As I am writing this, my two-year-old is smacking my leg, trying to crawl onto my lap and attempting to commandeer the keyboard. All of these "adorable" antics make it difficult for me to work, type, or even think.
When I first started my own business, it was for the purpose of staying home with my kids. At that point I was pregnant with my first. Today, I have three little ones running around and "working from home" has - in many ways - lost its luster.
The same may not be true for you. But where you work is a very important element to the success of your business, so it's important that you choose your workspace wisely.
Home office, shared office space, your own personal office space, or a coffee shop ... that is the question. Let's look at these options.
This is a very appealing option, especially to working mothers. But make sure you know what you're getting yourself into. If your plan is to work on a very part-time basis (say, two hours a day) and to make very limited income, being home all day with young children might work just fine. Work during nap time, get a few clients here and there, supplement other income, and call it a day.
However, if you are trying to run a full-time business, this type of arrangement will burn you out very quickly. The ideal home office is not in your bedroom or living room. It is a space where you can shift quickly into "business mode." You can lock the door. Your work papers are safe and secure (not at risk of being decorated with glitter and glue), and your phone calls can be made in private. (Just remember that children screaming through a closed door are still quite audible over the phone.)
Your own office
By this I mean an office with you and you alone. Yes, in a few years you may have an assistant and staff, but at this point I'm assuming you are just getting started. Having your own office outside of the home is a great thing. You have the ultimate privacy, you can decorate and keep your space exactly the way you want it, and you have nobody to answer to.
A shared office
An example of this arrangement is when you rent office space in an office building, among other workers. For example, when I first decided to "leave the house" I was strictly doing health insurance sales. I paid a small monthly fee to rent space from a P&C firm with the assumption that we would refer business to each other. This arrangement can work out quite well. If you are truly working on your own, I would highly recommend this strategy. I call it a strategy because not only do you get inexpensive, professional space, but you can also get wonderful business referrals, and the constant presence of other working people motivates you to work hard yourself. Self motivation is possibly the hardest part of being self employed. Sometimes the sheer presence of other people is all it takes to kick you into super drive.
The coffee shop
Of course, a coffee shop really isn't an office, but it can solve an immediate problem in a pinch, and some people actually work quite well this way (plus it's free, except for the cost of a coffee or scone). I used the coffee shop at a Borders Books for several months before I had my own space. It was getting too hard to work from home, and I didn't want to shell out the money for an office of my own. I was able to sit in a relatively quiet space - at least free of children's noises. Nobody bothered me (I wouldn't suggest this if you live in a very small town), and I immediately got into "business mode" the moment I walked through the doors. Not to mention the presence of thousands of books on marketing, insurance, self employment, self motivation, and the like, helped when I was low on inner drive.
The moral of the story is that you've got to find the best option for you. You might make some mistakes along the way, but that is how we learn in life. As long as each failed attempt at landing the right space brings you closer to the kind of environment most conducive to your success, you're moving in the right direction.
Carst is a self-employed broker and consultant. She is the co-founder of Women Insurance Professionals, a non-profit organization that helps women with the licensing process and career support. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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