Working from home - office space
When you make the decision to work from home, one thing that you must give serious consideration is your working space. In any permanent role, you will have almost everything provided for you, a computer to work on, the software required to complete your job and hopefully a quiet, calm environment to complete your work.
When you take the step to work as a freelancer you will need to provide all of this yourself. When considering which room or out-building to convert into an office, do remember you will spend several hours a day in this room. Some things to consider are: is the room light and airy, is the lighting and heating adequate to keep you comfortable while you work, is it comfortable and is it a place that you want to go to.
One of the main requirements is to get a space that you can set aside where you will not have the interruptions of everyday life. If you have a family or live with others then this can be a major hurdle. Partners may consider your new role as being a great opportunity to get you to do extra work around the house or take part in more extracurricular activities. Make it clear what your 'office hours’ are and try and get others in your house to respect this to maximize your productivity while at home.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you can take an hour or two out during the day and catch up with work at a later time as your office is so close at hand. However, this mindset can lead to late nights and therefore later starts due to tiredness. Once you fall into this trap it can be hard to escape, so set your working hours and stick to them. You will be a lot happier and healthier by sticking to a set regime.
Many freelancers feel that working from a laptop in the front room is not a problem. However, in a living room, there are far too many distractions for you to give your full focus and attention to your work. Additionally, the fact that laptop keyboards are fiddly and the posture used while typing on a laptop can also be harmful to you.
Posture is something that you really do need to consider. As a freelancer, you will not be paid for time off work for a bad back or RSI should your working posture be bad, so make sure you are comfy on your computer. Ensure that your desk should is deep enough so that your forearms can rest on the desk in front of your keyboard and your chair is at a height so that your back is straight. Your knees need to bend so your thighs and lower legs are at right angles and your feet are flat on the floor. If your desk is a little too high then invest in a footrest, back problems are best avoided at all costs.
Make sure that you take regular breaks away from your desk. If you are a programmer or writer, it is easy to get into the flow of work and many hours can pass with you in the same position. A good idea is to set an alarm for 2 hours maximum and when the time is up get up from your desk and have some time away. You can even just make a coffee or just step away from your desk for a short while. Persistent computer use can lead to deep vein thrombosis, usually attributed to long-haul flights, but this ailment has cropped up fairly frequently with heavy computer users. You need to keep your health in check and ensure that your work isn’t leading to poor health.
With your desk space sorted make sure you have room for a fair amount of filing space. This area of working for yourself is often overlooked but bear in mind that you will need to several different records. For example, all invoices, receipts, accounts for 6 years (HMRC can ask to see records going back that far), details of insurance you may take out, details of software purchases and licences and trade books and magazines that you may purchase.
On the tax front, your freelancer accountant can also advise you on claiming for the use of your home. They will be able to advise you which household running costs you can include for this purpose. This is a confusing and sometimes complicated area of tax and running a company, the services of a good accountant can often earn their keep in helping advice on these issues.
More on working from home as a freelancer.