When you first think about going independent, the idea of working from home sounds so appealing. Not only can you stay in your pajamas all day, but you can also snack any time you want and, if you’re feeling extra risky, you can binge watch TV. But once you’ve done it for a while, you realize forming some semblance of structure—such as working from an actual office space and not your bed—is the only way you can succeed.
You’ve binged home office design inspiration on Pinterest for some time now, and your head is spinning. All you want is a dedicated space where you can work when it’s professional time, yet feels like home when the job is done and you want to unwind. Where’s the happy medium in your life?
Dedicate a Just-Business Space
I started off as a solopreneur who spent a lot of time working from her couch. I also spend a ton of time watching TV and folding laundry on my couch. It’s tough to complete client work when your laundry pile is leaning against your elbow, a soft reminder that you have home responsibilities to take care of, too.
Before implementing any home office design inspiration, you’ll want to plan where your work space will be and what’s important to include. A hairdresser, for example, will need to work close to a sink, which means inviting clients into your kitchen or bathroom, or hiring professionals to create a salon-like atmosphere in a different room. Only you will know what’s necessary in your work-from-home space, so mark anything important as a must-have.
Make Space Where There’s None
If you aren’t lucky enough to have an empty spare room in your house, you can still reap the benefits of your own professional space — you’ll just need to squeeze it in elsewhere or give up something else. If you’re working hard to pay down your mortgage, you want to get the most use out of your home.
Look for the corners of your house; there’s usually a small space for a desk and bulletin board. Basements and attics are also good options for a larger home office if you’re handy enough to finish the space. If there’s barely any room, downsize and clear out a closet to make an office that comes with storage space. Plus, you can just close the door on work at the end of the day, and you’re already home!
You’re not likely to get anything done if you’re constantly interrupted by your children or distracted by other sounds in your home. Is your home office conveniently located in the same room as your washer and dryer? Don’t expect to get any laundry or work done if you try to do both at once. Also, limit your TV time. I can vouch for how easy it is to get sucked into episode after episode of a television show you don’t even like.
To minimize distractions, sit your family down and explain your working policy to them. Maybe an open door means you’re working but accessible. A closed door means you’re busy and prefer no interruptions. A friend of mine hangs a picture of a stop sign on her door when she’s on the phone or videoconferencing with clients, so her children understand not to bother her — unless, of course, it’s an emergency.
Make Your Space Comfortable
Wherever you work, make sure you feel good in your space. The first thing to consider is lighting. A bright-but-not-blindingly-sunny space proves ideal for most professions, while photographers may need both darkrooms for processing and direct sunlight for product shots. If your home office is in a temporary or not-so-ideal spot, address your lighting first to lay solid, productive groundwork.
You’ll also want to consider seating. I don’t know about you, but if I sit on a hard, wooden chair, I pay a lot more attention to my desire to move somewhere I can lounge instead of focusing on my work. Throw a cushion on a hard chair or switch your too-soft seat for something more sturdy, like a dining room chair. Make sure you feel good from wherever you are.
Add Real Greenery
Bring something that’s living, like a plant, into your space. If you’re not sure what to get, consider a jade plant — a small succulent that’s relatively easy to care for. If your home office has no windows or is low on light, a peace lily is an ideal addition and even cleans the air. Do you have trouble keeping plants alive? No problem. As long as you provide ample sunlight, a cactus will thrive, even when you forget to water it (and let’s face it, that’s sure to happen).
Don’t Splurge on Supplies
With all the fun of decorating your new space, you may consider running out and splurging on every office item you can get your hands on. Trust me, I get it — I’m a paper planner and pen girl. Just don’t drop your next check on staples, paperclips and ink cartridges if you won’t use them up.
Remember, you’re self-employed now and get to call all the shots. If you work best in your underwear from a standing desk, embrace it! Maybe your office is in a corner of the kitchen, so you can still see your kids. That’s fine, too. As long as you have a dedicated space for work, what it looks like is up to you.