Do you need commercial premises?

If there are reasons why you need to work in a separate office space away from home, how do you go about deciding what you need?

With advancing technology, email and mobiles, many of us cope well with working out of the spare room. Some freelancers may need a studio to accommodate equipment however, others will require for their premises to be more visible to attract business from passing trade. Everyone seeking premises will have to find somewhere that fits the bill without overstretching the start-up budget. Don't forget you may also need office content insurance. It’s a good idea to check with your landlord what's included in your contract or agreement.

If it's practical to do so, then working from home in the first year or so would be most freelancer's chosen route, at least until they are better able to forecast income.

A lease is a rental agreement, usually, over several years, so shorter leases on commercial property can be hard to obtain. A licence is a rental agreement on a more temporary basis. As this will be one of the most important decisions you make, draw up a comprehensive list of what you're looking for. This article is intended purely as an overview but here are some practical considerations if you're looking to lease premises:

Budget

Too high and you will restrict funds available for other areas of your business, too low and you may find the appearance of the office affects your credibility. Rent tends to drop away from main roads if you shop around for office space.

Location

What are the ideal locations from a business point of view? For example, road communications, being able to effectively service clients and keeping costs lower by moving closer to suppliers if they are a key element in your overheads. What constraints do commuting and any other issues place on that factor?

Size

Obviously depends on the nature of your business and what you do. Allow enough room if you intend to grow into a small business.

Security

Who has access to the building and is it secure?

Parking and access

Parking for clients and allowing delivery vans to gain access to your premises if necessary.

Services

What services do you need in the building? Heating, lighting, air conditioning, phone points, broadband, burglar alarm?

Physical environment

Has your office space got an adequate amount of natural light coming through? Are the premises well maintained? Is the layout suitable for your business and the environment good for working in?

Terms and length of the lease

How long do you want the premises for? What are you responsible for in terms of maintenance? Is it worth paying for a survey to negotiate that the landlord pays for any immediate repairs needed before you sign? Is there a break clause to allow early termination? What about rent review dates? What is the commercial property market like. If other premises local to your chosen site stand empty, use this to negotiate a lower rent? Most importantly get a solicitor to look over the contract.

Landlords

Potential landlords may subject you to greater scrutiny as a start-up. Your solicitor will help you understand what a personal guarantee is and how to avoid it if you are asked for it.

SMALL BUSINESS CENTRES

Some business centres will provide useful facilities such as reception and secretarial services which will not only help with the workload but should create a professional perception of your company.

Serviced premises, such as the business centres are available under a 'licence agreement' as opposed to a lease. If you need space away from your home you may prefer the easy-in, easy-out nature of a licence agreement which you can usually terminate at a month's notice.

Such premises are also designed specifically with small businesses in mind and will be good from a networking and support point of view with other resident companies, so they are worth bearing in mind.

VIRTUAL OFFICES

Companies such as Regus provide office services and meeting rooms as and when you need them. They will answer the phone in your company's name, provide a postal address and forward on all mail and faxes as well as relay phone messages by email. One advantage would be that this keeps your home contact details private.

More running your business and office space.

                             

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