The Home Office AreaI mention in my basics page on setting up a home office that every one of us is different. Some people are quite happy working on a kitchen table, and some people of course have no other alternative. Other people really need the structure and isolation of a separate room where they can focus on having that work done without distraction. So there are no all-encompassing guidelines, every person and every situation is different.
That being said, here are some items which really make a difference for most home businesses.
Separate Phone Line
Usually it is not THAT much more to add a second line to your home. They just add the charges onto your existing phone line. You then buy a $20 cheap phone with an answering machine for that line. It is amazing what a difference it makes to customers when you can give them a phone number that is actually answered "by" the business. Even if you just have the answering machine sit there and say "You have reached XYZ - nobody is here right now", it really gives a sense that this is a company that is reputable and worth dealing with. Heck, don't even get long distance for the line, only use it to receive incoming calls. You can probably tax deduct its expense in any case.
There are tons of cheap plastic file drawers on the market, that are portable. It's important to keep your papers gathered for tax and organizational reasons. Even if you have a regular filing cabinet in the house somewhere, it's great to have a portable one to move around with you as you do your work. The easier it is to get to that file system, the more likely it is you'll use it. And the better organized you are, the more likely you will find what you need quickly and make your entire job much more manageable.
Computer / Laptop
You can get a computer for around $300 nowadays that is SUPER fast. Laptops are becoming really cheap, too. There are all sorts of cheap and free software packages to help you organize contacts, do your finances, do your taxes, and keep things running. You could easily save that $300 in the time you save keeping track of everything. A lot of running a business involves networking, building a client list, marketing to it, keeping track of invoices. The hours you put into those tasks add up quickly. The more you can organize and automate those tasks, the more you can simply focus on the actual work that you are performing.
I know it sounds silly to add this in - but it is amazing how many studies have shown this to be correct. If you are unhappy it comes through in many ways - in the speed in which you get a task done, in how people perceive you on the phone, in the quality of your work. You might THINK you are doing the same things in the same way, but in reality everything is suffering. Of course there are many things you can NOT change about your environment. But really give it a good brainstorming. Add some plants, even if they're plastic. Add photos you love. Play music you enjoy - or get a noise cancelling machine. Light incense or candles. Whatever it is that irks you about your environment, take even a tiny step to make it better. The ripple effect will astound you.
Main Page on Setting Up Your Home Office
Work from Home Main Page