How to Build an Inspiring Home Office on a Shoestring

The first rule of a soloprenuer: do not rent an office space. Second rule: ‘lean’ lifestyle.

Soloprenuers are nimble and mobile, so keep your overhead to minimum. This will also allow you to go on workactions – a term I learned from a fellow solopreneur, Mike Fishbein. Love the idea, tried it, and enjoyed it.

You should never need an office, but if you feel like you do, look into co-working spaces, like WeWork. While it’s a significant cost for a bootstrapper, the networking value of working in a vibrant startup community is significant.

home office soloprenuer
photo credit: snaps via photopin cc

I recently moved to Astoria Park in New York, and built my new office from scratch on around $300 budget.

The 6 Principles of Building a Smart Office on a Budget

  1. Window view
  2. Something that makes you feel grateful
  3. Something that inspires you
  4. Something to work on
  5. Something to sit on (optional – standing desks are cool)
  6. A whiteboard to write ideas on

Below I documented how I recently put my own home-office together, including prices and links to get the items I purchased.

It served me well. I finished and published my book, SEO Like I’m 5, and launched a profitable  startup, among other amazing projects I’ve been involved in recently.

If this post is helpful please share it with fellow bootstrappers and entrepreneurs. Have ideas? Share the in the comments section.

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Window view

Pick a spot for your office where you can get access to an outside view. It’s crucial. I am fortunate to have a nice terrace with a Hudson River and Manhattan in the backdrop. Hard to beat in NYC, where the cost of living is high, so I chose a vibrant and up-and-coming neighborhood, Astoria Park, where I can afford bigger space with a nice view.

home office window view

Now that you can cross  off the “office rent” item from your P&L, invest more in your living situation. Get a bigger place with an extra space for your office. Talk to your accountant, you may be able to make a tax deduction.

Something that makes you feel grateful

If you get to work from home and are able to support yourself, you should feel grateful. You made it!

Feeling grateful is essential to your success, because otherwise your mind will wander into dangerous territories, such as anxiety and stress, which are detrimental emotions to your productivity and creativity.

I keep my Gratitude in a Recyclable Steel Can on my desk at all time. I bought it for around $20 from the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. There is something inside, but I’ve never opened it to see. Maybe one day…

gratitude in a recyclable steel can

Value: $20

Something that inspires you

Penn Jillette, an illusionist and actor famous for his Penn & Teller show, in a keynote at NMX (New Media Conference) in Las Vegas described success as being able to do what you love while supporting yourself.  He delivered this powerful message to thousands of content creators, bloggers and podcasters, who chose to follow their bliss and came to Las Vegas to learn how to turn their passion into a business… while being able to support themselves.

A friend of mine who opened a world-famous Jewish restaurant, Anatewka, in my hometown, Lodz, inspired by its Jewish heritage, gave me a painting a while back to bring me prosperity in business. So far it’s helped me accomplish financial freedom to work from home and enjoy my life, exactly what I needed, so it took up a prominent space on the wall, over my desk. I also evokes great memories. I always hang out at Anatewka with friends and family when I travel back home.

anatewka lodz

Display prominently the art of items that inspire you to reach your goals, and connect you with positive thoughts and emotions. Empty walls in closed, small spaces are not conducive to launching a successful startup. They are conducive to going mad. Make your home office inspirational by surrounding it with positive, inspirational items.

Something to work on

When it comes to office furniture, you want to strike the right balance between usability and cost. Never sacrifice comfort for a discount, but hunt for deals if you are a bootstrapper.

After browsing a while on Amazon, I trusted over a thousand positive reviews, and picked Walker Edison Soreno 3-Piece Corner Desk, Black with Black Glass for $99.

Value: $99

Something to sit on

Obviously you need a chair. I picked Flash Furniture Mid-Back Black Mesh Computer Chair for $57.

Value: $57

A whiteboard you can write ideas on

Do not skip this step. You need a whiteboard to jot down ideas and create to-do lists daily. It’s key to stay organized, focused, and motivated. Set goals and timelines to achieve them.

I recommend the Reversible White Blackboard from Luxor, but if you don’t have much space, you may need to mount it on the wall.

