Office Space (but not the hilarious movie)

I’ve recently begun hunting for office space here in downtown Salem. I need an excuse to get out of the house each day, as well as a little more space to spread out and get work done. Currently, I’m working out of a converted walk-in closet. Yes, you’ve read that correctly. It does have a window.

I thought I’d poll the audience here — what do you look for in office space? What are the pros and cons? Finding something small and affordable enough seems difficult, but not impossible. And having dedicated work space outside the house seems to be of growing importance to me (and perhaps many of you).

I know I have to worry about an internet connection, utilities, etc. But it’s the less obvious details that I’m afraid I’ll overlook. Feel free to share your workspace experiences, whether you work at a home office, or dedicated space.

80 Comments

  1. stuart says:

    The most important things for me when looking for any sort of workspace are:
    1. A window which lets in a decent amount of light. (its good for you, and its never nice working in the dark!)
    2. Somewhere within a business park or small business center is ideal. You get to mingle with other local business people, which is always a good thing, and a sense of community allows you to enjoy your working day a little more than when you are in solitary for eight hours a day.
    3. Somewhere close to a decent coffee shop or restaurant. For obvious reasons.
    Stuart.

  2. Eddie Wilson says:

    My ventures have gone (over the past 5 years) in the opposite direction. I rented an office space with 3 other individuals, moved into a larger office with growth, and then decided to leave it all to work in my home.
    The really important thing to think of is that everytime you step out of your current office, into the rest of your home, you will no longer have that; the things you do outside your office space. Smoke a cigarette on the porch, raid the fridge for a snack, watch a few minutes of TV, or simply “step away” from the office. It will be all gone, or you’re going to have to bring it with you to your new rented office.
    Also you will have to make it an pleasurable environment. And that is going to take a little more than putting up some McFarlane figures on your desk. Otherwise your going to have the cubicle feeling without the cubicle, someone elses workspace that your simply renting.
    You will probably still want an office at home (unless your going to laptop’it at home) and that means you will probably want to have the same capabilities in both places; 2 complete work environments.
    But beyond the necessities of your new office space, you should aim to have it fufill some needs/wants that your home office can’t. For example you should rent in a place with a little commerce, for the simple please of being able to see people once in a while. Something a home office lacks, and is less of a “work-environment” because of.

  3. Eddie Wilson says:

    LOL, I feel it necessary to point out that Stuart and I posted at the same time, hence my restatement of his 2nd point.

  4. seth says:

    Kitchen-related equipment: fridge, microwave, coffee-maker, etc. are very important to me.

  5. Good points. And Eddie raises some things to consider. Setting up two complete work environments. I could use a laptop both at home and at the office, but aside from a computer, it will take quite a bit of work and money to set something up.

  6. web says:

    A large conference room to hold “web standards meetings”, a good whiteboard for scribbling brilliant ideas and of course, coffee. (as previously mentioned)
    Are you planning on meeting with possible clients as said office space?
    Then you would have to bring “ease of directions” into the mix and of course the “lack of bums sleeping on doorstep” would be nice.
    Just some random thoughts.
    Cheers, Go Pats!

  7. Simon says:

    I have no hints on what to think about when getting an office but I surley will keep an eye on the comments. Some day I might want an office myself. I think it’s a good thing to have to go to work rather then just wake up already at work.
    *bookmarks post*

  8. Zach says:

    If you’re just starting off, usually the best route to go is to get a shared office. Perhaps you and two other companies. This would give you:
    A join secretary, Conference Room, etc. Not to mention split costs.
    For instance, if you want high speed internet (which I’m sure you do), you can split the cost of that ALONG with the rent.
    You still have your own individual office, so don’t worry about that. It’s definitely one of the best ways to get started.

  9. Ben says:

    Stuart and Eddie had some good points. A mate of mine has a small architectuural firm and the best office space I’ve ever seen.
    It’s a share space inhabited by one small architecture firm (of course), one photographer, a small bespoke web shop and two solicitors.
    They’re essentially they’re own business generating unit unto themselves.
    The best thing is that they feed off each others creativity. If you’re going to give up all the things Eddie mentioned – then you want more of a payoff than just a clear division between work and home… you want to be able to collaborate on a daily basis.
    Best of luck,
    Benvolio

