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Setting up a Home Office

home office

To you regular readers, I apologize for the lack of updates lately. I’ve been working hard on some other ventures.

Specifically, I am actively building a private law practice during my evenings and weekends. I have no plans to leave my full time job, but I definitely want to help out private clients as well.

Have you ever tried to setup a home office? Some things are easy, but some are a little more complicated. For the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with some basic decisions. And now I offer them for your perusal.


Home – Do you give clients your home address? There are definitely some downsides there. A lot of people wouldn’t want clients knowing exactly where they live. Can you imagine a criminal defense lawyer doing that? Scary!

Post office – What about a plain old post office box? UPS won’t deliver there. And I don’t have a post office that’s very handy.

Remote – You could go with a service like Earth Class Mail. I seriously thought about that, but it presents two problems: no third-party deliveries (like UPS and FedEx), and they have no Fredericksburg address.

Storefront mail box – That leaves us with a retail box like the UPS Store. It’s more costly than a standard post office box, but they can accept deliveries for you. And some UPS locations allow you to call in and ask if you have mail. That’s a real time-saver.


Today, this isn’t much of a problem. Phones are easy to handle.

Home line – You probably don’t want clients calling you at midnight and waking up the kids. So giving out your main home number might not be wise.

VoIP – If you have a service like Vonage, you can easily add a new business line. That lets you route clients to your office area, not the kitchen.

Cell – In today’s world, why not just give out your cell phone? Personally, if clients can’t respect that it’s my cell phone, I don’t think I want them as a client anyway.

GrandCentral – This could be your best option. Give out your GrandCentral number, and then you can route calls wherever you want. I plan to send clients to voicemail during my day job, and let them go to my cell phone the rest of the time. Call me: (540) 318-5824.


The options for your home office workspace are only limited by your home.

Closet – That’s really all the space you need. Check out Chuck’s explanation.

Spare room – If you have a room with some extra space, setup a desk in the corner. This could be your guest room, exercise room, or even the baby’s room. It’s best to not work in your bedroom, but if you have to, do it.
leo babauta home office
Comfy chair – My home office consists of a $200 club chair we bought at Big Lots. I have a laptop, so I don’t really need a desk.

Be simple – Most importantly, I think a home office should be simple. That’s one benefit to working at home. Keep it to the basics. And there’s nothing more simple than a table and a computer, like Leo Babauta’s setup (photo at right, explained at Unclutterer).

What are your home office solutions?

Top photo by RaeA

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19 Responses to “Setting up a Home Office”

  1. George
    March 18th, 2008

    I think that Grand Central’s terms of service don’t allow you to use it for business purposes. Otherwise it’s awesome.

  2. Andrew Flusche
    March 18th, 2008

    @George – I can’t believe I didn’t even check the ToS for GrandCentral. But you’re right that it’s limited to non-commercial. I’ll have to do some thinking on this……

  3. George
    March 18th, 2008

    I think there are other options that work for commercial use, but I haven’t researched this is a while so I can’t recall what they might have been. If you find a good replacement, I would love to know what it is.

  4. Robert
    March 18th, 2008

    Just asking here, but to have a home office and for tax purposes, are there not certain rules you have to follow to qualify for a “home office”. I thought the IRS required the home office to be a place where you can shut off all other home activity from this place. I do not think the comfy chair in the living room counts – but if it counts for anything, you have my vote.

    You seem technical, so I offer up http://www.trixbox.org/ to solve your small business phone needs. (IP based PBX).

    If that is more than you want to deal with, I would then suggest you look at your cell phone a little closer, most cell phones today have the ability to carry more than one phone line (number) and you can assign different ring tones for each line and set voice mail and forward rules for each line in dependability of each other.

    Address/mail – I guess that boils down to personal choice –


  5. Jose
    March 18th, 2008

    I had Vonage phone service and I would not recommend it, especially to someone who will need it for business calls. Calls would sometimes be cut-off, voice quality was bad (sometimes people sounded like they were underwater or like Darth Vader) and if your power or internet service goes out you’re out of luck (although calls can be re-routed to your cell phone).

    While there were some nice features that Vonage provided (check voicemail online, price) I would not recommend it to someone running a business.

    Cool post.


  6. Andrew Flusche
    March 18th, 2008

    @Robert – The home office deduction only requires that you use the place as your “principal place of business” OR that you use it as a place to meet or deal with clients in the normal course of your business. So if I generate most of my taxable income from my comfy chair, I could take the home office tax deduction. And thanks for the info about tribox and cell phones. I’ll have to check them out.

    @Jose – Thanks for the input about Vonage. I actually had their service before as well. I think mileage varies, especially depending upon the user’s internet service. But I honestly wouldn’t use them again.

  7. Bryan Metts
    April 1st, 2008

    Check out http://www.earthclassmail.com for snail mail handling (they scan or forward as needed, but may not handle shipments). I haven’t used them, but was reading good reviews while traveling last week.

    Also, I use viatalk with a local number. Hit or miss if my cable connection is overloaded, but what is good is the call hunt feature and find-me features. Internet voicemail is nice. If I get a bad connection, I just call with the cell phone.

    Oh yeah, and if you go the home business deduction route, you have to compute a % of space and deduct from your primary home interest deduction. AND you may have to check with the city/county to see if home businesses are allowed in your zoning, secondary businesses usually aren’t a big deal, but at some point your business license is going to make a difference if $ is good. Of course there is home office (IRS standard), and then there’s working from home.

