Last year I had an office in downtown Brisbane (well almost, up a hill downtown Brisbane is more accurate). I needed an office to run an English school but after I shut that down the school in the second half of 2004 I was running a home based Internet business from an office. I was paying $1400 a month for the privilege too. I spent a lot of time scheming ways to either reduce my rent bill by inviting sub-tenants or breaking my lease early and seeing how much that hurt. I tried the first with little success and then negotiated to break my lease a few months before contract end. I left the office in 2004 after throwing a lot of money away on rent. It was a lesson learnt of course and one of the main things I reaffirmed was that I did not require an office for what I wanted to do and would not likely get one again in the near future.
A lot of small business owners worry that running a home based business can hinder their ability to convince clients to buy because of the perception that they are not professional if they do not have an office. Another possible concern is hiring new employees – will they be willing to come work at your home? Obviously the industry you work in will determine how much the “office” factor impacts you but I do not believe having an office is justifiable unless you are starting to grow into a multiple employee business.
If you are a solopreneur you do not need an office. Rent is wasted money. If you absolutely have to convey professionalism to a specific client put on your suit and arrange drinks at a classy venue. Then impress them with your personality and let your product or service do the talking. If the client sees you and what you do as valuable to them they are not going to care where exactly you go to work.
When it comes to hiring employees you simply tell them that they must be prepared to work from your home office as part of a condition of employment. A good employee will be excited to land your job and unless they are considering a lengthy commute to get to work at your place, the home office factor should not be a concern.
Sometimes the lack of a physical address for mail is a worry since you don’t want to be listing your home address publicly. I maintain a city post office box which I use for all mail, even when I had an office. I do this for two reasons – 1) I would not want to list my home address on a website and 2) if I ever move the postal box doesn’t, as long as I keep paying the rental fee (about $150 annually – it’s a tax deduction too!) I have a permanent address for mail that I can use for both business and personal purposes. Occasionally you cannot use a postal box for a particular service or delivery in which case I give out my home address.
I used to be concerned about the psychological impact of the home office. My housemate works a standard 9-5er at a big Australian company. One of the things that she really enjoys about her work is the clear definition of when she is “on” and “off” work. When she leaves the office that’s it, no more thinking about work. With a home based business I roll out of my bed and switch on my computer to be at work. This could be a considered a bad thing since whenever I am at home I am also at work. The lines are blurred. Worse still I take my laptop to cafes and restaurants so it appears that work is invading all aspects of my life.
Of course though if you are a true entrepreneur you will know the “my business is my baby” feeling. If your business is your hobby, what you love and enjoy then you would choose to be at work doing what you love anyway. My housemate wouldn’t make this choice – who would choose to be at work?!? Having the lines blurred is only a problem when you don’t know how to stop working. I for one am very good at recreational activities and have no problem finding time for them. If that’s not you and you are at your computer in your office all the time then perhaps you need to set yourself some strict time guidelines to control your working day. Discipline is a good skill to have in business and a little self imposed structure can go a long way to beat both the procrastination and overwork demons.
Adding to the benefits of having a home based business is having all your familiar amenities available to you. You are able to cook a fresh meal cheaply whenever you are hungry and listen to your music as loud as you like without worrying about disturbing anyone around you. Heck if your house is empty during the day while you are working at home you can even go to work in your underwear and walk around half naked. Okay maybe that’s not a good idea and maybe some self discipline in this area is a good thing, but I think I make my point about the freedoms available to a home based business entrepreneur.
The benefits of a home based business are significant and the drawbacks of having an office (rent, lease contracts, having to be somewhere at a certain time) are added worries that you don’t need to opt for unless you can see a clear reason why you need an office. Personally I am glad I have been there and done that regarding an office so I know what it takes to locate and contract for commercial space. One day if I ever want to start my own retail business or restaurant I will have skills to fall back on. For the time being I’m happy working from home and enjoy watching my bank balance increase rather than syphoned away to rent.