What are the pros and cons of a storefront vs. a home office vs. a rented “virtual” office/shared space?
One of the biggest questions you’ll need to answer as you formulate plans to start your business is where you will locate it. Will you work from home or set up an office, storefront or other commercial space? In some cases, you’ll have no choice, as the needs of your business or zoning laws may decide for you. But very often, the decision will be yours. If you’re trying to decide whether to start a home-based business vs. brick and mortar business, each option has pluses and minuses, so here are some things to consider. *Please note, ASNOA recommends using the services of an attorney or accountant before determining where your business will primarily operate.
Brick and Mortar Storefront
If your insurance agency is going to use walk ins as part of its prospecting and service model, then a readily visible and easily accessible storefront is essential.
- You can benefit from nearby businesses through the customer traffic they generate (i.e. get referrals simply based on convenience)
- By Being in close proximity to your competitors you can benefit from their marketing efforts, especially with comparison shoppers
- Commercial spaces portray a professional image that reflects your branding
- You can enjoy simple set up and maintenance for your local directories, online and by mail
- You have room to grow and attract new employees
- You can dedicate a workspace for client meetings and distraction free workdays
- You can cut down on travel time visiting clients
- You will have to pay all of those expenses upfront and monthly
- No one wants to navigate taxes, zoning laws, and regulations that limit what you can do as a business owner
- You will have to deal with commuting every day to work
- You will need to negotiate leases and upkeep with landlords
- And you will miss out on home-office tax breaks
Choosing the location and type of office space are important considerations.
If you plan on staying in your current location as you transition away from being a captive/exclusive agent, there are also several items you should consider. Stay tuned for more information on that subject!
Home Office (i.e. Working from Home)
This option works best if your insurance agency will mostly conduct business as a digital agency, meaning prospects and current clients can access their needs entirely online. In addition, if certain instances call for in-person meetings, you can visit the customer at their location instead.
- It is faster, easier, and cheaper to start your insurance agency, especially when margins are tight right in the beginning
- Your commute is nonexistent – just wake up, freshen up, and turn on your computer
- You can multitask while working at home – although this has its drawbacks as well
- You have more control over your schedule
- You don’t have to pay rent (just your mortgage)
- There are tax benefits
- There are no office politics to deal with on a daily basis
- Double check zoning ordinances in your community because some may forbid commercial activities in residential areas. There may also be restrictions in your Homeowners Association rules and regulations.
- It is not clear cut setting up your insurance agency online. Ask yourself: “Do I really want customers and strangers online to know my home address?” Typically, the answer is no.
a. Plus, there are important complications to be aware of when using a P.O. Box or virtual address. Google does not allow home addresses or virtual office addresses on their local business listings and may suspend your listing if you violate this rule. And, it is not recommended to display your P.O. Box mailing address on Google either.
- There is no walk-in traffic
- Expansion is limited
- Typically, people who work from home have a harder time setting boundaries, which often results in longer work hours and more room for distractions
- Like it or not, some clients may see a home office as less professional
Shared office space, like in a Regus building, is a great option if you want all the perks of working from home but still want a professional, more formal meeting space for clients. However, the flip side of that coin is the same as well. Cons #2 – 4 for home offices are the same even with a virtual/shared office (see above). We strongly recommend you obtain a unique mailing address and phone number if you use a shared space. This is essential for getting found online.
You also have to think about your preferred hours of operation. If the building you use to share office space is closed/locked during weekends when you plan on having appointment-based meetings, the space may not work as well for your business needs. Lastly, if you pick a virtual/shared office space, make sure your directions and office signage are very clear so a client can easily find you.
This article is made available by ASNOA for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of the law. It does not aim to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog, you understand there is no attorney-client relationship between you and ASNOA. We strongly recommend consulting a lawyer for individual needs of your business.