Some of us don't like the sudden shift from working in a building full of people to working on your own. In my case it was one of the best things about starting up my micro business. I can't work when I'm surrounded by people and constantly being interrupted. I've found a lifestyle that works for me. Having said that, it's important that, when you leave a team situation to working solo, you find someone compatible to bounce ideas around with, to keep your business creativity going.
One of the best ways of meeting your idea-bouncing buddy is a business association such as a Chamber of Commerce or industry group. I'm part of Ryde Business Forum
and much of my business comes from word of mouth contacts from other members, or direct meetings with other members. I'm also involved in joint projects with some members; pooling our complementary skills has given us the strength to address projects we might not have been able to win or manage on our own. You can't expect clients to drop at your doorstep, you do have to go hunting. When I started my business ten years ago I had ten probable clients on my list, all of whom promised me work in the industry I'd just left. None of it eventuated. The work came from Ryde Business Forum members instead. It wasn't instant, but it's been constant, and it's growing.
You can also pick up work and meet fellow solo spirits from online connections - yes, think Facebook
and also websites like Flying Solo
, which is an excellent source for micro business owners. Notice how people comment on posts? Get commenting back. Start chatting. See what happens. Social media is growing rapidly as a source for business leads and potential clients and partners. Yes, you can lose yourself for hours once you start reading blogs or finding out more about the people you're following on Twitter (or who are following you for that matter). But if it brings you a good contact, it's time well spent. And you probably enjoyed yourself and learned something along the way. I do recommend getting help if you're going to seriously use social media as a business tool - there are some fantastic social media coaches around and we can recommend one for you - as implementing a professional social media strategy will target and refine your social media usage.
If working from home isn't a suitable option for you and you think you'll go crazy with only the dog for company, consider a serviced office. You'll have your own space but will meet other tenants in common areas, which could be useful in the bouncing-ideas-off category. My husband was in that situation before he moved to Sydney, and enjoyed meeting up with other people in his industry over a cuppa at the serviced office canteen. Serviced offices ARE expensive, so factor that in. Depending on the services you choose you can have a professional receptionist, access to admin staff and much more.
Virtual offices give you the benefit of a receptionist and access to facilities such as admin/secretarial staff without the cost of the real estate that goes with it. Some virtual office firms like Servcorp
(another RBF member) have boardrooms for hire so you can impress your clients.
However... I can't count how many clients I meet at cafes for a discussion over coffee. Have a look around you next time you're in a coffee shop and work out how many of those tables are actually hosting a business meeting. Boozy lunches are a thing of the past. A chatte over latte and a muffin is the new short black. So, working from home means you, er, can have your cake and eat it too!
What have you found good and bad about working from home or in a solo office? Has it been the best thing you've ever done? Or the worst?