There are dozens of reasons why having an office can help you as a freelancer or as a startup business in the creative industries, but here are just a few of the most important ones.
1. Location, motivation, inspiration.
Working in a bedroom/basement in nothing but a pair of sweat pants with only the Postie for an excuse to briefly leave the house takes its toll. When you have no one waiting on you or anyone to judge you for procrastinating, it suddenly becomes very easy to justify every distraction under the sun. Have a video to edit or invoices to send? That’s super important, but you know what would be better? Cleaning the room. Or organising your bookshelf. Or making a very complicated lunch. Everything even slightly out of order in your house suddenly climbs the to-do list as soon as you have a work task to complete that’s slightly boring.
When you have an office (especially a quiet one with a lockable door), you can literally shut out all distractions and focus on your work. If you co-share with other people, load up some soft tunes or white noise on a pair of noise cancelling headphones. Suddenly, it’s just you and the machine, and everything else fades away.
2. Separate your life from your work.
Aside from letting you focus on your work when you’re actually at work, so true is the opposite. Like most people that are self-employed, I have trouble switching off when I’m at home. Before getting our office I simply didn’t have allocated work hours. I would chronically stay up late writing or editing and then get up late to repeat the process. It became a terrible self-perpetuating cycle of inefficiency and distraction that took a toll on my personal life. I’d find an excuse not to help cook dinner because I had invoices to send.
Having somewhere to go between 9 and 5 (which for me is more like 10 and 7) helps keep things segmented and also lets you track your billable hours. I also found moving my desktop computer to work and keeping it there really improved my focus and kept my ‘screen hours’ at night to a minimum. It impacted my gaming habits a little, but when you’re trying to start a business from the ground up, skipping a few heists in PayDay 2 probably won’t hurt.
3. Secure Storage.
This one is probably quite obvious and won’t apply to everyone, but if you work in film, photography or sound/music you’ve probably got some serious GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). This is a natural part of becoming a freelancer and can be quite lucrative if you’re smart about it — but being smart about it includes keeping it safe when it’s not in use.
Keeping a $20,000 camera kit in your bedroom, regardless of how safe you think your suburb is, is just asking for trouble. Even if it’s insured when it gets stolen, you’ll still have to pay a sizeable premium and could lose work if the timing is unlucky. Having an office in a building that has security, alarms, locks or cameras is a really smart way of minimizing the chance of this happening.
If you want to hire your equipment to friends or other freelancers, or if you have a business partner you co-own it with, having a mutual place to store it helps keep it simple.
4. Image Is Important.
Clients will be more willing to trust you with larger budgets if they’re sure you won’t skip town with that 50% upfront. People might be doing more of their business online these days, but a brick and mortar presence in the real world is still hugely helpful, even if it’s just a small office of one or two people.
Having somewhere to consult with clients or subcontractors that isn’t your bedroom or house not only gives you a more professional image, it shows that you have enough confidence in your work and your self that you’re prepared to invest in it every week through rent — It says “I take my craft seriously, this what I do”.
5. It’s An Investment In Yourself.
One of things we’ve found being based in the Creative Enterprise Australia is that the amount of work we’ve received simply from being in the building has offset the rent we’ve paid by probably about five times, which from a financial perspective speaks for itself.
Every purchase you make as a freelancer or as a business is an investment — from the dinner and drinks you buy for a potential client or subcontractor, to the faster internet connection to the roof over your head. All of these should be considered as an investment that, hopefully, will pay dividends.