Career Advice

The Freelancer’s Guide to Building a Home Office that Works

By Colton Cox June 7th, 2018

Full-time freelancing comes with a lot of liberty—the services you offer, the kinds of clients you work with, and the number of hours you put in are all up to you. While options are great, there’s one freedom in particular that might actually hinder your productivity: office space.

If you’ve ever conducted a conference call in a Starbucks, you know it’s not exactly the ideal environment for talking to clients. Setting up shop at the kitchen table, where distractions abound, is no better.

So it’s time to take that spare room, den, or man cave and convert it into the corner office you deserve. Here are the essentials for making sure your home office is perfectly suited for your freelance career.

Any empty room won’t do

You’re probably tempted to convert the spare bedroom that became a secret hoarding space. But before you move any furniture, ask yourself: Will it actually function as an office, or is it just more convenient than, say, your den?

Consider the surroundings. If your office is next to the kitchen, will you become distracted getting snacks and drinks throughout the day? If you’re holed up on the street side of your home, will traffic noises drive you nuts? Whatever your preferences and work style, think of your office in the context of your entire household in order to create an ideal space for longterm productivity. It may take a little extra work to move multiple rooms, but hey—full-time freelancing could merit a bit of rearrangement.

Use daylight to your advantage

A 2015 study of biophilic design by the business psychology company Robertson Cooper found that office workers in environments with daylight are 15 percent more engaged with creative tasks than those without. In your average year of 40-hour work weeks, that’s equivalent to more than two weeks of time saved. It’s quite the argument against cramming your work in between dinner and 2 a.m.

But while it’s important to access natural light, you should be mindful of how it comes through the window during your workday. Will you have to squint in the early morning to see your computer screen? Or perhaps it will be blinding in the evening, right when you’re cramming to finish everything for the day. Knowing the direction of the sun relative to your room will be helpful in deciding how to arrange your desk.

Dig into the feng shui

Speaking of arranging, the ancient practice of feng shui offers a variety of ways to outfit a room for power, creativity, and productivity. One of the most commonly cited setups is the command position.

By positioning the furniture you’ll spend the most time using (in this case, your desk) with a sight line to the door—but not in direct line with it—you can see what’s coming your way, in work and life. You eliminate vulnerability while also leaving space to prepare for whatever steps through your door.

Home design site The Spruce also recommends choosing a position with “good backing”—ideally a wall that provides a solid structure behind you—because a window behind your desk opens you to the same vulnerabilities as a door would.

Update your tech

There’s no worse feeling than the phone cutting off in the middle of a call, except maybe the feeling of madly fumbling with your Skype as you try to figure out if the person frozen on your screen can still hear you.

To avoid WiFi issues, consider purchasing an extender that can strengthen your office’s connection to your wireless network. You may also want to consider going old school and setting up a landline. It’ll help you distinguish the office as a setting for work and will offer a professional touch to your client communication.

Don’t skimp on the green

Think back on the most unpleasant office you worked in. In all likelihood, there weren’t many (healthy) plants around. As reported by Wired, flora in the workplace can actually boost productivity nearly 15 percent. Better yet, not all plants require daily care, so you don’t have to worry about becoming a botanist just to achieve the ideal home office.

Don’t have a natural green thumb? Interior landscape firm Ambius has a guide on the best plants to grow in an office, considering everything from the type of light needed to how often they need to be repotted.

Leave room for multiple thinking spaces

In a corporate office, you often have rooms dedicated to specific activities—one conference room for team brainstorming, one for weekly status updates, one for performance reviews. Consider the layout of your office area. How will you be moving around, and have you set up space to accommodate your habits?

For example, you might want to make space to move. Positioning your writing desk, whiteboard, and bookshelf on three different walls of a room will ensure that you’re making full use of the space while also getting on your feet throughout the day—which is better for your health.

A home office can be a cost-effective and creativity-boosting space if properly equipped. It effectively eliminates the cost of transit and rent, you can deck it out the way you’d like, and it comes with world’s shortest commute. So while it may never be as cool as a tech-giant campus, your home office can easily become the setting for the best work of your life.

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