Some of the other cuddlers I know are talking about setting up a commercial space for their business, so I thought I’d share the process and thinking I used to set up my office.
I knew from the beginning that I wasn’t going to be able to work from home. I lived in a large apartment, but with three of my four step-kids living there too, working from home wasn’t going to be practical. I thought about working outcall only, but as soon as my massage therapist suggested setting up an office I knew that’s what I wanted to do.
Having an office gives me some control over both my environment and my schedule. Even though I and, I think, most professional cuddlers, charge for travel time it’s a lower rate than the cuddle time. As a consultant who’s worked from a home office for years, I know how travel time to someone else’s locations can eat up your day. I liked the sense of professionalism I think it communicates, the idea that “yes, of course this is a real business, I have an office and everything.”
I looked at several types of space. Some offices bill themselves as catering to start-ups with flexible lease terms. Those tended to have a wait for space – and to be more expensive, starting about $500 a month for 100 square feet. I looked at Sola Salons, but they were even more expensive, around $1,200 a month. I know of several co-working spaces in town, but those wouldn’t have allowed me to bring my furniture in and leave it there. I talked to several yoga studios, as well, but there was the same issue. I could save money by sharing space with a massage therapist, but I couldn’t figure out how to cuddle people on a massage table, so none of those worked out. I looked at several small old houses that have been converted into office space, but they tended to have accessibility challenges – narrow hallways or staircases, and I wanted to be accessible.
One of the first offices I looked at would have had me sharing space with a colon hydrotherapist. She had an extra suite in her office space. I wasn’t sure that was the right place…but it was another alternative therapy and the room was a good size. After we talked, as I was thinking about whether that was the right space for me, she called me back to tell me that what I wanted to do was “just too weird” for her, and she was going to find someone different to rent to. I spent a week or so a little deflated that my idea was “too weird” for my local colon hydrotherapist.
Around this time, I also set up an appointment with SCORE – the local business development agency. I had a meeting with a panel of three people, the person they’d assigned to be my business mentor, her SCORE mentor, and I forget who the third person was. I wanted to get some answers about legal structure, and they insisted that I should create the least expensive legal structure possible. They also encouraged me not to rent office space, because it would be expensive. They weren’t sure where they thought I should operate – they didn’t seem to think going to people’s houses was a great strategy, either. I did not go back to see them again.
I looked at 3 or 4 commercial office buildings. The one I landed in I found by spotting a real estate sign on my way to a Zumba class across the street one morning. The location is not only right down from the police station, but just as importantly a short walk from my husband’s office. (At the time I was looking for office space, we were also trying to find and buy a house – having our offices so close was not only convenient, but it made it easier to establish where we were looking for a place to live.
I have 190 square feet here, and I pay $395 a month. That’s a slight increase from the $385 I paid the first year. I assume the rent will continue to go up a little bit every year (and I’m not ready to commit to a multi-year lease yet.)
I didn’t look at retail space, because A.) I didn’t know how to and B.) I didn’t think I was going to get a lot of walk-in traffic. That’s fine, because I didn’t want the hassle of staffing for walk-ins until I have enough business to justify regular hours.
When I set up the environment, I wanted something that would communicate “comfortable living space” but NOT “bedroom.” I ended up with a futon and an oversized beanbag chair, along with a bunch of pillows and some extra little beanbag chairs. I wanted space that could be used for both individual and 1:1 sessions, so I also have extra pillows, floor padding, and a couple little beanbag chairs that I set out on the nights I have group snuggle sessions.
Here are some of the other things I have (or have been asked about having) in my office
Video Recording Devices
When I was trying to decide whether video recording sessions was a good idea, I thought about two things; A.) the people who were going to be my clients and B.) the people who were going to be suspicious that I was “really” doing sex work. For group A, I anticipated people coming to me to help them with grief or trauma and I didn’t want them worrying about video of them ugly-crying ending up in some comedy reel somewhere. For group B, the people who were going to be suspicious of the work I’m doing, I thought about whether “I have a video camera set up in my office” made me sound more or less like a sex worker. I decided it was a little bit of a Rorschach test –what people thought was going to be based on where they were coming from. I opted against video recording.
Many people have asked me whether I have mace or a gun in my office. I believe the statistics that say the most likely outcome of having a gun for protection is that gun is going to be used on me, so I don’t have one. People who ask me about mace make me laugh – I have 190 square feet in my office. If I fire off mace, it’s going to be a bad day for everybody. I do not keep concealed weapons in my office. I have taken some specific steps to ensure my safety, and I’m not going to detail those here.
