Many entrepreneurs, especially those who provide services to a regional, national, and especially global customer base, can feasibly choose between working from a home office or an outside office.
Granted, if you meet regularly with clients or need "walk up" availability a home office may not be the right choice, for business and for family reasons, but in many industries and professions technology makes meeting clients in an office less or even completely unnecessary. And saying you have a home office doesn't carry a negative connotation the way it once did; "working from home" no longer implies a lack of professionalism or business success.
So if you have the choice, should you work from a home office or an outside office? In most cases the home office is the clear winner. Here's why:
Expense is significantly lower. For a start-up or an established business, paying rent, utilities, and the other costs of an outside office add up to a significant amount per month that must be offset by revenue. A home office also can provide tax advantages: While the guidelines are fairly strict, most people can deduct some portion of utilities, maintenance, and even depreciate the portion of the home used for a home office. (Taking depreciation can make accounting and tax considerations a little more complicated when you sell the home, so talk to your accountant before deciding whether to depreciate your home office space.)
Availability increases - and is more convenient. If you have clients in different time zones, it's your job to adjust your schedule to their availability. With a home office it's easier to "meet" with clients during what would be off hours; slipping into your home office for an hour is a lot more convenient than driving to your outside office.
"Enhanced" image is not worth the return. A fancy space at a prestigious address may initially impress potential clients, but eventually every business is judged solely on the quality of its services or products. When your business does a great job, clients don't care where your office is located.
Setup and improvement options are greatly increased. An outside office is to a home office what an apartment is to owning a home. Renting or leasing space limits the types of changes that can be made to the space, and depending on the terms some or all of those improvements may be lost if you move to another location. With a home office, you get to decide -- and the money you save on rent can go to making your office perfect for your needs.
Discipline and motivation are put to the test. Many people are concerned they will lack self-discipline and focus if they work from home. Sure, you may feel you need the motivation (and validation) that comes from having an outside office... but when your paycheck is based solely on your output, motivation shouldn't be a problem. If it is, owning your own business probably doesn't make sense. If you're thinking of starting a side business but aren't sure if you have what it takes, setting up a home office is the cheapest way to assess your entrepreneurial drive.
Home values can increase. Turning a den or sun room into a home office could negatively impact the value of your home, but if you take advantage of unused space or add to your home on you automatically add value. And even if you convert an existing room, home offices are becoming more and more popular and could be just the feature a potential buyer is looking for.
The environment benefits. No commute = no emissions. Plus you will heat and cool your home whether you're there or not -- so why not limit your carbon footprint to one professional location?
Creates more family time. Time spent commuting is family time lost. If your one-way commute is 20 minutes, that's at least 160 potential family hours gone every year -- hours you can never get back.
I realize having a home office isn't appropriate for every type of business. But if a home office is appropriate for your business, and the choice is personal, when you're creative and disciplined, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
What do you think?