Pros and Cons of Workplace Options for the Self-Employed

If you’re self-employed, you might relish the idea of being a digital nomad, or having the freedom to work wherever you choose. But sometimes, that freedom comes at a cost – namely, your productivity. While some people are able to focus in any environment, others may only be able to focus within certain types of spaces. In this post, we’re going to look at the pros and cons of workplace options for the self-employed.

Workplace options for self-employed

The Coffee Shop

A common place you will see the self-employed set up for anywhere from an hour or two or an afternoon is a local coffee shop, cafe, or bookstore. In other words, it’s anywhere with a table and WiFi. These types of places are great because you can use them for as little as the cost of a daily cup of coffee or snack.

Man working at a coffee shop

While coffee shops have a great vibe for the self-employed to use for their work environment, they also have their disadvantages. For starters, they are noisy. Lots of people choose to meet up in coffee shops: first-dates, college students, book club discussion groups, and many more. So the environment can go from peaceful to chaotic in an instant.

Another issue is the smell of food. It starts out as comforting, but if you are there for a couple of hours, you will wind up being in a constant state of hunger or constantly spending money on cups of coffee or freshly baked scones.

And of course, there is the shared internet which, at a coffee shop, doesn’t not have to be business-friendly or 100% secure, for that matter.

If you’re ok with a change in tempo and noise level, and don’t mind the constant smell of edibles, then the coffee shop and similar environments can work for you. If not, then you might want to consider another space.

The Home Office
A home office setup

The home office is usually the dream workspace for the self-employed. It’s the one room in your apartment or home that is dedicated to your desk, your computer, your books, and your other work equipment.

The pros for the home office are great. No commute, no need to get dressed up every morning, and instant access to all of the creature comforts of home from your workspace. In the beginning, especially if you are coming from a traditional office environment, the home office can be bliss.

The downside of the home office is that your work life and your home life will be intertwined to the point that it is hard to separate them. Walking from your office to your break room (kitchen) can lead to distractions like other family members wanting to interact, seeing that load of laundry you meant to start earlier, or noting that you need to clean the kitchen.

In other words, what would have been a five minute break for coffee turns into a twenty minutes or more away from your work.

The same thing happens on your off time. Every time you walk by your office, you remember that email you forgot to send, the project that you’ll have to start working on tomorrow, or the chime of Skype letting you know one of your clients wants to chat.

In other words, what would have been a casual stroll from your kitchen to your living room turns into twenty minutes or more back at work.

If you’re able to compartmentalize your work and home life well, to the point that you don’t think about one while you’re focusing on the other, you’re fine. If you have trouble with that, the home office may not be the best environment.

The Coworking Space
Woman at a coworking space

Coworking spaces are shared office spaces created for the self-employed. Some coworking spaces are free (based on availability) and others have fees per day, per week, per month, or for permanent rental of a desk.

Generally, coworking spaces have big open areas with open or cubicle style desks. They also have conference room spaces that are either included in your membership fee or cost extra. Additional services that may be included or may be extra include a mailbox that you can use for your business address, fax machine, and usage of other business equipment.

The coworking space is a great option for self-employed people who need an office environment, but do not want to get it through an employer. They generally take care of utilities and wifi so you don’t have to worry about paying for those separately.

As it comes with the perks of an office environment, it does come with the cons including the commute, noise of a communal working area, additional business expenses, sharing internet with businesses you don’t know, and so on.

If you like the idea of open working spaces and networking with other self-employed members of your community, then coworking spaces are going to be a great fit for your business. If not, you should look into more options. Fortunately, most of these spaces allow you to pay a daily or drop-in fee to test-drive their environment, so you don’t have to commit before you are sure you’ll like it.

The Office Rental
Man at his own office

Last, but not least on the list before straight out buying your own office space is an office rental. Depending on the location you want, you might find companies that are similar to coworking spaces, but also offer private office rental. You might also find companies that are renting out spare offices or office space in their building.

Office space rentals can include utilities and WiFi or may require you to setup and pay for your own utilities separately from your rent. You will likely have to pay a security deposit, sign a lease (or take month to month contracts at a higher rent cost), get commercial liability and worker’s compensation insurance if you don’t already have it, and buy your own office furniture (or rent it).

The pro to this approach is that you will have dedicated and private working space for your business. You will have a place you can invite customers to have meetings in private or in shared conference room spaces (sometimes included in your rent or for an additional fee). You will have your own mailbox (also sometimes included or for an additional fee).

The downside, of course, is the commute and the expense. Office space rentals usually do not come cheap – depending on your location, you could be looking at $600+ per month, not counting utilities, insurance, and other related expenses.

In Conclusion

The best option for your business is going to depend on your ability to tolerate distractions, your need for privacy, and your overall need for an office-like environment. As a self-employed person myself, I suggest trying each option to see which one will work best for you. The key is to strike the balance between work productivity, convenience, and cost.