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Running a small business from home offers many advantages, especially for startups. With no commute and no rent to pay, you have more time to work on the business and more profits to put in the bank. Yet despite the convenience and cost savings, operating a business from home isn't for everyone.
For instance, businesses that get a lot of deliveries, store equipment or trucks on the property, or have a number of employees, patients or customers coming and going generally can't be run from a residential location. Business owners who need a professional location to meet with clients or patients generally need some environment other than a home office for their business, too. The same is true for one-person businesses that are expanding and hiring employees. Then, too, there are business owners who find there are too many distractions to work productively at home, or that working at home all the time is too isolating.
Fortunately, if you can't or don't want to run your business from home or if you've outgrown your home office, there a number of alternatives to consider. What's right for you will depend on what type of business you run, what your customers or clients expect, what kind of space is available in your locality, and how much you can afford to spend for office space.
Coworking spaces are a relatively new concept in the business world. The concept appears to go back to the 1990s when a few companies began to offer working space that would bring together people with no business relationship to each other, allowing them to work in a single, open location. Today, coworking appeals to solopreneurs, telecommuters working for larger companies, freelancers, and small business (both established and start-up). Coworking spaces provide internet access and other services along with desk space. Depending on the location and plan, the desk space may be a seat at a long table with many people working on their laptops, or an individual desk in an open area (as opposed to a private office). For many users, the main attraction of a coworking space is the community aspect.
"People who work from home -- freelancers, early stage entrepreneurs and others - don't have a team to work with," explains Natasha Juliana, co-owner of WORK, a coworking space in Petaluma, CA. "They're working on a computer by themselves and miss the contact with other humans in this digital world. Using a coworking space adds that human element back in their workday."
Fostering that community feeling, is something WORK Petaluma focuses on, too. The company runs coffee socials, offers lunchtime business lessons, holds holiday parties and other events to help its members get acquainted and make friends. "People sign up for the desk or office space," Natasha says, "but they stay because of the community. Most of the regulars know each other. It's like going to any office. They ask how each other's weekends were, go to lunch together, share in each others' successes and often get help from others in the facility when they need it."
Furnished Office Suites
Business owners who prefer a private office but don't want to pay to furnish it or sign multi-year leases often opt for renting a furnished office suite on a part-time, full-time or as-needed basis from a company such as Regus™ that provide ready-to-go offices and office services. These companies, which operate in many cities and suburban areas, make individual offices available for rental and provide you with internet and telephone services, shared receptionist, conference room availability, business address, mail receiving and forwarding, and other amenities, depending on the package you purchase.
When attorney at law Lisa Pomerantz started her practice, her first significant engagement was creating compliance training programs. "That was something I could do from home," she says. "But when I refocused on developing a more conventional legal practice, I started renting office space and a conference room on an as-needed basis from the Regus office center in Bohemia, NY." Her practice focuses on business and employment law and grew quickly, so she rented an office suite from the Regus facility on a full-time basis. Today she is also a mediator and arbitrator of business and employment disputes and finds the professional space and availability of conference room and limited clerical support at the Regus office center is perfect for her needs.
Regus, which has 3,000 locations in 900 cities around the world is probably the most recognized name in the field, but there are other companies as well. To find furnished office suites in your location, search online for the term "furnished office" or "executive suites" followed by your town or county. When you search, you'll find that some companies known for providing office suites, also offer coworking arrangements. Similarly some companies that primarily offer coworking spaces have some private offices available as well.
Before finalizing arrangements with any company that provides office space and services or salon space be sure to read their contract carefully, noting how long the agreement is for, whether or not it automatically renews, and the time frame during which you are allowed to terminate the agreement.
If you are a hairdresser, nail technician and want to set up a your own salon without renting a storefront and buying expensive equipment, there are furnished salon suites available in many areas of the country through companies such as Sola Salons, My Salon Suite, and Phenix. As with office suites, before renting a salon suite, be sure you read and understand the contract. You need to be sure about and what you're entitled to, what might be extra, and how you can terminate the agreement should your need change in the future.
Another alternative to running a business from home and signing a lengthy lease is to sublease unused space from another business. Unlike renting space from an office center that leases temporary offices to many businesses, when you sublease you become an occupant in space some other company has leased for their own business.
Grace Freedson is a literary agent and book packager who left a job in the publishing industry a number of years ago to start her own company, Grace Freedson's Publishing Network. The company, located in Woodbury, NY, works with authors to develop projects to bring to publishers and works with publishers to develop ideas for book and find authors to write them. Grace had planned to run the business from home, but having worked for a number of years in an office environment with lots of people around she found running her business from home "a little bit isolating."
She wanted to be in a professional location, a short commute from home, and decided to look for space she could sublease. That way, while she would have her own office, she'd be part of an office suite, and not have her name on the lease. She was also able to save a bit on rent by subleasing. To find the first space she sublet, she went into some buildings where solo practitioners rented space, got their names and then send out letters to them asking if they had any unused space they were interested in subleasing.
Businesses that are willing to sublease space do so for a couple of reasons. In some cases the space may be available because the lessee (the business that leased the space) didn't grow as much as they thought they would or because they have downsized their business. In other cases, a business may have chosen a space that was bigger than they need because they liked the location, and there was no smaller space available. No matter why the extra office space is available, if the company's lease allows it, the lessee may be willing to sublease the unused space to you. To find subleasing opportunities, check local newspapers, search the Internet and Craig’s List for your area, and consider doing what Grace Freedson did - contact companies you think might have space they'd be willing to sublease.
RELATED: Should you sublease your excess office space to another company?
Traditional Real Estate Lease
Businesses that have a need for several employees are likely to opt for a more traditional space, leasing space in an office building, retail location, or industrial park, depending on their needs. Sharon Hamilton, owner of Centennial Insurance Agency in Farmingville, NY, worked from home to launch her business in 2004, but after 6 months she moved the business into office space in a well-known and easily accessible building in town. "I needed a professional location to meet with prospects and clients, and an office big enough to hire employees," she explains.
Although it's usually not to difficult to find buildings with space to rent either by riding around a town and looking for "For Lease" signs or searching on the Internet, doing so can be time consuming, and sometimes the properties landlords try to lease on their own aren't optimal. Sharon didn't want to waste time and wanted to be sure to get the best office and location she could afford, so she worked with a commercial real estate agent to find space for her business.
The Right Space For You
There are lots of things to consider when you choose a non-home location for your business. To be sure you choose the best option, start out by listing your needs on paper. Put them in a checklist format, with the top priority needs for space on top of the list. Consider how long a lease you're willing to sign, how far from your home you're willing to travel, and whether or not you need to be near retail locations, or public transportation. Include things like the number of employees you plan, whether you want private offices for your employees, or a bullpen setup, whether you'll need space for employees and customers to park, or have trucks or other equipment you'll need to accommodate. Will the building need to project a professional atmosphere, or would warehouse or industrial space work. Are you willing to walk up stairs to get to an office that isn't on the ground floor, or would you and clients require an elevator. Details such as these become especially important if you have to sign a multi-year lease. Finally, if your lease agreement involves a significant period of time and/or money, have an attorney review it and go over it with you.
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