10 tell-tale signs it’s time to move your business out of the spare room
Working from home has many obvious advantages: you keep costs down, work whenever you want and you spare yourself from the dreaded, twice-a-day rush hour commute.
However, there will be a time when your business outgrows the home office, and you’ll need to find a dedicated work space. Remaining in a cramped spare room may start to limit your productivity. Depending on your business model, your next move could mean renting anything from a physical premises to a desk in a co-working space.
Read on for some of the tell-tale signs that suggest it’s time for you and your maturing business to take the next step and leave the comforts of home.
1. You’re spending too much time in the local coffee shop
If you’ve started to rely on the local coffee shop for peace and quiet (or as an impromptu conference room), this is usually a good indicator that the home office is no longer conducive to running your business. Many co-working spaces provide quiet meeting rooms that can be rented by the hour and include fast broadband and teleconferencing equipment. The temptation to indulge in sweet treats also reduces significantly when you limit time spent in your local café.
2. You need to hire more employees
Home-based businesses typically work best when only the company owner is working out of the property. You’ll tend to find that inviting new employees into your home adds new levels of complexities and the potential for conflict with the other inhabitants. Things can get particularly complicated if your company relies on a high volume of inbound and outbound calls.
Add children, pets and other family members to this equation and it can create a noisy and stressful environment.
If your family routine is causing employees to be distracted, it’s time to look for an alternative business space. The additional costs may well be absorbed by an increase in productivity, while morale is sure to improve when each employee can work without distraction.
3. You need somewhere to conduct business meetings
As your client base grows, meetings are going to become more frequent. Sure, the odd catch-up in your home with a trusted client may be acceptable, but as new prospects begin to contact you, it’s important to be able to conduct business with no distractions in a professional setting. A barking dog or crying baby in the background of a phone call or meeting is likely to raise a red flag to existing and potential clients about your availability and ability to deliver results.
4. You need to invest in more equipment
As you grow, there comes a time when investments have to be made. This could be anything from a bigger workstation and new computer to a specific piece of machinery. For example, it’s common for those who prepare food for sale out of a home kitchen to reach a point where it becomes impossible to increase production using domestic equipment. Before taking the plunge and investing in an expensive kit, it’s worth checking local directories for second-hand options or even shared premises.
5. You need more visibility in your community
If your business relies on customers being able to walk in for a consultation, a physical premises conveys a serious and established business to potential clients. Signage at street level allows visibility 24/7 and is the perfect way to announce your arrival in the area.
Be sure to find out what kind of signage you’re permitted to install before you even request quotes from printers. Some areas, particularly those of historic interest, have strict rules.
6. You’re unwittingly breaking the law
It’s important to be aware of the regulations in place when working from a private property. In many areas, there are strict rules stipulating the number of people that can work from a domestic property and the percentage of space that is used for commercial purposes. As mentioned above, it’s also important to be aware of whether or not you’re allowed to have signage on or around a private property.
If you receive regular visitors, deliveries or have extra staff parking on or around your home, you could also be unintentionally violating planning restrictions, not to mention upsetting your neighbours.
To avoid issues early on, visit your local town planning office or website and find out exactly what kind of commercial activity you’re permitted to carry out on the property.
7. You can’t focus
If working at home involves a balancing act of parenting, doing the housework and managing your business, then it’s clearly time to consider moving to a professional space. Setting boundaries of where and when specific tasks are carried out makes it easier to plan and manage your time.
There will always be distractions when working at home. Whether it’s a phone call from a family member or a household chore, your home is a hotbed of potential interruptions. It’s all too easy to choose to clean the kitchen or do the laundry over the important, though perhaps boring, task at hand. This tendency to procrastinate is limited when working in an area that is solely dedicated to your business.
8. You’re always in work mode
If piles of paperwork on the dining table sounds familiar, then it’s clear that your business has already started encroaching into the communal areas of your home. Not only does this mess make it hard to enjoy a meal with your family or housemates, but it makes it difficult to decompress and get away from your work.
Important documents like timesheets, receipts and invoices should be filed away in a cabinet. This is not only for your sanity, but for those who share your living space. A well-meaning tidy could result in crucial information getting lost. And no one wants to be blamed for that.
Constant contact with this workspace also makes it impossible to switch off as you pass your office on the way to bed. The tendency to check emails and burn the midnight oil increases significantly. Coffee and adrenaline will only get you so far through the day – a good night’s sleep is essential to running a successful venture.
9. You feel isolated
If you’re someone who thrives on bouncing ideas off other people and enjoys the social dynamics of working in a team, then it can get lonely working day after day alone at home. The popularity of co-working spaces and shared leases in recent years has made it easier than ever to find a workspace that balances privacy with a communal buzz. If you offer or contract services, it can also be a great place to network and pick up new clients or providers.
10. Your relationships are suffering
This is arguably the most critical reason to relocate. Everybody respects ambition, however, running a business is one of the most stressful undertakings you’ll ever experience in your career. The benefits of being your own boss gives you a freedom that is impossible to imagine in a 9-to-5 job, but this often comes at a cost. It’s all too easy to get totally engrossed in a project and be unaware of the impact that it’s having on those around you. Even if it’s just a minor complaint about paperwork in a living area or having to share a telephone landline, you need to be careful. If the business is having an impact on family life, then it’s usually a good indicator that it’s time to move to a rented commercial space.
Moving your home-based business to an office space or commercial premises will certainly be more expensive in the short term. Bear in mind that over time, it’s likely that productivity will improve, you’ll be able to hire and accommodate more employees and client meetings will have a professional feel and go uninterrupted.
True, the commute will be longer than a trip down the hallway, but at least you’ll be able to host guests in the spare room and wind down when you get home. Make sure you can read the signs that suggest it’s time to let your business grow.