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Office Space

Ready to move out of your house and into a real office? Here are some tips.

This story appears in the May 2008 issue of Startups. Subscribe »

If your cat has taken up permanent residence on your keyboard and you are hiring employees who don't want to work from your kitchen table, maybe it's time to move into a professional office space. Determine if you're ready to move out of your home office, says Jeffrey A. Landers, author of The Home Office From Hell Cure. Is your business growing? Do you need space for new employees? Do you want to have somewhere more official than a local coffee shop to meet with clients? There are some low-cost alternatives to an expensive office space.

To keep costs down, look into executive suites. Executive suites usually offer a common reception area with a receptionist, a number of conference rooms, a kitchen area and individual offices. They're also already hooked up to high-speed internet and phone service. Flexibility is one of the top selling points of these arrangements. "If you're moving out of your home office and your business is expanding, one of your concerns is predicting the future," explains Landers. "What's going to happen over the next six or 12 months? Is your business going to quadruple, or will you find business is not as robust as you thought it would be? You want the flexibility." In traditional office spaces, you'd have to sign long leases, sometimes lasting from three to five years. Executive suites typically offer space for three-, six-, nine- and 12-month terms, and some even offer month to month.

Shared office space is another option. Renting or subleasing extra space from an existing business can be good if you find a compatible situation. A consulting business might fit well into a law office, notes Landers, but a hip-hop magazine probably wouldn't. Look around when you first visit--check out the environment, cleanliness, upkeep--and learn about the legal issues of subleasing. If you decide to sublease, make sure you get permission from the building owner first, Landers advises. You don't want to find yourself stuck with a bunch of useless stationery with the wrong address should the landlord disapprove after the fact.

Check out or the local classifieds for possible office space sharing situations in your area.