How to decide whether to move your home business to commercial premises
10 questions to ask yourself before committing to office space
If you're currently running your business from home, you've probably considered the prospect of moving into an office. For some people, the chance to move into commercial premises provides a more professional outlook, greater scope for expansion and the room to accommodate permanent staff.
However, many businesses may find that moving into an office is more than they can afford, and may not even suit the nature of their company. Furthermore, the nature of modern business means that there are many options besides office-based working.
So it's crucial that you make an informed decision on whether or not to move into an office. To help you make that decision, here are some key points to consider:
Do I need an employee?
This might seem basic, but it's a crucial consideration. If you've got to the stage where you need someone to work alongside or beneath you, it's probably wise to start looking for office space.
The people you live with are unlikely to enjoy having to share their home with an outsider, and things could get very cramped!
Do I hold lots of meetings?
No matter how nice your home is, it's generally good practice to hold meetings in an office, rather than your front room. If you have lots of clients who demand face-to-face meetings, it's probably prudent to invest in office space as soon as possible.
Do my clients need to come and see me?
For some businesses, such as lawyers, accountants and physios, most clients either want, or need, to come in for face-to-face appointments. Other businesses, such as advertising firms, may be able to service their clients while hardly ever meeting them in the flesh.
If you're constantly receiving clients, it's probably best you invest in an office; but if not, you may well be ok as you are.
What sort of image do I want to convey?
If your business is based on a quaint, homely image, it may be disastrous for your profile if you move into an office; conversely, if everything you do is sleek, grandiose and cutting-edge, people might not take you seriously if you work from home.
Remember that your office is a tangible part of your marketing and brand; you need to think about the image you want to convey, and work out what sort of premises would support that image.
Do I have retained customers?
A steady stream of repeat customers gives you the regular, reliable income you need to pay rent, bills and other office overheads. On the other hand, if your business veers from feast to famine, it is almost impossible to tell how much money you'll be bringing in each month – and you could end up sweating on keeping up your office payments.
Can I maximise my potential?
It's not just about the possibility of failure – you also need to consider what will happen if things go well. If your business suddenly improves dramatically, will you be able to service the demand from your home base?
As Nic Windley says: “If the best case presents itself, you have to be able to capitalise.” If you can't cash in from home, you may be hampering your long-term chances by staying there.
Am I getting distracted?
If you keep being distracted by the temptations of radio, television or other household appliances, it's probably best you get out of there! Moving into an office could significantly reduce the distractions you face, and encourage a professional attitude with little time-wasting.
Have I become complacent?
When it comes to doing business, it's easy to go from a routine into a rut; you become too familiar with your customer base, and the demands of your company, and you stop going the extra mile to make your company the best it can be.
If you think you're stuck in a rut, and complacency is setting in, it may well be time to take your business up a notch. Moving into an office can be a great way of doing this.
Can I afford the market rate?
The cost of renting an office will vary wildly, depending on where you live. If you live in a particularly affluent area, it may be hard to afford the rental prices on local commercial premises. If you think you're going to struggle, it's best to stay where you are.
Am I in it for the long haul?
For some people, running their own business is a lifetime plan. For others, such as freelancers in between permanent jobs, or ex-students who have just finished uni and are looking for some quick cash, it's only a fleeting venture. If you don't think you want to be your own boss long-term, don't shell out for office space.