Establishing your own business has tax advantages. Once you have a plan and a named business, you can declare it as a “sole proprietorship” on your income tax and start taking deductions for all those expenses. The biggest deduction will come from establishing your home ofﬁce as your principle, regular, and exclusive place of business.
What does that mean? Well, basically, no more writing at one end of the dining room table and then shoving the papers out of the way to serve dinner. You must have a clearly deﬁned space in which you conduct all the activities associated with your business—writing, researching, editing, advertising, shipping. It does not have to be a large space. You can ﬁt an ofﬁce into a large closet, a cubbyhole under the stairs, in the basement or the attic, or into a section of a room that is clearly separated from all other activities there. It simply must be used for your business and for nothing else. You’ll need a desk, a ﬁling cabinet, and—most important—a place to keep everything separate from the other parts of your life.
I was fortunate to have my own space already designated. When we moved into our new condo, we had the builders convert what started out as an open den area into a third “bedroom” with a small closet. My husband had already claimed a smaller room as his place to work on all his Lions Club business. This new room was to be mine. It has evolved into a cozy hideaway that makes a perfect home ofﬁce. My initial requirements were these: a door that closes, lots of natural light, phone and computer cable connections, and a few creature comforts. I furnished it ﬁrst with bookcases and a large slab table to serve as a computer desk. And here’s what it holds at the moment. I’ve added risers at the back of the desk slab to lift frequently used ofﬁce supplies, the printer, the cable modem, the backup drive, and other components off the main desk. Two low ﬁling cabinets ﬂank the desk to hold research ﬁles and other supplies while providing additional space to stack stuff. The closet is now full of industrial shelving to hold overﬂows of books, ﬁles, shipping supplies, and extra computer elements. An upholstered rocking chair and a ﬂoor lamp positioned between the accordion folding doors of the closet provide a hidden reading nook. A futon, full of pillows and a fuzzy throw, waits for the moment when I really need a quick nap.
The atmosphere is welcoming. The walls are painted a bright, energetic tangerine. A magnetic white board allows me to leave notes or pin up interesting pictures or publicity clippings. The large picture window opens onto a grove of cedars and cypress trees. The rocking chair sits on its own little oriental rug, and a modern lamp gently lights my desk area. On the walls are a few award plaques, my diplomas, and a huge etching of St. John’s College, Oxford, where I was lucky enough to teach for three separate summers. Scattered around the room are a few stuffed animals from special places—a bear from Gettysburg dressed as a Union soldier, another dressed as one of the palace guards from Buckingham palace, the ragged little puppy from Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, and the stately lion from the Biltmore estate.
Finally, there are the reminders of the purpose of this particular ofﬁce. Sitting on the frame above the entry door is a cutout of a black cat, looking exactly like the Katzenhaus cat from my business cards. A brass Civil War cannon acts as a paperweight. The closet door sports a street sign that says “Frogmore” in honor of my latest book. (And no, I didn’t steal it; I bought it in a souvenir shop on St. Helena Island.)
The result is eclectic, but deﬁnitely my principle, regular, and exclusive place of business. When I’m here, I’m working. Even the cats have learned to respect the boundary of the doorway. They will wander in once in a while, but only to curl up quietly on the ﬂoor or the futon, thus keeping it Katzenhaus in fact as well as spirit.
Portions of the above blog have been taken from my book, "The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese: How to Avoid the Traps of Self-Publishing," available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple iBooks, and Smashwords.com.