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"Work at home" alternatives for small businesses

Posted by Jason Keith  October 10, 2011 06:00 AM

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Everyone has his or her own method for getting things done and for enhancing productivity. Every small business has to decide when it starts out how best to work on the business and, nearly as important, where. This can mean a number of different decisions.  Working from home is easy but also distracting, while renting office space is typically much too expensive for the average start-up.  Small business owners still need the opportunity to meet people and network but focus on what they want to accomplish in a short period of time. The question is, where can you work outside your home cheaply with the potential to network? 

Like anything else, the decision should be based on what works best for you.  But the majority of non-employer firms (of which there were 21.7 million in 2007 alone) do work from home.  The reason for this is simple: It’s easy, and it’s cheap.  Studies have shown that more than 60 percent of micro businesses work from home, while only 18 percent have dedicated office space.  Home is convenient, but how effective are you while working from home?  Telecommuting has become more and more accepted as technology has improved and people are more “connected,” but even that can be hit or miss in terms of productivity.

When you’re working from home, especially trying to get your small business off the ground, you might not be making the most of your opportunities to meet other small business owners, network and forge relationships that could potentially prove fruitful over the life of your business.  Relationships with other business owners can mean a number of things - including referrals, partnership opportunities, and marketing ideas.  The reason the small business community is such a tight one is because they all stick together and seek out opportunities to help one another.  That’s why local chambers of commerce are still important functions of any local small business community. 

Beyond the lack of chances to network, for many working from home means not being as productive as you would be anywhere else. At home, there are typically a number of distractions; from kids to pets, neighbors, and relatives. Things just “come up” when you’re home.  And let’s not forget the ultimate distraction: the television set.  Typically you are going to be more focused, dedicated and serious about what you’re doing when outside of the house, working solely on what's important, with fewer distractions. 

So when starting a business, here are three areas to consider in addition to (or in lieu of) working from home:

The local Starbucks:  pick any local coffee shop and chances are that people are working in there. In fact, coffee shops want that type of cliental, which is why they go out of their way to cater to them.  They have free Wi-Fi so you can always be connected and because they aren’t super quiet, taking phone calls isn’t a problem.  Plus if you do have a meeting, a coffee shop is always a great option. It also never hurts to have a steady flow of caffeine or snacks readily accessible. 

Your local library:  Yes, they still exist and they are a great place to go and not only get some work done, but focus.  Calls will be frowned upon because as everyone knows you need to be quiet, but the upside is a wealth of knowledge.  If stuck for an answer, chances are there will be a book or article you can find at the library that will help you answer it.  The Internet is great for research, but libraries are where knowledge is truly power. 

Co-work spaces:  Did you know you could rent a desk with your own landline for as little as $275 per month?  That’s what shared workspaces are providing for start-ups and entrepreneurs.  They are also springing up all over the country.  Co-work spaces sometimes offer access to other professional people and services businesses might need, as well as a dedicated workspace with the opportunity to network.  For many, it’s the best of all worlds. 

Do you find that when you work from home, that’s where you’re most productive? If not, where do you “get away” to work?  Where would you go if you had to get some work done?


This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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