Many freelancers work out of the house. But there are situations in which at least having access to office space is important: Maybe you need a place to meet with clients. Maybe you need a place where there aren’t kids demanding attention. Maybe you just need a safe place to keep gear that pets can’t get at. Sure, for many of these purposes, you can just head to your local coffee shop. But it’s worth considering office space, especially if you can get it inexpensively.
Shared office space, whether we’re talking about a coworking space, a conference room you can rent, or even just a cubicle that you can use in a bigger office, can make a lot of sense for freelancers, especially considering you can get a lot out of a small space.
Choose Your Space Based on Community
Communities add value. They make it easier for you to land local clients, because you can get more referrals and recommendations.
When you’re looking for a place to set up shop, it’s tempting to choose a quiet office where no one will ever talk to you. But you have to balance that quiet work environment with a community that actively networks, attends or even throws events, and generally makes an effort to get to know one another.
Communities add value. They make it easier for you to land local clients, because you can get more referrals and recommendations. They also make it easier for you to find the resources you need to grow your freelance business, whether that’s help with a project or finding a new accountant.
If you’ve got a lot of options for where to get your office space, take the time to tour them. Check what events are on the calendar. If possible, try to get a list of who else is using the space — and then run those names through a search engine. Make sure that you’re joining the best community in the area. The right community can even be worth spending a little more than you might for other work space.
Decide What Amenities You Really Need
Most office space that you’ll be able to access will come with certain amenities. Landlords choose perks like free coffee to be able to justify their prices, especially if they’re a little higher than other space in the area. You have to make sure that those amenities are worth the effort: a lot of business suites and virtual offices still consider free long distance calls to be an amenity worth advertising. For some businesses that’s important, but most freelancers are practically glued to cell phones with free long distance already built in.
You want to check the internet speeds to make sure that the work you need to do isn’t going to be a problem, but just about everything else comes down to a matter of personal preference. What do you need to get your work done every day? Are you willing to bring in your own drinks and other creature comforts? You need to take a look at what you consider important.
There are certain amenities that, in my own experience, are worthwhile. Most freelancers only need copy machines or fax machines very rarely — but when we need them, we need them immediately. Choosing an office space with that sort of hardware can save you a late night run to the copy shop.
Use Your Space As Much As Possible
If you’re paying for office space, make sure you’re getting as much out of it as possible. That means that if you have a certain number of hours that you are allotted, make sure you’re in the office the whole time. If you’ve got the conference room a certain number of times per month, make sure you’re using each one. If you find that you’re not managing to use your space to its full potential, get creative.
Don’t be afraid to ask to sublet or share with another freelancer — you probably won’t get permission, but there’s no harm in asking. But you can take other steps. If, for instance, you have access to a conference room every month, why not teach a small class or hold a seminar for prospective clients? Think about how you can use your office space beyond getting work done. That alone will ensure that you get more out of the expense.