Office Space vs. Home Office
When you first launch your wedding or event planning business, you will be faced with the decision of where to build your office. This is a question you’ll revisit several times throughout your business’ life, as your company grows and changes over the years. In this post, I’m weighing the pros and cons of these two career paths: office space vs home office.
As do many small businesses, most wedding and event planners launch their businesses from a home-based office. It’s a natural choice since it helps reduce the start-up costs of a new business, as well as the risks associated with establishing ourselves. Within my own market, all but three wedding planners continue to run their businesses out of their home, myself included! I have seen more than one planner move into formal office space without fully considering the costs versus benefits in doing so, just to have to up and move back home months later. I’m hoping by discussing this today, I might prevent you from finding yourself in the same situation!
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating one option over the other. There is no doubt in my mind that I will never rent office space. It’s just not the right fit for me, both personally and professionally. But for many, getting in the car and driving to an office every morning is a necessary component of being a productive business owner. Being surrounded by personal things just doesn’t work for them, and I totally respect that. There are pros and cons of both situations and only you will be able to decide which suits you best. Here are just a few pros of setting up an office outside of your home environment:
- Getting away from temptations that can distract us from getting work done (e.g. refrigerator, TV, gardens, housework)
- Respect for our professional time. I can’t tell you how many “work” hours I lose each week dealing with questions from my children, or picking them up and driving them places, just because I’m home and available. If I worked off-site, the respect for my work schedule would increase hugely
- Having a storefront can often increase your credibility as a business. It’s not viewed as a “side gig” all of a sudden
- Meeting clients is simplified with an office since they come to you, instead of your having to either travel to them or try to conduct business in a coffee shop. Plus the ability to host meetings within an office can increase your professionalism and credibility in your clients’ eyes
- You can take advantage of tax deductions associated with the costs involved in running an office
- When you leave your office at the end of the day, you are more likely to leave your stress there much more easily than if you were working from your home
Alternatively, there are also pros to working from a home-based office. Here are a few that come to mind:
- It can be a great situation for women in particular, as they are able to remain available to their children and family better than they would be able if they were to work offsite
- You’re already paying your rent/mortgage anyway, so you don’t have to rent a separate space for your office, thereby reducing your costs
- A percentage of your lease/mortgage and home expenses can be used for tax deductions for your business
- Your productivity may be greater since more time is spent actually accomplishing work tasks and less time spent commuting to an office situation every day
- Some people love the flexibility in schedule. You can work sporadically through various periods of the day instead of having to maintain a more rigid 9-5 routine
- With less overhead, you are able to test out new ideas, change business direction, or scale down more easily since you don’t carry the same long-term commitments that you would leasing an office
- Many proponents for this style of office swear that it is less stressful and wonderfully free from office politics
There is no right or wrong option, just right or wrong for you! It’s important to consider all of the pros and cons before making your choice so that you can evaluate which is the best direction for your business. I do caution, however, that in addition to deciding which scenario is best, it’s as important to consider the timing of your decision. Here’s where the experience of my colleagues comes in.
During the evaluation process, you may decide that leasing is the way to go, as some of my colleagues have. But is it the right time to make this decision? When your business is just starting out, do you really want to obligate yourself to a long term financial commitment if you can avoid it? Maybe you don’t have the funds available to make it work. Or maybe you are wary of your newbie status and want to establish yourself prior to carrying unnecessary overhead costs. These are all good reasons to be cautious.
On the other hand, what if you’ve got a year or two under your belt? Maybe you’ve seen some success very quickly and are encouraged that your business will continue to thrive. That deserves some congratulations, and I can certainly understand the temptation to now grow into a formal space. Even I have considered it. This is exactly what happened to two of my colleagues.
Their first couple of years in business were very encouraging as they worked hard to establish their brands within the marketplace. Neither planner enjoyed working out of a home environment. They found it isolating and had difficulty staying motivated. So both women signed up for office space. They loved the new-found professional digs where they could meet clients and network with fellow professionals, all in very hip districts within our city. The move was probably viewed with envy by many other planners; I know I envied them. How wonderful would it be to enjoy increased visibility and gained credibility just by hanging your sign over a cobblestone walkway! But as I quietly envied, I also worried for these two women, wondering if they would be able to sustain such high overhead costs. I knew how hard I worked for my own income and how disappointing my earnings were given the hours of output. Were they really in that much better shape than I that they could spend thousands of dollars a year on formal space?
As it turns out, I’m not sure either were in much better shape than I was. That is my story of caution. The one planner in my market that is able to sustain office space and lofty financial commitments is also the planner who leads the market in sales. She has been in business for eight years and has a staff of four. Her ability to do multiple events each day is key. Her years of branding and networking allow her to enjoy a track record that helps predict future sales and growth, something a new planner wouldn’t have access to. Both of these colleagues saw a steady increase in the demand for their services. But I fear that both jumped the gun a bit and obligated themselves to office space before they had enough “earned” revenue to be able to pull it off.
The growth gave them hope that the next year was going to bring wild things, but when next year came, it was less than disappointing. All of a sudden, both realized that their growth had reached a bit of a plateau. Granted, the economy also played a role in decreased spending by their clients. The money they were shelling out to keep a roof over their business was so weighty that it prevented them from earning what they needed, and from allocating funds to marketing efforts that would have helped increase business. The jury is still out on my colleagues and whether or not they will be forced to move back “home” after the year’s commitment is up. Regardless of what they decide, I do know that each regrets jumping on the opportunity so quickly. If they had to do it again, they would take a more conservative approach.
I know what it’s like having your kids yelling at you when you’re trying to write an email. Having to schedule work appointments around picking up your kids from school. Trying to keep your focus when all you really want to do is sit out on the deck in the sun! But remember, it took great effort and discipline to build your business and that same effort and discipline can enable you to successfully work from home. Take a hard look at your business prior to committing yourself to any long-term commitments and take out your calculator while you’re doing it. You may be surprised at what you come up with.
Till next time, happy planning!
Written by Lynn Lee
Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.