Could ‘Airbnbiz’ be your home office solution?

home office

Working from home is an art. You have to ignore the washing and the temptation to raid the fridge or just watch daytime TV. So why not go and sit in someone else’s living room or kitchen instead?

That is what an increasing number of home-based freelancers and small business owners are doing.

The idea of renting someone’s home as your office space started in the US around 2013, and hit the UK in 2014 with the launch of home office-finder websites – first Vrumi, then Spacehop.

The size of the freelance market

A 2014 survey by PeoplePerHour estimated half the workforce would be self-employed freelancers by 2020 and the most recent Government statistics revealed there were 4.2 million homeworkers in the UK. So, in theory, there should be enough potential demand for this kind of mobile working.

But why would you want to pay to work in someone’s kitchen or living room?

Good for meetings?

Roddy Campbell, co-founder of Vrumi explains, ‘For many people, working from home can be impossible. Whether it’s the distractions of pets and family or a lack of appropriate space. Working from someone else’s home offers structure and a delineation of the work day, meaning that home and work can stay completely separate. What’s more, most homes are just plain inappropriate for a meeting or for a growing start up. No one wants to try to impress a potential investor with their laundry drying over the radiator!’

Potential savings on office rent

Luke Eastwood, co-founder of website Spacehop agrees and says. ‘It is much cheaper for freelancers. The majority of co-working facilities in London charge in excess of £400 p/m and a lot of the time, workers only use the space 2-3 times a week. With us you only pay for what you use and get space from as little as £1 per hour.’

Working from a local coffee shop costs over £20 a day and could exacerbate any caffeine addiction, he adds.

But before you rush out and hire a stranger’s home for the day, do some research.

Some questions to ask

  • Both websites claim to thoroughly vet both homeowners and workers. Read the reviews from previous users before signing up. Exchange emails or chat to get a feel for the ‘landlord’
  • Will they be present during the day or how will you get and return keys?
  • Will you be alone or with co-workers?
  • How much will it cost and can you get a discount if you are booking more than one day’s rental? Expect to pay around £15 a day for a basic office space
  • Most rental spaces are currently in London – do the available locations suit your needs?
  • What is included in the price – tea and coffee, Wifi?
  • What insurance is on offer in case you break something accidentally?
  • Leave the address of where you’re going to be and when with a friend for safety.

First-hand experience

So does it work? Robert Frost booked a room through Vrumi in Charing Cross, central London at the end of January to hold a series of auditions. The York-based independent film director was meeting eight people and needed a private space to let them audition. He paid £87.60 for a 9am-6pm rental.

‘We needed somewhere central but cheap as we work on a tight budget. The owner was at home but didn’t disturb us and we were able to play music. It was almost like being at a friend’s house. We’ve used coffee shops before but they are too noisy and public,’ says Robert, half of directing duo R&A. ‘I would definitely rent a room this way again.’

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