Does a Consultant Need an Office?
The idea of a home office is more popular in the consulting field than ever before. Where technological constraints once made out-of-home offices preferable, simple implementations in business communication have rendered work from home a strong alternative. The same service can be provided to clients from a home setting, thanks to these technological innovations.
Here are some things to consider when debating which setting you're most comfortable with.
Pros of a Home Office
- The cost of opening a physical office can often be unnecessarily risky, and rather damaging to a startup's precious cash flow.
- Given the current technological landscape, there's practically nothing you can't do from home.
- Also, given the nature of consulting work, it is safe to assume that the majority of your meetings will take place at a client's office. It is rare in the consulting field that clients come to the consultant's office (except for training).
Despite the advantages of working from home as a consultant, it is advisable that certain parameters be laid out for your domestic work. It's helpful to establish a regular schedule, as well as carve out a secure space where work is the only priority. A noise-free space with a dedicated phone line can save you from making a terrible impression when interacting with clients. The noises of the home can leave a foul taste in a professional client's mouth, so securing a space that can reduce the effect of barking dogs and doorbells is an absolute must to the home consultant.
The Cons of a Home Office
- An at-home worker runs the risk of informality in the workplace. It's often difficult to set aside a piece of the home as a formal workspace, and often, professional matters can be treated more like a hobby. While the conveniences of home are available at your fingertips, the level of informality a home fosters can also undermine success.
- A physical office space that is separate from the home helps you compartmentalize work tasks from personal tasks. The home is a melting pot for distractions, and while a typical office space might foster its brand of distractions, working from a professional location certainly helps to draw attention away from distractions of personal life.
- While consultants are certainly more predisposed to meeting face to face at a client's office, there are certain times where clients need to meet with you in your workspace. In that event, having some office space is unavoidable. Inviting a client to your home can destroy an excellent professional repertoire.
While the pros and cons of working from home certainly stack up well against one another, there are alternatives to deciding on a single option. For instance, moving to a physical office space doesn't necessarily mean you have to break your bank. Many consultants take advantage of virtual office space. Internet applications like Skype, Google Hangouts, and GoToMeeting can supplement a conference room very well, and often provide distinct advantages like screen sharing and rapid file distribution. Additionally, there are numerous "virtual office" spaces around the world where you can rent a small space in a larger office building. These highly specialized spaces can cater to specific needs, and cut down on the general experiences of owning a workspace.
The most important aspect of deciding where your office will be is you. Are you someone who will work fine in a home environment that invites a more casual schedule? Will you be visiting your clients or will they come to you? Can you ensure a quiet, professional backdrop for phone and virtual conversations? For the vast majority of new consultants, the home office is the ideal way to go. It enables them to save that cash, get started right away and not have any negative impact on their business. Also, more often than not, most independent consultants continue to work from home for many years.
If you're thinking of starting your own consulting business, know that you definitely can do so from the comfort of your own home, economically and effectively. The move to more formal digs should only be considered once revenue is sufficient, and demand requires it.