Home Office, Sweet Home Office ~ One

Ahhh, working from home. When it comes to being a freelancer, there is a myriad of reasons why it’s a good idea. The strongest one of which, for most of us anyway, is that you can work from home. But there is no point working from home, if you haven’t got a home office worth working out of. You might be free to roam, but you need a good base, a home office that functions just like an office should, but is as comfortable as a home should be at the same time. So let’s have a look at what makes working from home possible and how it can be done. In this article, the first of two, I speak to Skellie, a writer from a plethora of well known freelance blogs, as well as a creative designer with an incredibly beautiful home, Traci Yau. So go grab a coffee and a biscuit and get ready for some great advice!

Looking at the home offices of others seems to settle a voyeuristic need in some of us. It gives us insight into the minds and processes of others. The frames and posters on the walls, the piles and shelves of books, the nick-knacks on the desks and the big, shiny gadgets are rather inspiring. Seeing what makes people comfortable in their environments reminds us of what makes ourselves comfortable in our own spaces. Creative minds need creative spaces, something doubly important for the freelancer, for whom the luxury of bouncing ideas off the person at the next desk is rarely an option.

Skellie

When it comes to freelancing and blogs, Skellie has a resume second to none. A rather obvious choice really – writing one of my favorite blogs, Skilliewag, being a staff writer for ProBlogger.net, Daily Blog Tips, Freelance Switch and many more, the depth of her knowledge is astounding and her writing style easy to understand and enjoyable to read.

The latest online adventure for Skellie comes in the form of Anywired.com; helping those who want to work-on-the-go in their quest to achieve their dream, as well as giving great and practical tips on blogging and freelance life. It comes as no surprise to anyone that has read any of the mentioned sites that Skellie is a number one choice to answer a few questions about how to put the freelance into a freelancers home office. Luckily she was able to put aside a little bit of time from her busy schedule of writing and studying to answer a few questions. And in true Skellie fashion there is much wisdom in the answers given.

Freelancers could share rental space with other freelancers, or always work on the move – what do you think makes the idea of having an office at home so appealing? What do you think is the best part of that type of lifestyle?
I think the allure of the home office is multi-faceted. You don’t have to spend time in traffic or on crowded public transport to get to work. You can control your environment, set it up as you like, decorate it as you like. You can do the ‘working in my Pyjamas’ thing if that appeals to you. You can structure your day freely. But nothing is perfect, and working at home is no exception. Freelancers do sometimes complain about feeling isolated, and that working at home breeds procrastination and distraction to an extent. That’s something we all have to keep an eye on.

You can do the ‘working in my Pyjamas’ thing
if that appeals to you

What I appreciate most is having the choice of all three work options. If I want to do some work between classes at University, I can. If I want to work when I’m in another state or another country, I can, providing I can scrounge up some internet. If I want to work in my bedroom, I can do that too. Usually it ends up being the boring option (working at home), but knowing that you have the option to mix it up is really freeing.

Is it more important to make a home office feel like a home environment, or should it be something closer to a corporate
or studio setup?

It will depend on the individual freelancer. Some people find they can’t have a productive attitude when their surroundings aren’t neat and work-focused. Others find that they’re stifled by that and like their workspace to be as homey as possible. Personally, I try to keep my desk devoted to work-stuff only or it would get too messy, but as it’s in my bedroom there’s a certain meshing of my work and home environment. I know a lot of people discourage that as it’s supposed to be distracting and say you should have a room dedicated to your home office and nothing else, but my house is really small so there’s not much choice!

Do you think it’s important to try and get away from your office after hours and on weekends in order to refresh? Or do you think it’s ok if you can’t get enough of your work and office?
You go stir-crazy if you work at home and spend all your time there. I do spend a lot of my home-time working but I also go to classes and lectures and visit friends, so a degree of getting out happens naturally. But I don’t dedicate a specific time or day to ‘getting out’ of the home office. At the moment I’m working seven days a week, though not necessarily full days, but I still feel like that’s something that needs to change. It’s essential to have at least one day when you don’t work at all and don’t feel guilty about it. If you can go outside and do something different on that day, then that’s even better.

