How to Transform Your Messy Home Office Into a Business Environment

Your home office should convey a certain level of professionalism, even if you don't normally get dressed for work.

One of the perks of running a home business is that you have flexibility when it comes to what you where and how you present yourself. Even your home office can be a little (or a lot) on the shabby side when you work from home. However, at some point you are likely to interact with someone else in a way that requires you to clean up a little bit.

This means that you might have to transform your home office into something that looks a little more like a traditional business environment. Or at least tidy up.

Spruce Up Your Home Office

I'm going to get real with you. Here is an unfiltered look at me sitting in my home office:

Home Office Not Professional

It's a little (ok, a lot) different than the professional images I share with others in connection to my business. Plus, the mess is quite obvious. We use about half of the room for storage (which is why my home office tax deduction is so small), from empty boxes to extra chairs to boxes of chips. Most days, I sit in my messy home office — which is really my writing “happy place” — in my pajamas with my hair held up by a pencil.

I usually get dressed sometime around lunch, after I've had a chance to exercise, eat, and clean up a little bit.

When I need to have a video conversation with someone (well, someone other than my business partner, who sees me in the above “raw form” regularly), I try to clean up a bit. I also try to spruce up my home office so that it looks more polished and professional. Here are some of the things I do to improve the appearance of my space when I need to project a more professional image:

  • Change the camera angle: I swivel my computer and move my chair so that the camera points at a less-messy portion of my office. It points to the closed door, or the closet-corner that is clutter-free, so as to allow me to access the closet.
  • Clear up the clutter: There is a little clutter on the wall ledge and by the door, but it's usually easy to move out of the way. It's much easier to move these small items than to completely re-arrange the heavier, larger items stored directly behind my desk.
  • Add a few touches: In the past, I've moved my framed degree to sit behind me. Or I'll arrange flowers, or a picture that I like so that it's there in the background. These touches can add a little something to your home office appearance, and make it look a little more natural and professional, instead of completely sterile.
  • Experiment with the lighting: While I like the natural lighting that results from having the window?right there, it's not always in the best position. I've experimented with closing the blinds, and moving my stand lamp around to change the lighting so that my home office — as well as my person — appears to best effect.
  • Get dressed: Finally, I get dressed and make an attempt at my hair and makeup when I have a video interview or some other interaction that's supposed to be professional.

It sounds like a lot, but I've got it down to the point where it only takes me about 15 minutes to transform my home office space (or at least the part that people?see) into something that's much more professional.

home office professional

That's a screengrab from?an interview with Experian not too long ago. It looks like a completely different place, even though it's the same room. It's just a different angle that's cleaned up, and much more presentable. And, because I really don't know much about hair and makeup, it doesn't take me much time to clean up in a way that at least helps me look like a professional, and not like I just rolled out of bed and started banging away on my keyboard.

The nice thing about working from home is that you can control your image to a certain extent. As a home business owner, it's important that you maintain that professionalism. I would never have an in-person business meeting or professional interaction in my home, since it might change the perception of me. Instead, by controlling the look of my business environment, I can project an image of someone who can work professionally — even if it's done from my basement.

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