Robert sips coffee and eats a breakfast cookie at the café downstairs from his Bellingham, Washington condo. He greets the usual gang who have gathered for their morning ritual of sharing the newspaper, talking about politics and what’s going on in their lives. An hour later, he’s back upstairs working at the computer in his second bedroom. A freelance writer, he successfully balances his work life and personal life in what is now referred to as Live/Work Space.
Robert isn’t a 20-something starting out his career. He’s 71 year-old renowned author of several business books.
“I’ve had offices,” says Robert. “But this situation is so much better for me, and I have no trouble disciplining myself to get my work done at home. In fact, I get more done here than I would at a separate office.”
Live/Work spaces are a growing concept in a world where technology has freed so many from a daily commute. It’s not just telecommuters who work with computers and phones, many other small, one-person businesses are discovering the benefit of a home office.
In the healthcare industry, massage therapists, acupuncturists, counselors, personal trainers, and dieticians, are just a few taking advantage of these new spaces. Ground floor apartments built specifically with Live/Work in mind, offer living space with appropriate easy customer access for conducting business. Other single person companies, like architects, interior designers, real estate agents, accountants, and business consultants, may choose to work from home since they are often visiting clients at their place of business and don’t need an expensive office.
Annie, a hair stylist, created a tiny salon in her home, with a tiled floor, sink and mirrors, hair dryer and barber chair. She doesn’t want to pay rent in a large salon. She has had her select clientele for many years and isn’t interested in expanding. Not having a commute saves her time that she can spend with her family.
Artists and photographers have traditionally worked from home. With a designated live/work space, they can feature a gallery, as well. In the Bellingham area, the Whatcom Art Guild has twice annual self-guided “Studio Tours”, where art lovers can pick up a booklet with a map and visit the artists where they create.
These spaces are also ideal for new businesses to incubate and get off the ground with a new idea that hasn’t yet developed enough customer base for a larger place.
With less distractions and noise, a space tailored to the individual can be conducive to better productivity and a happier work environment. In traditional offices, there is always someone who doesn’t like the temperature, someone else eating at their desk, people who can’t stop visiting you and noise all around. The one person live/work space removes all of that.
Things to be aware of while looking for Live/Work dwellings:
- Be sure the local zoning laws permit it, especially if you will have customers visiting you.
- Your business is likely a “destination” space, not a “walk by” and drop in place. You probably don’t need to pay main street prices when a block or two away will be better suited.
- Personal distractions. As with Robert’s coffee shop downstairs, if you have cafes or pubs nearby, you may find yourself spending too much time there. On the other hand, those public spaces are also great for meeting clients.
- Parking challenges. If you have only one designated parking space and it’s for your car, where will your clients park? Do other tenants leave during the day, freeing up space?
- Your personality. Working at home requires discipline and organizational skills. If you think you can do it, give it a try!