About half of U.S. startups choose to run their business from home, but your home office may not be a suitable environment if your startup is growing and you want to bring more people on board or meet with clients. It can also be difficult to separate home and work life, which actually increases your risk of burnout.
When I first set up as a freelance writer, my home office worked out pretty well. But, as my business grew, I started to stagnate at home. It was too quiet. I missed real human contact and I needed a space where I could meet my clients that looked a little more professional.
Trouble was, I didn’t have the cash to pay for a dedicated office space—and my local coffee shop was too noisy to take calls and really focus on more complicated pieces of work.
Then, I found a better way: coworking.
A coworking space brings together remote workers, small business owners and staff, and freelancers in a shared work environment. Big names such as Indiegogo, Instagram, Timehop, Uber, and Wanderfly have even used them.
The key benefit to coworking spaces is flexibility. Each coworking space has a different layout, like an open office with lines of desks and breakout areas, or a more enclosed setup (with private offices and meeting rooms).
You can choose to “hot desk,” (use whatever desk is available) or pay a little more for your own desk. You can also reserve meeting rooms or use a coworking space as a virtual office. Whatever the setup, you will be sharing office amenities and communal areas (such as the kitchen) with your fellow coworkers. It’s important to find a coworking space that’s a match for your startup both in terms of your business requirements and ethos.
Coworking spaces are flexible in their pricing structure and commitment level. The majority will let you rent a space on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis.
You can also seek out a coworking community that’s been carefully cultivated to boost your chances of success. For example, some coworking spaces are run alongside incubators (where you are provided with a variety of resources and services to accelerate your business development)—but you may have to apply to work in such spaces. Other spaces target specific industries, like technology or creative pursuits. However, the majority of coworking spaces will accept anyone and everyone.
Of course, there are plenty of pros and cons for startups using coworking spaces. For example, if your startup needs privacy or you would like to design and change your own office layout at will, a traditional office space may be a better option.
But if you don’t mind sharing a few office amenities with other startups and entrepreneurs, a coworking space could be a solid option for your business.
Here are five key reasons to consider coworking:
1. Improved facilities over your local coffee shop or home office
Let’s face it, a coffee shop or your home office can present some challenges to professionalism—namely noise and non-business interruptions.
Coworking spaces come with everything you need to get your work done. An abundance of power sockets, functional furniture, plenty of desk space, and high-speed Wi-Fi connections come standard in most facilities . Dossey Richards, CEO at dev-shop Lotus Technologies, runs his business from the NYC-based The Farm Coworking. He said: “The decision to move from my local coffee shop and work inside a coworking space has been a decision that has dramatically changed my life as well as my quality of living. I’d recommend it to all freelancers, employees, and entrepreneurs looking for a new work experience.”
You also have more control over your work environment compared to a coffee shop. You can choose to plug in your laptop and work in a shared environment if you prefer to work surrounded by like-minded souls, or use a private office space if you need some peace and quiet. Many facilities also rent out meeting rooms for when you need to talk to your clients, and some also have additional areas (such as nap pods or breakout areas) to give you access to a wide variety of working spaces.
Plus, free tea, coffee, and snacks are often thrown into the deal at a coworking space, which could be the final nail in the coffin for working at your local coffee shop.
2. Coworking gives you a flexible and cost-effective solution
A traditional office space rental can be the solution your startup needs, but they generally require a long-term financial commitment.
However, coworking frees your startup to be nimble as it grows and changes.
You can use the space as and when you need to on a day-to-day or month-to-month basis. You can rent meeting rooms as and when you need to. You will not be tied into paying rent for months at a time.
3. You will network on a whole new level
Coworking spaces are used by a community of freelancers, entrepreneurs, and small businesses, so there are plenty of networking opportunities with people who are also trying to build a business.
Dossey said: “What I love about coworking is the access to all the experiences other companies are having. Being an entrepreneur is a learning curve and the speed of your success is limited to the speed you can learn about starting and running a successful venture. Having access to other people to communicate my day-to-day challenges with has been vital to our growth.”
Coworking spaces often encourage inter-community relationships where chats over the water cooler can quickly turn into work exchanges or budding partnerships. If, for example, you’re a tech startup and need someone to help you write a killer press release, you’ll probably find a writer at a coworking space who’ll fit the bill.
“The Farm [coworking space] has and always will be a life changing-experience for me,” says Dossey. “Being in the space with all the other entrepreneurs has given me a level of exposure and insight that would have normally taken years to develop. Through my conversations with other members about topics like sales strategies and hiring, I have been able to grow my company into a profitable and rapidly-growing venture.”
Some coworking spaces double up as event venues and offer their communities a range of ways to meet fellow coworkers and the wider business community. Whether it’s a few free beers on a Friday, a yoga class, a simple lunch and learn session, a high-profile product launch, or a symposium offering training on a new range of skills for your business, you may get the chance to learn something new and meet new people.
Many spaces also encourage their members to host events to showcase skills and market their business. Such events are often promoted by the space, and in some cases, you’ll have experienced community managers on hand to help you with everything you’ll need to run a successful event.
4. There’s plenty of business-based advice available
A coworking space can present a perfect opportunity to get advice on your startup. First, you have access to a community of coworkers with varied experiences and skills that can help you frame a particularly tricky problem. Second, many spaces are run by a team of enthusiastic managers who can point you in the right direction, offer some advice, or help you think through logistics.
5. A coworking space will grow as your business grows
Another benefit of the flexibility of a coworking space is that you can scale up as and when you need to.
Whether you suddenly need more facilities to match a peak in demand or to employ more staff to help you during busy times, it’s likely that a coworking space can be more nimble and flexible than a traditional office rental situation.
Plus, your employees will thrive in a coworking environment. Research reveals that coworkers feel they have more control over their work, that their work is more meaningful, and they value the community element of coworking.
How can I find a coworking space?
If you are considering a coworking space, make sure you pick the right one for your business.
Here’s a quick checklist to help you out:
1. Get the right location
Do you want to work near your home or your clients? If you want to use your coworking space as a place to meet clients, then it makes sense to be in a location that’s convenient to them. Also, factor in how long you’re prepared to commute.
2. Get the right level of support
Once you have a shortlist of spaces based on location, look at what each one offers. There are two basic options for startups. You could choose an incubator (which will probably offer more mentorship and higher levels of support) or you could choose a more autonomous shared office space that’s open to anyone.
3. Figure out how much dedicated space you need
Do you want to hot desk, a permanent desk, or a dedicated office? Figure out exactly how much space you’ll need access to on a regular basis.
4. Find out more about features and resources
You may need specific equipment or amenities for your startup. For example, if you’re working in the creative sector, you may need a workshop or specific pieces of kit to do your work.
5. Get the right vibe
Every coworking space is different in terms of its atmosphere and community. You may want a highly professional environment, or something a bit more relaxed. It’s important to visit a space before you sign up. Go on a tour and ask the community (as well as your guide) all about the space and what it’s really like to work there.
Also, try and find out if the space is well-managed. Ask questions about what happens when something goes wrong or needs to be repaired and how long it usually takes to be resolved. And, if you do decide a space isn’t for you at some point, the flexibility of the coworking world means it’s easy to try out a different space.
6. Check the events schedule
This is a great way to see if a space will offer networking opportunities and chances to improve your knowledge. A good space should have plenty of events on tap to help the startup community and also encourage startups to host their own events.
If you’re thinking about coworking, keep an open mind and visit a few coworking spaces before you sign up. The true beauty of coworking for startups is the flexibility to pick and choose what you need and when you need it. What have you got to lose?