Home Rules Ready to work from home? This guide will walk you through the essentials of setting up your home office.

By Rosalind Resnick

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Transitioning from corporate office to home office is not astough as you may think. While each homebased business has differentneeds, every home office must provide the same basicfunctionality:

  • A clean, well-lighted place for the owner to run the businessfree from noise and distractions
  • A place to sit down and work (desk, chair, lamp)
  • A place to store information about your customers (computer,filing cabinet, electronic organizer or database)
  • A way to communicate with your customers quickly andefficiently (phone, fax machine/software, Internet connection)

Since most homebased businesses are service businesses, notretailers, manufacturers or wholesalers, it's rarely necessaryfor a home office to be large enough to store inventory orcomponent parts. And since most homebased business owners travel totheir clients' offices for meetings, you probably won'tneed a conference room, a white board or a projector.

How much should you expect to pay to equip a home office? Thegood news is that the price of computers, fax machines and otheroffice automation equipment has come down dramatically over thepast 10 years. Prices for phone service vary from place to place,but new all-inclusive packages from providers like AT&T, MCIand Verizon provide unlimited local, regional and long-distancecalls for less than $60 a month. Likewise, high-speed Internetaccess (broadband or DSL) is available for $50 to $100 per month.Here's a sample budget for setting up a home office fromscratch:

  • Computer: For roughly $1,000, you can get anIBM-compatible computer with a Pentium 4 processor, 256MB ofmemory, a 60GB hard drive, a 17-inch monitor, a CD-ROM drive, a 56Kmodem and an Ethernet connection from Dell, Compaq, Gateway andother leading suppliers. To comparison shop for the best prices,check out CNet's Shopper.com or ZDNet Shopper.
  • Multifunction machine: For $250 to $500, you can buy amachine that acts as a fax machine, copier and printer. Mostmachines offer an automatic document feeder, a scanner and theability to print out digital photos in color. Machines like thesetypically run at print speeds of up to 12 pages per minute (ppm) inblack and white and 10 ppm in color.
  • Two-line cordless phone: Today's top-of-the-linecordless phones start at less than $200, offering home offices thesame full-duplex clarity as a corporate boardroom with a microphoneoptimized for hands-free, one-to-one phone conversations. Forexample, the Polycom SoundPoint Pro Desktop Conference Phone letsyou hold three-way audioconferences right from your desk, allowingcallers to speak when they want without the clipped sentences andone-way conversations typical of most speakerphones.
  • Office furniture: Depending on how fancy you want toget, you can spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousanddollars to equip yourself with a desk, chair and file cabinet. TryStaples andIKEA foraffordably priced furniture that won't fall apart. Anddon't be afraid to splurge on a comfortable chair! You'regoing to be spending a lot of time there, and the extra money youspend now will save you hours of back pain later.

Rosalind Resnick is the founder and CEO of Axxess BusinessCenters Inc., a storefront consulting firm for start-ups andsmall businesses. She is a former business and computer journalistwho built her Internet marketing company, NetCreationsInc., from a two-person homebased start-up to a public companythat generated $58 million in annual sales.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author,not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general innature, without regard to specific geographical areas orcircumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting anappropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.

Wavy Line

Rosalind Resnick is a New York-based freelance writer, entrepreneur, investor and author of The Vest Pocket Consultant's Secrets of Small Business Success.

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