The Home Office or Coworking? The Life of an Entrepreneur

This is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately: The home office or coworking?  It’s really weighing on my mind.  For the last two years I have home officed out of my home.  I work from the living room, kitchen table, my bed, or home office answering calls, helping clients, and running my business.  I love the freedom.  I can work when and how I want, but it comes at a price.

Working from Home: The Price of the Home Office

That priceof home officing  is a combination of factors:

  • Loneliness.  I work with clients mostly over the phone and internet, but there are times I miss office spaces. It’s the office banter and conversations one has in the office spaces.  Social media allows me to stay engaged with others, but there is something to be said for looking someone in the eye and talking about sports or their family in casual conversation. You won’t get that working from home.
  • Work/Life.  Because my office is my home I have a tendency to work like a crazy fool.  It’s my husband’s birthday this week, he’s also working from home and I feel like we’re missing family conversations that don’t happen with my eyes glued to my laptop computer.
  • Distractions.  I alluded to these distractions in “The Domestic Man” post I also wrote this week.  Because I work at home, I can’t escape things like my messy kitchen or toys scattered on the floor.  It’s hard to tune these out.  I’m compelled to pick up and clean up instead of getting to work.
  • No Formal Office.  There are times when a prospective client wants to meet with me to discuss a project.  There are times when a coffee shop just isn’t enough.

The Home Office or Coworking?

As an entrepreneur and business owner, this is not something that is going to go away, and I’m not yet ready to set up shop and hire a large staff that warrants a large office space.   I don’t know if I will ever be. The potential solution is what is called coworking where groups of entrepreneurs and creatives office together in an open, shared, and collaborative office space.

The idea of renting an office space that costs money is a point of contention between me and my husband, Greg. He considers it a want instead of a need.  Plus $650 a month for a private 250 square foot room is a large, additional expense.  I, however, feel like I need my own space to focus my thoughts, conversations, and work.  Have you made the switch from home officing to a formal office space or coworking space?    If you did, what successes, failures, and obstacles did you encounter?

I’m looking forward to your comments.  Greg, however, has his mind made up . . .

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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Comments

  1. My previous job moved to the work-from-home model (who needs all that overhead, right?), and it was definitely not for me. All of the drawbacks you mention far outweighed the benefits. There has been a big push lately towards shared or virtual office spaces, and they come in all flavors.

    There are office centers where you have your own small room and access to meeting facilities, telephone service, etc. You can also get most of these perks out of shared spaces, where it’s an open environment that still offers private meeting spaces. And there are virtual offices where you have a business address, telephone answering and access to both meeting rooms and offices when you need them (by the hour). So there are lots of options out there.

    I look at it this way. Even if as solution cost $500 a month, to have a quiet, focused space that gives you a massive boost in productivity (not to mention quality of work) is a major benefit that has value. And having access to that meeting room to meet with a prospective client can easily outweigh the $50/hr. that it cost you. Because sometimes, image really is everything (yes, I work in marketing) and you never get a chance to make that first impression. Nothing says I work from home like meeting in Starbucks.

  2. I’ve been working from home since at least 2005 so I echo your sentiments! Has Greg looked at alternatives like virtual office space? It’s usually just a conference room that you get (sometimes with a very small office) and should be much cheaper than $650. A friend of mine utilizes this in downtown Boulder, CO when he needs to meet clients and it seems to work well for him.
    Perhaps there is a market for a pay-as-you-go/by the hour co-working space? I mean it’s really hard to shout above the noise of the espresso machines – so much so that a Starbucks employee sued over it.

    • Great idea, Irv. To be honest, if I do this I’d like to have my own real space in a very small office. Since I’m new to this I’m not aware of many alternatives, and it just happens that I’m heading to our local coco for a tweetup tomorrow. The option there provides parking and easier access.

      Thanks for the comment.

      JMM

  3. Having visited, tested and met the people that work in co-working offices I can certainly vouch for the camaraderie and stable environment that it can provide. Also, having people to bounce ideas off of always seems more successful than asking my cat. So that’s a bonus.

    Good luck with your decision. I would very much recommend a trial run to see how you like it in real practice!

    • Joshua,

      Great suggestion a trial run. The contract is just for 6 months and I’m thinking about finding someone to share my space just to check it out.

      I appreciate your insights and taking the time to comment.

      JMM

  4. I was once working remotely as well. I discovered coworking two years and instantly loved it. I still got to work at home or the coffee shop when I wanted, but I had a place to go to and be around others. I ended up going to the coworking space three time a week, and I learned a lot from the people around me and my skills gained a lot of exposure. At first I did it for the work/life balance because I saw my conversations stay on work topics throughout dinner time and movies. There just wasn’t ever a time to close up the laptop and say ‘I’m done today.’
    I loved it so much that I started my own coworking spot in Denver.

    Coworking doesn’t cost $650. In fact most plans that are three days/week are between $150 and $200 per month. This includes everything and is month-to-month so you can also adjust your plan according to your needs i.e. you may go on vacation so you don’t need much time one month.

    I hope this helps. Go try a coworking spot out for a month and see how you feel.

    Craig

    • Thanks for your comment, Craig. I do travel quite a bit so the amount of time that I actually spend at a coworking space will not be a ton. I’m not a normal 8-5 monday thru friday kind of gal anyways.

      JMM

  5. I co-founded a coworking facility in Toronto with a friend and business partner, and we always say that this space was born out of necessity. We were both trying to work from our respective homes or from cafes and libraries, but none of those options were as great as working from a coworking space.

