Depending on the nature of your business, your office space investment will probably be one of the most important financial considerations you face early on. You’ll need a space for your team to come together to work, not to mention host prospective clients.
Related: 5 Simple Rules to Follow When Looking for Office Space
Your choice in this matter will not only cost you significant up-front money, but will dictate your monthly expenditures for years to come.
To make matters worse, if you lack access to capital or you’re trying to start as lean as possible, your office options will be extremely limited. Real estate is expensive, especially in highly populated or dense urban settings.
Fortunately, there are a few potential ways around this:
1. Consider whether you actually need an office.
With today’s ridiculously connected world and cloud-based technologies accessible from anywhere, there are fewer and fewer reasons for offices being necessary business institutions. If you need an office only for team collaboration and communication, consider simply going remote.
You may not be able to build the same close, in-person team bonds, but you can get close as long as you get everyone using the same communication technologies (and maybe organize occasional in-person meet-ups to keep everyone on the same page). However, if making a big impression with clients is important, you may still want to get that office. You could also seek a hybrid solution: Have a physical office, but keep most of your workers remote.
2. Look at incubators and accelerators.
If you’re a business in the early stages of development and you don’t have an office because you haven’t needed one, consider enlisting in a startup accelerator or incubator. These two similar structures help startup entrepreneurs advance their ideas while working with mentors and peers in nurturing environments.
Generally, if you're enrolled in one of these programs, you’ll have access to inexpensive or free office space — plus access to tons of great resources to build your business from the ground up.
3. Seek a collaborative workspace.
Collaborative workspaces, which attempt to bring multiple freelancers, entrepreneurs and other professionals together under a single, independently owned space, are becoming popular in urban areas. Depending on your needs, a setup like this could be your best bet.
Generally, you’ll pay a fee — sometimes, on a monthly basis, like a gym membership — which gives you free access while you’re an active subscriber. Sometimes, you'll pay a per-day rate. This could be beneficial if you need an office only some of the time, or if only a fraction of your team will need an office.
Related: How This Company Is Helping Businesses Make the Most of Excess Office Space
4. Create your own co-op.
Alternatively, you could create your own co-op, especially if you have some initial capital. The idea is to purchase your own office building, or lease a major chunk of one, then lease out a smaller section of that building to another tenant. Using this structure, you’ll essentially create a line of revenue for yourself, minimizing or even neutralizing the rent you’re paying for your own use of the space.
The only major hurdles here will be finding ideal real estate for the setup, and a tenant who’s okay with the setup.
5. Make an alternative build.
When you're trying to build an office, you don’t have to look exclusively for “office buildings” or spaces designed for offices, strange as that may sound. Consider other types of buildings, for instance warehouses or even residential homes. The advantage here will be that there will be less competition from other businesses and you’ll probably be able to secure a lower rate, as well.
Plus, if your business is unique, you can use your alternative space to differentiate yourself, marketing-wise, from the competition and become more memorable for your clients.
6. Decide what’s really important.
Before you pull the trigger on getting an office, think about what you’re really using it for. Is it going to be a collaborative space for your employees to work together? If so, you’ll need different features than you will for an office where you merely need to look good to prospective clients.
Don’t opt for features that simply “look cool” or features you think you need — instead, focus on what really matters. There’s a bit of pride in having a cool, chic, centrally located office, but it may not be worth the extra money it takes to acquire those features. That money could be better spent on more important aspects of your business.
These potential ideas and considerations should help you find a starting point that works for your startup, your clients and your initial budget. Also, remember, you’re not locked into one setup forever.
If you start with a remote working setup, you can always secure a formal office space later. And as long as you don’t sign a multi-year lease, you can usually opt out of an office space if and when it no longer suits you.
Related: Ready for a Legit Office Space? Think About These 4 Things Before Starting Your Search.
Give yourself as much flexibility as possible for making your initial decision, and be prepared to change, if necessary, in the future.