  10. Interesting that you’re looking for space too, Dan. I’ve finally decided to fly the Adaptive Path office and get some space for Stopdesign to grow on its own. Ironically, I may be back in the same building we just moved out of.
    Space in San Francisco is in pretty abundant supply right now, so property managers and leasing agents have shown signs they’re willing to negotiate. The first thing I had to get used to was how commercial pricing is listed. Sometimes I’d see $2/sf, other times I’d see $20-26/sf. Finally figured out that the $1-$2 prices are per sqaure foot *per month* and the higher prices are per year.
    I’ll also be needing to fill it out with a complete set of furniture. In addition to the doubling-up Eddie mentions above, also keep in mind that you’re also paying for an additional phone line and most likely you’ll need to pay for DSL service at the office too — unless it’s freely available via public wifi. So don’t forget to figure in that monthly cost.
    Over the past two years, since I moved in with AP, I’ve really liked having real office space to go to. I feel more productive when I’m in the office, I like to get out and see people, be in a downtown setting close to restaurants, post offices, etc, and it gives me a good excuse to listen to the iPod or read a book on the short subway commute into the office. It’s just time Stopdesign had its own office.

  11. hamstu says:

    Try to position your computer monitor so it is not facing a window (even partially). I negelected to think about this while setting up my personal office, and believe the glare can become very annoying. (Or maybe i’m just easily distracted…)
    Another thing is the chair. Since you’ll probably be sitting in it a lot, it’s good to find one that’s durable and comfortable.
    That’s all I can think of now. Good luck with your project!

  12. Bryan Buchs says:

    Good luck on your venture! In the months since I’ve been working independently (read: quit my job), I realize that I really need to get out of the house more often. Or at least get out of my pajamas from time to time.
    A colleague of mine has offered to share some office space with me (at a great price), but that would mean getting a second computer system, or removing my home system. Which means the end of middle-of-the-night coding sessions, among other things.
    I think I’ll stick with the home-office for a while…

  13. tq says:

    One word – Aeron

  14. Olly says:

    Two very important things: Windows and Heating.
    I have worked in the past in a very dark office, and its really not very nice. It gets a lot worse in the winter when it gets cold and the aforementioned office has inadequate heating.

  15. Rachel says:

    After running my company from home for over 3 years I’ve just found myself some office space, just down the road, subletting from another company.
    To deal with the two work environments thing I’m going to set up VPN access so that I can have my development servers in my office at work and just a nice desktop or two at home, meaning I can still work from home if my daughter is ill or I need to work in the evening but don’t want to sit in an empty office building at midnight.
    Apart from the need to separate work from home, its getting to the point where I am going to need to hire someone and I don’t want employees in my house!
    Anyway, it’s the first time I have done this, working from home has been great and a really cheap way to set up a business, but I think it does get to a point where you want to be able to walk out of the office, shut the door, and go home.

  16. Scott says:

    Keep in mind that most DSL service connections are charged a higher rate when its a business address and not a residence. Another option would be to get a cable connection and use VoIP for your phone. The connection speeds are faster and VoIP has pretty good service now with very good long distance rates.

  17. Doug #10 – Very cool. An additional DSL line is something that’s an unfortunate, extra expense. I just may be in luck with free wi-fi (Salem’s downtown has a free network) depending on where I end up, but we shall see.
    And you’ve solved the mystery of the crazy margins between square footage pricing. Was wondering about that as well :-)
    And good luck in finding Stopdesign its own home!

  18. Jutin says:

    The only caution to watch out for is the contract. This is not like an apartment lease. You really have to watch the fine print and I would say a lawyer is well worth the money. For example some property management companies charge huge amounts if you break or leave the lease. Also watch out for insurance, damages, etc.
    Clearly define who is responsible for what is something breaks.
    Obviously think about parking, coffee shops, etc.

  19. Joe Stump says:

    One note about public/free WiFi. You never know who is in charge of such things, if they are truly secured, etc., etc.
    I’d recommend against running your business off of such a network :)
    –Joe

  20. benjamin says:

    I suggest you find another reputal small web or print firm to join forces with in renting some office space. Though it doesnt have to be web a small 1-3 person law firm would be good. It means if you have any legal questions they are only a few steps away ;)
    Thats probably your best bet. Then you can either share a dsl connection or get one for yourself

  21. Marque says:

    Careful with that free wi-fi though. In some cases, free wi-fi service providers will only allow a certain MAC address access for a specific amount of time within a 24 hour period. You might want to look into that before becoming to dependent upon it.
    In the area I’m in, our free wi-fi allows for only 3 hours of access before the MAC Address is blocked.
    In terms of looking for an office space, I would certainly pay attention to location. Put yourself into an environment that you will be able to work comfortably. There’s nothing worse than working in an uncomfortable environment. I always seem to work better and more efficiently with a relaxed, comfortable environment.
    However, if it were me that was looking for an office, I would definitely seek an office that fit my personality or an image Id like my business to project. By the looks of your “walk in closet”, it would seem that you share a similar mindset judging by the great choice of a dark red mixed with the beige laminate-looking desk. This might help make the environment more enjoyable while leaving a fashionable impression on any visiting customers.
    Good luck with your search!