It’s essential to have at least one day
when you don’t work at all and don’t feel guilty about it

Any pieces of advice for those going into the freelance world when it comes to setting up their home office? Must have purchases or things to keep in mind?
The only true must-have, can’t do without purchase I can think of is a good chair. I’m always surprised when I see a home office tricked out with the latest technology but the chair is this rickety thing the owner stole from the family kitchen-set. $200 can be the difference between constant back-pain and, well, not having constant back-pain. It’s that simple!

If you have some choice over the location, setting up your desk somewhere close to natural light is very much worth doing. I do think being near natural light has a positive psychological effect on us freelancers. I have a huge window in my room and a nice front-garden to look out on, so I really appreciate that. The downside is that they window isn’t insulated, so my room’s temperature tends to be identical to the outside temperature, whether it’s freezing or boiling!

I’m always surprised when I see a home office tricked out
with the latest technology but the chair is this rickety thing

I’d also suggest investing in a computer setup that does what you need it to do really fast. If you’re only writing and browsing the internet, that’s going to be modest. If you’re video editing or working with dozens of files in Photoshop, you’ll need something a little beefier. If your computer is too slow, one of the cheapest and most effective things you can do is upgrade its memory. No freelancer’s computer/laptop should have less than 2GB of memory at this stage. Some freelancers may benefit from even more.

Keep a notebook where you capture ideas for work and business on your desk. If you’re more digitally oriented with your note-taking, create an idea capture file that always stays on your desktop. Lastly, think about buying a large monitor or two. They’ve been proven to increase productivity.

If you aren’t already a reader of Anywired.com, head on over and sign up, it’s a good resource and a great read.

Traci Yau

Traci has the kind of home you fall in love with instantly. It’s modern but warm—not something many people can pull off. With an office like hers, you can’t help but ask yourself ‘why not work form home?’ A neat mix between what she needs and what she loves, from a nice book collection to random bits of inspiration on a board and a good collection of Star Wars memrobilia and other bits and bobs, her office just feels right. Having studied at the RISD, she has a lovely portfolio, talent and taste that can be seen through her world and loves her home and office enough to answer a few questions!

Traci Yau Office

How would you describe your space and the kind of work you do? What’s one of your favorite things about working from home?
I recently graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in Graphic Design. I’m currently looking for full time work, but in the mean time I’m doing freelance design, which means working from home. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but I’m very conscious of my surroundings and my ability to work well depends on the space I’m working in. I’m just not as productive when I try to work from somewhere new.

So I think that’s my favorite thing about working from home. This space that is super comfortable and feels like my own little corner of the world. I like to have my books and magazines on hand to flip through for inspiration. When I’m stumped on a problem I tend to open a sketchbook and sort of gaze around me until something strikes. I don’t consciously look at my inspiration board and think ‘ok, what on there is going to inspire me?’, but having things up there that I love helps the process along.

Traci Yau Office

Looking at the pictures of your office, you have quite a number of figurines and other objects that seem quite personal to you – how important is it for you to have these things in your office? Does it make you feel more comfortable?

I’m lucky in the spousal department because my husband and I have very similar tastes in decor and ideas for what we wanted our home to be like. So when our friends walk into our house, they immediately feel like it accurately reflects our personalities and tastes. My work space is a bit different because it’s just my space. I’m a huge Star Wars nerd, but I probably wouldn’t decorate my house with memorabilia. But in my office it’s all different.

In there I’ve got Star Wars memorabilia, a poster of my favorite basketball player, Japanese toys, a knitted owl a friend made me, a die cast model of my dream car, found paper and things from travels, etc. I spend the bulk of my days in here, so it’s super important to me to be surrounded and reminded of the things I love.

Traci Yau Office

Tell me about the inspiration board you have in the corner – is it an important part of your office?
Before going back to school I never thought about having an inspiration board … in fact, I didn’t even really care about having my own space! But the whole concept of having an inspiration board has become very important to me. Some people like to change theirs with their mood or the seasons, or whatever, but I like to just keep adding layers to mine. Whenever I find something that inspires me it’ll usually end up there. Since I’m constantly adding things to it, it seems to stay pretty fresh. At least to me!

