Why is Renting a Workshop or Studio in London so Difficult?
Renting an affordable creative workspace in London, whether it be a workshop or artist studio, is becoming increasingly difficult because there is so little supply. In recent years there has been a perfect storm putting huge pressure on available, affordable workspace.
Creative spaces have traditionally grown in affordable, unloved areas populated with cheap, shabby warehouse style buildings. These areas and properties have become prime targets for developers as the trend for industrial, shabby-chic property spreads. At the same time this trend has coincided with the need to build more housing in the UK, so the owners of these properties not only face huge temptation from developers offering large premiums but also pressure from local authorities and central government to convert to residential. And lastly, over the last decade there has been a big shift away from careers in big corporates towards self-employment and small entrepreneurial businesses in the creative sector.
As has always been the case, the artistic communities that have created the fun, exciting and vibrant areas have started a gentrification process that has made these new residential areas and properties desirable and viable for people with much larger salaries, resulting in rising rents and their forced departure.
The Key Considerations When Renting a Workshop
In no particular order we think the key considerations are –
- suitability of space (size, configuration, power, heat, light, water);
- access (hours, availability of lift / forklift for heavy items, parking, loading bays for deliveries/ collections);
- terms and conditions (rent increases, length of lease, notice periods etc);
- room to expand, flexibility to shrink;
- access to machinery / tools;
- payment – invoice or cash;
- your neighbours (for company, synergies, ideas, help);
- commute (rent is tax deductible, travel to and from work is not); and
We will discuss all of these issues over time, but for now here are a few comments on affordability.
The Importance of Renting an Affordable Workshop
As a start-up or small business your rent is likely to be one of your largest fixed costs. Your fixed costs are important because unlike your variable costs they stay the same regardless of how much you are selling. You have to be sure that your fixed costs are affordable in good times and bad.
The situation you mustn’t find yourself in is where you panic whenever your workload reduces because you are worried about being able to afford your rent. Money worries can negatively affect both your enthusiasm and decision making.
With respect to decision making, one of the issues that nearly every self-employed person agonises over is pricing of their product or service. You want to be appropriately remunerated for the money, time and skill you have invested in your business .... but at the same time you don't want to lose work to the competition on price. But one of the hardest things to do is to correctly price your product or service if you are short of money and in need of more work!
The Best Way to Find a Workshop to Rent
The easiest way to find a workshop or studio to rent is to look for advertised space. The problem with this approach is that if it’s well advertised space then everybody knows about it and you are likely to be competing with others for the best space.
If you are a small business looking for under 600 or 700 sq ft we think the very best approach is to decide where you want to be and then to cold call building owners in the area – cycle/drive round and knock on doors. That is why on BIGbleu we’ve listed lots of ‘speculative’ buildings so you have some good places to start your search. The results you get from talking to people are amazing - a random guy on an industrial estate will quite possibly know a guy who knows a guy with some spare space.
We’ve moved our London based business 3 times and the new spaces we’ve found get better and better and have never been advertised. We’ve found them by walking into likely spaces and asking.
It’s amazing how many buildings have spare space. Apathy stops a lot of space being rented out. They get filled with junk and then clearing them out; advertising them; and then finding the right person to occupy them just never gets done.
Generally people make a real effort to help out too. Everybody loves a trier and going round speculatively makes you just that. Plus they get rent for very little effort and the advantage of any synergies.
The other important factor in agreeing an affordable rent is to give yourself options. So don’t just stop looking when you have found a possible fit. Having other alternatives makes it much easier to stick to your guns in a negotiation.
More to follow in the future ... a bit like a blog!