Founders and freelancers, when they’re first starting out, will work anywhere and everywhere — coffee shops, home offices, libraries, or park benches. When you’re ready to scale, however, you’ll need more than your willpower and laptop.
The biggest reason for moving out of a home office, of course, is meeting students. To project professionalism and minimise weirdness, it’s generally recommended you not host meetings in your living room.
Cialfo recently moved into a new office (say hi if you’re in town!), and this is what we learnt.
Co-working, serviced, or rental?
Before you start calling up real estate agents, decide on the type of office first. There are, generally speaking, three types of offices: co-working, serviced, and rented or leased offices.
Co-working spaces are the most popular set-up for new businesses, freelancers, and specialists. You share a workspace with other business owners or freelancers — this can mean sharing a desk, an office, or a building. The biggest advantage of a co-working space is that you get to meet and network with tons of new people. Serviced offices are similar, but in a more professional and traditional setting — think executive suites, receptionists, and office managers. Both co-working and serviced offices are usually located in prime districts for a fraction of the cost a leased office would command, plus you don’t have to worry about decorating or buying office equipment.
The downside? Meeting students in a co-working space can get awkward because there’s a limited number of meeting rooms and so many other companies sharing the space with you. That’s when a leased office comes in.
Rented offices, while far more expensive than a shared space, allows you to call a place your own. If you’ll be working on your own — or with a small team — rented offices aren’t worth the cost or time investment. You’ll really be focusing on the meeting rooms requirement.
In fact, Cialfo started out in a serviced office! We were a small team at the time, and serviced offices provided:
- Low setup costs.
- Meeting rooms available at cost so we could meet students in a private room.
- Great decor – and impressed parents/clients.
- Flexibility. We could start with a small space and upgrade rooms whenever the business grew. We upgraded every 6-9 months.
- An amazing location.
All that at a price point far below that of a leased office.
What to keep in mind
Now that you have an idea of what kind of office you’ll be looking for, it’s time to actually start office-hunting!
The last thing you want is students struggling to find the place. You also need to ensure your space stands out in their mind for the right reasons: lots of natural light, private meeting rooms, and close to public transport. If you live in a driving city, make sure there’s sufficient parking lots nearby.
Zip codes matter too. If you give out business cards — or providing a mailing address on your website — visitors, clients, and potential employees will judge your office address. Which zip codes will impress them depends on your market and branding: a glitzy address in the business district will impress professionals while a cozy loft office in a trendy area will appeal to a different crowd.
While a nice office in the business district sounds appealing, they also tend to be prohibitively expensive for many new consultancies. Try a co-working space or a shared office if you really must have that location, or look elsewhere.
The three Cialfo requirements were:
- Meeting rooms for consultations
- A comfortable waiting area in case a previous meeting ran late
- A central location in a trendy, casual part of town for accessibility
Remember to consider any hidden costs that may be attached to your new office space, like parking, internet access, or miscellaneous bills. For peace of mind, straighten any and all additional costs before you sign any contracts.
Questions to ask yourself
- How many employees do we need to accommodate now? What about a year from now?
- What other amenities, other than the bare essentials, should the office be able to accommodate?
- Are there meeting rooms to meet clients and other visitors?
- In the office conducive? Is it free of noise, glare, or unpleasant smells?
- Will we need to expand our space? If so, when do we expect it to happen?
- Can we afford the office if our monthly projected income drops?
- Is the location accessible for us, our clients/customers, and our employees? Where is the nearest public transit? What about parking lots?
- Who are our neighbouring tenants?
- Is there a waiting room/reception area?
- Will we need to put up cubicle partitions?
- Is air-conditioning, flooring, and electrical wiring provided and maintained?
When faced with the idea of a shiny, new office full of potential, it’s easy to get distracted and forget what you actually need. We created a spreadsheet with the questions above and separated them into two parts: “nice to have” and “need to have”. Amenities like a pantry or kitchen area was a “nice to have”, while meeting rooms and a location close to public transit was “need to have”. This way, we could refer back to the spreadsheet while viewing an office and focus on the necessary details.
Finally and most importantly — don’t underestimate your consultancy’s capabilities. If you’re planning on growing your consultancy at some point, that means hiring people and expanding your space. Pick an office that can grow with your business, or you might find yourself going through this process again in a year.