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#FreelanceFriday: How to Create Your Best Home Office

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  • Tip Bones

Hello, and welcome back to Freelance Friday! Last time, I talked about setting your prices to match what your work is worth, but I got a lot of questions about 'facilities' in my email. This week, I want to talk about the most common freelancer facility: the home office, and how to make yours as efficient as possible.

First and foremost, you need a space. While a space on your desk or at your dining room table will work for most freelancers who work online, I recommend designating a space specifically for your work. There are several reasons, but the primary one is that it will help you focus. If you do the work from your couch, it's easy to get distracted by the flashy lights of the TV or the other apps and games on your phone or computer. Who among us hasn't "taken a break" to watch their favorite show or go down a YouTube rabbit hole, after all? The second reason, which is less important, is the tax benefit you could receive from designating a space for your work.

You get a tax benefit for a home office? You sure can! It can be a little bit of work to calculate your deduction, but generally it involves knowing the square footage of your home, and the square footage of your office. Depending on the proportional size of your office to the rest of your home, it can be a pretty healthy chunk of change! But be careful: the IRS is looking for evidence that your space is: a) regularly and exclusively used as your office, and b) the principal place of your business. If you're thinking about fudging the numbers a little, I wouldn't risk it.

IRS Home Office Deduction Guidelines

Now that you've got your space designated and that refund to look forward to, let's talk about what you should actually put in your new office. You probably already have the basic equipment you need, like a computer, phone, printer, and so on. The trick is to arrange them in a manner that will help you stay organized, and keep your workflow smooth. If possible, I like a simple, linear format: phone, computer, printer, from left to right. This makes sure that I don't need to stand up every time the phone rings or I need a page off the press. If you like paper filing, invest in a sturdy filing cabinet, and place it in close proximity to your chair.

Speaking of your chair, don't be afraid to sink some money into picking a great one. Remember, you can write off office equipment as business expenses, so make sure it's extremely comfortable. Look for ergonomic designs with adjustable positioning, that allows you to sit up at the desk in proper keyboarding position. The more comfortable you are, the less you'll experience neck craning or arm pain, and the less time you'll spend recovering. Time is money in the self employment world!

Learn more about proper computing position here.

You might be thinking, "I already know all of this! What office systems should I be using to be more efficient?" That's a bit of a nuanced question. The answer depends on your industry and the size of your business. If I had to give one tip for efficiency, I'd recommend a really great invoicing and payment system. QuickBooks is a popular one, and is famous for its intuitive user interface. Really any system that will help you keep track of your payments and invoices is a great time saver. If you're like me, I also recommend a calendar or scheduling app. Google makes some great free choices, and the best ones will allow you to track approximate completion of projects. Of course, one that syncs to your phone or email is great to remind you of upcoming tasks.

Remember, there's no magic bullet for office efficiency. The best advice you'll find is to keep yourself organized and on task, and utilize help in apps and reminders when you need it. Make your office a comfortable and clean space, and you'll do the most of your best work. That's it for this week! Tune in two weeks from now for another installment!