Shedworking: the practical guide to starting a business at the bottom of the garden

Shedworking: the practical guide to starting a business at the bottom of the garden

A recent report showed how much the humble shed is influencing the UK economy - it's estimated that £6.1 billion of the UK's GDP was produced by people running their own businesses from their shed. looks at how you can transform your shed into the perfect work station.

How big should your shed be?
A shed measuring 2m x 2m would make a suitable 'pod' for someone who needs space for a computer and a small area for working in.  But if you're perhaps running an arts and crafts franchise or business where you're going to need a bigger working location, you might be better off plumping for a 2m x 3m shed.  If you have space in your shed which isn't being utilised,  what about renting it out to others who are running a flexible franchise or a part-time franchise if they don't have facilities of their own?  It's a further income fill-up.   Alex Johnson, author of Shedworking: the alternative workplace revolution, told that in the past couple of years it had become a trend to have two or three people working in garden offices or even renting out space to other people, as the shedworking economy grows.

Designer or off the peg?
''It's worth thinking about exactly what you need,'' said Johnson. ''You could get something off the peg from a store or you could get something designed especially for you so you would be able to say where you wanted the windows and the door to be.  But if there is limited space in your garden, don't make the shed too vast.''  It's possible to get a designer to make a plan on computer to show you how your shed would affect the rest of the garden. 
What about price?  You're probably looking at £7,000 to £10,000 for the fully-kitted out model.  But if you're handy you could carry out adaptations yourself when it comes to electricals and renovation - here, you might expect to fork out around £3,000.  But the watchward is safety - don't attempt to carry it out if you don't know what you're doing. 

Work out what is essential and what's not
Beware of making your working hidey-hole into such a cosy, comfortable environment that you won't feel like getting down to work.  You have to remember the shed is there for a purpose when it comes to running your business.  Treating it as a place to relax won't send your income figures in the right direction.
''Work out what is essential, what is nice, and what is inessential,'' says Johnson.  ''You have to tread a line between making it cosy and friendly, but keeping it like an office too so you can work it in.  Put down a carpet and put some of your favourite pictures on the wall - this will make it a lovely, conducive and pleasant place to work.  You don't want it like a traditional office where everything is beige and dull - treat your shed as 'me space'.
it's up to you to decide if you want a mini-fridge, radio or coffee-maker, or whether you would deem them to be luxuries.

Don't leave anything hugely important in your shed - transfer vital data regularly onto a memory stick and keep it in your house.  Double-glazed windows will help with security and make sure you have a good lock on the door.  Check with your house contents insurance policy to see if your shed contents are covered too because it can a grey area.
Top tip: Put up some curtains in your shed, and close them when you're not there.  Any opportunist thief would not be able to see what equipment is in your shed.

Heating and technology
Oil heaters are a good bet for a shed.  ''You won't need a very big heater,'' said Johnson, '' and you will probably only need it for about two months of the year.  Often the worst time of the year is summer when it can be too hot.''
Insulation can be key to keeping out the chills, so think about double-glazing.  More insulation can be provided by converting the roof to a flower-bed.  A host of golden daffodils would look splendid alongside a bold showing of red geraniums in spring.
When it comes to technology, it's possible to get broadband connected to your shed, but many shedworkers already benefit from wi-fi which reaches to the bottom of the garden.

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