Being a standard commercial office, the space comes with standard overhead fluorescent lights. My office has three, two of them controlled from one switch and the middle one controlled by another switch. It quickly became clear that wasn’t ideal for relaxing people. I didn’t want to turn them off completely, even though I’ve added a few lamps. You can get pictures that go over the lights to dim them – some of them look like clouds, for example. But it was cheaper to go to the local fabric store and pick up some fabric to drape over them. We attached them to the ceiling with binder clips, so they’ll come down easily when I move out, and they’re more interesting to look at than plain old lights.
In this picture, you can see all 3 lights (but the one in the middle is off, so you can just see the fabric hanging down. This is the lighting I usually use for clients. The fabric nearest the door people use is lighter and blue, the fabric in the cuddlier area is space-themed and a bit darker.
I was so sure that people were going to want to have the television on in the background. Exactly none of the people I’ve cuddled with have wanted that so far. It’s nice for me when I’m working on other things, though – it makes a great secondary monitor.
When I opened the space I also had a DVD player and a stack of movies. My original website went so far as to mention that clients could select the show but that I wouldn’t watch scary movies – because I can’t soothe a client if I’m afraid. Not a single client has wanted to watch TV or a movie with me yet, though, and during the snuggle sessions where I’ve had them available nobody pays attention, preferring to engage with the people in the room instead.
I wanted something that could lay flat, but wasn’t laying flat when people came in. I looked for one that was easy to lay down and stand back up. The nifty thing my hubby did for me was craft stoppers that keep the futon when sitting up far enough away from the wall that it doesn’t have to move when I lay it down flat – this makes it easier to fiddle with in the middle of appointments
I have two folding chairs near my front entrance. This gives clients a place to take off their shoes without getting all the way into cuddle space. I also have some people who come to group cuddles who stay in those chairs, or at least start out there.
The beanbag chair I have is called a Xorbee. It’s the 6-foot size. When they shipped it to me, it came in a box about 24 inches on a side and expanded from there. There’s no getting it back into that box for transport later, though.
The beanbag is great for sitting people into the toboggan / baby bear cuddle, and is where I usually start all new clients. I made some videos early on that extolled the virtues of arriving to group snuggles early to be the first person to jump into the beanbag, but really nobody ever does that. I’ve learned to have it moderately but not completely fluffed for clients, because it’s pretty tall when it’s completely fluffed, and because there’s an art to sitting in it so that it doesn’t try and dump you back out after awhile.
I also have a couple little beanbag chairs that just add to my snuggle-party fluff
When I did my first group session, it was in a yoga studio and I had mostly inflatable furniture and blankets, and one of my participants mentioned that there weren’t any textures in the space. I looked for stuffed animals that would have a variety of textures. I’m looking for more rough textures to bring into the space, because people with anxiety often prefer those to soft.
I got a gravity blanket from a kickstarter and I have some clients who really love it. It’s a 20-pound blanket, and it’s not huge but enough to cover one person (or two if we cuddle close. 😊 )
My husband spoiled me with a Keurig, and I LOVE IT so much – but I’ve very seldom had a client interested. It does allow me to offer up my space for networking meetings that might otherwise happen at a coffee shop. (“come to my office, it’s comfortable and I have tea and coffee). I’m not a coffee drinker, but I have several kinds of tea available – mostly for me, really.
I have a Brita filter pitcher and some reusable cups – and I also have some bottled water in case clients prefer that. Very few people do, though.
I have a supply of inexpensive ($1 each) coloring books and colored pencils. These are for my group events, too, and I have a few people who come regularly and want something to do other than cuddle.
Continuing the subtle space theme that started with the space fabric over the light in this part of the room is the little starship Enterprise you can see in the bottom-right corner of this picture. Being a geek is fun.
I have my coaching certificate up on the wall, as well as several pieces of art that came from the yoga studio where I did my training. If there’s such a thing as good vibes sticking to art, these mandalas have all the good vibes!
I also have a wedding picture displayed in my office. (Which feels a little cynical to me, like I’m displaying a certificate of ownership. But apparently it doesn’t feel cynical enough for me not to do it.) I just got married a couple years ago, so it’s a pretty current picture, otherwise I’d probably use just a current picture of the two of us.
Looking around my office, I don’t see anything else that stands out as an intentional decision. If you have questions about any of this, feel free to ask. If you want to come see the office in person, check out my events or make an appointment.