  22. Ryan says:

    Two things:
    Beer.
    A chair (for me to sit in while drinking your beer).

  23. Dave S. says:

    Must be the year of office space, as Bright Creative is going to have a physical address sometime in the near future as well. I’ve been working out of the living room for a few months now and I hate it.
    Vancouver’s particularly bad at the moment; lots of open spaces, but most landlords are holding out for larger companies to fill the entire space, rather than lease it out in smaller chunks. If you knew Vancouver business, you’d understand why this is especially dumb; it’s a city of smaller companies, and that’s only on the rise. On the other hand there are the business centres that provide you with everything but a computer, except you’re paying on average twice as much.
    So, no advice, only commiseration.

  24. I would consider the possibility of convenient public transport as well in case your particular building doesn’t have underground parking (or the equivalent) available too.

  25. I think I made my only mistake the first time was that I didn’t move close with a community in mind. Even though glued to a computer can be a good exercise in anti-social behavior — having the ability to walk out, move around, see all the people and trends and looks and actions is a blessing now for my creativity. However, other than that:
    1. No cheap desks or chairs. You’ll regret the lack of comfort — balance it.
    2. Power and Network-ability goes without explanation in our company
    3. Refridgerator = cost effective and beneficial
    4. TV not only distracts you, but your clients, and sometimes your professionalism (unless is elegant and useful to the environment).
    5. Street access – safe? Convenient for your clients to park and visit? Convenient for your family/friends to as well? Convenient to scramble out and avoid traffic (or atleast get on public transportation)?
    6. I tried to see if the local shops would foster the environment I wanted — my location would most likely reflect my business.
    7. I have a safe (small), and an alarm system (absolute), just for my wellbeing, but most of my stuff I lug to home.
    That’s all I can think of off the top of my head — however redundant it seems to get an office to get out, I found it woke me up a bit. I’m the type of person that I need to get up and get dressed half decent, make a trip down to the office to really feel productive. My own computer toys at home are way too much of a distraction.

  26. John says:

    I’ve been working at home for alittle over a year now and also have begun to think about a change of atmosphere. Actually I basically work out of my bedroom… no space for an office in this house. All in all, I feel like I’m missing out on certain things, such as leaving the house everyday and face to face collaborating.

  27. Oliver says:

    What’s wrong with working from home? It’s convenient and comfortable.
    But then again, it does mean not meeting people and new environment. It’s not healthy either.
    Nice macs by the way! =)

  28. Jesper says:

    Just an observation: it seems that the “I work at home” people are approaching their hangover nowadays. More and more people are getting offices to somehow get back to splitting their life into their home life and work life. I guess it’s way easier to manage the two-seperate-things illusion when you actually have two different places to be in.
    All I know, though, is that being young, I’ve worked from home nearly all my life, and it’s refreshing to get out to people and it helps me focus on the task at hand. This might just be that it’s good because it’s new to me, though, so reader beware I guess.
    Good luck in finding a comfortable space, and I congratulate you for, *wink*, “coming out of the closet”, *wink*.

  29. Zachary Jones says:

    I am considering making the move to Apple soon, and try as I might, I cannot find the flat-screen monitor you have on their website. Any tips on finding this elusive monitor? I plan on buying an iBook and being able to dock it to keyboard/mouse/monitor at home for the desktop experience.
    Any help would be appreciated.

  30. Hey Dan,
    It’s a good move to make (not just physically, but mentally). After nearly fours of running Firewheel from home, we finally moved into new digs several weeks ago. For me, it’s been a dream come true — specifically in the ability to leave behind the office (and the email, the pressures, and the clients) at the end of the day.
    While we’ve grown slowly and deliberately over the last few years, and I prefer to save overhead where possible, it’s important to note that (most of the time) you get what you pay for.
    While we had the opportunity to share space with a like-minded company (and the price was cheap), the location was not my favorite and the commute longer than I would prefer.
    In the end, we spent a little extra, our office is less than two miles from where I live, and we’re a few blocks from all the necessities (Starbucks, SONIC, and Chipotle). Add up your expenses, including DSL, etc., multiply it by 12 months, divide it by your billable hours, and pass it along to your clients.
    You’ll be glad you did, and your production quality is bound to go up. And please, I want to come visit. Boston rocks.

