Diane Hall - The Frazzled Freelancer

Freelancer, Entrepreneur and mother of two...

Freelancers: work from home, the kitchen, Starbucks or a posh office?

I am in the process of setting up my second company. As my first business is carried out online, give me a router and a laptop and I’m happy. (Don’t give me a flaming dongle – without going into detail that could bore you solid, I think the devil invented these.)

However – launching a second business has meant that my workload has exponentially increased and I have found that working from my kitchen table is nigh on impossible. The kids get forcibly taken to school each morning which should leave me in peace, right? It should be perfect, but because of a yappy, demented dog in my presence and a husband sleeping off his night shift who gets up periodically to empty his bladder, (and the washer, the dryer, next door’s dicky house alarm that goes off when someone walks past that it doesn’t like) – I am distracted constantly.

The obvious choice was to move into an office somewhere. The bottom of the garden was not an option as it meant tearing my beloved pagoda and decking down in my stamp-sized plot to erect a semi-permanent building.

Living in a semi-rural area means that offices near me are few and far between. I viewed some beautiful ones nestled in the grounds of a stately home which just happens to be a stone’s throw away but the price these were going for was what I’d get if I sold my kidney on the black market. Beauty, apparently, is not cheap.

I eventually found an office block near me that was arguably affordable, near enough to be able to walk to work (not that I’m ever likely to do so – it might ruin my physique) and had all the rates, gas and electricity charges thrown in with the rental price. Plus, the terms of the contract were on a rolling monthly basis which gave me a handy get-out clause should the new business become one of those terrible statistics – you know, the ones that claim one in three businesses fail in their first year.

If this all sounds a little too perfect then you’d be right. This particular building is what I would describe kindly as being ‘functional’. The outside is tired and crying out for a lick, or gallons, of paint. It put me off slightly when I first rolled up, so I have jumped to the conclusion that it would put my clients off too. Which worries me.

Would the crumbling exterior of my office go as far as actually deter potential clients from doing business with me?

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to answer that question, though my window does look out over the car park – I suppose I could count how many cars I saw doing a rapid U-turn with screeching tyres. I posted this question on LinkedIn to see what others thought; the opinion leant towards the exterior not being an issue if my business did what it said it would do, and if the interior was clean, tidy and reasonably smart. There were a very honest few that admitted the exterior would concern them – whether to the point of not even entering and giving my company the benefit of the doubt, they didn’t know.

So what do I take from this? Thousands of people work from home and I’ve heard tales of freelancers’ clients having detailed meetings aloft washing machines or piles of kids’ toys. Other freelancers hold their meetings away from their homes in local hotels, pubs or even the closest Starbucks. If this is the case, why should my tired old office be a turn-off?

With technology allowing anyone the option of a virtual office nowadays, how do other freelancers get around this issue of meeting clients? Do freelancers go to their clients’ premises instead? Do they hire generic meeting rooms for the day as and when they need them?

I really would be interested to hear your views on this – as a freelancer, where would you carry out a face-to-face meeting if you normally worked from home? If you haven’t launched your freelancing career yet, is this something you’ve considered (if renting office space is not in your plans)? And what would your view be if you came to my office – would the exterior of the building be an issue to you?

In my defence, it does look nice inside, and I make a mean coffee.

I look forward to your comments!
The Frazzled Freelancer

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Written by Editor on September 17, 2010 and filed in Featured, Frazzled Freelancer, Freelancers, Opinion , , ,

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