Freelancer’s Paradise: Finding the Ideal Home Business Workspace in OKC
Forbes magazine recently ranked Oklahoma City as the 5th best city in the United States for entrepreneurs. What did we do to earn that distinction? The ranking is based on “an equal weighting of loan data, cost of living, business activity, education and income.” From my standpoint, it’s a combination of being a big enough city to be exciting, and a small enough city to not have ridiculous traffic (I’m looking at you, Dallas).
So, you’re an entrepreneur, and you’ve heard that this is a great place to work or start a company. Where do you set up shop?
It’s been just a few months since Cara and I decided to start Steed, our own design and web development studio. Because our business is almost entirely digital, we have the ability to work from anywhere, any time. This has giving us some great flexibility, and the opportunity to test out Oklahoma City’s many workspaces for ourselves.
1. The Home Office
In some ways, keeping an office at home is the most natural place to work. They don’t call it a “home business” for nothing.
- No Traffic. I really don’t enjoy driving. Some day, Google cars will take me where I need to go while I play video games and read books. Until then, not driving at all is a pretty great option.
- Customizable space. You want a more comfortable chair? Buy one. You need a second monitor? It’s all yours. Open your window, blast your speakers and tape your inspiration to the wall. It’s your space, so you can set things up to your liking.
- Flexible Hours. If your spouse wants to make a quick run to the grocery store, you can be at home with the kids. If you happen to have twins like we do, you’re right there to be an extra set of hands for feeding or changing times.
- Distractions. For someone like me who is programming for a living, a moment’s distraction can slow you down for much longer. Your brain is a delicate instrument that takes time to warm up and reach peak efficiency. When you get distracted, you start over from square one. Baby noises from the next room, or the temptation to turn on the TV might derail you indefinitely.
- Limited Space. When you’re working from home, you may find that you’re working from the guest room or dining room table. When those spaces are required for something else (guests visiting, dinner), your entire workspace is going to need to pack up and move somewhere else.
- Flexibility to help out at home. If you want to give yourself a panic attack, work in an environment where you have multiple, simultaneous demands on your time.
2. Coffee Shops and Restaurants
We’ve had free wifi in coffee shops and restaurants for more than a decade. By this point, it’s pretty well established that there are going to be people with laptops set up pretty much anywhere. In our immediate area, the most likely candidates are Starbucks, Panera Bread, IHOP, and McDonalds.
- Coffee and food. It’s very convenient to grab a pastry or a latte. Or a caramel macchiato. Those are awesome.
- Atmosphere. Coffee shops are much better at this than restaurants. They’re designed to be an inviting space with nice decorations and music.
- Eavesdropping. Loud conversations are going on all around you. And they’re going to make it hard to focus on whatever you’re working on.
- Bathroom Breaks If you need a quick break, you’re going to need to pack up your laptop and all your other belongings. And when you come back, someone might have taken your seat.
- Price. Most restaurants require you, or at least strongly encourage you, to purchase something if you’re going to be using their space. If you’re there for hours, it might be a good idea to buy something again so that they don’t resent you being there. If this is your chosen workspace every day, all of these small treats could add up in a hurry.
A library is a place designed to encourage learning and getting work done. The closest library to us is the Northwest Library in Oklahoma City, which is a really great, modern space, having only opened in 2012.
- Blissfully quiet. Unlike a restaurant, a library is a quiet place. There are employees who are basically paid to shush people for you. It’s amazing.
- Completely free. Libraries are paid for by your taxes. No one cares if you’re there day after day. There is never any obligation to buy anything or do anything.
- Well connected. A modern library needs a fast internet connection, and you’ll be able to take advantage of that when downloading or sending large files.
- Access to books and educational materials. It’s a library. If you need to learn something business-related or pick something up to take home, you’re already there.
- Getting out of your bubble. Unlike some of the other places on this list, a library is a haven for people of all cultures and economic classes. Do some people watching while you’re there!
- Bathroom Breaks. Just like a coffee shop, you probably don’t want to leave your laptop on a table while you take a pit stop. Packing everything up several times a day is an inconvenience.
- Making phone calls. A library is a quiet place, and you’ll make people angry if you break the silence. If you’re the type of person who makes or receives phone calls throughout the day, you’ll get used to quickly packing up your belongings to step outside.
- Drive time. If you don’t live close to a library, your commute time could cut into your productivity.
4. Coworking Spaces
Having a home business can be a very solitary endeavor. If you think you would benefit from spending time with other freelancers, moonlighters and small business people, a coworking space is a great place to make some connections. In Oklahoma City, there are a few of these, including the Commonwealth, The 404 and The Barn (new in 2015) , all located close to downtown. For those who are more technically minded, OKC has hacker/maker spaces like Prototek and Ohmspace.
- Making connections. Working by yourself day after day can make your work stagnant. At a coworking space, you can meet other people who are programmers, designers, marketers, entrepreneurs, and other small business people. New perspectives will keep you fresh, and can give you opportunities for collaboration.
- Learning by osmosis. Being close to other intelligent people will rub off on you. As other people have conversations around you, you’ll find that you pick up interesting tidbits and techniques.
- Meeting with clients. If you need to have a professional meeting with a client, most coworking spaces have a conference area that would help you make a good impression.
- Using the bathroom and making phone calls. Because coworking spaces are relatively locked down and are full of trusted people, you’ll probably feel comfortable leaving your things in place if you feel like stepping out.
- Cost. While working at a coworking space is much cheaper than renting or buying your own office space, it’s still a significant expense. Plans in this area start around $35/month if you just plan on visiting once a week, and go up from there.
- Drive time. Coworking spaces are a fairly recent phenomena, and aren’t as common as the other locations on this list. They tend to be close to downtown and other businesses, so your commute is going to be similar to working a regular job.
After spending a few months bouncing back and forth between these places, I’ve mostly settled on the library. It’s where I’m the most productive, and fits the way that I work most closely. We’re also extremely lucky to live less than three miles from one of the nicest libraries in the city, so it would be a shame not to take advantage of that.
I visit a coworking space regularly, spend time at home when I’m needed, and occasionally work from a coffee shop if I need to be out late or need a pick-me-up.
As a freelancer, you don’t need to settle on just one solution. Having the flexibility to work from any location you choose is a great blessing, and each day gives you the option to go where you need to.
Did I miss any good options? Where do you prefer to work? Let us know in the comments.