Q. I am starting a new business. Initially, I’ll be working alone—a solopreneur. I am thinking about renting an office rather than working out of my home. What do you think?
A. We have both worked in offices and out of our home, so we have some prospective on this issue. Obviously, there is no one right answer to this question. The answer that’s right for you depends on your specific situation and what is most important to you. We’ll outline some pros and cons, suggest a few questions to ask yourself, and give you an alternative that may not have occurred to you.
Pros – In our home, we have a beautiful office over the garage that is separate from the rest of the house. It has a fireplace, wet bar, bathroom, large partner desk and more built-in file drawers and bookshelves than we have been able to fill. Working from home meant that we eliminated the morning commute. At home, the dress code is extremely casual. Our two cats can come by for a pat on the head in the middle of the day—or just about any other time they wish. These are all good things. In addition, working out of our home saves us the costs commonly associated with an office including rent, janitorial services, and utilities. The big pros to working out of your home are convenience and cost.
Cons – On the downside, being only a few steps from the office means you never really leave work. When working from home, we said that the difference between a weekday and a weekend is that on Saturday and Sunday we moved our laptops from the office to the family room. In fact, Polly had an extra door installed so that she wouldn't have to look at the stairway to the office while sitting on the sofa in the family room.
We don't know your family situation, but if you have children or a spouse at home this can be a distraction. We have had each other and an employee working in our home office, but some people become isolated and lonely if they are working at home alone. In addition, if you need to meet with clients in your office, having them to your home may not create the professional impression you want. The cons to working from home are that it can be difficult to separate work time from family time, you may have built in distractions or face isolation, and it may not provide the professional persona you want your business to project.
Questions to Ask – Ask yourself why you want or need office space. How would you weigh the pros versus the cons? Which things are more important to you? If there are cons that are important to you, are there ways to mitigate the negatives. For example, if working at home would make you feel isolated, can you deal with this by attending networking events and working at a local Starbucks or Panera Bread, at least some of the time? This may be why we see so many small business people frequenting these establishments.
Possible Alternative – If you want a place to go outside your home with business amenities, one option that is available in many cities is co-working space. If you are located in Richmond there are currently several co-working spaces with more coming available in the next few months. Polly and our assistant moved their offices into co-working space and it has worked out very well for them. While there is no blueprint for these spaces, most offer desks, tables, couches to sit on, printers, copiers, coffee and access to conference and meeting rooms. Some will allow you to rent a single, private office. In addition, if you want someone to bounce an idea off of, the other co-working members can act as sounding boards. This option is usually much less costly, more flexible, and much easier to set up than renting separate office space. Co-working space may be a viable option to working from your home.
After you answer a few questions, weigh the pros and cons and think about your alternatives, we’re sure you’ll come up with the answer that’s right for you.