HOME OFFICE OR OFFICE, OFFICE?

One of the most frequent questions client ask is : ” Can I save money by having my office in my home?”

The answer is WELL, MAYBE.

Laptop and coffee in outdoor office

Best to give this one a lot of thought before you go forward with hanging your shingle on your front porch.  First of all, it is more than likely that clients will know your home address at some time, even if you meet them at a coffee shop.  Certainly most of the time this is OK until you get that client from (you know where).  Then you are not protected from all kinds of tactics including stalking and harassing you.  Remember this is why attorneys rip off the address labels on magazines that they bring from home for their offices.

You can certainly have a mail box address which can appear as a real street address and this may help.  Also inexpensive “group” offices which allow you to use their address and facilities on a monthly basis can give you some protection.

More importantly, you need to think about how this all looks to your clients.  If your practice is Probate and Wills, you could offer to go to the client’s  homes, especially if they are elderly.  However, if you have a substantial client that you are doing long term estate planning and business trusts, etc. you  really can’t meet in a coffee shop.  If your goal is to attract these kinds of clients and your marketing is focused there, maybe biting the bullet and getting a shared office at least would be more feasible.

If you do decide to have your practice in your home, be careful how to describe where you are located on your Website.  Many people choose their attorney by where they live.  If you have a group office, you can put that address there and meet there, but how do you describe where you are if you are meeting them in a coffee shop?  Some attorneys put “ by appointment” but that is also confusing.  You can offer to come to their home but , as said above, that may turn off your larger clients.

Home offices are really best suited to practices which don’t involve much client contact such as Appeals and International Business which can be done mostly by internet.

Certainly, some attorneys are able to work out of their homes as they keep their practices small and don’t need much help, but you can see it is not an easy task.  Lastly, look around your home and decide exactly where you are going to have your office.  Do you have a separate room or are you doing this in your living room?  Is it quiet? Do you have enough space to have a copier, computer and filing cabinets?  Do you work well  in this environment or are you easily distracted?  All of these can be obstacles to a productive practice.  You are going to have to be rigid in your scheduling of time.  Is working in the evenings going to be a no no?  Solos have to put in anywhere from 45-55 hours a week setting up, marketing , networking and then doing legal work for at least 2 years to successfully launch  a business, whether its in their home or office.  Be truthful and answer if you can do that and you will save yourself a lot of stress and heartache.

Last, take to your CPA and see what the tax ramifications are with home offices.  Good advice here can save you heart ache later.

 

Best of luck to you in whatever you decide and let me know your experiences!