How to Find Office & Studio Space on a Budget

I taught myself how to make jewelry while sitting on the floor of the studio apartment I share with my fiancé. I stored my soldering torch and acid bath (this cleans metals after pieces are soldered together…who knew!) on top of the fridge, and every morning when we got out of bed, we would step on errant beads that somehow found their way across the floor.

That’s how ideas happen, how companies begin: it’s hectic and messy and always fun and you look back on it and laugh. You kind of just make it work, and you build your first website while sitting in bed with your laptop. Every time I had a manufacturer meeting, I would stand on a chair to hoist down my samples from the cabinet above my stove, where they had kicked out my extra pots and pans.

I daydreamed of getting an office one day, and that dream was always a distant future, after my company had become profitable, or when I needed room for employees and a shiny space for meetings. I dreamed about it in the same way I dreamed about having a house by a lake because it was simply that, a ‘one day’ dream.

But then my friend told me about this amazingly cool company – The Listings Project – that is essentially a curated and non-sketchy Craigslist for artists and business owners looking for studios and/or office spaces. So, I started poking around out of curiosity and I saw a studio space that was surprisingly really, really affordable. A week later, I moved in.

My company hasn’t launched yet, much less turned a profit. It was scary to sign a one-year lease, regardless of what a great deal the place was, because it made my business into a real thing. A real thing that could fail. But, as terrifying as it was, I realized that hanging up my sketches, figuring out how I’m going to organize my workspace, getting a set of keys to my very own office, all of this brought my millions of intangible dreams closer to coming true.

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I always thought that there would be that obvious moment when I knew it was time to transition from working from home to an office, but it turns out that there is no such thing as the ‘right’ moment.  By preparing for success (whether it’s going ahead and having meetings with PR firms in anticipation of being able to afford one, finding a mass manufacturer so you’re ready to go as soon as you get a big order, or getting an office space when your company is still hovering that line between hobby project and business), you actually bring success. Take your business seriously and plan for its growth, even when it’s brand new.

Of course, spending a big portion of your capital on an office is not smart, but regardless of your budget, it’s possible to carve out a space for your work. Here’s how:

 Look in less trendy neighborhoods. I live in NYC, so although my manufacturers are in Manhattan, offices in that borough were insanely expensive. But there were many cheap options in the smaller Brooklyn neighborhoods. Yes, it was a further trek on the subway, but it’s so worth it.

• Opt for an art studio instead of an office. If you’re designing, sketching creating your own pieces or even just packing up orders and organizing samples in your space, you don’t necessarily need a snazzy office. Artists’ studios are far less pricey than a furnished office and the creative vibe is always inspiring.

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• Use The Listings Project! I promise this is 100% not a paid endorsement, I’m just so impressed with this company. New studio/office listings are sent out every Wednesday, and each one is vetted to ensure it’s not a scam.

• Get a shared space. If you’re someone who works better when you’re around other productive people, try this option. Many artists and designers have extra room in their studios, and post availability on Craigslist or The Listings Project.

 If you’re working mainly from a laptop, a monthly pass to co-working space such as WeWork is ideal, and many even offer a mailing address you can use. Here is a very thorough list to these spaces in NYC. If you’re living elsewhere, just Google ‘your city + co-working!’

• If spending money on a space just isn’t feasible, create a space just for work in your home. Whether it’s an entire room or simply a desk, dedicate a space solely to doing work. Make it pretty. Hang up your inspiration.

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