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Entrepreneurship in the time of COVID-19: Should SME owners rent an office or work from home?

Belinda Wan
March 9, 2021

Running a small business at home or renting an office are both viable options these days. Photo credit: Pexels

So perhaps you haven’t taken the plunge to set up your own business, despite knowing the steps to incorporating your company, as well as the laws and regulations you have to abide by.

It could be that you’re lacking in funds, unable to find a good location, or tired out by the amount of work required in applying for a licence… the list goes on.

To that, we can only say, the readiness is all – in the words of Shakespeare. But honestly, now is a good time as any to run your own business.

For one, office rents are dropping, since “work from home” remains the default mode of working.

Secondly, if you still can’t shake off your worries regarding office rents and crazy landlords, you don’t necessarily need to feel hemmed in by a traditional brick-and-mortar space. We’ll explain why in a bit.

Thirdly, the good news that Budget 2021 is made up of should help you see that glimmer of hope over your horizon. If nothing, it tells SME owners Where To Get Help.

Fourthly, there are alternative ways to venturing out on your own, such as…

Working freelance from home

How many of us know that ex-colleague who left the company and later became a freelance copywriter? You can do the same too.

Here are some services that would fit this type of working model:

▪         Writing and editing;

▪         Copywriting; and

▪         Design work.

Such services are permitted under the Housing & Development Board’s Home-Based Small Scale Business Scheme (more about this later).

To establish a good reputation, always maintain an impeccable work ethic even for the smallest of jobs, and complete your work by the stipulated deadline.

Keep a close watch on your finances, as there may be lull periods when jobs are few and far between. On average, it may take up to 60 days before you get paid for a job.  

Running a small business at home

Local actress-turned-entrepreneur Jeanette Aw made the news recently when she announced her plans to open a shop after running a successful baking business at home.

Before you get all fired up (pun intended) and rush to bake your own creations, note that only small-scale home baking is permitted.

There are also other services permitted under the Home-Based Small Scale Business Scheme, such as:

▪ Hairdressing, manicure or pedicure services, and other beauty services (no massage services);

▪ Private tuition (no more than 3 students at a time); and

▪ Sewing/alteration services.

Just like at workplaces and public spaces, you have to restrict the number of visitors at your home and use SafeEntry or TraceTogether for contact tracing.

You don’t need a licence for the abovementioned services. But you must comply with regulations set out by the Singapore Food Agency and Fire Safety and Shelter Department, where relevant.

In addition, you cannot:

▪ Display any business signage outside your flat;

▪ Advertise your business openly – whether in print and online media, or mobile platforms;

▪ Register your residence as a business address (unless you are living in a private residential development – but you can use the office address of incorporated firms);

▪ Employ additional workers; and

▪ Allow your business to affect your neighbours – so no excessive noise, smoke, odour, excessive number of visitors, heavy equipment or appliances, and storage or movement of goods is permitted.

Opting for coworking

So let’s say you are about to register your company, but just realized you can’t use your Housing Board flat address as an office address. But you don’t want to rent an office space either.

Coworking may be a good bet in this instance, because you can use the address of the coworking space as an office address.  

But you can rent a coworking space even if you’re not an SME owner. It also presents the perfect option for busy freelancers looking for a place to do their creative work in peace.

These days, there are plenty of coworking spaces that offer a dizzying array of work environments to choose from.  

Charges vary depending on what you are looking for. Generally, you can expect to pay more if you want a private office all to yourself, which is usually charged on a monthly rate. The next best option is a dedicated or fixed desk, and after that, hotdesking.

But sometimes it’s not just about the price. It’s crucial to do your own research  and check out the venue to see if it suits your purposes before deciding on a coworking space.

If you are in the creative line, an avant-garde space may be right up your alley. However, you should opt for a more corporate-looking office space if you conduct serious meetings with clients all the time.  

For a super-cool interior, check out Bridge+, or The Workshop for a greater degree of customization. Or go for Found8 Coworking Singapore if you are up for a thriving, more collaborative space.

No idea how to make the best decision? Leave it all in the hands of Coworking Spaces, which will do the legwork of getting the most ideal coworking option at the best price for you – for free.

Leading digital loan marketplace Lendingpot connects SMEs to its network of 45 lenders comprising relationship managers from banks, financial institutions, and private and peer-to-peer lenders in Singapore. It aims to help SMEs overcome the information asymmetry problem and lack of transparency prevalent in the SME financing sector by offering SMEs financing options such as business term loans, property loans, revenue-based financing, credit lines, working capital loans, bridging loans, invoice financing, and more.

About the author

Belinda loves thinking about random stuff, and collecting useless bits of facts and trivia. She often roots for the underdog, and believes the world needs more happy endings.

SME owners
home-based business
office rent

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