Has Your Small Business Outgrown Your Home Office?

Tips, options, and advice for growing entrepreneurs

When most small business owners first dedicate one of the rooms in their homes to office space, they aren’t imagining the point on the horizon when that home office will begin to feel too small for the business.

They’re just worried about getting started and finding paying customers.

Eventually, however, a growing business might need its own space outside of the home. Management consultant Vallorie Henderson offers signs that indicate when it’s time to move. Interestingly, many of her signs focus on people:

  • You need to hire help, and one or two employees aren’t going to fit in your home office;
  • You need to meet with clients and partners face-to-face, and it would feel weird to do that at your dining room table;
  • You need to see new people because sitting at home all day can get lonely.

Henderson’s last point is important. Many entrepreneurs find that they miss the camaraderie of an office, where you’re surrounded by people dealing with similar frustrations and celebrating similar successes.

What’s more, spending too much time working from home can negatively affect your productivity, the team at Vistaprint writes, especially if your work has already begun to occupy space in other rooms of the house.

“If piles of paperwork on the dining table sounds familiar, then it’s clear that your business has already started encroaching into the communal areas of your home,” they write. “Not only does this mess make it hard to enjoy a meal with your family or housemates, but it makes it difficult to decompress and get away from your work.”

So, for the sake of your business and your sanity, it might be a good idea to look for a dedicated workspace outside of your home.

Below are some options worth keeping in mind.

You Might Not Need a Traditional Office Space

Entrepreneur AJ Agrawal warns entrepreneurs about renting a space solely for “tradition and prestige” reasons because that could ultimately be an unnecessary rental expense that you have to pay each month.

Add to the rental costs things like furniture or staff to answer the door and the phones, Kellie Andrews writes for Huntsville Hub, a shared office facility in northern Alabama. “Unfortunately, traditional office space is expensive,” Andrews says. “For a small business, the overhead costs involved in a permanent, dedicated office space are huge.”

So, if a home office can get too stuffy and a dedicated office can be pricey, what’s the middle ground? Well, you have a few choices:

  • Coworking. These are big, open-plan offices that rent space by the desk or by the room. They’re popular with freelancers and small companies because they have a relaxed social atmosphere, and because coworkers tend to thrive in a way that most office-bound workers don’t. WeWork has one of the largest networks of coworking spaces on the planet. Check out Coworker.com to find independent spaces nearby.
  • Shared offices. A shared office space will resemble a more traditional office, and it might offer amenities such as dedicated office space (with a door you can close when you need to focus) and a receptionist. Regus is one of the biggest providers of rental office spaces in the US. Also, check out DeskPass and LiquidSpace for flexible office rental plans.
  • Studio space. If your work is mainly creative, and you need a lot of room to paint, cut, sew or rehearse, you might be able to find a nearby studio that you can rent or share. Stacie Lucas, owner of sustainable clothing company Amae Co., rents out part of a studio, for example, and that’s given her all the room she needs to grow her business. Check out Fractured Atlas’ SpaceFinder or thisopenspace to find available studio spaces.

Each of these options give you flexibility — rental terms tend to be weekly or monthly — and most will come furnished with everything you need to get started (e.g. you won’t need to call an internet provider to connect service).

laptop

The Social Benefits of Shared Working Spaces

Either coworking spaces or shared offices give you the opportunity to bump into other business owners, as well as freelancers and remote employees from other companies. Many people find that these spaces open up their professional networks and also just make the typical workday more pleasant.

Coworker Co-Founder and CEO Leanne Beesley tells us that this socializing — and just being able to meet interesting people — helps convert small business owners into fans of coworking spaces.

“If you’re spending all day working alone from home or cafes, you usually have to make a big effort to go out to networking events, conferences or industry meetups if you want to be around like-minded and ambitious people,” Beesley says.

Coworking, she says, makes networking a passive, serendipitous process: You bump into other professionals in the kitchen or during community lunches, and this is much more natural than traditional networking events.

“If you’re someone who cringes at the cliched concept of ‘networking’ but would still love a way to meet interesting people, try out a coworking space for at least one week to see if you like the community. And remember, the person working a few meters away from you just might end up being your new best friend!”

Finding the Right Office Space for Your Small Business

With the variety of options available, it might be unclear which is the best fit. Kristie Holden at Marketcircle has a helpful guide to finding office space that, while written specifically for tech startups, is useful for any entrepreneur.

Holden recommends asking yourself a few questions to visualize what kind of space you’ll need (and can afford):

  1. What is your budget? A one-year lease on a commercial office might be more than you can afford. Maybe even a nice office in a shared space with a receptionist gets you over-budget. If so, the coworking space will be the most affordable option.
  2. What are your needs? What about your customers’ needs? Think about how much physical room you’ll need to work — maybe you have a printer and a large file cabinet, for example — and try to make space for that. Further, if you’ll be speaking to customers regularly or inviting others to come into the office to speak with you, look for ways to accommodate them. A coworking space, for example, might not make sense if you spend hours every day meeting clients face-to-face.
  3. How do you plan to grow? Perhaps this office is just a jumping-off point for bigger and better things. If you can, plot those next stages of growth to get an idea for how long it will take you to outgrow this new space.

Note, too, that you can always unbundle some of the physical aspects of your business. For example, you could rent a business storage space to house the files, archives and materials you don’t need to access on a daily basis. This could free up space in your home, and it would let you take advantage of the freedom that a co-working or shared space offers: Just arrive, open your laptop and start working.

The important thing to remember is flexibility is on your side. You don’t need to settle for a long-term commitment in a space that’s not a good fit for your business. Once you understand your needs and your resources, you’ll be able to find the right new office space for your business.

Images by: Bench Accounting, Ade Olu Eletu