  31. Unlike several of you (Dan, Doug, Dave), I will not be moving my company into a real office this year. Instead, I’ve decided to try the job market following school and see where that takes me. I am only a little conflicted about this :-)
    Zachary: That’s the previous edition of Apple’s displays. They have since redesigned them, now sporting the aluminum look.

  32. Some really great insights here, thanks to everyone that’s weighed in so far.
    Zachary – As John pointed out, the style of display in that particular photo is an older design. I’ve since replaced it with a new aluminum model. Can’t beat Apple displays.

  33. Mike says:

    Zachary, you can’t find that monitor because it’s an older version. If it’s the 17-inch model, which I’m guessing it is, I have the same one and they are not available – except maybe on ebay.
    It would be better to go with the current monitors Apple has anyway. It’s similar technology with improvements and a better design.

  34. This is a great post. I’ve been contemplating moving my company infiniMedia out of my house, as I’ve been getting quite a bit of cabin fever. Definitely want to be able to leave those two aspects of life separate as we’ve been growing alot lately and clients from all over are calling me at really odd hours. Not to mention this would help me hire a couple of interns and have them work from there. Trouble is South Florida isnt suited to web-centric spaces (i think of those as loft-like spaces w/lots of open space and windows). Also Miami has either really expensive offices downtown or warehouse/industrial space
    very few office complexes outside of those few areas (strange seeing as Miami isn’t a small town).

  35. Mike says:

    Woops! A couple posts late. That’s what I get for eating while reading.

  36. Aaron Boswell says:

    I have never posted here before, but I thought I would put my 2 cents in.
    For me, the most important thing was to get out of the house. I am more productive when I go away and come back. I tended to work for 10-12 hours at home getting 5-6 hours of work done. I am not saying I get more work done now, but it only takes me between 6-8 hours now.
    I found office space at an older business park (3 buildings). The reason I like it is because they own the buildings and so I am not paying rent so they can pay rent. I also rarely have cliients over so having glass walls and floors designed by S+ARCK is not that big a deal. They keep the prices low and keep the place clean. They also aren’t too particular about painting walls and hanging boards. I use my cell as my main business phone, so my only bills there are rent and internet.
    On to must haves:
    1. Laptop. I don’t have an office at home. I take my work home on my laptop and commute my mouse each way.
    2. Go to IKEA. If you don’t have IKEA near you, travel to IKEA (using your own or borrowing a friends truck). I got 2 glass/metal desks, storage, chairs, and various other stuff for under $400.
    3. Go to Home Depot or Lowes (or any other comparable hardware super-store) and ask for the 4×8 foot sheets of white board. Technically, it is supposed to go in your bathroom, but I have it on every wall and they are only $12/sheet.
    Other than that, everything else is secondary. I have set up a file server for clients and use Basecamp to manage them. I need music so speakers are a must. I like the easel tear-off pads from Post-It. It also helps that I am right off of the freeway so travel is more convenient.
    But most of all, I am out of the house.

  37. Adel says:

    Lots of post-it notes and quality stationary – pens, markers, colors, etc.

  38. Claus Jacobsen says:

    Here in Denmark, shared offices is a huge success for small companies. Basically you take an old factory – rebuild it, and start putting in desks. Then companies can rent space per desk from around 200$ a month. There is an adminstrative company, that takes care of printing, meeting rooms, internet, even coffee. Often there are between 20 and 70 small companies together. This is really great for young/new entrepeneurs who don’t want to sit at home and often you get some great intellectual sparring between the companies.

  39. Colin Barnes says:

    This is a great discussion! Something that i’ve missed since running concept from home is the lack of interaction with people. I’ve also developed an unproductive ability for me to ‘turn off’ from work and potter about the house without any real motivation.
    Recently I did a few days a week on a companies website, and that was nice, it was in a large corporate business centre, and it was nice to be able to talk to humans again, however it was expensive.
    What I would like to do, is convert my garage into a nicely decked out office, this would provide the mental seperation from the house, and save money – just doesn’t solve the lack of humans problem.
    One of other thing if you are going to work in an office, portability is quite important. I’ve recently taken delivery of a mac-mini, and have to say it would be the perfect computer to carry between home and office and hook up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse and therefore saves quite a bit of money on a loaded laptop.

