How to Find Cost-Effective Office Space

rsz_computerwithphone by Tim Parker on February 7, 2013
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That extra bedroom you converted into a home office might be perfect for your startup, but if you have plans to grow, the task of finding office space outside of your house is likely in your future.

Office space comes with considerable overhead costs and other expenses. So, if you plan to move or expand your operation, take the time to find an affordable site that truly suits your needs. This investment will save you money down the road.

Whether you buy or rent, consider these factors:

1. Location — Office space in prime locations costs more than it does elsewhere. Do you really have to be right next to an airport, on a busy street, or in a mall? If your business relies on walk-in traffic or holds frequent meetings with out-of-town clients, a prime location may be necessary. You can start by using a service like OfficeSpace.com to search for space. The website lists each available office’s address, available square footage, and the rent. In addition, the site provides the average rental rates in your desired ZIP code.

2. Infrastructure — If you run a technology company or otherwise have heavy online needs, does the office you’re considering have appropriate internet access? Is there space and adequate power for your equipment? Do you have any other special needs? Consider all of the above before looking at potential sites. One tip is to complete this online questionnaire [PDF], which will help you gauge your space and infrastructure needs.

3. Square Footage — Plan on a minimum of 125 to 225 square feet of usable space per person. Online calculators can help estimate the specific amount of space you’ll need.

4. Growth Potential — As you consider new offices, ask: Is there room to grow, so you don’t have to move again in a year? Can walls be moved or removed? Is there extra space nearby that could serve as a warehouse?

5. Lease — Who covers repairs or modifying space to fit your needs? If it is an older building, is the heating and air-conditioning system powerful enough to keep the environment comfortable? Will it protect your computer equipment or other machinery? More importantly, what are the terms of the lease? If you expand rapidly, is there a provision for breaking the lease at minimal expense? If you later downsize, will the lease allow you to sublet the extra space you don’t need? Before signing any agreements, check out the landlord, too.

6. Co-Working — If you don’t need a very large office, subletting is often a solid option, or you can run a basic, low-cost office by co-working. Sites like Deskwanted.com allow you to book long- or short-term spaces in a shared office environment. Co-working not only cuts costs, but also increases your networking opportunities. Note that some co-working situations are in large community spaces. If you need privacy, make sure to visit the space a few times before renting. Other sublet options include places like the Perfect Small Office, which offers private offices but shared resources like copiers and fax machines.

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Tim Parker is a business writer for Intuit and is passionate about solving small business problems.

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