Your books are within an arms reach of your computer – do you think it’s important to have that inspiration and reference so close?
I chose the bookcase I did (from IKEA) because it had the ability to attach a desk to it and still maintain all of the shelf space. I deliberately arranged the books on there to reflect what I use the most when I design. When I’m in the midst of a project, or working on sketches, it’s important that certain books be within easy reach. I love to see what the best designers are doing and how they are solving problems. Especially when I’m stuck on something. If I can easily grab a book or magazine to flip through and get my creative juices flowing again, it saves time. And once I’m done with a book or magazine, I can easily return it to it’s spot without everything piling up.

Thanks Traci! Make sure you check out her folio, 45walldesign.com

If anything is clear from these two interviews, it is that your home office should be exactly what you think it should be. Make it so you are comfortable, but so that you can get work done. Let your creativity feed on your environment, let your environment be a reflection of what runs through you—your tastes, your moods—and you can’t go wrong.

It’s well worth going through the freelancer websites, flickr sets and sites dedicated to the home office to get an idea of what might work for you, but make sure you don’t duplicate someone elses office, take the advice of those listed above and make it yours. Perhaps first make it functional, with the right kinds of equipment and stationery, then make it personal, with pieces on the walls, figurines on the desk and the waves of your music floating through the air. But don’t forget, your office needs to be a room where your mind can roam and let you explore different realms of your creativity, without any roadblocks.

REFERENCES & LINKS

Part Two
Part two of this two part series. I was lucky enough to talk to Grace Bonney of the always inspiring Design*Sponge, and Martin Pyper, a super-talented and nice guy from Amsterdam.

Wherwedowhatwedo
Wherewedowhatwedo is one of the best sites on the net when it comes to getting peeks into the offices of others. It’s updated frequently and has some great photos.

On my desk
On my desk is one of the most established sites for showing the offices of illustrators, designers, web developers and many, many creatives. It isn’t updated as much as it use to be, but still a great site to lose some time.

Aint No Disco
Mostly showing corporate studios, there is still much to be inspired by, for your home office.

Apartment Therapy
Apartment Therapy is a great well of inspiration for all of us who have a space we call our own. From homey homes, to elegant modern apartments, there is so much here that you’ll find something that’ll work for the look and feel you’re after.

Design Sponge
Design Sponge is a great site dedicated to showing you how to beautify your home! It’ll quickly become a daily visit once you’ve been there once.

Published on the 16th of August, 2008 in Interviews

5 Brilliantly Fantastic Responses

    Skellie

    Hey Alex, thank you for interviewing me! I love talking about this stuff, so it was a lot of fun. Too bad Traci is cooler than me ;)

    Alex Charchar

    I wouldn’t say that! I thought you were both very cool interviewees!

    Thanks for taking the time for answering and for stopping by to see how it turned out :)

    LaurenMarie - Creative Curio

    Whoa, I never realized Skellie was still in school! My goodness! She must have a crazy-full plate. It sounds like she absolutely love it, though. That’s a good pull quote you grabbed from her about not working and not feeling guilty about it.

    Loved flicking through Traci’s portfolio, too (especially the On BS project! hehe). Thanks for sharing this with us Alex!

    Totally off topic: do you know how to add a cookie on your site so that commentor’s info stays in the fields so we don’t have to enter it every time? That would be really nice!

    Traci

    Hi Alex! Thanks so much for including me!

    And I was just thinking that Skellie is so much cooler than me…. :) I’m glad I got “introduced” to her through your article.

    Thanks again!

    Alex Charchar

    Lauren – I know! Whenever I read anything Skellie writes I always wonder where she finds the time and then feel rather lazy.. a good motivator for sure..

    I really enjoy Traci’s work too, there’s a piece she has which as some beautiful wood-type looking type which is just lovely..

    as for the cookies, I’m sure it’s not as hard as I think, but I’m fairly sure I’m very seriously considering changing the CMS that powers the site, so will rather spend time learning wordpress instead of figuring out how to tinker another thing in joomla.

    Hey Traci! Thanks for dropping past. It was my pleasure to include you here. Like I said, I love your home and office, so I’m just very much glad you were happy to play along

I would be so delighted if you were to contribute