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How to Start Your Own Business Without Wasting Time and Money, Part II: Your Office and Tools

There are a number of things to consider when equipping your new business: in particular, quality, comfort and cost. Anything that's going to touch a customer or be part of how you portray your brand should be the very best. You also want to make sure your workspace is comfortable and inviting -- you're going to be spending a lot of time there, and it should help you feel professionally energized. But you don't have to spend a fortune.

(This is the second installment of a three-part series.)

My Office Setup

Rather than try to share space with my husband in our existing home office, I've set up my office in the family room on the basement level of our house. This is a great room that we've never used much, with sliding glass doors out to a private deck and my backyard. It's big enough to accommodate both my office setup and a separate area for a sofa, chairs and TV. Plus it has a fireplace. Nice. The only downside was the corner I chose to set up my desk is the one spot where our wireless doesn't reach, so my husband (bless him) ran an ethernet cable down from upstairs.

Your office setup should be both functional and inviting

I looked at lots of catalogs and stores for a desk. The ones that appealed to me from Pottery Barn and similar outlets were going to run me around $1,500. Instead I found a great large desk ($300) and matching file cabinet and drawer unit ($160) at Ikea (the Galant series). It's perfectly functional and I love the way it looks.

One caveat, however; if I didn't have an eager-to-be-helpful, very handy husband, I would have thought twice about the put-it-together-yourself file cabinet.Good ergonomic desk chairs are widely available these days. Ikea and Staples have good selections in a range of prices, and you can usually get used Herman Miller chairs on eBay. Make sure yours has good lumbar support, lets you raise and lower the height, and can recline to different settings. Being able to raise and lower the arm rests is important too.

While I already had a good laptop, I had to buy a monitor and keyboard. I went with a 22" HD widescreen Gateway monitor from Best Buy for just under $200 (great for watching Hulu). My lightweight Logitech wireless keyboard and mouse came from the local Radio Shack. My most important tech purchase, however, was a Toshiba 500GB portable hard drive for backing up my system.

I've had a CardScan business card scanner for years and consider it a critical piece of equipment. Right now I'm making do with an old Epson Stylus printer I bought for my kids years ago. I have a better HP OfficeJet printer, scanner and fax machine upstairs if I need better quality.

Still on my to-buy list:

- a label maker to print waterproof labels for envelopes and make my files look neater

- a keyboard tray that raises and tilts.

The Bose Companion 2 speakers (not terribly expensive, but still a luxury) will have to wait until my business takes off.

Business Cards, Letterhead and Logos

One of the first things I did was hire a designer to create a logo for me to use for letterhead and business cards. While you can build your own business cards at Staples.com Copy and Print or FedEx Design and Print, I wanted a more unique professional logo, and I'm happy I spent the money on that.

Owen was easy to work with, and he did a wonderful job. He provided me with a PDF of the business card (which I e-mail to Staples for printing), a Word template for letterhead (from which I've created my own fax cover sheet and invoice templates), and a variety of jpegs of the card and the logo itself to use in presentations and whatever else comes along.

Master Your Domain

Starting my own blog was easy; WordPress is very intuitive, and I had a website up and running in just a couple of hours. If you're starting your own business, it's important to register and use your own domain name rather than use the default url of yourname.wordpress.com. However, I wanted to have my site up before I'd settled on a company name, so I started with the domain name abbielundberg.com and then switched it over once I registered Lundberg Media as a business in Massachusetts.

WordPress has excellent instructions for how to map your domain to your blog in the support section of its site, whether you purchase the domain from them or from another site like GoDaddy.com (which is what I did) — in either case, the domain costs just $10/a year.

E-Mail, Contacts, Calendars and More

The biggest technology challenge I've faced so far was figuring out which e-mail client, contact database, calendar and task list to use. I'd been using Gmail as my personal e-mail for a while and was really happy with it — especially given some of the past year's developments in Labs. But I didn't want to have a gmail.com address, and I wanted my mail to integrate with my calendar and contact database — as well as to sync up with my BlackBerry. In the beginning, all of this was leading me toward Outlook, but while I've stuck with Office for documents (Google's got a long way to go on that front), I'm just not wild about the Outlook interface.

I'm happy to say it's all worked out beautifully. First, I opened a new Gmail account for Lundberg Media through Google Apps and set it up using my lundbergmedia.com domain. This is free for up to 7308 MB of data, or $50/per user a year for up to 25GB.

Since people were still sending business mail to my personal Gmail account, I had the new account "fetch" mail from there for the first month or so to make sure I didn't miss anything important, and to be able to file business correspondence in one mailbox. I am also able to send mail from my personal account as if it were coming from lundbergmedia.com (you do this in Gmail under "Settings/Accounts").

Similarly, I've set both calendars to display all my appointments, no matter which calendar I create them in -- my personal appointments display in green; my professional ones in blue.

I knew I could use Gmail Mobile on my Blackberry; I'd been doing that for my personal e-mail for years. What I didn't know and was delighted to discover was how easy it was to ...

a) sync my calendar using Google Sync (with our without touching my address book -- you control this through a check box), and

b) access my two accounts through the one interface (by selecting "Accounts" in the Gmail for Blackberry drop-down menu).

Rather than go into a whole lot of detail about how to do these things, I'll just refer you to the Google mobile help center, which has all the information you'll need.

I wasn't sure how I was going to get CardScan to sync with Google, but it turned out I didn't have to, directly. There is now a CardScan connector for Blackberry available for $30 that is easy to install and use. Sure, I'm stuck with a two-step process (sync CardScan and my BlackBerry through the BlackBerry desktop, then use Google Sync between the Blackberry and Gmail), but I only have to do this every couple of weeks, and I now have all my contacts current and accessible when and where I need them.

Google still needs to work on its task manager; in the meantime, I'm very happy with Todoist, a free online task manager that I can configure to support the "Getting Things Done" framework I'm used to working with.

(In part III of the series, I'll cover how to build your identity and brand, effective networking and more.)

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Comments

  1. Abbie

    I agree with your stance on a professional logo, it is a good investment out of the gate. Also, professionally designing business cards is also a must, on solid card stock.

    The name/brand is key when starting up. Taking the time to create a quality brand will show commitment to your business and even give you a little personal accomplishment lift to keep things moving forward…..

    Hope things are well!

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