The benefits and drawbacks of coworking

I have reposted this piece by Kevin Whipps from http://freelanceswitch.com/the-business-of-freelancing/coworking/. Do you agree with the author? As a manager of the coworking space I can only add that building a community spirit is hard and challenging. Although to my mind it’ th ekey to the success of any coworking space.

One of the great problems of being a freelancer is the solitude. It’s difficult at times to sit in front of your keyboard and do what you’ve got to do without any human interaction. There’s no water cooler to talk around, no office gossip to catch up on and no one else to fill you in on what happened on last night’s episode of The Family Guy. The other issue is that renting a traditional office space is expensive, but without one, some clients may think that your business is unprofessional.

The solution to both problems is a coworking facility. The concept is pretty simple: Put together a group of people who all freelance, rent out a desk for a low price, put in shared facilities such as a conference room and receptionist, and you’re good to go. This keeps the costs down for renters, gives you a professional environment to meet clients and provides human interaction. It’s the best of all worlds, right?

For the most part, yes, there are many benefits to coworking. But just like Luke and the Force, there is also a dark side to coworking, which is something you should be aware of before entering into any agreement. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the good and the bad components of coworking.

The Benefits of Coworking

Human Interaction

Working in your pajamas sounds like a great idea at first, but it gets old after a few weeks. Having people to talk to is pretty nice, and it lets you get out of that comfort zone that beginning freelancers tend to sink into. As an added bonus, maybe you’ll make a new friend, or meet someone to collaborate with.

Better Facilities

Most freelancers start off with a laptop and a discount card at Starbucks for the free Wi-Fi. Coworking facilities often have photocopiers, coffee machines, high-speed Internet, a receptionist and a conference room, making your favorite booth at the coffee shop look outdated. It also saves you money, because outfitting your home office with this equipment gets pricey quick.

Job Leads

Ever been in the right place at the right time? Imagine you’re at a coworking facility, working as a graphic designer. One of the other renters is working on a project and needs something drawn up real quick, but they don’t know how to do it. Just by being in the same location as other professionals, you’ll pull in jobs that wouldn’t have been available otherwise.

Events & Mingling

Some coworking facilities have mixers and events weekly or monthly, making it easy to meet new people and make new contacts. There may also be idea nights where everyone sits in the room, shares a concept they need help with, and then the room responds. This helps not only with productivity, but with your networking as well.

The Drawbacks of Coworking

Working With Jerks

It’s not possible to get along with everybody, and it seems like there’s always going to be a jerk in every office. Spend some time trying out your new spot before you sign an agreement, that way you can feel out the scene first.

Inconvenient Hours

Everyone works on their own schedules, and that doesn’t always jive with what the coworking facility offers. For example, you may be an early riser, ready to go at 8 am every day. But if your preferred spot is only open from 10-6, then you’ll be spending 2 hours at home before you can even start at the new office. This changes from facility to facility — and some give you a key if you sign a lease — so take that in mind before you pick your spot.

Distractions

Some coworking buildings offer private offices with doors that shut out the noise, but more often than not, it’s an open floor plan with desks and cubicles placed throughout the room. This means you’ll be able to hear every conversation that everyone is having, and that can distract you from getting work done. Conversely, you could be the bad guy, always taking phone calls and talking too loud. Find a spot that fits your needs and privacy requirements.

Competition

If you’re working at a coworking facility made for graphic designers and you’re also a graphic designer, then your competition is in the room with you at all times. You might find it inspiring to spur friendly competition between your mates, but when they get an important job over you, that can be crushing.

Tips For Picking Your Perfect Coworking Space

Try Before You Buy

Many coworking facilities offer drop-in rates, where you can just pop in for a few hours and pay a couple of bucks to try it out. Do this for a week or two before you decide on settling in, that way you can see if you mesh well with your coworkers or if the facility is all its cracked up to be.

Find Kindred Spirits — Or Don’t

If you find yourself inspired by watching other great people create, maybe your ideal location is with other people in the field. Find other writers, web designers, etc. that share the same line of work, this way you can collaborate on big projects. Alternatively, if you want to be the only person in your field in the room, go for a coworking space that has people that could need your talents. That way you’re a valued commodity, and you get more business as a result. Step outside of the box to optimize your potential.

Convenience Over Necessity

You don’t need to work at a coworking space per se, so make sure it works with what you do. Verify that the hours and location are to your liking, because driving two hours a day just to work for 30 minutes isn’t convenient or productive. Find something that’s affordable as well, because there’s no point in locking in with a lease if you’re unsure you’ll be able to make the rent.

Go With Your Gut

Pick a spot that makes you feel comfortable. There’s no reason to sign up for the hip new coworking space in town if you’re worried about getting mugged on your way in, and if you have a weird feeling about the space, don’t do it. Trust yourself to make the right decision, and go to another spot if possible.

Final Thoughts on Coworking

The rise of the coworking industry has been a good thing for freelancers, that’s for sure. But before you blindly jump into a long-term contract with a facility because they look pretty, take some time to research your options. This place will become the home for your business, so there’s no reason not to do your due diligence before you sign up.

After all, depending on your location there are plenty of options for coworking facilities, tailored for all sorts of different occupations. And if you can’t find one, start an informal one yourself with a group of friends. Just pick a spot and meet up every day to share and trade ideas. After all, you likely started freelancing so you could be your own boss, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a few coworkers as well.


 

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