    Don’t forget to signup for fedex/ups and get your supplies – the time savings alone is worth it for being able to run off shipping labels.

  8. Christopher
    April 1st, 2008

    I saw the above pictures of a laptop, cellphones and all sort of things that are being used to setting up a home office. It is an excellent idea which you have explained under different circumstances to start an home office.

  9. Andrew Flusche
    April 2nd, 2008


    I’m definitely intrigued by what I’ve read about Earth Class Mail. But not handling shipments is a killer for me. Plus, they don’t have a Fredericksburg address yet. Hopefully they will continue to expand.

    Thanks for the other thoughts. I’ll definitely check with the county about my zoning. I hadn’t really thought about that.

  10. Sundress
    April 5th, 2008

    I’d also recommend Skype as a good solution for home phone–especially to call out. You can call anyone’s cell phone or home phone (or skype account) for $3 a month now.

  11. Andrew Flusche
    April 5th, 2008

    Sundress – Skype is a great suggestion. Thanks for adding it!

  12. Mark - Productivity501
    April 9th, 2008

    When you place an outgoing call with Skype it shows 0123456789 on caller id. This isn’t a problem if you are calling someone expecting your call, but it might make it harder to get through to people that are very careful to screen their calls.

  13. Andrew Flusche
    April 9th, 2008

    Mark – I had no idea Skype did that. Honestly, that sucks. I don’t appreciate it when the caller’s real number doesn’t come through on my end. I wouldn’t want to do that to others.

  14. Mark - Productivity501
    April 9th, 2008

    I think it has to do with legal issues related to 911 calls. Skype would be 10 times more useful if it didn’t do this. Of course with GrandCentral (and similar services) you have the problem of placing out going calls. When you call someone it shows the number you are calling from–what you really want is it to show your Grand Central (or whatever service you are using).

    I’ve gone round and round with my cell phone company trying to get them to change my number to show my 800 number instead of the actual cell phone number. I can’t get them to do it–once again they cite legal reasons related to 911.

    You might look into Call Wave. They are fairly inexpensive and give you a lot of the capabilities of Grand Central. I use Ring Central for my business number and I’ve been pretty happy with them.

    But for long conversations it is hard to beat Skype.

  15. Pirate Jack
    May 19th, 2008

    @ Andrew. I came across your site when I googled “photography law”. I take a LOT of pix. I’ve never, ever had a problem legally but I posted some photos on a friend’s business site and she freaked. I know I erred in my judgement but she REAMED me via email. It seems she thought she was in danger of legal action from the subject(s) in the pix. Hence my google search.

    We are close friends and I have contributed many photos to her site and she has always been very appreciative as my pix seem to draw a lot of traffic which helps her out. She has counters on the pix and I saw that the pix with girls in them got more hits than others so I endeavoured to get some shots with attractive females. I got a good many, uploaded a few and there was hell to pay. LOL. She overreacted in my opinion. I did a copy/paste from your site prefaced by an observation, an admission and a factual statement from me after which we discussed things on the phone. I was able to pacify her and I believe things are chilly now but one never knows for certain. End of story for the time being, now to the brass tacks.

    I’ve been fascinated by the law, the legal profession, the court system et cetera since I was a kid. I ran afoul of the law on many occasions and learned from my mistakes. I’m also a self-taught law student and the more I learn, the more I realize how little I really DO know. I have several attorneys that I call friends. One is a board certified criminal defense attorney here in Palm Beach County Florida. He was co-counsel with F. Lee Bailey on a case many years ago.

    I’ve considered going to a nearby community college to get a degree in paralegal studies but I feel it would be a waste of my time. I’m 55, not in the best of health and although I love the legal profession I feel it is too late. My other love is the sea. Salt water. Fishing, diving, cruising….it doesn’t matter what I do I just love to be on the water. So I’m trying to start a business taking people out on the water for whatever they want to do. Trying to find a niche. I have a charter this coming Friday, an English couple visiting friends and they want to party on the water so I’ll give it my best shot.

    It’s late and I am rambling. Thanks for reading. Comments, suggestions, criticism (constructive or otherwise) are welcomed.


  16. Andrew Flusche
    May 20th, 2008

    @Pirate Jack – I think you learned a valuable lesson in that situation: always be cautious what you post or publish. You might have the legal right to take a photo, and you might be in the clear to publish it, but that doesn’t mean the audience (or website owner) will receive it well. I have no idea what to tell you about the legal career thoughts. It’s a fun profession, but it certainly takes a lot of work to get into. If I were you, I’d run with the sea charter idea. It definitely sounds more relaxing!

  17. Quatar jobs
    October 31st, 2008

    home office is a place to meet or deal with clients in the normal course of your business. It is better to take the home office tax deduction. but your information is great , it may the things simple. thanks

  18. Love My Home Office
    July 24th, 2009

    I love long desktop counters, where I can keep current client files out and ready to use. I also like open cubby-shelves, where each client and project has its own cubby and I can easily lay my hands on what I need. If I file it, it is gone forever.

  19. LockSmart - 24hr locksmith
    September 3rd, 2009

    Going back to the telephone subject – Google are launch a new service that could well be a great addittion to the home office – Googl Voice its on invite only at the moment but should be releaed early next year

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