Although more than half of all small businesses are home-based, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, you may find yourself outgrowing your home office at some point. Some small business owners decide they need more room to accommodate employees, equipment, and inventory. Others find it helpful to have a more professional place to meet with clients or to shut out the distractions of home life.
Whatever your reasons for moving out, here are some important points to consider:
Would a “transition office” work? Before you sign a long-term lease on a commercial space, think about an interim solution. If you may occasionally work from home and you don’t need a permanent space for equipment and other workers, consider a shared office or executive office center. With a shared office, you may alternate days with a colleague or pay only when you need the space. In an executive office suite, you may rent space on an as-needed, part-time, or monthly basis. These centers often provide helpful services like phone lines, printers, a mail center, and more. You may also be able to rent conference rooms for client meetings. Search for these facilities online with terms like “temporary office space,” “small business incubator,” or “business center.” You can also check out a coworking database like opendesks.com for a location near you.
Expand slowly. If you’re sure you need a full-time office, be conservative at first. Don’t sign a long-term lease until you’re certain the office is a good fit. Rent, rather than buy, office equipment until you know exactly what you need.
Think location, location, location. You’ll have a work commute once you leave your comfy home office, so pick an office space that is convenient for you as well as your customers and employees. Be sure to ask colleagues, mentors, and trusted clients for their opinions about your new location. After all, depending on the nature of your business, issues like ease of parking, safety, and visibility (particularly if you open a retail shop) can significantly impact your bottom line. The Small Business Administration (SBA) also offers good advice on how to choose an ideal business location.
Update your paperwork. If your new office is in a different county than your home-based one, you’ll need to update your business license/permit and, if your business name is different from your personal name, your “Doing Business As” (DBA) filing. Your new county/state may also have some different tax requirements. Consult your county and your state tax agency to learn more.
Get insured. Although it’s smart to have business insurance for a home-based enterprise, you’ll definitely need insurance if you’re meeting with customers, storing inventory, handling money, and setting up computer systems in a new office. Get a quote from the company that already carries your homeowner’s insurance (or your home business insurance, if you already have it). You can also work with an independent insurance agent, who can compare a number of companies’ policies and rates for you.
Expand your support network. If you’re used to handling every aspect of your business on your own, it may be time to rethink that approach. When you move to an outside office, you might also need to outsource some critical services. For instance, would it save you time and money to hire a specialist to set up your computer network—even on a freelance basis? If you’re adding employees, is it time to consider using a professional bookkeeper and/or payroll service? Don’t wait until you’re overwhelmed; plan to get the help you need up front. Moving to an outside office is a big step, and a good support network can help make this exciting—but often complicated—transition go just a bit more smoothly.