Q. Like you, I’ve begun my own consulting practice but I’m operating it from home and finding that to be problematic due to frequent feelings of isolation and distractions from my roommate and dog walking. I’m trying to avoid a major cash outlay during this start-up stage, so do you have any suggestions besides renting an office? -PD
A. Many people successfully operate from home offices, but I’m not one of them so I completely understand your problem. Working independently also is difficult if you have become accustomed to regular interaction with other professionals. However, before committing to an potentially expensive office, make sure you consider the wide array of possible options.
First, talk with friends who own their own companies. Perhaps they have an open office they would be able to loan to you during your first critical start-up months. You might be able to exchange consulting services for the rent equivalent. You likely have friends who are facing the same office space issue, so you might want to split the rent of an office space. Independent consultants who already have their own offices also might be open for a “officemate.” And don’t just focus on people consulting in your field; use this as an opportunity to expand your network.
Office sharing is becoming more popular as evidenced by the emergence of entrepreneurs eager to take advantage of this trend. Websites such as SuiteMatch, LiquidSpace.com, Loosecubes.com and WorkSnug.com offer office-sharing services. You also might want to check out the national office-sharing directory, SharedBusinessSpace.com and Link Coworking, an office-sharing membership club. A key advantage of these sorts of arrangements is the expanded network that can lead to future consulting opportunities or shared projects.
If you’re convinced you need your own space, then be sure to shop around. Prices vary widely. Webisite OfficeList.com lists 39 offices in Chicago ranging from $500 to several thousand dollars a month. In addition to national websites like OfficeList, you can easily find locally based services or talk with local real estate agent. If you have identified a building you particularly like, just ask someone currently in the building. Such word of mouth prospecting can lead to the new headquarters for your consultancy. Good luck.