Notes from the virtual office: Spend on yourself

Welcome Freelance Switchers. If you like this article, you might be interested in these, too:

· 8 survival tips – 8 tips on making working from home work for you.
· Hourly vs. Project Billing – some pros and cons
· 4 Ways to Get Organized – organization is key!
· Dos and Do Nots of a good web bug report – something to try to educate clients with

When you’re working in an office you generally don’t have a lot of control over your environment, but when you’re in the virtual office you’ve got a lot more flexibility. My advice? Don’t skimp on outfitting your home office, it doesn’t save you anything in the long run. Here’s some ideas on what you might want to make sure you’re doing. All this assuming that most of the time you’re working from home, if you’re a mobile warrior the set of expenditures changes drastically, but that’s for another time. And we take for granted that you have enough computer to do what you need to do!

· Bandwidth
Make sure you’ve got enough bandwidth (and it’s reliable) to your place. I do a lot of uploading and voip and found that Road Runner was slowing down noticeably at times. I upgraded to RR premium and those problems went away. Sure it costs an extra $30/mo or so, I’ll tell you what, though. If it saves me an aggregate hour of time over the course of a month, it more than pays for itself – and believe me it does. I mean, don’t get nuts and spend a grand installing a T1 into your place (unless you’re doing really well!) but if you’re noticing lag periodically and getting annoyed with it, it’s worth your time to investigate your ISP and see if they’ve got a faster service level.

· Screen
Whether you’ve got a desktop or a laptop, you should have a big, bright external monitor (or two… or three..). This is the thing that you stare at 8, 10, 16 hours a day! Spend a few extra ducats to make it something that gives you enough workspace to spread out and to be sharp and crisp enough to not ruin your eyes. I had two decent 17″ Samsungs several years ago, I thought they were fine – until I replaced it with an Apple 23″. The difference was stunning and my eyes thanked me for it. It let’s you work with less eye fatigue, which makes you happier!

· Chair
Stop sitting on that folding chair. You sit on this chair all day, get a good ergonomic chair to make yourself comfortable and keep your posture good. Your back will thank you for this one. I used to sit on a ratty old swivel chair, it seemed ok, but a year or so ago I became the happy owner of a Herman Miller Celle chair – it makes a genuine difference – I work a lot better when I’m comfortable and my back doesn’t hurt. There’s a ton of choices and they’re not all crazy expensive (well, ok, they’re all quite expensive, but some are less crazy than others) – the Mirra and the Celle are at the lower end of the spectrum and you can grab an Aeron or a Freedom or a Leap Chair at the higher end. Go to a couple stores and sit on them and see which you like.

Those are the three key ones. Get those sorted out first, it’ll make a difference to you. Once you’ve got that you can think about adding an ergonomic keyboard tray – this helps you keep your carpal tunnel under control and also lets you conveniently slide your keyboard out of the way and you can use your desk without any keyboard taking up valuable space. Make sure you get one with a mouse area next to the keyboard. Keep some shelves around you for your books. I need to work more on this, but it helps to have a space to keep all your books within arms reach. Check out my survival tips for suggestions on why it’s a good idea to use voip and get a smartphone.

In general, it’s worth it to spend this money on your office. They’re mostly one time costs and they’ll save you money in the long run either directly or indirectly (you’re more productive when you’re comfortable and alert). Think I missed anything? Am I off my rocker?

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