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By Katie Thear
A converted outbuilding, spare room or even a shed can be used as an office, as long as it provides warmth, light, comfort and access to electricity and telephone lines.
There are companies who manufacture garden buildings for use in this way, while others specialise in converting existing areas.
A working area needs to be big enough to allow for a variety of activities such as reading, writing, keying in, telephoning, as well as relaxing and thinking.
Walls that are painted in light enhancing and pale, matt colours provide soft, clean lines without being soporific. Pictures and photographs on the walls add to the congeniality, while plants, in my view, are essential in any room.
Finally, having one’s own web site is important in providing a shop-window. It's worth having a decent shop window so if your skills are not sufficient consider employing someone to produce a site for you. Some hosting companies are offering templating systems which should enable most people to create, if not a professional site, a respectable site.
A big notice board on which to stick reminders and Post-it Notes is helpful, while a calendar with large numbers is also useful. Natural light from a window is essential, but that can be a nuisance when it falls on a computer monitor. A blind with vertical slats is more effective than an up-down blind or a curtain because it diffuses the light rather than excludes it. Essential equipment includes a desk, chair, table, a computer with printer and modem, telephone, fax, filing cabinet and waste paper basket.
To these I would add a bookcase, armchair with footrest and coffee table, not to mention tea and coffee making facilities. A plain paper copier may not be essential, particularly if you have a low-cost copying facility locally, but it is extremely useful if you need to produce copies in a hurry, or in bulk.
Small, personal copiers are now available built into ink-jet printers that can be used to produce individual copies. A scanner with optical character recognition (OCR) software is most useful for scanning in documents and helping to control the flow of paperwork.
Perhaps most important of all, is to have an effective internet connection so that E-mails can be sent all over the world. A broadband connection is ideal for speed and economy, with just one monthly payment and no extras regardless of how long you are on-line.
If you cannot have a viable land-line connection investigate satellite systems or 4G phone systems. Both are more expensive than land lines but not prohibitively
The worldwide web is an amazing source of information and contacts, as long as the search engines are used to select only those sites that are relevant. (It pays to have software to filter out unsolicited communications or dubious web sites).