I make coffee at least once a day when I’m in the office. I speak with dozens of technology professionals – even competitors of mine -as I walk through the halls, ride the elevator, and get the mail. And even though I’m a CEO, I don’t own the space I work in. No, this isn’t some crazy internship; it’s my daily routine as an entrepreneur whose office is located in a coworking space.
I chose to start SlideWave at the “Geekdom” coworking space in downtown San Antonio. To be honest, it wasn’t the affordable rates that finally lured me in. It was the opportunity. But I’ll talk about that in a moment though.
The Coworking Trend
SlideWave isn’t the only company to eschew the fancy office in a standalone building for the hustle of a cowork space. In fact, according to Statista there are over 7,800 coworking locations in the United States and the trend appears to be on the rise. Large companies like WeWork and Regus have hundreds of locations for a good reason: it’s profitable. So why is coworking becoming so popular?
The benefits of coworking are many. For me, one of the initial (but not only) motivators was the price. Sure I could work at home, but that hardly feels official and makes having employees difficult. A coworking space offers memberships at an affordable rate. Geekdom charges around $50 a month for 24/7 building access and use of the facilities. Upsells for any space come by way of a dedicated desk, office space (private or shared), a mailbox, and use of conference rooms. Finally, Geekdom offers free coffee and regular member events as added perks.
This price seems pretty average. Here are some example rates and benefits I found online:
- Launch Fishers: Indianapolis, IN. $750/year for use of the facilities. $150/month for a dedicated desk.
- ImpactHub: Seattle, Washington. $345/month for full time use of the facilities. $425/month for full-time access with a dedicated desk.
- WeWork: Various Locations. $35/month for 24/7 access. Dedicated office space for $450/month.
- Geekdom: San Antonio, TX. $50/month for 24/7 facility access. $250/month for a dedicated desk.
Compared to leasing an office, the month-to-month of a co-working space is a no-brainer. If I had gone the traditional route and hired an office, I would have paid for all of my furnishings, for utilities, for insurance, and for coffee and printers and mail service. I would have also been held to a lease, which is a liability no fledgling startup wants to risk. And then, there’s the other perks my team and I receive as members of a co-working space. The 24/7 access, printing, and free coffee. Why wouldn’t any aspiring entrepreneur want to join?
This model isn’t booming in a vacuum, either. The market has seen “pay as you go” succeed for everything from cars to laundry to bicycles. Why should business space be immune to this trend?
The Opportunities for Entrepreneurs
I mentioned the opportunity earlier. The opportunity at a co-working space is the ultimate benefit I couldn’t pass up. Co-working spaces give me access to:
- Mentors who’ve been in the field for years and who can offer advice, introductions, and opportunities
- Potential vendors whom I can build relationships with
- