“Wait, I don’t get it. You want to get dressed and commute when you could work from home?”
This is what one of my career-driven girlfriends said to me when I told her I’d rented an office space in downtown Washington, D.C. I get it, because that’s how I felt three years ago when I turned my side gig into my full-time business, issuing myself a license to work in my pajamas.
Now I feel differently, and in a moment I’ll explain why.
Though I’ve been looking at coworking spaces for about a year, it took me this long to commit to one, partly because I wanted to find the right match, but mostly because of the cost. Office space in cities isn’t cheap, and most of the co-working spaces popping up across the country cater to teams of (funded) startups that need desks for three or more people. What all the news articles about how coworking spaces are everywhere fail to mention is there aren’t many affordable options for solopreneurs and freelancers (or bosses of remote teams), people who want just one desk or small office.
Finally I landed at UberOffices, where I’m now renting a 1-2 person office for $850/month. Since most of my Socialexis team works remotely, I’ll be the only person working there most of the time, though I’m hoping our DC-based team member will join me occasionally.
So why did I finally decide to suck it up and pay for an office space?
It’s awesome to have the option to work from home, but it’s not so awesome to work from home all the time. It’s too easy to get distracted by chores that need doing and cookies begging to be eaten, plus staring out the same window day after day gets old. Working from home has lots of advantages — mainly comfort and convenience — but it also has disadvantages, including that it sometimes gets lonely.
In truth, I’ll probably still work out of my home office several times a week, but I’m hoping that having an office outside my house will help me focus and increase my personal productivity — therefore increasing the productivity of my company.
I’ve spent a lot of time in coffee shops over the last three years. While I appreciate the change in scenery as well as the lattes, lately I’ve found myself being less productive at cafes for lots of reasons: unreliable WiFi (although now I combat that with a WiFi tool called Karma), no accessible power outlet, too-loud neighbors, an uncomfortable seat, etc. These are all details you don’t really think about when you work in an office, but they can quickly keep you from getting much done as a remote worker.
I also got sick of lugging my entire virtual office around D.C., stuffing my backpack full of my mini-laptop, power cord, mouse and mouse pad, replacement batteries for the mous, full water bottle, power cord for my phone, sweater (for air conditioning)… you get the idea. With a permanent office outside my home, I can leave all of those things there rather than toting them around.
Plus, one of the perks of working at UberOffices is you get a handful of hours in conference rooms every month, which means no more meeting clients and training team members in loud coffee shops with unreliable WiFi.
Most adults meet friends at work. But if you don’t work in a traditional office, you lose that potential for relationships. Working online has helped me meet a lot of great friends who understand the online side of my life, but I still crave in-person interaction. And now that I’m planning to stay in the D.C. area for a few years, I’m willing to invest time into making more friends here.
I had this in mind when looking at office space, which is why I chose a hip environment full of startups, where I’m likely to meet other like-minded individuals who share my interests. I probably could’ve found a small, quiet, windowless office in a random building at a cheaper rate, but half of what I’m paying for is the people.
Coworking also provides potential to meet clients. Several of our clients are startups, and we’d love to work with more innovative companies. Working at UberOffices will help them find us. In fact, I first learned about this particular co-working space because one of our clients has an office there.
While moving into an office can feel like a big commitment, UberOffices allows us to rent month-to-month, which makes the financial investment a little less daunting. If I don’t end up spending enough time there or our company profit drops to a point where we can no longer afford it, I can always go back to working in my home office. Looking at this as an experiment — rather than a long-term obligation — makes the decision less scary.
And if I were to be totally and completely honest, I’d say this might also be a baby step toward creating a not-so-virtual arm of Socialexis. I love how well my team works together remotely, but I also see value in having more in-person interaction, and I might eventually want to build a D.C.-based team. Of course, traveling and working remotely would still be encouraged — one of the best perks you can give employees is flexibility — but we’d have a home base that’s more permanent than Google Hangouts.
That’s a ways off though, and I might decide against it entirely depending on the choices I make in my personal life during the next few years. Because while this business has grown and morphed, it’s still first and foremost a lifestyle business, one that’s meant to support and accommodate the life my team and I want.
Now, that life includes an office in a pretty cool coworking space. I’ll let you know how it goes.
If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or work-from-homer, have you considered joining a coworking space?