Creating your home office space

When you work from home, it's really important to know where your home ends and work begins. Freelancer Sarah Hughes explains how she struck the balance.

After a year of freelancing – mainly from my kitchen table, sometimes from my living room and occasionally even my bed (yes – guilty!) and with a perfectly good spare room currently acting as a dumping ground for all of my junk, I decided it was time to do what I really should have done at the beginning of my freelance journey – create a space in my home that was just for work – and just for me.

I excitedly started to think about what I wanted and decided to do a little research and find out what others had done – several hours later I was left feeling rather overwhelmed by the amount of ‘show home’ style office images and articles I had come across, and rather underwhelmed by the distinct lack of articles and advice that I could find from ‘real people’.

A few weeks on and now happily ensconced in my new office, I kept thinking of the hours that I dedicated to getting it just right – and whilst I wouldn’t change it – I did think that maybe some of the things I had learnt and picked up along the way might be useful for other freelancers looking to decorate or revamp their own home office.

So here are my top ten tips:

  1. Make a list of what you think you might like and what you think you might want before you start researching décor and furniture ideas. There are a million and one articles out there on decorating your home office and they will lead you down many a wrong path if you don’t have an idea of what will suit you beforehand. For example, lots of articles I came across suggested “go chic” or “be artsy” – I spent a lot of time looking at these things that were not really me. I got so frustrated that eventually I wrote down a list of everything that reflects my tastes and let that guide me – it should have been the first thing I did!
  2. Decide on your budget of course – but also decide how much time you are willing to dedicate to it. There are lots of ways to save money, but it will depend on how much time you have to spend on finding what you want within the budget you have. For example – I decided when writing my list that I wanted to upcycle the furniture and décor in my office wherever possible – this affected my budget in a positive way as I wasn’t buying new – but it also meant that I needed to spend a lot more time finding the right pieces instead of bulk ordering all my furniture from Amazon/Ikea etc.
  3. Upcycle/Second-hand – if you decide to go down the same route as me, I’d recommend putting aside an Afternoon to browse all your local charity and antique shops. I had decided that I wanted walnut furniture, so I spent some time in town to see what I could find – I ended up with a walnut desk for £15 plus a grand old oak mirror for £15 and 6 oak frames for £10 – which I then sanded down and varnished with a walnut stain. All from Eleanor’s Hospice Shop and all delivered to me too for small additional cost. eBay and Gumtree are also great for second hand finds and bargains too – my favourite piece of furniture is a vintage wooden filing cabinet from the 1930’s which I found on eBay for a brilliant price.
  4. If you are buying new items – look at end of line or auction stock to save money – I got a lovely office chair for the bargain price of £10.50 (down from £52) – all because there was a tiny puncture mark on the seat.
  5. Don’t be afraid to steal pieces of furniture or décor from other rooms of your house – I stole a little (walnut of course!) table from my living room to put my peace lily on and it really adds to the aesthetics of the office.
  6. On that note, invest in some hardy plants for your office – if, like me – you prefer neutrals – plants are a great way to add a splash of colour to your office – they also do things like purify the air, boost creativity and reduce stress.
  7. My office is small – if yours is the same then think about using a mirror – they are great at boosting the sense of space and amplifying light in the room.
  8. Don’t be afraid to mix and match – I’ve got a dark and old desk, filing cabinet and book shelf that contrast beautifully with a modern chrome office chair and table lamp.
  9. If you’ve decided to go for wooden furniture and you want timber flooring too – then pick the furniture colour first – you can build out from there and pick flooring that contrasts and offers a variation of colour to your furniture. One tip that I did pick up was to not match the colour of your floor and furniture but to look at the tone, wood grain and finish of both to make sure they compliment.
  10. Personalise your office space – with anything that will boost your mood or inspire you. In the frames on my wall – I’ve got postcards I like and quotes that resonate with me. For the frames on my bookshelf – I’ve popped in pictures that my Son has drawn or painted – which add another welcome splash of colour and also make me smile every time I look at them.

Media Voices 100th episode live in London

As Media Voices prepares to celebrate its 100th episode we spoke to presenter Chris Sutcliffe about the challenges for freelancers and journalism more widely.

The Media Voices podcast is one of our favourite ways to keep up with what’s happening in the media world. The Podcast was started as part of The Media Briefing brand produced by Briefing Media back in 2016 – itself an invaluable source for those wanting to keep abreast of changes in publishing. The podcast – and its associated email newsletter – had an unusually wide coverage, reaching smaller publishers and, most importantly, covering B2B media as well as B2C.


In 2017, The Media Briefing sadly and unexpectedly (at least from the perspective of a loyal listener) closed. Briefing Media felt it needed to move away from the media focus with which it was started and prioritise its more profitable agri-information business. It has since rebranded as AgriBriefing, and enjoyed enormous success. Its media events, the British Media Awards and Digital Media Strategies, were taken on by Haymarket. But the Podcast’s presenters Chris Sutcliffe and Esther Kezia Thorpe, joined by The Media Briefing’s former Editor-at-large Peter Houston fought to keep the brand alive under the new Media Voices brand.


99 episodes – and interviews with The Economist, Facebook, CNN, The Times, Refinery29, and the Financial Times – later, it’s safe to say that decision has been vindicated. Helped along in no small part but the encyclopaedic knowledge, manifest passion and sardonic wit of its presenters – not to mention the trio’s on-air chemistry – the show has developed a loyal following, carving out a niche as the publisher’s publishing podcast, and attracted sponsors.


The challenges of freelance journalism

Ahead of Thursday’s celebrations, The Freelance Fellowship spoke with Chris about his experiences running the podcast and working as a freelancer.


“Media Voices has featured a lot of amazing guests over the years, from the editors of national magazine brands to proponents for new and often untried forms of journalism. Over the 99 episodes to date, two lessons have stood out more than most.


“The first is that investment in great journalism is the foundation on which all plans to save independent media are based, while the second is that it is ever-more difficult for individual journalists to actually do that vital work. Hearing from the founders of schemes like PressPad and the late lamented The Pool have made it apparent how difficult it can be for freelance journalists to carve out a career in 2019.


“When we founded Media Voices, I was starting out on my first full year as a freelance journalist. Over the first 12 months, I struggled with issues of self-confidence and anxiety as the realities of chasing payments and pitching to unresponsive publications began to bite. Hearing from those guests, and from my friends who have been in similar positions, helped me to carry on.


“It’s still a harsh and competitive environment in which to make a living, but the reality is that most editors and founders of publications have been in that position, and are happy to help wherever possible. Over the next 100 episodes of Media Voices, I’m looking forward to hearing from other journalists who have made it as freelancers, and from more founders of schemes to support them.”


Media Voices, Episode 100

The 100th episode live recording will take place at 30 Dukes Place in London on May 2nd (this Thursday) in partnership with content recommendation developer Bibblio and featuring Bibblio founder Mads Holmen, Empire Editor-in-Chief Terri White, The Week Chief Executive Kerin O’Connor and Head of Platforms at PinkNews, Ellen Stewart.


The panel will be tackling a fundamental existential question facing the industry: ‘How do publishers maintain their brand value in a world of distributed content?’ Fourth Estate Creative Managing Director Paul Thomas Evans will be in attendance at the live recording and if you want to join places are still available (at the time of publishing). Visit the event page on the Media Voices site here.


Find out more

You can find the Media Voices podcast on iTunes, Acast, Spotify , SoundCloud and many more platforms or listen to it on the Media Voices site here.

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Just like us Media Voices is a supporter of the International Magazine Centre.