Working from home is where the majority of freelancers start. Be it a desk in a spare room or the kitchen table, homeworking is a rent-free, expensable treat and many wouldn’t change it for the world.

However, at some point the small desk in the corner of your bedroom may prove insufficient, and it could be time to expand your home office, look into some coworking spaces or even lease a full-blown office of your own. But how do you know when it’s time to upgrade?

Your paperwork is taking over

Remember when everybody used to talk about “the paperless office”? Many of us realised quite a long time ago it’s never going to happen.

The main culprits are utility providers and HMRC, who insist on sending you physical post despite your perfectly good email address. If your paperwork has got so out of hand your keyboard is resting on a thick layer of mixed-up pages, it could be time to buy a bigger desk. Perhaps one with drawers.

Your home office is less office, more home

Is your personal life intruding into your workspace? Do you sometimes find boiled sweets sticking an invoice and last summer’s postcards together? Is your work computer filled with bookmarks of funny cat videos?

It could be time to address your work-life balance, and make sure the two are clearly separated.

Your first employee works on your sofa

Growing your business is a bold and admirable step for any freelancer, but the cost of taking on your first employee is not to be taken lightly.

If your enterprise is growing beyond a one-person operation and your new team cannot be appropriately accommodated, it’s definitely time to grow your premises too.

Only you understand your “filing system”

Look down. How much carpet can you see?

Is the floor of your home office mostly obscured by paperwork? Do stacks of research and things you’ll “definitely get round to reading” litter chairs, tables and your desk? If your workspace is a complete pigsty, but you “know exactly where everything is”, it’s probably time to expand.

You begin to fear the outside world

When you both work and live at home, adventures outside the house can be few and far between.

Especially if the weather is bad (that never happens in England, right?) days can pass without feeling the wind in your hair. If you’ve started collecting your toenail clippings in a jar and begun to hiss like a startled cat when direct sunlight catches you, it could be time to ditch the home office. Rejoin the world, go networking, meet some people.

  • Heather

    Hi Jon,

    I love this post! As a home working freelancer for the past 7 years, I recognise a few of these. I’m not in danger of fearing the outside world (a dog and 2 kids to get to school mean I have to venture out and talk to people every day) but the whole paperwork taking over/blurring of lines between home and work really resonates. I never have paper in my printer (apparently, I buy it for interesting artworks rather than essentially stuff like printing invoices or proposals) and there are no pens or pencils within 24 hours of restocking them (for the same reason).

    I wonder though, what do you do if you’ve outgrown the home office but working from home is why you did it in the first place i.e. for people like me who wanted to be available for the kids outside office hours. Do you or your readers have any suggestions? Or, as I suspect, do I just need to get better at filing (and find a key for my stationery drawer)?

    Great post – thanks for sharing.

    • Jon_Norris

      Cheers Heather – glad you enjoyed it!

      My home office got into a total state a while back so I did some serious re-organising – got rid of the printer, started religiously scanning all my paperwork etc. It’s amazing how much neater things are without stacks of paper everywhere.

  • I used to work with two colleagues in a small room in a tiny apartment and those were the days. Unfortunately, eventually we had to split up since the lack of space started taking over.

  • Thanks for sharing this! It can be hard to make the transition from being a freelance worker at home to deciding to move to a shared coworking space or actually find an office if you have a growing team. I appreciate your tip about needing to “rejoin the world,” because it can be a hard reminder when you’re holed-up working all day to get out, talk to new people, and actively network. However, for your own sanity and the growth of your business having these interactions, talking about your venture to new people, and getting a dose of fresh air is vital to your career success.

  • Hahaha love the writing style of this post, that last paragraph had me laughing.

    • Jon_Norris

      Cheers Rix 🙂