Here is a whole heap of things you might want to consider when you've had a look at a potential workspace. I'd always recommend taking someone you trust along with you too - they might be more critical and spot things you don't! Gut feeling is important - and don't ignore that - but you also need to take into account some practical considerations:
This is your number one concern - can you get there? I'm super-lucky, I live a ten minute walk from the thriving Baltic Triangle in Liverpool, where there are so many options for studio and office space. It may be you're in an area where there are less options, but do your research - chat to other creatives (join an Etsy team perhaps), check out listing sites (try Gumtree as well as local arts-based websites) and look out for local creative Facebook groups too.
- Is it easy to get to from your home?
- Is there suitable parking and/or public transport? Are there any parking restrictions?
- Do you know anyone else in the area?
- Are there any access restrictions or can you come and go 24/7?
- Will deliveries or postal collections be an issue?
- Is there a lift (if it’s upstairs)? Who else uses this lift?
- Is the entrance safe, well lit etc? Will you feel safe letting yourself in in the dark?
Rent varies throughout the country - I'd make sure you've looked at a few different options if possible, to make sure you are being charged a fair amount for your rent. It's probably the number one reason why people put off moving into a studio space - your rent has to be affordable for you, even at quieter times of the year, otherwise you will just be stressing about paying it each month.
- Is the rent affordable? Think about if your profit goes down at all, is it still affordable?
- Does it include any bills (internet, gas, electricity etc)?
- Is it a fixed term contract? Are you able to terminate the contract if you need to? How much notice do you need to give?
- You may need to get legal advice before signing a binding contract. How much is this going to cost?
- Do you need your own insurance or is this included? Get an insurance quote if necessary.
- Are consumables like toilet paper, hand soap, bin bags included?
- Is there a kitty for milk, teabags etc?
- What extra furniture will you need to buy to make it workable?
- How much will it cost to move there? Will you need to hire a van or pay anyone to help?
There's no point moving into a space that you won't fit into - it's just going to cause you stress and will probably not last long. Make sure that the basic space is adequate and that it is suitable for the forseeable future - moving is a stressful business!
- Is there enough space for all your equipment and stock?
- Is it secure? If not can you add any extra security?
- Is there heating? Try and visit on a colder day and spend a bit of time there to check how the temperature is.
- Is there a window (if you are a hot person like me)? Likewise, try and visit on a sunny day – what’s the temperature like?
- Is it suitable for what you do (eg is there ventilation?)
- What are the arrangements for postal deliveries and collections?
- Would you be able to expand in the future?
Light and Power
Daylight is super-important to me. I didn't realise until I'd spend three years in a space with no natural light, getting gradually grumpier and grumpier. If you are out and about going to meetings and visiting clients it may not be so important to you, but it's worth considering.
- Is there daylight?
- If not, are there enough lights, or will you able to light the space adequately?
- Will you need to supply blinds or window coverings yourself?
- Have you been to have a look when it’s dark too?
- Are there enough power points?
- Are the sockets in the right place for you?
I'm pretty sensitive to noise - but other people like a bit of chatter going on around them. Have a think about your own tolerance and what you can and can't put up with. There's nothing worse than being in a space you struggle to work in because of your neighbour's noisy power tools.
- Can you make a noise if you need to (meetings, chatting, machinery etc)?
- Is there anyone else likely to be making a noise in the vicinity?
- Do you have privacy for making phone calls if necessary?
- Can you play your own music if you want to?
Sometimes it's easy to overlook really obvious things; make sure you are happy with the toilet arrangements in particular, specially if you are going to be spending all day at work!
- What’s the bin situation?
- Are there recycling facilities?
- What are the toilet arrangements?
- Do you have access to a kitchen (is there a microwave, kettle, toaster etc)?
- Is there a private meeting area? Who else uses this, and how is it booked?
- What is the wi-fi like? Ask other residents, is it reliable? Is it fast enough? Take your laptop and give it a go?
I've always worked in spaces which are - at least in part - shared. It works well for me as I like to have a bit of company from time to time. However you might decide you need privacy and you don't want to share your space... it's worth looking at both options before you make a decision.
- Is there a communal area?
- Who are you sharing with?
- Have you met them? Do you like them?
- Do they work similar hours to you? What do they do?
- Would you still be okay if the people you share with changes over time?
- Do you have friends nearby that you can meet for lunch if you wanted to?
Having a good relationship with your landlord is really important. I prefer a landlord to be pretty hands-on and present, so you can ask them about niggly things as and when they arise.
- Is the landlord on site?
- How has communication with the landlord been so far? Are they easy to get hold of?
- Does the landlord seem proactive? Are they listening to your questions?
- Do you like the landlord?
So that's the kind of think I'd look at - and so far I've been really lucky and have had largely good experiences with my workspaces. There's definitely that added element of "does it feel right?" - very much like when you buy a house.
Is there anything else you'd recommend looking out for when you've been looking for a studio space?