Ruth Slavid talks architecture

You don’t need a home office – freelance post 5

Posted in Uncategorized by ruthslavid on January 2, 2013

Judy Heminsley, a dedicated home worker, writes a blog called How to Work from Home (and is very active on twitter). Part of her blog is dedicated to showcasing lovely home offices. And they are lovely and inspiring. Very nice to have if you can manage it. But if you are freelancing:

You don’t need a home office.

Some people of course don’t have an office at all. I knew two people who had free membership of a club for a year and no office. So they spent every day at the club, hooking up to the wifi with their laptops and fielding calls on their mobile phones. 

That requires a certain skill of organisation, and the ability to operate in a paperless manner. (And I think it made them hate the club after a while). Most of us I think do need a workspace, but it doesn’t need to be anything special. I still work at a desktop computer, partly because I was so indoctrinated with ergonomic information that I firmly believe a laptop screen is at the wrong level, and partly through inertia. And so I have a desk. It is in my bedroom, jammed between my bed and the wall. I had written a couple of books at it and done some ‘distance working’ before I went freelance. So I knew it was feasible. 

Because I am an untidy person, my desk is untidy. I usually have a pile of papers that lives on my chair at night and on the bed during the day. When I left The Architects’ Journal I was given a lamp as a leaving present. It does sterling duty. By day, it is a desk lamp but turn it round at night and, hey presto, it is a bedside light. 

I need a tolerant partner, who doesn’t mind if I do early morning interviews to far-flung places while he is sleeping – and I have to trust him not to snore.

Is this ideal? No. Would I like a lovely home office like the ones Judy Heminsley shows? Yes I would, although it would rapidly become far less tidy. But does not having a home office hamper me? No it doesn’t. It made be far from ideal but it allows me to do everything I need to do.

It is not of course the kind of office in which I can hold meetings. But on the rare occasions when I need to meet someone locally, I have the ideal ‘office’. It is a coffee shop just across the road, which makes far better coffee than I can, and also sells tempting pastries. 

If you live near a city centre property will be expensive. If you don’t have a rich partner or a trust fund you may well be unable to afford the space to install a home office. You could of course move out to get extra space. But, here comes my next rule:

You need to be as near as possible to the centre of activity.

Of course I do a lot of my work by phone and email. But face-to-face meetings are valuable.  I am about 45 minutes from central London by tube. I reckon it takes me an hour to get to most meetings – I am usually early, occasionally late. My life would be more efficient if I lived more centrally. However hard you try to put meetings back to back, it never works. If for instance you have a late morning meeting, one in the afternoon and an early evening event, it is a fair bet that the middle one will be cancelled. You can of course sit in a cafe and do some work, try to arrange another meeting, or rush home and rush out again. But never forget another lesson of freelance life:

You can go to the cinema in the afternoon.


3 Responses

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  1. David said, on January 2, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I admire people who don’t need their own home office to get work done. I see them all the time when I go to Starbucks. And it’s true, as long as you have a cell phone, a laptop (or a tablet?) and wifi you’re able to get a lot done.

    Personally, I need my own space to be able to focus and work. But like I wrote, I admore those that don’t need an office.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. Judy Heminsley (@judyheminsley) said, on January 2, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    Thanks very much for the mention, Ruth, much appreciated 🙂

    I too believe you don’t need a dedicated space in order to work from home, and the latest photos in my home office galleries include the contents of a laptop bag used in various locations, a ‘home-from-home office’ in the local library, and a multipurpose dining table used for drinking coffee, designing, and entertaining lady friends!

    The most enthusiastic comments are always in response to these kinds of spaces because they make people realise they could do it too.

    Regular readers are probably sick of me banging on about how understanding your own needs and habits is much more important than an expensively kitted-out home office. So don’t worry if you don’t happen to have a spare room, find a corner you feel comfortable in and give it a go.

  3. Terri Peters said, on January 5, 2013 at 11:15 pm

    Great blog Ruth! I totally agree about working from home without a “home office”, thanks for the series on freelancing

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