Once you have signed a lease for your initial office, you are ready to set up your first office space. What an exciting time! All your preparation is paying off, and you can see it in that space.
This day is also terrifying. Now you have to finish it up, furnish it, and pay the rent each month. Where is the time and money for that? Before we get into these challenges, let’s back up a bit to consider the lease.
Table of contents
How to negotiate the lease
A landlord can be your partner and ally, helping you toward business success. Most landlords are upfront about wanting you to find success. After all, their business as a property manager does better if they have longer-term tenants who grow and therefore need more of their space. They win when you win.
In general, landlords will do more for you the longer lease you take. They prefer a five-year lease with renewal options though they may settle for a two-year contract. Shorter timeframes are less desirable for them.
Furthermore, a property manager may be willing to pay for part or all of your build-out, though we cannot assume that they will. And some landlords who are unwilling to contribute to the build-out may be willing to serve as the bank. Setting lease terms this way saves you from having to use your credit for this. Furthermore, this approach allows you to avoid depreciating the build-out costs for 30+ years. You will need an attorney to help you with the contract, but it can save you money over time.
Additionally, landlords may offer a free couple of months or charge a lesser rent in the first year. Pushing off the higher monthly costs can be very helpful. You will have lots of start-up costs. Deferring costs is very helpful.
For more on what lease terms, see: What is included in a commercial lease agreement?
Finishing and furnishing
Now we are ready to think about setting up the office. Finishing the office may be a matter of painting and little else. While most of us are capable of painting walls, we should not fool ourselves into thinking we will have the time. The last month before opening will be very intense with a million last-minute details—my advice: hire the painting done. Save your energies for things that only you can do.
As for furnishing, start looking at furniture a couple months ahead. Most furniture places require six to eight weeks to get the piece of furniture you want, in the fabric you want. No budget for new? That is fine. You can find used business furniture and sometimes living room furniture as well. Do an internet search, and you are likely to find stores in your area that sell used furnishings. Start early and avoid the last-minute panic.
You are furnishing several types of space – a waiting room, business office, and therapy rooms. Each has different requirements. Bring your decorator-type friends on board. While you may have to corral their enthusiasm, the ideas may inspire creative solutions.
For more ideas about decorating a therapy space, see Interior Design Tips for Making a Room Feel Calm.
Paying the rent
If you have deferred the early month’s rent, you have some time. But not much. And of course, those first months will not have much income. The income you have will quickly go to all your new start-up expenses. And those expenses are many.
The first financial goal then is generating enough income to cover the rent for your first office space and additionally, all the regular expenses. Taking a monthly salary will usually have to wait for a while. How long you wait will depend on how much momentum you bring into the launch. The more clients you bring into the practice, the better. The more marketing you do, the better.
And enjoying your first office space
To look at the next set of challenges, look at this post, the first of five articles:
Furthermore, I have written several posts on office space. I think it is an important topic that desires thoughtful consideration:
- Reflections on therapy office design
- Rent, lease, or purchase psychotherapy office space?
- Eight steps to adding office space in psychotherapy practices
Additionally, I write about some of the factors that affect the rate of building up one’s caseload in this post:
- How long to become a full-time therapist with a full-time caseload?
- Enough referrals for a stable caseload of 1000 sessions per year.
For more on the some of the best marketing efforts, see
And I have written about some of the early start-up troubles in this post: