Home (Not So) Sweet Home
There's never been a better time to strike out on your own as a self-employed freelancer. In about the time it takes to brew a pot of coffee, you can build a simple, sleek website, plant your flag on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and begin bidding for contracts and projects, without ever leaving home.
Is Starbucks really an effective office space? The short answer is “Yes, but…”
But working from home has its drawbacks. Most freelancers are lucky to have a dedicated corner, let alone a whole room to re-purpose as an office. Partners, pets, and children break your concentration, and everywhere you look you find a new distraction: Floors to wash, walls to paint, dishes to be dried, laundry to be folded.
Cut to a few weeks later, and your house has never looked better, but your inbox is empty and you haven't closed a contract since last fall.
For solopreneurs looking to break out of the home-office rut and set up shop somewhere a little more, well, public, the most common solution is the local coffee shop. But is Starbucks (or Seattle's Best, or Panera, or your local all-organic, independent brew joint) really an effective office space?
The short answer is “Yes, but…” and freelancers who spend their days slamming lattes, munching scones, and waiting for a stable table near a power strip to open up need to read on to discover why (and how, and where) they might want to look for another place to conduct business.
Cheap, Quiet, and Convenient: Why Starbucks is Great
Ask any one of the self-employed army camped out in your local Starbucks what they like about the cafe-office model, and you're likely to hear the same, much-repeated verities: Free Wi-Fi, mellow tunes, sweet treats, free seats, a cool vibe, and of course, great coffee. Many solopreneurs and small business owners justifiably see their local Starbucks as a cheap alternative to renting office space.
And not only that, but getting out of the house helps them focus, and Starbucks acts as an easy, quasi-professional meeting place. It can be embarrassing to invite a client to your house—you don't really want your customers judging your taste in furniture, or the cleanliness of your bathroom. You want them to focus on your work.
In the end, the essential rule of freelancing is “whatever works.” If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if you are able to focus and get work done at your local Starbucks, then go for it!
That said, in addition to Starbucks, the savvy entrepreneur will also know how to mix it up, especially when the going gets too loud. He or she can then consider packing up and heading to a more peaceful work place . . . such as the library. Like Starbucks, the library offers free wireless Internet, ample work space, and a chance to escape from your apartment. What's more, the library is capital-Q Quiet. Depending on your temperament, the silence of the library can free liberating or stifling, but if you want to escape from your phone for a few hours, the library offers a great excuse to turn off your mobile device and focus on your work.
The cons? No free coffee refills (in fact, most libraries frown on any food or drinks of any kind, except maybe water). And if you are addicted to the buzz of cafe life, then the library can feel a little dead. But you can still arrange to meet with clients, either in one of the private meeting rooms, or if you must, at a cafe across the street.
Increasingly, the self-employed are also turning to shared offices known as “coworking” spaces. A coworking space is both private and public; you have your own desk, or perhaps your own office, but there are public spaces for collaborating, brainstorming, and meeting with customers.
Many coworking spaces even have a fully-functional kitchen, which means that with a little preparation, you can get your coffee fix without worrying about lines, tips, and tables!
In the end, Starbucks is undoubtedly a convenient and common solution, often a “bridge” between working from home and locking down a permanent office space. But even then, for people in the self-employment world, Starbucks is designed to be, and is, and will remain, a great and affordable option.
Where do you conduct your away-from-home-office business? A coffee shop? A restaurant? Your local library? Let us know in the comments section below…