Your First Office Space: A Guide For Startups & Non-Profits


The time has finally come to pick out your office location. This is an exciting time full of potential and enthusiasm—it can certainly be tempting to buy into that dreamy loft space in the hot part of town. In some cases, moving into the latest and greatest office space can have a positive impact on your business, but more often than not, it can create a heavy, unintended financial burden.

In addition to all of the helpful startup resources available, follow this guide when deciding whether or not to move into a physical location.

Choosing a Time to Move

Having a separate office space is a great way to legitimize and grow your business, but jumping the gun on signing a lease can cause undue financial stress on your business and emotional stress for you.

Check Your Capital

Having capital before looking for a space allows you to establish your business without taking on a lot of upfront debt. Don’t forget to account for all of the extra costs that a physical location requires. This piece from 42 Floors is a great, quick read on “hidden costs to consider”.

Consider the Off-Season

Wait for a time to establish your first office space when you are not too busy just trying to support the basic functions of your company—a swimwear company, for example, would likely be better off moving in the fall or winter months, as opposed to July, when their products are in highest demand. This will allow you the time you need to get your space set up and to establish your infrastructure (like phones, internet, computing needs, etc.) while still maintaining a high level of service to any existing clientele.

Location Exploration

It can be tempting to just call an agent and start looking at only the best and most beautiful spaces in town. Start your search in a modest price range and move upward only if necessary. That prime spot looks snazzy, but could not be as functional as a space outside of the center of downtown.

Nonprofit Resources

If you are a nonprofit company, take advantage of local resources in your community. There are realtors and organizations dedicated to helping nonprofits find office space. These groups can point you to spaces exclusively for nonprofit companies with low-rate leasing options. has a great resource for further exploration.

Other Smart Resources

Commercial startups can still take advantage of organizations that support local businesses. Reach out to places like your local chamber of commerce, industry-specific associations, and other groups with extensive knowledge of affordable spaces available in your community.

Need more resources? This Entrepreneur article has a list of organizations that every entrepreneur should be a part of.

Landlords Matter!

Don’t forget to consider the owner of your new office space. Even the best locations can become a nightmare if the landlord is not easy to get along with. Here are some great tips about things to look for in your prospective landlords.  

Funding Through Community Institutions

There are dozens of organizations that small business owners can leverage to reduce costs and even provide loans for office space and operating expenses. For example, the CDFI offers loans to small businesses in under-developed communities.

Companies that are looking for unique spaces outside of a city center can take advantage of these types of loans, grow an office space in a community in need of development, and help boost up the neighborhood. It is a win-win!

Once you secure a space, there are additional ways to keep the “hidden costs” down:

Consider Cloud Computing

Cloud computing is a great way to work as a team on projects without having to have expensive software or an IT team and onsite hosting. You could even consider an entire digital transformation, but be sure that you stay safe and secure during the process. Lexology has a great resource for those looking to digitize in 2017.

As your business grows, you may have to consider adding a full-time IT department, but in the short term this a great solution. The Capterra blog has this, plus other great resources for non-profits (and commercial businesses) looking to cut costs effectively.

Avoid Single Sourcing Contracts

Shopping around for the best deal on important operational office needs is crucial to keeping costs down. Single sourcing, while tempting, can often lead to overspending or a dependency on one company for all of your office’s needs. Take the time to shop around and find the best deals on your most frequently used supplies.

Check for Discounted Non-Profit Deals

Many services offer reduced pricing for nonprofits. For example, if your NPO utilizes traditional mail marketing you can take advantage of nonprofit mailing rates through the USPS. This can reduce your mailing rate substantially.

Purge the Unnecessary and Get Organized

Before undertaking the move, there are some things you can do to help it go smoothly and to lessen the downtime the move will have on your day-to-day operations.

Take Inventory

Know exactly what you are moving and where it all needs to end up in your new space. This helps to ensure things don’t get lost in the shuffle and frees you from having to make multiple last minute decisions about where things should be placed. Your move will go much faster if you and those helping know the game plan.

Discard Unnecessary Items

A move is a great time to clean house. Don’t waste time and money by moving items that really should be discarded or destroyed before the move. If and when possible, consider donating to those in need.

Use Cheap Off-Site Storage for Non-Essentials

If you have items that you need to hang on to for certain tasks or functions but are not in need of on a regular basis, take advantage of inexpensive off-site storage. This can be more cost-effective than trying to lease space that is large enough to accommodate rarely-used equipment and inventory

Having a solid game plan before to your new office search will save time, money, and stress. Quickly getting established in an affordable space is the perfect way to set you and your company up for success! Good luck and get moving!