For about six years, I worked at home as a freelance writer, using my home office, or a couch or a chair and sometimes even the bed as I pecked away on my laptop. Then, about three years ago, my sister opened her own consulting business and began renting an office. Her space was located at the top of a winding staircase a floor above a friend/financial planner’s office. I got office envy, and ended up renting the desk next to her. It’s changed my life.
Towards the end of last year, my sister and I decided it was time to get our own space. We found an office that’s a little less than 400 square feet in a 1920s building that once served as headquarters to a railroad company. With high ceilings, exposed ductwork, brick walls and vintage marble floors, it was perfect. We moved in late February and are both thrilled with it.
There were, however, a couple of months when I was a nomad, between offices. It was winter in Chicago. It was dark. It was ugly. Which makes me even more grateful to have an office to call my own. If any other freelancers out there is considering renting space, I highly encourage it. Here’s why I love renting an office, and think other freelancers will, too.
- Productivity. I’m in an office with a door surrounded by other working people doing business. It feels very official and that makes it easier to get into a “time-to-work” headspace, with less procrastinating. When I’m at the office, I’m working. I’m not looking at the laundry piling up or glaring at the cat for making the house stink.
- Boundaries. I don’t have to feel rude by shutting my husband out if I’m working. I can’t hear the neighbors talking in a high-pitched voice to their dog. I can come here on weekends and not feel like I’m missing out on life quite as much. I love my office, its layout, its design, the furniture we bought for it, the coat rack I assembled. I look forward to coming here.
- A commute. In the days when I worked at different publications, a commute wasn’t a good thing. In the years that I worked at home, I’ve come to love it. Granted, it’s only about 1,500 steps from my home to my office, but those are important steps to me. I love having a buffer zone to think or listen to audio books or just enjoy the sunshine as I walk into work. Passing by other people on the street from the start of the day gets me unstuck from the quicksand of my own brain. And coming home at night, it’s nice to clear my head before walking through my door. Bonus: I’m less sedentary throughout the day.
- Networking. We’ve got doctors, non-profits, video businesses, foundations and others as our neighbors. The office is new, so we’re still meeting people as they move in. It’s nice to be around the energy and ideas of other people. Plus, there’s unlimited networking potential.
- It’s cheaper than you’d think. Again, I share the office with my sister, but what I pay in rent isn’t much more than what you’d pay to float around a co-op space in Chicago, and it’s less than you’d pay for an office in a co-op space. It costs the same as a small, simple, one-off assignment. Yet, it’s entirely priceless.
- It looks professional. Granted, I rarely have people come to me when I interview them or meet with them. I generally travel to somewhere that’s convenient for them. But still, it’s nice to know I can have someone here, rather than meet them at a coffee shop, if the opportunity arises. And there’s this: I love saying “my office.” Because I’m a dork like that.
- Location, location, location. Our office is right by the Metra tracks, a short walk from the El, and it’s across from Mariano’s supermarket and my gym. I have no excuse to A. skip working out B. eat like crap. There is a salad bar across the street! (We don’t need to get into the $5 glass-of-wine happy hours though).
- Taxes are easier. I know, I know, the home office write-off has a ton of perks. And my accountant would probably shudder to read this. But for me, a person who’s not particularly organized, it was a pain to round up all of those expenses every year. The office, itself, is still a write-off, and it’s much easier to just keep track of, even if it comes with a cost.