Sometimes as a freelancer, money is tight. And if you've got a nice little corner in your living room or basement set up with a desk and a printer, an office might seem like an unnecessary expense. But I assure you--if you can afford it, do it.
I recently rented my first office space, just a few minutes walk from my 500 square foot home. The office is tiny--only slightly larger than my bathroom--but it fits a desk, a chair, a bookcase, and a stand for my printer. It also offers a bunch of other perks: high-speed internet, a receptionist, meeting spaces, a window, a fridge, water, outdoor picnic areas, tons of parking, free toilet paper (trust me, it adds up), and a bunch of other amenities. True, it's located just behind a closet where the painters wash out their buckets. True, it has a trapdoor to the roof and when the wind blows it makes a really disturbing noise and occasionally leaks. But when I'm at my office, I'm never more focused on client work. When I'm there, I'm working. When I'm home, I'm not. It really simplifies things.
So here are 4 reasons why I think renting an office was one of the best business decisions I've made so far.
Okay, so, you might not have cats. But I'm sure that at home you have some kind of distraction--a dog, kids, the kids next door, laundry that needs to be done, dirty dishes, gardening… Home is a great place for doing home things, and not so much for work. I had no idea how often I stopped working to yell at the cats when I worked from home, until one day at the office I realized I hadn't yelled at a cat in three days. The separate space allows me to focus on my work and give my clients my best.
At home, it was easy for me to go days and days without ever seeing anyone. My fiance would come home from work, exhausted, and just want to hang out, while I, having been alone all day (and for several days prior) would want to go out to eat, walk around town, or just go out. Seeing people every day is good for your psychological well being (even if you're an introvert!) but also as a networking strategy. Who knows who else might be in your building, looking for someone just like you!
3. It Makes You Look Gooood.
How many times have you met a client at Starbucks? Panera? A local donut shop? Probably too many to count. Same here. But if you rent an office, you can invite them to come to you. And, since many have conference rooms and presentation equipment, you will look extremely professional.
4. Your Waistline.
Seriously. I never snacked so much when I worked from home. All the food, right there, just a few steps away… Now that I have an office it is easier for me to limit the food that I have accessible, and I walk every day: fewer calories AND more exercise=win-win.
What if I'm not sure I'm ready?
While I'm a huge fan of renting offices for freelancers, I'm also a huge fan of fiscal responsibility. If you don't make enough money to rent an office in the area that you live, don't do it. If you are looking for spaces, remember that there are often other expenses. I was fortunate to find an all-expenses paid office, but many only charge you rent for the space and you are required to set up your own internet and phone, pay for parking downtown, or pay to rent conference room space.
If the cheapest office is a 30 minute drive away, it may make sense to continue working from home, rather than taking an hour out of your day to commute.
In addition, if you already have a home office that is isolated from the rest of the house and specifically designated "work-only," renting an office might not make the most sense, even if you can afford it.
In short: do what makes sense.
Be smart and make money.