  40. Darren says:

    Observations from working at home – don’t have the following things in your office:
    - a games console
    - a dispenser full of Jelly Belly jelly beans
    - your dog
    - a television
    - your daughter arriving home from school and starting violin practise while you’re on a conference call
    Advantages of being alone: you can make a cup of tea in the cup with a teabag, not in the teapot because there’s two of you.

  41. Andy says:

    Dan, how big is your garden?
    You could get one of these.

  42. Jemaleddin says:

    Do what Delicious Monster does – go to a coffee shop with free WiFi each day and pay for your office in coffee and tips.

  43. I thought about it once too. Then as my daughter started getting older I found I enjoyed taking breaks with her during the day.
    It is from these breaks she learned how to ride a bike and improve her swimming.
    Working at home can let you spend extra time with your kids. You can’t beat that!
    Best Regards,
    Steve MacLellan

  44. M.e. says:

    Giant windows, no fake light.
    I work at a winrey. Short, pretty commutes are good for separating work and home.
    If you will have separate home and work computers, a .Mac account or other webdav service is nice for having an always on shared drive. Or if you can get an SSL connection between the two, even better.
    If downtown, close proximity to good coffee AND good beer is essential (not a problem in Salem, I’d imagine). Make sure your neighbors aren’t upset by loud music while you work. We have that problem with the accounting problem down stairs.

  45. Dan Jallits says:

    I got the bug too! Anyone in the Western Suburbs of Chicago looking to split office space?

  46. Wil says:

    I like having an office outside of home even if just for the simple fact it gives me a reason to leave my house! This type of work is solitary and I cannot handle being holed up in my house days on end staring at monitors and mashing away at the keyboard. For my own personal well being I like the distraction of having to travel to work , gives me an opportunity to think about something for a change.

  47. bk says:

    Guess I picked the wrong year to start my business!
    Last year, I opened a shared office space in Kansas City for self-employed/small creative businesses… We provided the furniture, dsl connection, shared printers, etc., but I guess the need/desire for shared office space here is not as great as I thought it was, as we have since gone out of business… here’s our old site if anyone is interested: Open Studio.
    Looking back, my advice for setting up an office space would be:
    1. Start out with a short-term lease (1yr) and play hardball when negotiating terms. Being locked into a commercial lease when you don’t want to be SUCKS!.
    2. If you need to share space to keep costs down, consider doing it with people in complimentary fields. This can create a nice little network/referral pool.
    3. Be creative with furnishings. You can build your own workstation & shelves for much less than even IKEA, and you can create them to fit the style of your company.
    Good luck with the transition! I found I was much more productive at the office, and enjoyed my time at home much more than when I was working out of my house.

  48. Jarrod says:

    Here’s my hint… find another local high-tech company and share office space. That solves the issue of having no one in the office to talk to, and it cuts your common costs for Internet, utilities, and even rent down. Depending on how much you/they use, it can be a great deal.
    Plus, if the other company provides complementary service to yours you can find work together.
    This has worked out well for me, I share office space with a local computer support company. They get a ton of people walking in off the street asking about web sites and they just forward them to me, in the next room!
    I understand that having “your own” office is great, but I would consider sharing space if the option is there. It can benefit you greatly!

  49. bk,
    your openstudio idea looks like what i was interested in, too bad its not in Miami, and not in business any longer.
    anyone know of any directories that list these types of spaces w/out using a realtor?

  50. chris says:

    Well, also living in Massachusetts and working from home.. I’ve found it more advantageous to just move into a larger place. MA remains one of the most expensive places in the country to live.. although it’s probably not as bad in Salem. I entertained the idea of an office for a little while, but I thought it just didn’t make sense as long as I was the only employee. What’s the real advantage of having an office if you’re the only one going there? Having actual snow days? :)

  51. eddmun says:

    of course! snow days are good!
    this idea of buying a factory and rebuilding it as a office block to rent out is an interesting one… *mooddles with ideas*

  52. Shawn says:

    I work from home and I personal love it. Of course my wife works from home with me so it doesn’t quite feel so lonely.
    I do sometimes think about getting out of the house more, and especially in the winter (being in Edmonton, Alberta). Spring and Summer my wife and I break at around 2 and go for a rollerblade by the river, which is wonderful.
    I didn’t read every single post above, but something I would keep in mind is if you ARE going to share space, make sure you do it with people you can get along with. Get to know them first, spend time with them first.
    If you can find a building that’s owned by a Non-profit (Like a Home Builder’s Association) then you get a very good deal on your space. I co-founded a company 4 years ago, and we did just that. Our Electricity, heating and water were paid for and the cost was extremely low.

