Among the many cool things you get in your life as a consultant, one might be that you do not need an apartment. You are always at new and different places, so a trailer would do the job perfectly, right? Just kidding.
Nonetheless you might be able to live without renting an apartment.
Instead you could stay at the project location and just give up your apartment at home. That would not only save you a lot of money for your own apartment. You could also save on travel time and get to know a new and exciting location. Some consultants I know have not paid for an apartment for more than 2 years.
Do you need an apartment?
Some consultants really do not need to rent an apartment. Could that apply to you? Check here:
You have a long term assignment and an apartment in the city you work in.
Many consultants on a long term assignment have the choice to either stay in a hotel or in an apartment. Usually, the apartment is even the consultancy’s preferred accommodation because they pay less for it. Most independent consultants I know get an additional apartment in the city they work in.
It makes life somewhat easier:
- You do not have to bring all your clothes and necessities back and forth. In case there is a mishap with your shirt our suit, you have a second one in that apartment.
- You have a big fridge and a kitchen so you can make your own food. Even though it is nice to have your food and dishes done for you, it can get boring to eat the same hotel food over and over. Apart from that, hotel food is often unhealthy. Even fresh fruit is kept in some weird substance and the omelet is made in a lot of unhealthy oil.
- It is easier to make friends at the place you work. As you actually have your own place, you can invite people over. You are also more likely to stay for a weekend and meet people at the project location.
- You feel more at home at your project location.
You do not mind sharing your apartment with a colleague.
If you are a freelance consultant, you are the one to decide if you want to share an apartment with somebody or not as the expenses go out of your pocket. If you are employed with a consultancy, they are the ones who decide if you get to have a place for yourself or if you have to share it with colleagues.
One the one side, those arrangements depend on your rank and are often put down in a travel policy: Analysts and consultants often have to share an apartment with 1 or 2 other consultants. Manager and up get to have their own place.
How the reality plays out depends on the project and its budget. I have seen projects where two managers or even senior managers shared an apartment with another manager. I have seen appartments with 4 or 5 analysts, consultants and their manager. (This is great if you all get along perfectly and are all extroverts. If you are an introvert and prefer some alone time to recharge your batteries, this might not be a match made in heaven.) Even partners shared appartments on a big IT project.
So no matter what the policy says: the project decides if you get to live by yourself or share the place.
In some occasions the project manager had his own apartment which he lived in with his girlfriend. Just when he was at a different project location or on vacation, other project members would stay in his place. Many people would not mind that people stay in their place; others want to have a home on their own and have nobody near their stuff. Which type are you?
Your parents don’t mind if you keep some of your stuff your place – alternatively: You trust storage places.
If you have an apartment at your project site, you can take a lot of your things there. A medium sized cupboard filled with clothes will most probably fit into that project apartment.
Your collection of long playing records or your miniature train might not fit. Neither will your furniture. Project apartments usually come fully equipped, that means your furniture has to stay with your parents or in storage in case you want to give up your own apartment. Alternatively, you can rent out your place. Still, if the subtenant does not like miniature trains, it has to be stored somewhere.
By the way: think about how binding you make the contract for both sides. It can be beneficial to have a contract that obliges your subtenant to stay for a certain amount of months. Just what do you do if you cannot use the project apartment anymore?
A consultant friend of mine rented out his place for 12 months because he was supposed to be away for more than a year. Then client CEO changed and cancelled all the consulting contracts shortly after the beginning of the project. The consultant friend got sent home. He had to wait for a while on the bench for the next project and his next project did not include a project apartment. He stayed with his parents for several months until the contract with the subtenant had ended and he was able to move back in.
Your home is not full of designer furniture and expensive artwork.
As I wrote before, project apartments come fully furnished. So you cannot bring your designer furniture nor a lot of your paintings or sculptures. Neither would you rent it out I suppose to someone else.
You don’t have animals.
The project apartment might not allow pets or a colleague that lives with you has an allergy. If you have an animal, most probably you will not be able to take your pet to the project apartment (unless you have a hairless hamster. Animals in cages are often allowed and hairless animals don’t give allergies).
You do not mind not living in your own furniture for a while.
Some people really love their furniture. They took a lot of time to get it right. They love to choose the pieces that live their home and made sure their homes look fabulous. It is hard for them to imagine not being with these beloved pieces of wood and fabric, unthinkable to rent the apartment out to someone who might get a marmalade stain on their white sofa.
Neither can these people imagine living in pre-furnished apartment. In a place with heartlessly selected things that don’t make a home for them.
Ok, ok, I am teasing a little. Still, if you love your stuff so much and it doesn’t feel like home if you live in it, then using your project apartment as your home might not be a good choice.
You are single.
In a lot of project apartments, they will let you bring your partner along. Still, usually your partner will have his or her own job and life. You should think twice before your partner gives up a job or changes university to come with you. Especially on projects overseas.
For some couples, it works out perfectly. For others, it does not. A consultant brought his girlfriend along on a project in China. She had taken a sabbatical to do so and they had sold their car as the project plan foresaw a stay of 18 months in China. After a few weeks the consultant had to change back to the main project location. The couple did not have their car anymore and the girlfriend spend her sabbatical at home. At least they had not rented out their own apartment.
You are able and willing to move for a few months.
Maybe you would miss your friends too much and you want to see them at least on the weekends. Maybe the weather sucks at your project location. Maybe the project location itself sucks. Maybe you just hate moving.
Whatever the reasons: this might not the right moment to save on an apartment at home.
Time to ditch your place!
If your project gives you an apartment and you are willing to move there, give it a try. This could be a great chance to make new friends and have a better work life balance. You can not only save money on an extra apartment. You might try out new hobbies – skiing in Switzerland or Denver or swimming in Miami. Oh, the places you’ll go!
If your project only offers hotel, you could ask if you could instead rent a project apartment. You could either argue with cost savings – for the hotel or for the commute. Flights are so expensive these days! (If you travel by car or train, the costs for the commute are not such an impressive factor for the discussion with your project manager.)
Another argument is that you will be there more often on Monday morning instead of Monday noon because you did not have to travel all the way but stayed in the project apartment. If your project needs you to work very long hours, work life balance is another good point. While many project managers might not care if your life is rosy or not, they definitely prefer you to be fully awake and functioning for the project.
Face time! You can not only be there more often on Monday mornings with a project apartment, but also Friday if the client really needs you. It does not make such a big difference if you work from home if you live at the project location.
A word of caution: If your colleagues are not too fond of project apartments or staying in in Friday, you might start something that the other consultants on your project hate your for.
Have you ever lived in a project apartment? What are your experiences with it?