If you’re looking for extra revenue for your small business, renting out the empty workspace in your office could help.
You likely won’t have trouble finding subletters: The number of people who work independently has skyrocketed in recent years. Between 1999 and 2005, the number of self-employed people working exclusively from home increased 25 percent. And as of July 2011, 2.9 million U.S. employees telecommute. Some of these workers are looking for the amenities of an office—but without the expense of going solo.
Before renting out space in your office, consider these tips from owners in the trenches:
Offer a short-term lease.
You’ll want to remain flexible, in case you need to expand your own business on short notice—or in case you don’t get along with your new roommate. Month-to-month leases are the most common. “It seems to suit most of our renters, and appeals to solo entrepreneurs tired of spending all day alone,” says Trish Sare, director of vacation company BikeHike in Granville Island, Vancouver.
Find the right subletter.
Sare says a “good” subletter is someone who is conscientious about noise, cleanliness and pays the rent on time. While some business owners have had luck finding dependable renters through Craigslist, other websites are popping up just to help small businesses fill their empty space. SharedOffices.com, for example, is a matchmaking site for small businesses and solo workers. “I launched the site after I had to lay off staff from my creative marketing shop,” says founder Rick Tuckerman, who lost real estate clients when the housing bubble burst. “I concluded this niche within the commercial office space industry was underserved, so I launched the site.”
Set up your expectations early.
Outline your expectations from the get go, from cleanliness to how to reserve a conference room, says Kathy McShane, who runs Ladies Who Launch, a New Canaan, Conn., organization that helps women start their own businesses. McShane says she includes a clause in her leases that says, “This is shared office space and therefore we expect you to be respectful of the other tenants. “
Don’t get distracted by your new role.
Don’t spend so much time on becoming a landlord that you’re distracted from running your own business. Jovia Nierenberg, CEO of Experience in Software in Berkeley, Calif., says to prescreen potential tenants as much as possible so you don’t waste time bringing in the wrong people. “Feel free to delegate the initial appointments and showing the space to someone else,” she says. “If you don’t have time for your normal business functions, then you’re spending way too much time on this task.”