Need Advice on setting up our office/filing

bouncingpigFebruary 28, 2006

As most of you know we just started a new business (a real estate guide) that we primarily run out of our home. We have a huge master bedroom, that now must become an office too. Space isn't a problem, but we really don't have a good filing system set up. We currently have a deep four drawer file cabinet that is about 1/2 full with our personal info. We will be buying a beautiful set of office furniture, that has a couple built in file drawers, but that is waiting until after we are actually seeing a positive cash flow! We are open to buying any other filing systems we need. We will need to save all PDFs from each book to a disk and keep those. We also need to save all contracts, billing, legal info., etc. to paper files. There are many brochures, letters, etc. for advertising that we also need to save. I am very uneducated when it comes to setting up a good office. The furniture we will be buying is set up for a two person office, which we will need, as both myself and DH need places for our stuff. I guess I am wanting to know if any of you have filing systems you use, books on setting up filing and an efficient office you can recommend and the like. I really want this to be an easy place to be where I always know how to find and access everything. Any ideas or resources would be appreciated! Thanks!


Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Check out the pictures of office set-ups ---

Again -- just take a look at some of the set-ups. May have some ideas for you! Good lighting is another key for setting up an office too!

As for filing itself -- first you have to set up a system that covers your personal home and life -- your home life has to to be able to run as smoothly as possible. From your incoming mail to your schedules, family calendars for remembering and scheduling events etc.

THEN do the filing set up for your business --- remember that this is just the first phase of operations -- you can always modify it as your business changes and grows. Thats one of the main keys to running a business at home -- change and be flexible!!

Have boxes set up on bookshelves to hold business/marketing papers etc. Label EVERYTHING -- even it seems obvious!! Label and DATE files -- this is crucial -- it is too easy to forget dates. LOL!! And have clear (and labelled) containers for office supplies etc.

Most important to have a system for holding onto receipts -- by month -- even a clear box marked "March 06" will help.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2006 at 11:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

When the DH brought his office home this past August, he set things up with the intent of going paperless. It has been working very well.

Receipts are scanned and kept in specific computer folders. No paper build-up of client files. He took a course on going paperless to get him going and works off a two monitor system. His IT guy also helped him set up. It's made a huge difference in the storage space he is needing compared with his traditional office spaces.

Of course, the computer systems are backed up nightly and a monthly copy is removed from our home so that in case the house were to burn down, no data is lost.


    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 1:40AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Before you buy office furniture you might want to consider the IRS rules for "home office" deductions. I believe they require that you not use the room for any other purpose, so you would have to move the bedroom furniture out? Or divide the room in half by adding a permanent wall? It might be worth checking.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 5:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Keep in mind also that if you need to hold onto those PDFs for a while, you may have to transfer them either to new media or new formats after a time. PDF has been relatively stable, but if you'd put PDF 1.0 files on a 230 MB optical disk a few years back, you'd have a heck of a time recovering them now. Other formats have been more changeable.

There also are questions about how long some media (like those free-after-rebate CDs at your local superstore) last; some can be unreadable after only a year or two.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2006 at 8:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Hi Bouncing...

Here are a few random thoughts from someone who has worked in "Office Environments" and had my own home business for 15 years now.

You've mentioned some of the types of items you'll need to save. Think them all through and create a list of categories. Then think of where you would be most apt to look for a document. Truly the art of a good file system is what works for YOU. Would you be most likely to look for billing with the contract for that customer? In a separate binder filed by month? Set up your accounting files separately so that tax time or pulling out a paid bill is fast and easy. I find it easiest to file paid bills by expense type (all phone bills together, all computer maintenance bills grouped, etc). A good guideline for categories is simply the expense line items shown on schedule C (I think!) of a tax return.

Create a very basic index of how/where things are filed. If your DH wants to find the invoice issued to the Smiths, where should he look?

Set up your files in a manner that allows you to easily box them up at the end of the year and start fresh. If you have to sort through folders when it's time to archive, chances are it won't get done. Make your archiving process as simple as possible.

Know that you will have to spend time on "company administration". You've just become the office manager, bookkeeper and head of computer and systems maintenance. Allow time in your day for billing, filing and maintenance.

Finally, I know you weren't asking on advice for *where* to put your office...but I'm going to throw some out there anyway ;-) Please reconsider setting up your office in your MBR. IMHO to work at home successfully you have to be able to focus on business - and you have to be able to shut that off from time to time as well. It can be hard to separate home life vs business life if the business is a few feet from your bed. Find a little corner of your home for your office. Truly, office furniture doesn't have to be really nice...just really fuctional. Determine what you'll need for file space and worktop space then determine your furniture needs from there. I've read your profile here and maybe you could even incorporate an ebaying station within your home office area.

Best of luck for a very successful business for you!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 4:33PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

one thing about beautiful office furniture--it usually doesn't hold nearly as much as a real filing cabinet.

Also, setting up the file folders well before you need them will make sure you can use them easily.

Don't keep too much bulk in terms of OTHER people's brochures, etc. Scan (or rip out) the cover and one or interior pages that give you the info you need; staple them to (or file their scans w/ a scan of) any rate or contact info.

Also some habits will help: always put new stuff at the back (or the front); stuff you take out and then put back in, you might put in as IF it were new, if you think you'll remember that you "saw it not too long ago."

I like the idea of dividing by month--maybe you have one box that you lay receipts in, and at the start of every month, you grab a piece of colored paper and write the old month on it, and lay it in as a divider.

Make it easy to put away, even if it means a bit more time to get out.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2006 at 5:16PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Steve, The DH and his IT guy have been looking at the CD issues. What he gives to a client on a CD doesn't have to last since they have to print off and mail to the IRS. Backup is done to additional hard drives. Three different ones.

I know one of the things we were hoping to do was online storage of data so that it would be off-site, but the systems he has to use for tax returns doesn't support that right now. I obviously don't know the details and am sorely missing in vocabulary for this.

Some clients stuff we have to save forever, so even though the goal has been to go paperless, we still have a good sized storage unit rented. The biggest advantage seems to be the change of mindset of hanging onto all of the bills, etc. and scanning them in. He's been able to set up some pretty neat stuff.

What I like best is that I got kicked out of "his" office space and ended up with my own nice little Dell notebook to go with the wireless system.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2006 at 12:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Thanks for the great ideas and input everyone. I am printing them off so I can read and "absorb" it better. Also, I will check the links. I love the idea of going paperless, if we can make it work for us. I can't risk losing those files, as they will have artwork designs that might be reused, logos, legal verbage, etc. Right now most everything is computer generated, so saving to disks is very simple. The idea of the disks either wearing out or becoming obsolite does scare me though. Anyway, DH and I are taking our time so that we do it right the first time. Plus, right now we are so upside-down financially (the thrill of a new business! LOL!) that we need to wait and play "catch up". If the two systems I am looking at are still available in a few months, we will probably do it then. When we went to the Seattle area for training, I was so focused on learning that I didn't really pay attention to how their office is set up. I need to go back and "snoop", though I do remember thinking it wasn't as efficient as it could be. I want to eliminate as many steps as possible and seemed to me she touched her papers entirely too much!


    Bookmark   March 9, 2006 at 3:10PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Designing a home office! What would you include?
We are gutting our home office .... creating a his...
Becky Berend
Anyone know of good boxes (plastic?) for storing papers?
I've been purging DD's school work and paper crafts...
Large closet advice
I'm turning a spare bedroom into a dressing room and...
Missing the Garden Web Already
I feel betrayed by the sale of the Garden Web to Houzz....
How do you let go of stuff that's worth money?
On the "share your success" thread, taft...
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™