    And yes, there’s the desks and wifi and coffee and boardroom and all that great stuff, but there’s also the community, the networking opportunities, the professional space to have a client meeting, the increase of productivity from being around other busy and focused folks, the partnership discounts, the sense of a basic schedule and the need to get out of pajamas. Those are things that you can’t assign dollar values to, and that you won’t likely get while working from home, cafes, libraries, or secluded separate offices.

    I suggest starting at a space that offers a daily drop-in or small package and work from the communal workspace. Even if it’s just a few days a month, you can have the opportunity to see a different set of 4walls, enjoy the community, discover the businesses of the folks around you, and decide if it is something that works for you. Heck, bring your husband in for a day too and let him see for himself just how great it can be.

  6. I ‘m an entrepreneur and have been working from the home office since last Fall. The distractions (for me; guitar, ESPN, etc.) became an issue. And, like you, I was working from the table, bed, couch/coffee table. So I converted half of our spare bedroom into an office and it has worked wonders. Got a desk off Craigslist, put up a giant dry erase board, and got a lot more organized. And, the TV isn’t in the room. It has made me 10x more productive. It’s an inexpensive way to at least get away from the distractions.

  7. I echo everyone’s sentiments, myself and some friends also co-founded a coworking space in Vancouver (thenetworkhub.ca) for these same reasons. We needed a professional space to run our business and were craving for a community with like-minded people that understand what it means to work for yourself.

    And as others have mentioned already, coworking spaces do not cost $650, it’s typically a third of that, and most spaces will let you get a day pass so you can try them out before taking the leap.

    • Jay,

      The TV and not ESPN are the distractors for me. I honestly don’t watch much TV. It’s the little things like folding laundry and getting caught up in picking up the house that keep me from being focused. It’s something that likely coworking will not solve but I will have to either change or just be at peace with. It’s the ongoing struggle of working for myself and never really ever being able to turn it off.

      Thank you for the comments. Much appreciated!

      JMM

  8. We are a professional accounting firm. At first we started working from our home office then quickly decided that having strangers come into our “home”, while homey is not safe, secure or more importantly – project a serious professional image.

    We are lucky in that we found a nice packaged office with shared board and meeting rooms and reception. The owners are very nice (we are in BC) and receptionist very professional. If the other tenants are not nice to other tenants, the owner will give them a warning and if they continue, they will be kicked out.

    The old saying is true – “if you want to make money, you have to spend money”.

    Ask yourself honestly if you are serious and confident enough in growing your business? If so, get an office and try it for at least a year.

    Good luck

    • Jerry,

      I’m not a traditional type but yes, I am serious about growing my business. I wouldn’t be doing what I do everyday if I wasn’t. Honestly, I’m thinking about just signing on the space as a 6 month trial run. This way I will know for sure if it will work for me.

      Thank you so much for the comment!

      JMM

  9. Great article Jessica! I have done both since becoming self-employed and and entrepreneur.
    I prefer my home office for ‘my work’, e.g., my individual contributor efforts. I meet clients for my consulting, web site and social media work in their office or at an agreed upon mutual location, and manage my employees at our place of business.

    If I were in an urban area, I am fairly certain, I would like to use an executive suite or other shared office arrangement and believe that this will soon be feasible in middle America as well. I don’t want to discuss someone’s business goals and objectives at Starbuck’s or in a public place. I do want to meet on common ground to keep everyone’s mindset open and the creative thoughts flowing.

    Consider finding a shared space that works for your, or even another entrepreneur with a focus that complements your own and share an office and perhaps virtual and real support staff too.

    • Thanks for the comment, Ruth. I’m weighing my options. I’m going to ask around and see. If I could, I’d start my own coworking space complete with childcare. There are so many moms who need part time daycare while they run their businesses.

      JMM

  10. Yes Jessica

    I know exactly how it feels. I am sitting right now in PJs. Late at night, writing. I agree we work a lot. We forget to schedule our business hours. We pick up toys. As I am writing to you I am starring at the batmobile car, toys, stuffed animals…I am writing in the room that was once designed to be my office but now it is a play room.
    Chaos…Yes? I agree we need someone to help with kids…I homeschool as well so often it is crazy but it is manageable.

    I think the misconception of working on your laptop, writing, doing little, working 4 hours a week is not real. We women especially have more responsibilities on our mind than a man..

    I grew up in a culture where a day care was trustworthy. The teachers had a college degree, specializing in preschool education. Parents trusted them. I think the issue today is some preschool places and day cares are not safe for our kids. Parents make a choice to be at home with kids. Then when your kid is at home, we feel we live on their schedule and forget the work hours. then here we go.. Cups, bottles, milk, peanut butter sandwich, brothers fighting, cartoons, toys and more.

    Well. I think the schedule must be set. Allowing days during the week when we only focus on our mind, spirit and family. Meditate, find serene place and be with family and loved ones to handle distractions and stressful situations.

    What about bartering with other women, professional entrepreneurial women,. you can form a coop where kids spend time with their kids one week then next time you watch the kids or a have a nanny come and be with all kids.

    Wishing you best Jessica

    Tat

  11. I’ve been working from home for 8 years, with 4 kids now. Yes there are distractions, but I have a home office. Dedicated office, computer, phone printer that is used soley for work. I can shut the door. I can work until 5 am when needed. A separate space is crucial to truly work well from home. I find that I am five times as productive at home than I am in the office. No wasted time. No distracting people at the office.
    Drawbacks for sure, but it works for me and I will continue to do so.

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