Friday, February 3, 2012

A Room of Your Own

Technology today allows you to write just about anywhere. However, running a successful business requires you to be organized. And as much as the techies keep telling us that computers allow us to have paperless offices, the more paper we seem to accumulate.

You’ll find that you’ll be better equipped to compete in the freelance marketplace if you have your own office. Sure, laptops and tablets allow you to write allow you to write wherever you happen to be and cell phones allow you to conduct interviews and do online research. But being totally mobile doesn’t help you stay organized, especially if like me you focus on non-fiction.

A home office has its advantages. First, there’s no rent to pay. You also don't have to worry about commuting, especially in bad weather. When you're not feeling up to par, you can do filing or paying bills, while still taking it easy. Also, if you’re working at home you may be less likely to catch those nasty viruses. You can also keep up with the news by radio or television if you want. You'll find you can work in whatever degree of casual attire you like. And finally, there's less wear and tear on your car or transportation budget.

Start with your own office, no matter how small it might be—a space entirely yours that’s available to you at any and all times where you do nothing but business tasks. It’s not impossible to freelance without an office, but it’s harder. In fact, you’ll soon realize that having your own office will increase your productivity. Here is the place you can steal away to when the creative urge hits or when you need to concentrate on a particularly difficult project.

You can create an office almost anywhere in your home or apartment. It can be in the corner of a room to start, but soon you’ll find that there’s no way to keep the interruptions from happening. It should be located in a room with a door, preferably one that you can lock from both sides. It’s not a good idea to take over your whole basement, for example, because no one else will be able to use it at the same time. Take a corner and put up two simple walls of framing and plasterboard with a door. Make sure the area has electrical connections and perhaps phone connections. You can do the same in any room in your house. Or take over a small bedroom.

While many homes have more than one computer, some have only one, shared by all the members of the family. This won’t do to freelance. Sure, you might be able to work when children are in school and your spouse is at work, but what if you have a sudden deadline, and someone else is using the computer? It’s best to plan on buying a desktop or laptop of your own, dedicated to your business—one that no one else should use. Remember, computer viruses brought home from school or work can infect your computer as easily as those that infect humans. And you need to protect your work at all times.

Some people need more creature comforts to work effectively than others. How fancy you make your office is up to you. Essentially, you’ll need a desk—not necessarily an actual desk—file cabinets or shelves with file boxes, a comfortable chair besides your desk chair in which you can sit and read over your drafts, and whatever other creature comforts you’d like.

And as mentioned above, using a computer doesn’t eliminate the need for paper files. Over time, these will multiply, and you’ll have to deal with them. As a freelancer, it’s important to keep at least one file folder for each piece you write. If you write books, then you’ll need at least one file folder for each chapter.  Over the years, you’ll discover that boxes of files seem to accumulate faster than you can find a place to store them. So start planning on a storage area for your files from the start.

It’s a lot easier to convince people that you’re a legitimate business today than it was a few years ago. Home offices are quite common since modern technology has enabled many people to work out of their homes. But you’ll probably have to set some ground rules, unless you live and work alone. Make sure your family understands that when you’re in your office, you’re working and should not be disturbed. With a proper office, you’ll also be able to apply for credit, etc., as a bonafide business. And don’t forget to fill out the form for deducting business expenses in your home with your federal and state income tax.

NOTE: If your office looks like the one pictured above, then you're probably not writing. You're only dreaming about being a writer.



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