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How an Outdoor Office (AKA a She Shed) Changed this Ocala Small Business Owner's Life for Good

Posted by 
Amanda Clark-Rudolph
Amanda Clark-Rudolph
 26 days ago

At the beginning of the pandemic, with the increased demands of full-time child care and no separation between work and home, my Ocala small business was suffering. Read how constructing an outdoor office in my backyard saved it all.

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My outdoor office in Ocala, FL.Photo by the author

In January of 2020, my Ocala-based freelance writing business was booming. And, despite the everyday challenges that come along with working motherhood, I was thriving too.

But then the pandemic hit, and so much of what I had worked so hard to build came crashing down.

You see, ever since starting my work at home journey in 2018, I had utilized part-time daycare and escaping to Starbucks to maintain my steady business.

Because of these privileges, I was able to separate, to a comfortable extent, work and home.

However, when the pandemic hit, my husband and I didn't hesitate to take our 2 and 5-year-old sons out of daycare.

Still, with me working from home, we felt fortunate.

Especially since the U.S. Census Bureau and Federal Reserve found that "working mothers in states with early stay-at-home orders and school closures were 68.8% more likely to take leave from their jobs."

"We'll be fine," I told myself. "I work from home. We've got this."

Like many families in those early pandemic days, we were optimistic it would be short-lived. Little did we know we were wrong.

Although my husband helped out with care when he could, I found myself multitasking more than ever, and separation between work and home became nonexistent.

Somehow, I got the bare minimum done. I wrote last-minute articles while the boys played in the sandbox; I'd conduct phone interviews while my boys watched Blippi.

We made it work, and although I knew how fortunate I was to have a job during these difficult times, not having a separate space where I could work presented a challenge.

According to Pew Research, my husband and I were not alone. In fact, 52% of employed parents said handling child care during the pandemic was difficult.

I tried to get creative and when my husband watched the kids; I grabbed my keys and drove to the nearest library ten minutes down the road.

There, in the empty parking lot, I sat in my van and worked on the library's free, shaky wifi for as long as I could.

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Me working in the van. (It was "cozy".)Photo by the author

This was a better alternative to locking myself in the back room at home, where I heard everything -even through closed doors.

Let's just say, questions about dinner, forgotten items in the bedroom, and toddler knocks followed by mommy cries were the norm.

Not to mention, I couldn't help but look at that messy closet and dirty laundry in the corner.

So, as the days dragged on and on into the pandemic, my productivity continued to flounder.

Driving to the library helped, but I lost time because of commuting and shaky wi-fi.

To save my Ocala-based business; I needed to make a change.

My solution - a backyard office.

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The entrance to my backyard shed office.Photo by the author

Before I go any further, I'm aware that the possibility of owning an outdoor office is a privilege.

In fact, before researching office sheds and weighing the pros and cons, I didn't even think buying one was possible.

Surprisingly, it was my wise grandmother who encouraged me to deeply consider constructing an office outside. (A dream I had spoken about for years.)

She casually pointed to the time I'd save by not commuting to the library and the productivity I'd gain from having a separate designated workspace away from the house.

But how will we afford it? I thought. How could I justify putting in a few grand into a she shed when we were a typical lower-middle-class family struggling to get by?

Those were the questions that always stopped me from constructing a backyard office before.

But, to my 84-year-old grandmother, it was simple. An outdoor office was a worthy investment.

And deep down, I knew that if I wanted to continue working from home, preserve my sanity and increase my productivity, a business deductible office shed would help.

So, after my Sunday visit with grandma, I wrote down the following questions and got to work.

(Perhaps these outdoor office questions will help you if you ever consider investing in your own outdoor workspace.)

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My desk inside the outdoor office.Photo by the author

Where can I buy an outdoor shed office in Ocala?

It turns out there are many businesses in Ocala selling sheds.

I settled on ProBuilt Structures Robin Structures of Ocala Pine because they offered large and small sheds in different materials for reasonable prices.

Not to mention they took care of the prefab shed permit (for an extra fee).

Okay, and their metal shed came equipped with electrical hookups and looked like a cute cottage I'd rent for a sweet weekend getaway.

Sold!

The process of buying the backyard shed was easy.

In minutes, you could customize your shed on the computer with a representative.

I picked the style, colors and even chose where I wanted the door, windows, and electrical outlet inside.

From beginning to end, ProBuilt Structures in Ocala was professional and smooth.

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Okay, I still need a lightbulb in my she shed.Photo by the author

How much does an office shed cost?

The answer to this varies. Since the budget was a factor, I went for a small shed (8 X 10), with two windows, one light socket, and one outlet, which ran around $3,800.

However, check out this fancy outdoor shed from Zoro that runs $21,420.95!

In my case, the good news was ProBuilt Structures offered basic sheds and payment plans.

And even though we did have to pay an electrician to run an underground wire and install a breaker (shout out to Couch Electrical Services) and buy an AC unit, the grand total came out to around $4,500.

Sounds steep, but when you factor in payment plans, business deductibles, and productivity time saved, it was worth it.

And did you know that having an outdoor office increases your home's value?

I'm not kidding. Mike Lombardo, a Florida real estate agent, said that prefab outdoor sheds could add up to $15,000 to your home's value!

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The breaker system inside the shed (installed by Couch Electric)Photo by the author

How do you get a backyard shed to your home?

Here's my experience:

  1. Probuilt Structures in Ocala sent my customization requirements to the assemblers.
  2. They put it together and called me back three weeks later ready to deliver.
  3. My dream backyard office arrived on a truck.
  4. Two guys with a forklift placed it on our property.
  5. They also leveled the shed and anchored it to the ground.

What's in my prefab shed?

Honestly, it's a work in progress. Right now, I'm so happy to have a designated productive space to work that decorating hasn't been at the forefront of my mind.

But I have a desk facing the window where I can write (free since it was sitting in our garage), and a small reclining piece we saved from our trashed old sectional (also "free").

Another key feature is the portable air conditioner that saves me while typing away in the Florida heat.

I'll divulge. I have a portable potty in there too.

And although you can't physically see it, I do have wi-fi in the shed, but instead of paying for another monthly internet bill, I invested in a wi-fi extender.

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Inside my prefab shed outdoor office.Photo by the author

How long do backyard office sheds last?

The customer representative from ProBuilt Structures told me some buyers get 30 years out of their sheds (In that case, I'll be 68, so I'm good).

According to shelter logic, 20-30 years is the norm.

How an outdoor office saved my Ocala-based business

As someone afraid to spend over $3 on peanut butter, buying an outdoor shed office wasn't an easy decision. But without a doubt, this outdoor office saved my Ocala-based business and positively impacted my family.

Here's how:

  • My outdoor office has increased productivity.
  • My outdoor office has increased quality time with my kids.
  • My outdoor office has separated work and home.
  • My outdoor office has increased our property's value.
  • My outdoor office has made my business more official. (I actually can conduct a small meeting in a space other than my living room.)
  • My outdoor office provides me with a convenient, necessary escape.
  • My outdoor office has decreased multitasking in the home.
  • My outdoor office has raised my husband's and children's respect for my work. (Leaving and going to a formal, dedicated workspace makes my work more official.)

The Lowdown

Again, I am well aware that an outdoor office isn't in the cards for everyone, and I thank my lucky stars we found a way to make it happen.

But as my productivity was decreasing and my stress increasing during the pandemic, I am thankful my grandma gave me the nudge to invest in a backyard office shed -

A decision that saved my Ocala-based freelancing business.

Thanks, gram!

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