Ready to Move Out of Your Home-Office? Maybe!

A home-based business has lots of advantages. You can work in your pajamas if you like. There’s no long commute to the office. And it’s much less expensive than renting office space.  However, many home-based business owners find there are disadvantages about working from home too. You have fewer opportunities to interact with other business people, and in many cases, your home isn’t a good place to meet with clients. In today’s economy, commercial buildings often have lots of empty space and are willing to make good deals. But perhaps you‘re not ready to take on that much additional overhead.  Here are some options for filling the gap between a home-based operation and signing a long-term lease for commercial space.

*   Bartering. In recent years, companies have downsized and, as a result, often have vacant office space. In some cases, new business owners barter for that office space. They take an open office in someone else’s company and, in exchange for rent, provide services or products to that business.

Incubators. A small business incubator is a facility that offers adaptable office space and support services at a discounted rate.  They are designed to accelerate the successful development of start-ups. While incubators differ in the way they deliver their services and in the types of clients they serve, the success rate of companies that graduate from an incubator program greatly exceeds that of the general market. Part of the reason may be that, in order to be accepted into an incubator program, your business idea is reviewed first for viability. You can learn more about programs in your area from the National Business Incubator Association.

*   Executive office suites. Business centers or executive office suites can be a turn-key solution for your office space needs. These companies provide fully equipped offices that you share with other businesses and utilize on an as-needed basis. It is a good option for precluding the isolation and loneliness of working from home, and it can also be a better place to meet clients. Some companies use executive office suites just to have a prestigious address.  For example, an advertising agency with which I did some business years ago had an upscale address in New York on Madison Avenue. It turned out that the agency was really located in New Jersey and used the Madison Avenue location for its mailing address.

In addition to the office space, executive office centers provide conference rooms that can be rented when needed. Plus, the staff is available to handle mail services, clerical support, and telephones. I’ve used executive centers when I’ve been on the road and needed a land line, Internet connection, and office space for meetings. This arrangement certainly beats meeting in a hotel lobby or restaurant.

As opposed to working alone in a home office, using shared office space gives you the opportunity to collaborate with other business owners and professionals. Depending on who the other users of the space are, you may find an opportunity to partner on projects or barter for services.

If you want to use an executive office center as a long-term solution, the operating company will require you to sign a contract. Usually there is a three-month minimum, which is much better than the five- or ten-year lease most commercial landlords require. Regardless of the option you choose, it is a good idea to have your attorney review any rental agreement before you sign.

To find the best office arrangement, shop around.  You want something that is conveniently located for your primary customers or clients. You also want to be in a building with businesses that complement your own.  Don’t feel intimated by a sales agent who tries to force you to make a quick decision. And don’t forget to ask your business advisers, mentors, and other business owners for their opinions.

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney. AT&T has sponsored this blog post.

Susan Solovic CEO Susan Solovic Media Group About Susan