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Hanging Your Shingle At Home

When I made the decision to enter solo practice, my greatest concern was money. Specifically, how I’d make money; how I’d pay for the expenses of my solo practice; and how I’d afford to continue to live the lifestyle I’d grown accustomed to while working for other firms. I know I’m not alone in that regard. In fact, when I’ve talked to colleagues who are interested in solo practice, our conversations inevitably turn to these financial concerns.

These fears are not without good cause. After all, business will probably be lean during your first few months of solo practice. As a result, it’s important to keep your expenses low. An obvious place where you can save money is by avoiding the rent on a traditional office space.

In fact, a home office is a necessity for many newly independent attorneys. The primary benefit is obvious: it’s cheap. Indeed, in addition to not having to pay rent on an office space, your home office is a potential tax write-off come tax time. Additionally, the home office provides you with a lot of flexibility in terms of how you calculate your work-life balance. And, thankfully, with new technology it’s easier than ever to work out of your home.

The primary downside is that it doesn’t have the appearance of a professional work environment. Additionally, you’ll frequently encounter colleagues, friends, and family members who secretly suspect that you spend all day goofing around in your pajamas. Of course, as telecommuting and work from home arrangements become more common, this is increasingly become less of an issue. Many of your clients and colleagues may work from home themselves or probably know someone who does. Indeed, many of my clients who know that I work from home appreciate the fact that because I have low overhead I can charge them lower rates than many of my colleagues.

If the “stigma” is an issue that concerns you, it’s important to remember that many clients, especially new and prospective clients, have no idea that you work from home. If you are worried about how it will affect your professional image, don’t disclose your work-from-home situation unless you are asked about it directly. When I meet with clients I typically meet them in their office, virtually via Skype or Google Hangouts, or (presuming we won’t be discussing confidential matters) at a cafe or restaurant. To be honest, I conduct nearly all of my business with my clients virtually over the Internet. Indeed, this was even true when I worked for big corporate clients with my former employers at commercial office spaces. In fact, when I do meet a client in person it’s typically at networking events, conferences, and other social events. As a result, I’ve found the home office arrangement to be a successful arrangement at this stage in my solo practice. As my firm grows and my clients’ needs change, the option of entering into a virtual office space or share office space arrangement remains.

Do you work from home? What have been the benefits and disadvantages of the arrangement for you? Let us know in the comments section!

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