Coworking space: should you run your business from one?
**Community, feedback and networking**
In talking to people who run or use coworking spaces, one of the themes that kept coming up was the _strong sense of community_ they provide. For many places, that sense of community is fostered by involving existing members in the application process. For example, potential members for Workantile have to get three “endorsements” or signatures from existing community members before being allowed to join the space. This kind of process helps ensure that new members are courteous, respectful, and good coworking mates.
Another perk is the ability to bounce ideas off of others. Mark Karten, who manages Ensemble, told me, “The instantaneous feedback is amazing. It’s like a thermometer for your ideas and concepts.” Relationship building, social support, and cross-collaboration are other attractive features. Members get to know each other, discuss their challenges, lean on each other for support, and sometimes end up having each other as clients.
**The social side**
Lots of coworking spaces regularly coordinate happy hours, networking mixers, fundraisers, and other special events as a way to bring people together. For example, Workantile hosts film screenings, social lunches, and chair massages for its members. Ensemble hosts “Social Eatia”—a daily afternoon break where complimentary homemade treats are provided and members are encouraged to network. Some places have games rooms where people get to know each other while having fun.
As mentioned earlier, some facilities provide opportunities to help grow your business. In Houston, START actively fosters the tech scene with hackathons, meetups and a monthly “Demo Day” that gives the opportunity to four startup companies to pitch in front of mentors and investors.
**Amenities, building accessibility and mail**
Coworking spaces offer amenities that you may not be able to afford on your own. For example, most places provide wired and wireless Internet, conference rooms, access to kitchens, private rooms to take telephone calls, printers, scanners, fax machines, and discounts on other business services (e.g., storage and shredding).### **Fees and other details** Monthly memberships can range from $50 to $450 or more depending on the city, amenities, and building. If a monthly membership is too much of a commitment, there are also day passes, hourly rates, and virtual memberships. For example, in 2013, Citizen Space’s hourly fee was $8 (maximum fee per day was $20) and its virtual option was $25/month which included use of company’s address and 2 drop-in passes. If you decide to join a coworking community, it will be important to understand _how_ you will access the building and _when_ you will be able to use the space. Some facilities are only open during set times like 8am to 6pm during the week, with no evening or weekend access. Others offer access to the building 24/7 by providing members with keys, a security code, or a fob card. With regard to mail, some sites allow you to use their business address to receive packages, while others discourage the practice because their mail area is not secure. If you decide to use the building’s address, inquire about how the mail is handled and where your items will be stored. **** ### **Drawbacks and questions to ask** Coworking spaces aren’t for everyone. Some people have concerns about protecting intellectual property and being distracted while working in an open space, or that that the fees are too high for someone just starting out. When considering a coworking space, remember to ask these questions:
- How are members selected and is there a vetting process?
- Will I have a month-to-month contract and is a deposit required?
- If problems arise between community members, how are they handled?
- What office equipment is available?
- Will I have access to the facility 24/7 or just during certain times?
- How are conference rooms and private rooms allocated?
- Will I be assigned a desk/table or is the space on a first-come, first-served basis?
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