Value: $162

Hope you got some value out of this post!

About Matthew Capala

Matthew Capala (@SearchDecoder) is a growth-focused Internet marketer and entrepreneur. He is the founder of SearchDecoder, a place for bootstrap marketing ideas for entrepreneurs, Adj. Professor at NYU, author of "SEO Like I'm 5" and dynamic speaker.

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8 Responses to How to Build an Inspiring Home Office on a Shoestring

  1. Ryan Biddulph August 10, 2014 at 5:38 am #

    Hi Matt,

    I love the new office! I spent some time in Astoria Park here and there a while back; lovely section of town. And what a view, awesome man.

    I dig your ideas, especially the gratitude note. I like focusing on what I have to predominantly feel full, happy, and grateful. Sure I’m still hungry to succeed and I still work but when you’re not working from an anxious or desperate space the creative juices flow so much more smoothly.

    It also helps to have supreme inspirational images surrounding you; I love your shot. That looks like some kind of restaurant, I’m changing locations but I feel blessed in that in most spots, I can stare out of the window into some scenic tropical paradise.

    Here in Savusavu, I’m about 50 meters up on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Fiji has so many inspirational, awe-inspiring views, I’m gifted with so many inspiring ideas which keep me going when I may feel like taking too long of a break….although that never really happens anyway ;)

    Inspiration and gratitude are a powerful home office combo. Gotta keep that whiteboard around or at least something similar to record ideas immediately. This way, you’ll act on your inspirations and provide the greatest benefit to others around you, and to people whose lives you touch.

    Thanks Matt, great post for boot strapping home office folks.

    Tweeting in a bit.

    Have a fun week :)

    Ryan

    • Matthew Capala August 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

      Hey Ryan, the view in Astoria Park cannot compete with the view you wake up to every day in Fiji :-) You really took it one step further, which is the final step in the progression of a soloprenuer…

      …to live freely and work from around the world, because your income is not dependent on one institution, person, or the government. You are not a slave to a lease you signed for your office space and cannot afford, or to a mortgage. You invest tons of time, a lot, in building diverse income streams to achieve the financial freedom over time to enjoy your life wherever you ‘choose’ to work from!

  2. Catherine Holt August 11, 2014 at 12:21 pm #

    I don’t actually have a home office right now, as we just don’t have the space. But, I love how you said to have something that inspires you. My office is sitting at our kitchen breakfast bar….stylish hey!! Sitting right on the breakfast bar is our vision boards. This helps keep the bigger picture in my mind and most importantly my “why”.

    Yes, I would love to have an office, but that will come….it’s on my vision board…he he.

    • Matthew Capala August 12, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      Thanks for sharing Catherine – I used to work out of my kitchen island – loved it – it’s whatever inspires ‘you’ :-)

      Good luck with your ventures and let me know if there is anything I can help with

  3. Stephen Hart August 13, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Nice article Matthew. I recently moved back to a home office from a rented one due to becoming busy enough that I was seldom in it! Now the prep work for my training and coaching takes place in my home office. I have to admit it felt like a negative move, even though the reasons were commercially sound. Your thoughts about the home office have made me think about things from a new perspective and I feel a lot more positive about it!

    I’d like to highlight the office desk as being the single most important purchase when it comes to setting up a home office. Chairs can come and go, and probably will, but the desk determines your space to think, organise and makes a huge difference. Choose wisely!

    • Matthew Capala August 13, 2014 at 5:42 pm #

      Agreed Stephan, I looked for the best deal on the desk (not the best desk). What type of training and coaching do you do?

  4. Brittany Bullen August 13, 2014 at 11:47 pm #

    Great tips, Matthew!

    I thought I’d stop by after reading Ryan’s awesome shoutout in his latest post. You’re clearly a great guy to know! I put a lot of work into my home office, it even has a recording studio in the closet! It’s so important to have a space you love, otherwise you end up spending way too much money at coffee shops. =)

    I’ll be back! Looking forward to reading more of your stuff.

    • Matthew Capala August 14, 2014 at 12:16 am #

      Thanks Brittany – I would love to see our office (especially recording studio in the closet) :-) can you share a pic?

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