A lot of freelancers, especially those who can do their work on a computer, start out working from home. It’s cheap and it gives you flexibility, but it can become a drag when work life and home life mix together.
If you find it tough to work from home either because of family distractions, or because you find home life starts encroaching too much on work life – i.e. having to get the washing up done before you get on with your work or marketing, getting distracted by the TV, people coming around to see you because ‘you’re free’ and so on, an office might solve your problems.
Your options: Renting an office, a desk in a shared office, or co-working.
Renting a whole office
If you rent a whole office for yourself, you get to set up the environment how you want. If you have particular needs when it comes to light, noise levels, internet connection speeds, and all the details of the work environment, you may be best off renting a whole office and setting it up to match your needs. This is expensive, so consider renting out any spare desks to other freelancers to help offset the costs.
Renting a desk in a shared office
The most common way to get some work space for computer based workers is to rent a desk in a shared office. This gets you out of the house and around other working people, which can help fend off feelings of isolation and be motivating – I’ve found I tend to jump myself out of not working more easily if I’m around people who are working.
Costs where I live in the south of the UK are around £250-300 a month for a desk in a shared office, usually with a little storage and the internet connection costs included. That represents about one day of work a month for me as a web developer, so you could say to afford it I need to bring in at least one day extra of work, or be one day more efficient at work, when I’m in the office than I was at home.
When I moved to a shared office from working at home, I found I easily got enough extra work done to cover the cost of being in the office. I was less stressed as I had been working out of my bedroom, probably the worst place to work from at home – I found working from the lounge at my previous apartment much better. Moving from cramped conditions to a small shared office and being around other people made me much more productive, and getting to and from the office meant I was getting some extra exercise too. The only downside was I caught more colds, as I would usually go to the office on the bus.
Co-working, or hot desking, is a way of using shared office space on a part-time basis. You’ll pay a small fee and be able to use the office a certain amount each month. Usually such offices have certain desks set aside for co-workers, and you just turn up and use a free desk. They’ll expect you to bring a laptop to use, although you might find somewhere that has a computer you can use if you don’t have a laptop.
I’m currently using a co-working office called The Skiff in nearby Brighton, I pay £25 a month and can use it for two days of work. This gives me a break from working from home, and gives me a chance to get the advantages of working in a shared office – community and motivation – as well as a break from the four walls I’m used to.
Things to consider when looking for shared office space
- Noise – are people allowed to play music on speakers? How noisy are people on the phone?
- How good is the internet connection?
- How good is your mobile phone connection in the building?
- What condition is the kitchen / toilet in?
- Is there a cleaner, or are you expected to clean?
- How big is the desk?
- How much natural light is there?
- How easy is it to block out too much light?
- If you need a landline put in, how much will that cost?
- If you want to leave, how much notice do you have to give?
- How secure is the building?
- Do you need extra insurance to cover the office?
Make sure you meet everyone you will be sharing with. If you don’t like lots of noise, you might find there’s one very loud person who speaks on the phone regularly that you didn’t meet.
Try to get a trial period, that you pay for, before signing up for a month or multi-month contract. This will let you find out exactly what it’s like to work there without finding you want to back out after a couple of days.
I’ve worked from home and from an office. Personally, I prefer being in a shared office, but I currently have a small office at home and due to family demands and keeping costs down, it’s better for me to use that than pay out for a shared office. To give myself a change of scene, I pay £25 a month to use The Skiff on a co-working arrangement. I’ve also been joining the nice folk at the Worthing Digital co-working at Barneys Restaurant which happens every Thursday. Three people from that have signed up for some office space in Worthing as Worthing Coworking, and I’ll be joining them as a co-worker as soon as they have the internet connection switched on, which should be today or next week.
I think I was probably slightly more efficient in a full-time shared office, but a combination of home office and co-working is a good compromise for my current situation.