12 Guilt-free Purchases for Your Home-Office
Image by cosmic_spanner.
1. A bigger, better monitor. As a freelancer who not too long ago used a CRT monitor in her home office, transitioning to a 22″ LCD monitor (albeit a cheapo one) has been a godsend. Text is easier to read, images are crisper and you can have two sizable windows open at once — perfect for multitasking when it can’t be avoided and having a plethora of information at your fingertips.
2. Another one. Surveys have shown that people who add another monitor to their setup usually increase productivity by 20 to 30 percent. A second display allows you to keep all aspects of your work visible at once — if you’re a web designer, that means: your development environment, Photoshop, your rendered work and client specs. Less chopping and changing allows you to maintain focus and look at your work holistically. If this simple addition really does increase productivity as much as it seems, it’ll pay for itself in no time.
3. A printer. Not exactly conducive to a paperless office, some freelancers have shunned the humble printer in favor of making digital copies. More power to them. For me, though, the ability to make hard copies of invoices and important correspondence is a much-needed security blanket. A good quality monochrome laser printer can be bought for less than $100 at any good office supplies store, and that’s all you really need. A tip: unless you’re printing detailed color work, choose a monochrome laserjet over an inkjet. The inkjet will seem cheaper at first, but the printer itself is just a vehicle to sell a wheelbarrow-load of expensive ink cartridges!
4. An ergonomic chair. Spending hours a day at a computer probably isn’t the best thing you can do for your back, even if you do buy the best office chair money can buy. Still, an ergonomic chair is a good harm-minimization policy, and maintaining your comfort and health is not something you should ever scrimp on. You can buy a high-backed leather chair shaped to cushion your spine for less than $200. If you’re reading this from a chair you stole from your kitchen set or a low-backed office chair which squeaks each time you move, it’s time to do yourself a favor and upgrade!
5. A whiteboard. Cheap and versatile, a simple whiteboard slots into any home-based business operation with ease. Common uses include: scheduling, keeping track of incoming and outbound invoices, brainstorming, editorial calendars, to-do lists and mind-maps.
6. A filing cabinet or folder system. Option one is preferable, but generally more expensive than a network of ring-binders filled with plastic sheets. While I could go on about the organizational capabilities a filing system offers, the best thing is having a guilt-free place to put your paper documents. The satisfaction of a clean desk is enough to make this purchase worthwhile.
7. A portable fan or heater. My home office has a few environmental pros and cons. Pro = a huge window and lots of natural light. Con = no insulation on window means I might as well be sitting outside. In the depths of winter or a roasting summer, this is not fun! Producing good, billable work is difficult when your fingers turn blue, or when a sizzling brain causes you to think that giving your highest paying client’s website a lime-green background is an ace idea. If your house doesn’t have a good heating/cooling system you’ll need to invest in a little bit of personal climate change.
8. A USB thumb drive. Back up your work on a separate drive in seconds or transfer work easily between computers. Emailing work to yourself works with little files, but your computer will always be quicker at transferring the big ones. You shouldn’t need to spend more than $20 – $30 dollars, and the convenience is worth it.
9. A mouse-pad with wrist rest. A few years spent (stupidly) not using a mousepad at all has left me with a bony lump where my wrist lay on the desk. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not particularly nice to be slightly deformed. The only ergonomic mousepad I could find has a cartoon chicken on it, so I’ve been looking for a replacement — one with a plastic surface and a gel wrist rest. So far, searches for ‘ergonomic mousepads’ have returned no non-novelty, non-adult results, and I’m not really looking to rest my wrist in imitation cleavage. Any suggestions?
10. A computer speaker system. Working with headphones can be a little uncomfortable and isolating. It’s sometimes necessary when the rest of the house is noisy, but if you like listening to music as a background to work, being able to channel the sound through speakers is a lot less claustrophobic. I don’t own a sound system, so I feel entitled to splurge on this item a bit.
11. An optical or wireless mouse. Though a wireless mouse is nice for making your desk less cluttered, those of you who aren’t professional gamers probably won’t notice the difference in performance between a wireless and an optical mouse. The most important thing is that, whichever option you choose, you do away with that track-ball and say goodbye to mouse-gunk forever.
12. Your favorite treat. There’s nothing quite like the thought of a dark chocolate reward to end procrastination!