Every freelancer or sole trader contractor needs 1) a suitable office, 2) suitable office equipment, and 3) the equipment (including software) they need for their particular business.
Many owner/operators - e.g. sole trader businesses and freelancers - manage their business from an office they've set up in their own home; whereas usually businesses that employ staff who work in their office need a larger office space which is usually not based in their home. Some sole trader businesses and freelancers also choose to not work at/from home for various reasons.
There are benefits of operating your office from within your home; e.g. being very close to your work and more flexible in regard to work hours than a person who works in an external office; setting your office and equipment just the way you like it, which is not always the case if you're sharing your office space. The running costs of home-based offices are usually less expensive than of external offices.
Working from a home-based office has its own set of challenges; I'll be discussing the pros and cons of working from home in a future article.
As an example of the tools and equipment you might need in your home-based office, in my office I use:
Owner/operators or freelancers whose work requires them to travel have to take their essential office equipment with them wherever they go. They usually have to make do with whatever office chair, desk and storage space they can find at the time they need to do their work. Wherever they end up doing their work - whether that be administration or doing paid computer work such as scribing, writing or editing - wherever they and their computer are can be called a mobile, or virtual, office.
If your work requires you to travel around and operate your business from a 'mobile office', you need to consider the privacy of your office spaces, Wi-fi access and internet requirements and a few other issues which I'll discuss in a future article.
For example, I conduct most of my scribing and editing work online and via telephone from within my home-based office but sometimes I need to work with clients in other locations, and when I travel, I take my 'mobile office' with me. My 'mobile office' consisted of a tablet, iphone and those little, old-fashioned items that are still necessary these days: stapler, paperclips, notepad, post-it notes, pens etc.; as well as software of course: MS Office 365 for safe word processing software and so I can access files via the cloud, an efficient calendar/diary, email systems, file transfer systems, Wifi and internet.
Many freelances and sole trader service providers and retailers work fom home-based or mobile offices, and work predominantly online. Their first point of contact shopfront is a combination of website and social media pages, their email response and their voice via telephone. Depending on their business, their main method of providing their goods or sevices may may also be online.
The software you need to run your business will include, obviously, internet and email-type programs, a book-keeping program, as well as other software specific to your business.
Freelancers who often work away from their home base often operate an 'online office'; for example, MS Office 365 can be used an internet-based office and is accessible from anywhere with the internet.
For example, my shopfront is my website but signposts to that website are my LinkedIn profile and Facebook scribing, report writing and editing pages. My customers come to me via word-of-mouth, Google, Sensis advertisements, my blog posts, and occasionally via LinkedIn. Their queries arrive via web-query, email, social media message or telephone. I provide report writing and editing services to them via email, telephone and the internet. Although occasionally I meet them face to face, mainly I consult with clients via phone and email and submit the product via email.
Apart from equipment and software, you need a particular set of personal skills and qualities to run your own business which some people call the 'soft skills' but I call the 'six Cs'. For more information go to: The six Cs of running your own business.
This article is based on my own experiences since starting On Time Typing as a small (sole trader) online/onsite scribing business in 2002 which has evolved into an online transcription, scribing, writing, editing and proofreading business.
Stay posted for future articles about managing small businesses, particularly online or home-based businesses.