Would you ever consider living inside your office?
While working 70-hour weeks building my law firm, I didn’t want to have to think about finding a place to rent. The thought of meeting real estate agents, doing furniture shopping, and having to clean my condo on top of those long work weeks was too much. I made the decision to try living in my office for a few weeks and then see how I felt.
I was inspired by reading articles about Chinese technology staff living in their offices to avoid traffic, and Japanese workers living inside 24/7 internet cafes because rent is too expensive in Tokyo.
Most people that live in their offices are not “homeless.” I own property, but not in the city I am living in. I also thought it would send a strong message to my shareholders and show that I am willing to do anything to make ClearWay Law succeed. Investors have many choices in companies to invest in and it’s important to stand out by doing something extreme or different.
Running a startup is unpredictable.
My company plans to open offices in many cities and I could not commit to a one-year rental lease because it only takes four months to open a single office and I have no idea where I will be in one year.
Prior to living in the office, Airbnb made my transient lifestyle possible. But moving from one Airbnb to another every two weeks is also tiring. Packing and unpacking takes time and focus away from operations.
First, I had to find office space to try my experiment.
I didn’t want to sign a one-year commercial lease, and there was no way I could get away with sleeping in a co-working space like WeWork. I found a law chambers that allowed 24/7 access to my office space. It was 11 criminal lawyers and me, and I had my own private office.
For a room at Holiday Inn, you can expect to pay around $200 per night. Assuming there are 30 days in the month, this would mean a monthly bill of $6,000. This is way too expensive for cash flow management. We can’t spend $24,000 a year on a hotel for setting up a new office.
Throwing away $2,500 on rent could go straight into making extra revenue.
Saving $2,500 per month on residential rent is also great. I would rather spend that money on Google advertisements for my business than have it as a sunk cost. Consider that $2,500 spent on advertisements can bring 250 people to the website per month (at $10 per click). Of those 250 people, I estimate that 25 people will become leads. Then if we close 15% of those clients, that’s six extra clients per month. The average person spends around $10,000 on their divorce, so that’s a potential of $60,000 in extra revenue per month.
My plan to sleep in my office got off to a good start.
I bought a twin bed from Ikea and made it as comfortable as possible, and put it up against the wall during the day, and put away my pillows and sheets. Besides the occasional 4 a.m. phone call (who calls their law firm at 4 a.m.?), or people that like to go to the gym located right above my office at 5 a.m., I slept well. I did not have to spend 1.5 hours of my day commuting, or have to purchase parking, insurance, and a car.
How to maintain hygiene when you don’t have an apartment.
I joined a social club and exercised and showered there. It was extremely fancy and made me feel less “cheap.” I had never used coin-operated laundry before, so that was a new experience. Something I hadn’t planned on was my fitness increasing. Because I didn’t have a kitchen, I was eating basic foods and losing fat. I mainly ate nuts, fruits, oatmeal, and chicken.
Turns out there are small inconveniences to living where you work.
One thing that I didn’t enjoy was always feeling stressed that someone would come into the office late at night, or early in the morning. I never felt truly at home or able to get comfortable in PJs. I found myself working until midnight several times because I didn’t want someone to catch me sitting in my office at 10 p.m. watching YouTube. I would also be nervous coming back to the office around 8 p.m., in case someone was still working.
This law office was a co-sharing space, so no one knew what files my law firm was working on. We could have been working on an upcoming trial late at night for all they knew. For the most part, most people were gone when I got back to the office late at night.
But all “good” things must come to an end.
The only time I felt I could relax was on weekends at night. I was confident that no one would come into the office, since most of the other lawyers had families. And of all the ways to get caught, I was discovered by a lawyer who had returned from a trip and was picking up something from his office late one Saturday night.
I was making some protein waffles (frozen waffles that I sprinkle protein powder on) and doing some printing. It was the first time I had met this lawyer. The first question he asked was “Are you living here?”
I’m not sure why he thought this. I don’t enjoy lying, so I said I sleep overnight sometimes. He made a sound of disapproval and I felt uncomfortable for the rest of the night. I decided to rent a room at the Holiday Inn for a few nights, so I could deny I lived in the office when I returned.
My plan didn’t work and I was exposed.
I was told either my bed had to go — or I did. I sadly returned my bed to Ikea. I felt bad for the bed, as it had done its job and we had gone through this ordeal together.
So what did I learn from sleeping in my office? I don't feel I should relax and get comfortable until I am where I want to be. And for better or worse, I am willing to do almost anything to make my company a success.