  53. Chip says:

    Close proximity to a Chochky’s, Flinger’s, and a Chili’s…
    oh and a Hooters is always good too

  54. Dale Cruse says:

    Dan,
    Will there be sufficient space in the new office for when you hire me? I look forward to getting started.

  55. Thomas says:

    When looking for office space I tend to find an environment that allows me to get the most production out of my time as we all know time is a precious commodity. So I like to have an office that is quite with a window and at least one Tea kettle. Some other factors coffee shop, office store (supplies), resturant are all things that should be within walking distance. Good luck finding some space and I hope everything works out for you.

  56. Matt Warnock says:

    Well, clients calling before coffee and a shower were too much for me. Get an office in an inspiring place, with a view if possible. Get it in a part of town where interactive marketing is not the norm, it will lead to cool conversations and funny looks from people who you meet in on the way to work. Our office is in the old May Company building in downtown Los Angeles amoung garment contractors. They look at me funny when I’m hauling my pc tower around. Then when you get home you’re focused on relaxing and I find myself having great evenings off the box after a 13 hour day monitoring the monitor. I just got a g5 which is so big I can’t take it anywhere, Yeah!!

  57. Nick Morelli says:

    Make sure to customize your office a bit. We just moved our printing business from a house we had renovated to a new building we bought a few years back. The extra time we took to add some custom paint and the new furniture have made all the difference. It looks like we belong in this space instead of just “squatting” like we did before.

  58. Nick Toye says:

    I would love to work from home, but I start employment on Monday in a new agency that is a one hour drive each journey. As I am only a Junior Web Designer I can’t really complain, plus I will probably get more work done without Sky TV and the Playstation causing me distractions, plus the Sun is really bright by this window and I can barely see what I am writing.

  59. John Leonard says:

    Bit OT, this -
    I work from home, but having just moved into the house I still have bland magnolia walls (although I did equip my office from IKEA and saved a bundle).
    Dan, I just wanted to know what the colour was on the walls in the picture? I love it, and can see myself spending quality time painting this weekend… :D

  60. jim says:

    I am lucky in that I share space in a large art-deco building with 70 or so other organisations, the building has its own reception who will take calls for you, much better than an answerphone, there is a tiled reception area where art exhibits are occasionally displayed and where I can ask clients to wait and the rent is reasonable for the city centre location, oh – and there are a couple of good pubs/bars near by ;-)
    here

  61. Momekh says:

    I am also planning a move – out of my home office to a proper office with a staff of like 3, thats including the tea boy :).
    I think the major worry for me is adaptability. Adapting from “Wake up, sit in office” to “wake up, get in car, drive to office, open office, sit in office”. :)
    And the reason it is major is that most people overlook it and concentrate on urgent matters like furniture, lease agreements and the lot. Obviously they are important but just a heads up on adaptability.
    My luck is that we already rent a portion of the house so I am planning on moving in there… I will be paying the rent of course :). But nonetheless, one has to be mentaly prepared for moving out, that I think, is the biggest challenge in finding a decent office. Biggest purely because it is the most neglected. Keep that in mind, my friend. And good luck and God speed :)

  62. Freddie says:

    It is funny that I came across this post because my plans are to convert my home/Internet business into a bricks-and-mortar prototype store and office space. I agree with the home office honeymoon wearing off comment.
    I enjoy my days at home, but miss the interaction with people. Having good food and coffee near is a must. My day job is for a company that is located in a ubiquitous office park that is miles from coffee and food, no fun.

  63. Bruno Girin says:

    Somewhere that is easy to get to from your home. Commuting is the worst part of not working at home so make sure it doesn’t become a drag. I don’t know what Seattle is like, I write this as a Londoner who has had his fair share of delays on the tube and nightmare journeys into work. So make sure the journey there and back is quick and comfortable. Being stuck in public transport or traffic after a long day is extremely stressful and frustrating.

  64. Here are two articles I have found in the past that provide invaluable advice when choosing an office. I am aware that you’re looking for a small space, but the tips Joel Spolsky hands out in these two articles can apply to budgets both large and tiny.
    Joel On Software – Bionic Office
    Joel on Software – Finding an Office (in NYC)
    the principles here surely apply in other parts of the country.

  65. Will says:

    When I was freelancing in Cambridge, I considered getting space in the Cambridge Innovation Center. (Their website appears to be down, but as far as I know they’re still in business.)
    Also, a bunch of people have recommended Aeron chairs, but there are plenty of alternatives, like the Leap chair from Steelcase.
    Good luck with your search, though, no matter what you ultimately decide to do!

