here.

I highly recommend treating your business like a business, by buying business level tools to work with. Buy a real file cabinet. It will serve you for years. If you want to save money, thrift stores often sell high quality cabinets for $15 to $30, as opposed to the $120 office supply store price range. Make sure to buy a cabinet that has drawers with sliding tracks and wheels. Again, think industrial strength. There is nothing worse than battling with jammed or loose file drawers when you are trying to work.

Regardless of your type of business, a computer will save you countless hours of frustration and wasted time. It provides the capability to send and receive emails and to access websites. Faxes are almost a thing of the past now.

If you are not computer savvy, now is the time to jump in and learn. Many computer courses are available, including the free courses at the public library or local community center. Community colleges and adult education programs are other good resources. You could also learn one-on-one by being tutored by a neighbor. Learning computer basics is a mandatory investment for a new business, even if you do not plan to sell your product online.

A printer will help you prepare documents to give to your clients or print reference materials for your projects.

Probably the most important element of a functioning business is a proper scheduling device. Whichever you choose, use one and ONLY ONE for everything in your life: all of your business appointments, reminder notes and personal commitments. It can be as simple as a paper schedule book, day planner, or Palm Pilot (a.k.a. PDA: personal digital assistant,) or as complicated as a Blackberry. Some handheld electronic devices have the added convenience of software that "hot syncs" information to your computer. Consider as well the contact management options that come with your computer, like Outlook, Entourage or ACT.

Managing your contact list will put you a step closer to truly being in control of your business. With any of these Customer Relationship Management programs, you can enter and store all the numerous business card information and potential client names into one space, then, most importantly, schedule follow up calls so that you can land new business.

Kathi Burns is the founder of AddSPACE to Your Life, a professional organizing and image consulting agency. Adding Space is Kathi Burns's mission and transformation is her passion!