If you can't face the prospect of giving up the convenience and comforts of working from home, but you don't want to miss out on your chance to grow to the next level, here are twelve solutions we and other people have found for these dilemmas. Some may be totally inappropriate for your situation, but others can be catalysts to help you resolve the issue of how to grow while working from home.
1. Rent a professional suite. If you find you need a place where you can create a serious business image, hold conferences, or get more extensive office services, consider renting a professional suite. Such suites are part of a complex that includes small offices, central conference facilities, and a full range of secretarial services available to anyone subleasing space from the complex.
When we rented a suite while working on the federal contract, we had a small office, a separate phone, and a receptionist at the complex to take our messages. The conference room there was useful for making presentations and holding meetings with the contract administrators. The cost of such suites varies by community but is generally less than renting a separate outside office and hiring the equivalent office services.
2. Rent private office space. Renting an office doesn't necessarily mean you have to say good-bye to working from home. Some people have rented a second office for certain activities (receiving mail or phone calls, working on large equipment, holding meetings) while still maintaining a home office where they can do creative or detail work. And you need not rent such space full-time. You can rent space part-time or by the day. In renting part-time space, you arrange for the hours you need the space each week and pay a flat monthly fee which can include some additional services like mailing, addressing, answering service, name on building directory, etc. Such rental arrangements are usually advertised in the Yellow Pages as "Business Identity Programs" under Office Rentals.
Hypnotherapist Nancy Bonus holds her weight-loss group meetings in office space she sublets from a private clinic, paying only for the hours her group uses the space each week. She sees individual clients and does all the management of her business at home. Bob Weil runs his part-time picture-framing business from his apartment but rents workshop time on Saturdays from a large picture-framing company. Marjorie Dahl does image consulting from her home, helping men and women "dress for success." However, when she holds workshops or brings together several clients to look over a number of garments, she rents a hotel suite.
Many homes simply can't accommodate the additional equipment and furniture involved in hiring staff. When necessary, home-business owners can rent space for their employees and continue to work at home themselves, either full- or part-time, or they can arrange for employees to work from their homes.
Writer Collin Gribbons, for example, who publishes eight newsletters and magazines for Canadian labor unions, needed a secretary and wasn't comfortable with having one come to his home. His business requires a seemingly endless parade of air-express trucks. He began to worry that his business would bother his neighbors. His solution was to rent outside office space where his secretary now works full-time.
Having an office doesn't preclude his working from home; it just provides another option. Collin says he still works at home, using his computer and modem to link up to his outside office. "I can always send material to the office by E-mail when I don't want to go in, but a lot of the more office-oriented tasks, like courier pickups and handling telephone calls, are now handled away from home." Todd Cuebas Cranston also works from home while administrative staff for SC Consulting, his Web design company, work linked seamlessly by their phone system.
3. Contract work with other businesses. Instead of moving his business to a warehouse, Bob Baxter hired a company to bottle and package his pet health-care products, jobs he once handled in his garage. When developing a large marketing program for a customer, consultant James McClaren subcontracted with several small businesses rather than renting office space and hiring employees for the duration of the contract. Using a free-lance writer, a packager, and an office-services company, he got the program done without leaving home.
4. Move to a bigger home. Whether you buy, lease, or build, a new and larger home may provide the added or specialized space you need to continue living and working under one roof. We've moved more than once to better meet our home and office needs. Not only does your business change; your family also changes. What may have started out as the perfect home office may not meet your needs at another stage in your life. Faced with such a change, husband-and-wife team Theresa Arnerich and Tom Morrell decided to build a new house.
5. Hire employees who will work from their homes. Some home-based companies, like MicroGraphic Images, a software firm, and Escrow Overload, a temporary help agency for escrow personnel, have expanded by adding staff who work from their own homes.
Commercial artist Diane Wessling Blake of MicroGraphic Images says, "By having our employees work at home, we can expand as rapidly as we need to and keep our costs to a minimum. In a fast-growing industry like ours, this is very important." The founders and chief executive officers of these companies all still work from home, too.
6. Rent storage or warehouse space. When potter June Wright had the chance to fill an order for over two thousand goblets for a special benefit, she knew she'd have to hire helpers. She also knew they wouldn't all fit in her studio behind the house, so she found a warehouse to rent and hired ten students, part-time, for one month.
This arrangement worked so well that if she can get more orders on such a grand scale, she wants to keep it up. She will continue running the business and creating pots from her own home but will have a supervisor overseeing operations at the warehouse.