An E-Commerce Entrepreneur’s Best Kept Secret: Self Storage

Did you know that your e-commerce business could operate out of a self storage unit? It can. Many do. In fact in the UK there has been a steady increase in the number of businesses using self-storage units to run their businesses from. In 2013 43% of self storage unit rentals were to businesses, a 3% increase on the previous year.

Self storage facilities first made an appearance in the UK during the 1980’s, with 815 sites now located in the UK according to the UK Self Storage Association. Self storage units offer many benefits for small to medium size enterprises (SMEs).

Chief amongst these are lower operating costs and considerable flexibility.

Self Storage for Ecommerce: Amazon, Ebay & Marketplace Businesses

The benefits of using a self storage unit are particularly well suited to the growing e-commerce industry in the UK. According to the retail think-tank Retail Excellence e-commerce is the fastest growing retail market in Europe.

If you, like many, are setting up an e-commerce store on the likes of Amazon, eBay, Esty, Shopify or other online retail platforms your initial inclination may be to run that business from your home.

You may want to rethink that move. While there are positives to working from home, recent research suggests that the negatives of working from home may outweigh the positives.

We’ve produced a useful infographic that breaks down some of the pros and cons of working from home vs a self storage office in a visual way:

ecommerce-entrepreneurs-work-from-home-or-self-storage-infographic

Ecommerce Entrepreneurs: Work from home or a self storage office? [Infographic]

Pitfalls of working from home:
showing up to work in your bathrobe may not be a good idea

It’s 8:30am. The alarm goes off. You hit snooze a few times and begrudgingly get out of bed. It’s 8:57am. Only a few minutes to get too work! Hastily you don your bathrobe and make a frantic dash for the kitchen, stick on the kettle and make a bee-line for the kitchen table. Flicking on your laptop you glance at the time. 8:59am. A minute early for work. You celebrate your rapid commute to the office with a congratulatory cup of freshly brewed hand roasted Rwanda Blue coffee. Ah, life is good.

However the reality of working from home, especially if you run an e-commerce business may be somewhat different. Aside from the leisurely commute you may also experience the following:

  • The loss of a routine.
  • A sense of isolation due to a lack of interaction with others.
  • A potential lack of focus leading to a loss in motivation and structure.
  • A blurring of the lines between work time and personal time.
  • Distractions. Many, many distractions.
  • A lack of flexibility.
  • A lack of space. You’re unlikely to be able to scale your home space to met a successful e-commerce stores needs.
  • Insurance. Does your home insurance cover your e-commerce stores inventory? It’s unlikely.
  • The kitchen table or living room makes for a poor location to meet clients.

Perhaps the three most important implications of working from home revolve around your routine, flexibility and freedom.

First up, routine. An open schedule is the enemy of routine. Sure working in your bathrobe is convenient. Maybe even a little fun at first but it blurs the line between personal time and work time. Research has shown, repeatedly, that the most successful people tend to be those who have well established routines.

As Mason Curry, author of the 2013 book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work puts it;

a solid routine fosters a well-worn groove for one’s mental energies and helps stave off the tyranny of moods.

Rather counter-intuitively when working from home your flexibility can also suffer. That blurry line between your time and work time is easily stretched with your new ‘home’ schedule. Suddenly you have lots of time to do lots of things. The shopping. Walking the dogs. Paying the bills. Picking up the children. However your flexibility is much like a rubber band. The more it’s stretched the more it loses its elasticity, its flexibility, its purpose.

So in order for you to remain effectively flexible you must impose structure and be somewhat less flexible with your time. Difficult if you work from home.

Finally there’s freedom. If you work from home you run the risk of giving up the freedom that an office provides. The ability to say ‘no’ to the everyday demands you’ll face at home and the ability to literally and figuratively shut the door of the office after a day’s work.

Think outside the (packing) box: Why you should use a self storage unit as a business location.

Within the UK it’s a growing trend. Each year more and more businesses are choosing to operate out of self-storage units. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute. But first you have to get rid of the idea of a self storage unit as just a place where you store boxes.

Having office space in addition to a place to store and pack products and stock is a very attractive combination for the booming e-commerce retail sector.

The advantages are many:

  • You have a proper business address.
    In addition to the business address you often also have a front of house delivery area where deliveries can be handled. Freeing up valuable time. It doesn’t necessarily require you to be there to receive a package. Unlike if you ran the business from home. It’s also a better place for couriers to park and deliver to.
  • Pay as you go. There’s no commitment.
    This is a real plus for an e-commerce business. Pay on a monthly basis. Perhaps your business is seasonal. No problem – don’t pay for a unit during those months.
  • Expansion as required.
    Need to expand your unit space during peak seasons? Not a problem. Need to expand full stop? Done.
  • Fixed costs (overheads).
    Very low fixed costs compared to operating your business from home.
  • Low Administration (utility bills, etc)
    Forgot to turn off the lights? Not to worry. Many storage unit utility costs are covered in the rental fee.
  • High security as standard
    Unless your home is the suburban equivalent of Fort Knox, it’s extremely unlikely it’s more secure than a storage unit facility.
  • Tailored insurance solutions.
    We mentioned earlier that your home insurance is unlikely to stretch to cover the contents of your e-commerce inventory. With a storage unit facility you won’t have that problem.
  • Work/life separation.
    There is one. Go to work. Leave work. Maintain a routine, stay flexible and enjoy your personal freedom.
  • Wifi and internet.
    It’s covered in the cost of the rental.
  • You don’t pay council charges on your business.
    A huge money saver compared to renting out a standard retail unit
  • Interactions with other like minded business owners.
    Aside from the added advantage of having an actual office space there is also the opportunity to interact with other e-commerce owners. As legendary business management guru Ken Blanchard says – “none of us is as smart as all of us.”

Perhaps you feel that working from home is the best solution for you. Maybe right now it is.

The reality, however, is that as your business starts to grow the advantages of operating your business from home are likely to prove inferior to the benefits of utilising an office space in a self storage facility. There is, after all, no long term rental commitment needed.

“What do you have to lose?” is the wrong question, because this is about business: what do you have to gain?

ecommerce-entrepreneurs-work-from-home-or-self-storage-infographic

Ecommerce Entrepreneurs: Work from home or a self storage office? [Infographic]

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