Coworking spaces, especially in large, urban cities with a high cost of living, are becoming increasingly popular. If you haven’t been exposed to one, the general idea is that there are both common and private areas, access to office furniture and equipment, and an “office culture” made up of independent freelancers co-habitating during their work days.
If you live in a small apartment and don’t have a formal office, these spaces can be extremely appealing. However, there are pros and cons in terms of booking a coworking space, and you should weigh the possibilities in light of what your needs truly are.
Here are five questions that you should ask yourself, to determine if you really need a coworking space, or if you can stick with your current location:
Do you absolutely need more space and resources for multiple people?
Sometimes the answer to this question is a firm “yes,” regardless of any other drawbacks that may cause concern. There’s no doubt that coworking spaces are cost-effective and can make a real difference in your bottom line.
However, if you are the sole member of your business and you don’t have a team of fellow members or independent contractors, then a coworking space doesn’t make financial sense for you (unless you are extremely motivated by being around others).
Do you need formal meeting rooms?
Even if you are sole member of your business, you may need a regular meeting place to hold face-to-face interviews. Maybe hotel lobbies, coffee shops, or your home office just aren’t cutting it anymore. It may have a more professional edge to invite someone to meet you at a coworking space.
Again, this depends on your freelancing business needs. If you have a face-to-face meeting twice a month, it probably will not benefit your bottom line. But if you’re buying multiple coffees (or drinks) a day in order to entertain prospective clients in more casual dining situations, it may be fiscally responsible to buy into a coworking space to create a more formal environment on which you can depend.
What’s your communication and working style?
The “vibe” of a coworking space can vary widely from company to company. If you are interested in becoming a member of one of these businesses, you should visit quite a few in your area to get a feel for the environment. Some will be quiet and formal, and others will be stereotypically hip and loose.
Think of spending eight hours a day in the environment, and also consider the possibility of bringing clients or leads into the space. What impression would it make on them? Also, try to read how strict or relaxed the rules of the space are. Make sure to evaluate the space against your own personality, and see if it feels like a good fit.
What is your tolerance for noise and interruption?
This is very specific to you as an individual. Do you mind working in a space with other people, where noise may be an issue? Will other people chatting, or holding phone interviews, be energizing – or draining – for you?
Most coworking spaces utilize open space. This means that you do not have a reserved desk or closed office. If you do not like being interrupted or distracted, coworking spaces may not work for you (or you may want to find one that has unusually strict rules about nice and privacy). However, if you are inspired and stimulated by the conversations and activities of others, this may be a beneficial environment for you!
Are you open to partnering with others?
Collaboration often results from the mixing of freelancers. Before you sign a contract with a coworking space, find out what kind of companies primarily use the space. Think ahead to the fact that you will see the same familiar faces most days of the week. You’ll be able to strike up professional relationships with the other freelancers.
Consider whether collaboration is something that you want to expand in your business. If so, a coworking space is a great place to mingle with other like-minded freelancers. If not, a coworking space may be an annoying minefield of other freelancers attempting to network with you.
A coworking space can defray expenses, introduce you to other freelancers, and allow you to separate your work life from your home life more effectively. But be sure to make your on pros and cons list before making a decision!