  66. those leap chairs look interesting, how much do they run?
    Also, the details provided in post 65 are really good, its amazing what such attention to detail can provide.

  67. Carmelyne Thompson says:

    I’ve been telecommuting since 2000 with a few exceptions of moonlighting a contract here and there. It just actually means I’m plugged into the tube almost day in and day out within the comforts of my home office which is just a few steps away from my own bedroom.
    It fits my lifestyle being a single mom and needing a career while helping the kids with home works on the side. I agree that the most important part I do miss is the interaction. Instant messaging kind of helps but it is distracting at some point.
    Before 2000 though, I lived in LA and the commute on 405 or 101 to the valley was like the commute to hell. Just reminiscing those days makes me cringe. I felt it was not quite very productive sitting in traffic for 2 hours and I would rather sit at my home office in my tanks and coding.
    Just make sure to shop for office space close to home. Bring duct tape, a coffee pot, post-it notes and your own mug. :) GL

  68. Pete says:

    Somewhere you can paint is good. A bright / nicely painted office is a pleasure to work in.
    I had the good fortune of sharing office space with another graphic designer in a building that also housed a lighting designer, stationary designer, picture framer, commercial artists/painters and a number of student painters out the back. Was an awesome environment to work and if you needed a break you could go to the kitchen and chat with someone. There were loads of creative spaces like this in melbourne and were often quite cheap? Not sure what its like there.
    On a practical note, public transport makes it easy for clients to come to the office. Bus route train station etc is a definite plus.
    Good luck

  69. Creford says:

    A practical motif. I feel they are both nice that pros and cons.
    Office should be expediently putted on books, vegetables, tools and others.

  70. dr. m says:

    In short:
    Light. Get a windows facing south or east. Much natural daylight, not too bright (not in your face).
    Comfort. Good chairs. It might help if you have some place to lay down and think (not to sleep) occasionally.
    Meeting space. Nicely furnished, with big white board. Optional projector can be nice to show off ideas.
    Good neighbours. Don’t move in with ppl who do the same buisness you do. That can awake some unhealthy competiton. Nice ppl around you are a must. A good chat or a helping hand/idea is always welcome.
    Well positioned office. If its hard to find, or not in a liked spot, your clients can get aggravated. And you need a place you like going to. If you hate arriving, you start work in a bad mood.
    Free wifi is NOT good for work. It is very unprofessional to bulid a buisness on that. You can use it if your normal connection is down, or you are at the local coffeeshop.
    No distraction. You’ll have the whole internet… that can be the most distracting thing ever. If you want something, go with music. I suggest quality headphones or if you are far away from a person some speakers.
    Having a kithcen/fridge is a nice option.
    People often underestimate the importance of a ‘friendly’ restroom. It can be liberating to take a healty dump after the 10th cup of coffee and a full meal.
    Hope I helped.

  71. Needing an office, ‘eh? How about…
    (Tra la la!)
    The Treehouse Office!
    The best in home and garden office technology, build yours now for the low cost of some wood, nails and… well… a tree! Imagine the bump in productivity when you realize you’re a more than a couple yards off the ground and forgot to build a ladder! Take heed at the ability to block clients, family, and neighbors out simply by tossing a few strategically aimed water balloons over the edge! Imagine being nestled amidst nature, at last able to work unhindered… It’s also easy as pie to leech internet and electricity from your home by stringing a couple extension cords and ethernet cables together. See! It features all the amenities a downtown office has to offer. (There’s also plenty of nearby foliage to choose as a bathroom, if you wish.)
    Actually, I’m not kidding. Treehouses have become quite sophisticated. Check into this book and take a look at a good many who have made a treehouse their office.
    All you need is a good tree outside your home.
    You’ll, of course, lose the socialization aspect of a rented office – the downtown streets, the nearby coffee places. But you’d still have an office outside your home (snow days!), wouldn’t have to pay rent (though perhaps weekly offerings of nuts to squirrel residents), and I’d imagine that at least my productivity would be fantastibly increased.
    (And hey, if your home is in a convenient location, you could even host clients there. It’d create a completely unique image for your business, to be sure.)

  72. David says:

    Simon at #7 said it best.
    I would rather wake up in the morning, take a nice shower, grab breakfast, sync up my ipod and actually leave for a physical workspace.
    Waking up after a long day at “work” back at your “workplace” really gets de-moralizing after sometime.

