By Jo Disney

So you’ve started your own business? Good for you! It’s a great feeling, being captain of your own ship.

Like most startups and freelancing professionals, you’ve probably got a home office, or at least a space on the dining room table. For those days when you’re not meeting clients or schmoozing at networking events, it works just fine. Because it’s free. It’s convenient. And all you really need is a table and a Wi-Fi connection to get the job done. Right?

Err, not necessarily.

You see, the world of office space has changed considerably over recent years. You might not make it your business to follow workspace trends or understand how commercial property is evolving. But I do! So I’m here to offer a few pointers on why it’s time to upgrade your home office, and how to find a space that fits your business without crippling your finances.

Firstly, let’s start with the reasons why a home office is not necessarily the right place to grow your business. Next, we’ll consider three different types of workspace and how much they cost.

Why Your Home Office Isn’t Working

Cast your mind back to a time when you were bound to the 9-5, chasing that middle management promotion and working feverishly to line the CEO’s pockets. The thought of working from home was pretty magical, wasn’t it? Two-hour lunches, latte meetings, sun-filled walks with the dog and finished in time to collect the kids from school.

Let’s be honest here. The reality isn’t quite as rosy as you always imagined, is it? It could be because:

You’re not as productive when the boss isn’t watching.

Left to your own devices, do you really make the most of your working day? Laundry, the postman, daydreaming, even a hungry cat can all contribute towards productivity-sapping distractions.

The walls are closing in.

The home office is isolating and eerily quiet. Whoever would have thought that the background buzz of office conversation and watercooler breaks are in fact quite comforting, and strangely conducive to higher productivity?

It’s invading your downtime.

Take it from me – when you work from home, the line between work and home life becomes blurred. Left unchecked it can quietly but surely tear you away from the things that really matter, like family and friends. Everyone – even small business owners – need some downtime, so be sure to factor that into your planning.

Three Flexible Workspace Options

OK, so we’ve covered the reasons why your business needs an office. Now it’s time to examine how much an office rental might cost. Forget long-term corporate leases. Instead, we’re talking flexible offices that give you the opportunity to scale in your own time, without the potentially crushing impact of expensive deposits, lengthy leases or complex get-out clauses.

Check out these three different types of flexible workspace options:

1. Coworking

What is it? Shared workspace with freelancers or employees from other businesses. It’s community-spirited, inspirational, and the networking/support opportunities are endless. Some operate on monthly memberships, others are pay-as-you-go.

How much does it cost? A communal workspace membership in Downtown Los Angeles sets you back just $100 per month (BLANKSPACES). Head to Midtown Manhattan and you could pay a daily drop-in rate of $35 or $450 per month (Ensemble). The Common Desk in Dallas charge $25 per day or $200 per month (prices as of March 2014).

2. Serviced Office

What is it? Private offices ranging in size from single suites upwards. Contracts are short-term (most start from one month) and are usually renewed on a rolling monthly basis. Contracts are typically all-inclusive and incorporate rent, on-site support staff, furnishings, maintenance, heating, cleaning, security etc.

How much does it cost? Serviced offices range from approximately $300-$400 per person per month for basic out-of-town centres, up to $1,000 or more for higher quality suites or prime city centre locations.

3. Virtual Offices

What is it? A mailing address at a physical office, where your incoming mail is handled and forwarded onto you. They usually include a phone number with a receptionist answering calls, discounted meeting rooms and day offices. You can use the address and phone number on your correspondence, thereby protecting your home address and cell phone and improving your company image. If you publish your cell phone number on your website or business card, and you’re frequently bombarded by sales calls, your receptionist will answer calls in your company name and filter out any spam.

How much does it cost? The Alliance Virtual Offices website lists a basic virtual office with call answering in New York City from at $49 per month. Elsewhere, virtual office plans in San Francisco and Washington DC start from $95 per month (prices as of March 2014).

Not quite the budget-smashing expense you were expecting?

Home offices are fine on those days when you’re ploughing through a mountain of paperwork. But for ambitious small business owners, there’s a whole industry of alternative workspace out there that can do great things for your growth strategy.

If you’re still not convinced, try putting yourself in your clients’ shoes. Would you, as captain of a precious business into which you’ve invested your life and soul, trust a potential client or supplier that was based entirely at home? Possibly not.

All things considered, maybe now’s the time to relinquish the dining room table. Your business (and your family) will thank you for it!