Leaving home is a big step for any homebased business owner, but it's one that's often necessary as your company expands and grows. In the past, making the transition from home to office often meant signing a long-term lease, plunking down a hefty security deposit, hiring a contractor to renovate the space and borrowing money to buy desks, chairs, lamps, computers and other office equipment. Today, there are many options for homebased entrepreneurs seeking flexible and affordable office space solutions that won't cost you a fortune or lock you into a long-term commitment. In addition to an office with a desk and a door, these business centers offer everything from Internet access and videoconferencing to shared conference space and receptionists.

Here are some of the services you can expect to find:

  • Downtown locations.
  • Fully furnished executive suites.
  • Team rooms and individual offices.
  • Conference rooms and services.
  • Business identity services ("virtual offices").
  • Receptionist/concierge services.
  • State-of-the-art phone and voice-mail systems.
  • High-speed Internet access.
  • Computer and network support.
  • Copy/fax capability.
  • LCD projectors and digital cameras.
  • Free coffee and water.
  • Flexible terms (three months to five years).

Some of the nation's leading temporary office space providers are HQ Global Workplaces, Corporate Suites and SOS America, a company that lets you search for temporary office spaces all over the country. Other providers such as Officescape offer office rentals by the day and even by the hour. Depending on the location of the office, the term of the lease and the amenities included, you can pay anywhere from several hundred dollars per month to several thousand. For example, HQ Global Workplaces charges $2,500 to $4,700 per month for its offices in New York City's prestigious Chrysler Building.

Just about all the companies that offer physical office space offer "virtual" office space as well-a low-cost solution if all you need is a place to meet with clients once or twice a week or seek the more professional image that a downtown business address can bring. HQ Global's Mail Plus Program, for example, provides you with a business address where you can have your mail and packages received and delivered; private offices and conference rooms, where you can do your work and meet with clients; and access to HQ's administrative support staff. Prices start at $70 per month for a minimum three-month stay. If you need more extensive office support, HQ's Virtual Office Program gives you everything that's included in the Mail Plus Program, plus a phone number, a voice-mail box, a live receptionist who answers your calls during business hours, call screening, call forwarding and call patching, beginning at only $190 per month. You also get your company's name listed in the lobby at no extra charge.

Rosalind Resnick is the founder and CEO of Axxess Business Centers Inc., a storefront consulting firm for start-ups and small businesses. She is a former business and computer journalist who built her Internet marketing company, NetCreations Inc., from a two-person homebased start-up to a public company that generated $58 million in annual sales.