  73. tlack says:

    I got an office pretty early into starting my Web efforts. Here are some things to keep in mind off the top of my head:
    * Get a futon. These are comfortable to read a magazine on and sometimes take a nap. I often work 10am to 2am and a comfortable place to snooze can be really helpful.
    * Personally, I don’t care about windows. I’m in Miami and having a big window can really drown the room in harsh light. In fact, I was most productive in my previous office which had no view — I would emerge at the end of the day and be puzzled by how dark it was outside. I dunno, gazing sadly out the window wishing you were at the beach does not seem like a great way to get work done.
    * A/C shut off times. Here in Miami, most office space in buildings has the electricity paid by the landlord which means to save money they’ll shut off the A/C at 6:01pm if they can get away with it. Ask up front when the A/C is on and off, including weekends. Usually you can “order” additional hours for a ridiculously overinflated price.
    * Sharing office space can be great financially but there are potential problems as well. The people we ended up splitting 2,000 square feet had different artistic sensibilities and were neat freaks (I’m messy). I’m headstrong. We had to part ways.
    * Smaller offices are probably better if your finances are in doubt. Our first office was super tiny and I still remember how much fun and how productive we were in there.
    * For me, having everyone in one room with no partitions — the so-called open plan layout — can get very loud when people are watching funny Flash movies, talking on their cellphones, etc. If it’s just you this shouldn’t be a problem.
    * Joel on Software has some good tips about renting office space but I found a few differences renting around here. First, landlords aren’t willing to make expensive renovations for a small amount of space and second, long leases don’t save you as much money as he claims. Then again, New York is a very different place.
    Overall having a separate place for working (as opposed to a closet in your house) is a great way to improve your productivity. I’d never go back to working out of my apartment.
    Hope this helps.
    -t

  74. Morgan says:

    I dream for the day I can have my own office. Being a student sucks

  75. Andreas says:

    Shared offices are great for people who start working or enjoy the happiness of do not have to manage a second household (like me).
    I don’t have to manage all the little things I had to manage before – paying weekly the cleaning woman ( and looking for a new one if the other was getting too bad), the coffee beans always running out, buying them in a hurry or ask someone to do it…
    all that stuff, distracting, annoying – it is really a second household you have to manage in some way.
    You should look out for a good appearance of the office rooms – you can’t expect that they will paint the walls and renew the old carpeted floor only because you signed up.
    These office space offer(er)s have a half life of about ten to fifteen years. They invest once and hope to get as fast as possible the return on investment.
    So be sure to have a quite new office space- they will not change anything the next ten years :)
    I only managed to forward my known telephone number to the rather dull number in the office place – clients didn’t have to relearn a new number.
    Some Tech- must-haves:
    a good (2mbits up) and stable I-net connection (brought to you by the offerer normally with a fix IP for your server ( better than dyndns) a firewall for your own or at least a good router with nat-translation and some rudimentary firewall features ( well, buy one), of course a server with vpn-functionality ( for working from home when the kids are ill or just when you’re under pressure. ( calls can be forwarded or just managed by the office if you don’t want to be disturbed)
    Just to mention another point which I guess was not really pointed out:
    If you have the possibility, you should take an office not too far away from home – not more than ten minutes or so to drive. (Take the bike in summer) That is really fun. The perfect distance. Otherwise you’re loosing too much time by driving. Half-an-hour to the office and half-an-hour back – one hour lost for your family or just spare time.
    Good luck for your search
    Andreas

  76. Mark says:

    Let me offer another suggestion:
    Many studies have shown that just comparing the environment alone in each scenario (at home vs in office) that if you can create an office-like atmosphere @ home not only will you save money but chances are you’re productivity will go up.
    Now I’m not saying setup a cubicle in your dedicated office space at home–but I am saying consider a little remodeling in one of your existing rooms to do as such. In the long run it WILL save you time and money.
    P.S. if you’re not so concerned about the money and just don’t have the space at home the income spent on an office could be put to good use on another house perhaps.
    Just offering up my two cents :)

  77. tlack: where did you look in Miami?

  78. Scott Motte says:

    I prefer large tables, and open space. In fact, I really enjoy working in libraries.

  79. Alec says:

    Light, light and more light. If you have colour sensitive work, draw the curtains.
    But light is essential for the mental well-being of humans. Highest suicide rates in the world in places like Helsinki. Not enough light in the winter.
    Just deciding on some office space myself. Thanks for sharing everybody.
    In terms of varied preferences indicated above for home office/real office. Change is sometimes good.
    A long time in a home office = one wants real office. A few years in a real office = one wants more time at home.

  80. jacki says:

    I like the way the desk came out and the pictures are great too