Working solo means you enjoy the benefits of having total autonomy over where and how you work. Yet for some, being restricted to a home or remote office can also be accompanied by a lingering feeling of loneliness or that you’re insulated from where the main conversations about your industry are happening.
Enter the solution: coworking offices. These alternative workplaces are the best of both worlds. They offer a centrally-located office with a desk, an Internet connection plus convenient access to meeting rooms. Tenants benefit from sharing the expensive costs of office infrastructure plus gain extensive networking opportunities from being amidst a ton of folks also making a go of it on their own. If you love the flexibility of working for yourself but feel frustrated with the home office setup, joining a collective workplace might be a great way of raising your biz efficiency.
We chatted with folks at some of the most well known coworking locations in North America to learn what coworking offers.
A space that meets your needs
You’ll find these spaces nearly everywhere from Melbourne to Los Angeles. And while most provide straightforward meeting and working facilities, some target specific sorts of entrepreneurs. The Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) in Toronto is tenanted by people focused mainly on fostering social change within communities.
“We intentionally populate our spaces with folks who are working to make the world a better place,” says Grace Yogaretnam, a CSI representative. “Because there are so many ways to effect positive change, our community includes a diverse range of stakeholders, from environmental NGOs and community empowerment groups to clean-tech consultants, arts organizations, tech start-ups, and everything in between.”
Prices can range from $20 a day for “hot desking” access (that means you get to use any desk that happens to be free, usually only between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.) and up to $2,000 a month for private offices with as many as five desks for fledgling multi-person ventures (who typically also opt for 24/7 access to the building). Perhaps even more important than the convenience that comes with having an out-of-home workplace featuring boardrooms, courier and mail services is the social interactivity these places offer. Not to mention they are typically exceptionally friendly and inviting hubs of creative energy (when FreshBooks visited Philadelphia, the incredible Independents Hall put us up! Rockstars!).
“I knew I would go a bit crazy if I worked from home,” says Eric Squair who runs a communications consultancy out of CSI. A tenant for three years, Squair enjoys the fact that he always has someone to talk to, whether it’s a social discussion or something business related.
“The best part is that you have all these great people you work beside… but you don’t necessarily have to work with them. You have office mates you can be friends with.”
Paige Rosenberg, founder of graphic design firm Paige Rosenberg Design, recently teamed up with fellow designer Tom Conlon (Zephyr) to create a new business. Rather than continue working from their individual home offices, the pair moved into The Hive at 55 in Lower Manhattan. Rosenberg says they weren’t ready for a full-sized office, but they did want to work in a busy atmosphere teaming with ideas and the occasional chance to make new business arrangements with other small-business entrepreneurs.
“Everybody’s networking and trying to help each other out,” she says. “Opportunities arise from just being in the room.”
This doesn’t come as a surprise to the Director of The Hive, Daria Siegel, who says all sorts of entrepreneurs use co-working spaces. It’s not only social media consultants and other tech-related business owners, but also writers, lawyers, accountants, and graphic designers.
Keep it real
Minna Van, cofounder of The Network Hub in Vancouver, says coworking facilities are well suited to “people tired of working from the coffee shop or working alone in the basement.” Once they dress up and put on their shoes to go out of the house to work, “it feels a little more purposeful,” Van says.
Still, it’s not for everyone. Squair points out that if you need “library-level quiet” to concentrate on your work, the busy often open-space atmosphere might not suit you. Rosenberg says it would be nice to have a dedicated space so she and Conlon could invest in large-screen computer display monitors–for detailed design work–rather than having to cart their laptops to and from work every day. According to Van, co-working is best for individuals or teams of less than four people. More than that, and chances are you’d prefer to have a dedicated office.
But these don’t count as major drawbacks for Rosenberg, who likes the flexibility that The Hive at 55 provides. She and Conlon started off using the space just three days a week, but now they’ve moved up to the five-day plan, and they’re considering going to the next level, which would give them 24-7 access to the building. For the time being, “we tend to be here the moment the doors open,” she says.
And for Squair, the cons aren’t nearly as important as the pros. Where else would have such easy access to a meeting space just right for the occasional business event, downtown no less? “I’m not sure what I’d do without it,” he says. “Right there it pays for itself.”
image credit – flickr/Beltzner