A Newbie’s Guide to Coworking

Coworking can be a little intimidating if you’ve been working from a home office for a while.  The prospect of getting out of your bubble and back into an office environment where you can’t just chill in your pajamas might make you nervous.  But our newbie’s guide to coworking will give you everything you need to know in order to make it a success.

 

Why would I choose a coworking space over a regular office?

Traditional office space often comes with a price tag that puts it out of reach for small businesses or startups.  It’s hard to justify a years-long lease (sometimes even up to ten years!) when you don’t know if your team will actually grow into the space.  Coworking gives startups and entrepreneurs an affordable alternative that allows for more flexible contracts.  The added amenities offered at many coworking spaces also make them more cost-efficient.

Besides the financial benefits, coworking is also a great way for entrepreneurs to expand their network.  Networking can be difficult from a home office, and coworking provides a built-in place where professionals from a variety of industries come together (no big conference required).

 

What should I look for in a coworking space?

The ideal coworking space is different for everyone, and depending on your needs, some things may be more crucial to you when comparing spaces.  Here are some factors to keep in mind when you’re touring:

·      What are the access hours for members?:  If you’re someone who doesn’t have a normal 9-5 schedule or wants to work on weekends, you probably want to find a space that’s open 24/7.  Check to see if there are any arrangements you need to make if you want to work outside traditional hours as well.  If you plan on keeping odd hours frequently, is there an additional cost associated with working during those times?  It’s a good idea to learn when the staff’s hours are, too.  Do you foresee yourself needing staff support if you’re working late?

·      Do they offer discounts?:  If extras are important to you (and honestly, who doesn’t like the added stuff), some spaces offer discounts on things like health coverage, event tickets, or transportation.  These benefits can also factor into your cost analysis when comparing different spaces.

·      What kind of industries are represented there?:  Is there one type of industry that dominates the coworking space?  If you’re looking to work amongst others in your field, this info is important to know.  On the flip side, you could be looking for a little diversity, so a variety of industries across the space would be more appealing. 

·      Do they have the amount of space & privacy level you need?:  Obviously a no-brainer, but if you have a private office for five in mind, make sure to find a space with enough room to accommodate you.  If you have your heart set on a particular space that doesn’t have the options you need, would they be able to build out what you’re looking for?  What would be the cost associated with that build?  Similarly, if you anticipate getting easily distracted, take a look at the floor plan.  Are there private areas to go to if you need to concentrate?

·      What’s the noise level like?:  Some people may like a little background noise and conversation, while others find it annoying.  Visit the coworking space during a busier time of day if possible to get a better gauge of what the noise level is like when the space is full.

 

What are some other advantages to coworking spaces?

We touched on it a little before, but many spaces have numerous amenities — like mail services, printing services, and conference room usage — that members can take advantage of.  If snacking is important to you, there are spaces with fully-stocked kitchens (and the snacks are free!).  Free on-site parking is another added perk to some coworking spaces, especially those in more suburban areas.

Coworking spaces can also add a sense of professionalism to your operations.  Along with giving you a real business address, you can host client meetings in an impressive office space instead of your home or at a coffee shop.  Many coworking spaces also have access to A/V equipment for presentation needs – always a plus.

Some spaces also have on-site staff, from Community Managers to Receptionists, that can be an added asset to your startup or freelance operation.  Find out whether the spaces you’re interested have these personnel and what their capabilities are.

 

How will I know if coworking is right for me?

Coworking definitely isn’t for everyone and every coworking space is different.  Before you sign up, it’s a good idea to take a tour of the space.  It’ll give you a better idea of the atmosphere and help you decide if it’ll be a good fit.

If you join a space and discover that it just isn’t going to work, there’s hope.  Many coworking spaces offer month-to-month rentals instead of yearly (or longer) contracts, so if you do decide to leave, you’re not locked in for life.  But remember – just because things didn’t work out at one coworking space doesn’t mean you might not love it somewhere else!