Whether you're building a freelance graphic design business, selling custom-made jewelry online or creating the next multimillion-dollar mobile app, you need a good space to do your work, fuel your creativity and meet with clients or collaborators. If you're not ready to lease a traditional office or brick and mortar storefront, you can explore alternative workplaces for your business.
Your kitchen table, home office or the ever-popular neighborhood coffee shop may be just the spot for you — or they may present too many, or too few, distractions. If it's too quiet at home, or too noisy at your favorite cafe (or the free WiFi is too unreliable and unsecured), perhaps it's time to look elsewhere. Here are a few options to consider for your professional workplace.
Co-working spaces combine the amenities of an office with the camaraderie of other entrepreneurs. As most any freelancer knows, solopreneurship can be isolating. And going to an office outside your home all but forces you to get out of your pajamas, freshen up and get dressed before starting your workday, which has to be good for your mindset and business.
The networking opportunities may bring new clients, which could mean a good return on your investment. You might not mind the free-flowing coffee and beer that some facilities provide.
WeWork, for one example, offers "space, community, and services," including conference rooms, in 10 U.S. and foreign cities. A $45-a-month "starter package" includes on-demand access to workspace for $50 a day and high-speed Internet, among other features. The $229-a-month option includes unlimited workspace access (within regular business hours), and for several hundred a month, startup entrepreneurs can get access to desks in round-the-clock labs — game rooms included — or to glass-walled private offices.
Front-desk workers, kitchens and networking events are included, and an extra $50 will give you a business address with mail handling.
While the amenities, atmosphere and pricing may vary, similar co-working spaces abound. In downtown Philadelphia, Benjamin's Desk offers space and services for prices ranging from under $100 to more than $1,000, with private storage cabinets, signage, after-hours access and a business address for members paying $399 a month. While it has only one location in town, Benjamin's Desk is part of global co-working network The League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces.
Indy Hall, also in Philadelphia, offers access ranging from a $30 day pass to $300 a month to work five days a week with a dedicated desk — not much more than than you might spend at a cafe over a month, if you went every day.
On-demand workspaces in office buildings and hotels are another option.
You can always grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable in a hotel lobby chair to meet with a client. The surroundings can be pleasant and it won't cost you more than the coffee. There are more formal, organized ways to conduct business in nice offices and hotel spaces, however.
Regus Group offers meeting rooms, virtual offices, business lounges and other options in premium office buildings across the world. For $49 a month, for example, Regus offers access to business lounges in major skyscrapers. The lounges include secure wireless Internet, refreshments and semi-private "thinkpods."
Regus also offers support services to businesses, including startups and small enterprises, such as telephone answering, receptionists, business addresses and mail handling. The company's website lists its top-level virtual office package as starting at $219 a month, plus the cost of any day office, meeting room and video-conferencing use — far less than leasing an office and hiring your own staff. And the package includes walk-in access to Regus's business lounges and cafes.
Your local chamber of commerce also may offer on-demand, virtual office space and amenities.
Marriott's Workspace on Demand allows you to reserve both free and paid hotel meeting spaces online based on location and need, by the hour or the day. All spaces have guaranteed WiFi and power and access to printers, food and beverages.
If you're not ready to leave your neighborhood coffee shop or basement office but want more of a professional presence, you can craft your own combination plan. Try a day-pass or tour at a co-working space. Check your local UPS Store, which can give you a mailbox with a street address, package handling, notary service and the ability to send and receive faxes. It may not be a workspace, or include microroast coffee, but it does offer business support and a business address.
Wherever you decide to set up shop, your small business can operate efficiently, with the professional polish of the big players.
Photo Credit: WeWork Instagram