SRS BZNZ : Why we decided against having a studio


We moved in to a shiny new studio on December 1st, and today we're moving out! I thought I would share our reasons both for why we initially decided to get a studio, and why we decided to leave. 

I think Luke & I are fairly unique in our situation where both of us do similar creative jobs, and both happily work from home, together, in the same room. Over the last few years we have progressed from living & working out of one rather cramped bedroom, to having a workspace in our living room. But after about a year and a half this started to feel a little squished too. We needed the extra space, and wanted to be able to separate our work from our home life {it's kind of difficult to have friends over when you're worried a drink might get spilled over your iMac/sketchbook/WIP/temporary tattoos, and it's hard trying to host a family dinner when you don't have space for a dining table}.

We found the studio space totally by accident. I just so happened to see an advert on Gumtree for office space in Winchester, so we thought we'd find out some more info, under the assumption it would be terribly expensive but possibly something we could keep in mind for the future. Turns out, it wasn't as pricey as we thought! We were in a position where we could move in immediately and try it out with little commitment, since the notice period for moving out was only 2 weeks. 


Initially it was fantastic, we liked the novel 10 minute walk along the river to and from work every day, even in the dismal winter weather. My shop was manic with Christmas orders so it was perfect having a separate space to make a mess packing orders and then being able to come home to relax a little without everywhere being overrun with envelopes and packing supplies. Having the Studio made us feel more professional, and I thoroughly enjoyed that everything had it's own easily accessible place - no more moving boxes out the way to find some cello bags. 
Moving to the studio also coincided with some problems that started happening at our flat {leaking pipes and not-so-nice neighbours}. Problems that made the idea of going 'out' to work seem even sweeter. We were spending all our time there. Literally. We began to realise we were only coming home in the evening to eat and sleep, but we put that down to things being super busy.

After Christmas, when everything naturally slowed back down to its normal rate, I found I was only going to the studio for the bare minimum, to pack orders or to spend time with Luke when he was working on commissions. Maybe we've become too accustomed to working along side each other but we started to find we didn't enjoy working there alone all that much. 
We've grown used to having everything around us all the time, just simple things like writing a note or wrapping a gift at home became a bit of a hassle when you realised *all* your stationery was a 10 minute walk away ... obviously I know this could be solved by buying extras of those things for home, but that just seems kind of wasteful. I like the efficiency of having our work place in our home.
The same month we moved to the studio, Luke bought a new iMac and he's mentioned a few times how it almost feels like he's loaning someone else's computer because he only uses it at the studio, n'aww!

In general I think it's been more of a benefit to Luke for structuring his working hours. Being a freelance illustrator he often has very short deadlines to meet, and since having the studio he's pulled fewer all-nighters to meet them. Instead choosing to come home for a few hours sleep, before getting up early to finish a commission. 


Ultimately, we missed working from home. Yes, there are distractions all around; housework, TV etc ~ but it's taken me a while to realise the obvious, they are only distractions if you allow them to be. And you can definitely also find distractions in your studio away from home, in case you were wondering! You need to be motivated to work, and your work place won't have much impact on this in the end. Procrastination can happen anywhere. The most important thing is being happy and comfortable where you're working to help you find that motivation. Moving to a new studio workspace won't magically give you a perfect schedule, or the extra time to get lots of stuff done. Surprise surprise, you have to do that yourself.

We started to realise the problems with our flat weren't going to get much better, so we started to look at the possibility of moving out and the thought of getting a bigger {and nicer} two bedroomed place felt like it would suit us better. We had a hunt around and after a few calculations we concluded we'd actually be better off financially if we moved to a new two bed flat and set up shop in the spare bedroom. 

We did worry we hadn't given it all enough time to see if the little niggles would work them selves out, but in the end I think you just have to trust your gut. Even though we've decided to move out and go back to working from home, I'm pleased we tried it when we did, and we've not ruled it out as something we might try again in future. But for us, right now, working from home just suits us better. Everything timed itself perfectly and it allowed us to try out a different way of working. It's made us realise we need a dedicated space for our work, a desk in the living room will no longer suffice. It's also made me recognise some patterns in my habits, I like to dip in and out of work throughout the day. No nine to five for me, thank you. I've always thought that having a good work/life balance meant working 'normal hours', but now I'm swaying towards the idea that it's ok to work at funny times, and all hours if needed, as long as you are happy and are regularly balancing it out with a few days off to recharge. There is no right or wrong. And actually, when you run your own business it's almost impossible to totally switch off from work, and that's ok too. 

If you're thinking of signing up for a studio space away from home, here are a few practical things to remember :

~ Double check the prices of *everything* : Is VAT extra? Are bills included? 
~ What's your internet allowance? : We dramatically had to curb our Netflix addiction whilst working at the studio to avoid extra fees. Boo.
~ Don't get caught out by Business Rates : Call us naive, but we had no idea we would be liable to pay business rates {it's like council tax for business premises}. Luckily we were able to apply for Rates Relief through our local council. Depending on the size of your business and where you're renting, you might be eligible for relief too. 
~ Make sure you have 24/7 access : This was vital, especially for Luke and his crazy short editorial deadlines! 
~ What's the security like? : If you're leaving expensive equipment/stock there, it needs to be super secure. Also consider getting insurance too. 
~ Who else uses the space? : Being an introvert I would often try to avoid other people when using the communal kitchen ... a bit annoying when you just want a cup of tea! {Though, I'm sure this would be a totally different situation if we were sharing a studio space with other creatives}. Which leads me on to ... 
~ Be aware of office politics/shared kitchens/passive aggressive notes : people get weirdly possessive of their kitchen utensils, who knew! 
~ There is nothing like the comfort of your own bathroom : enough said.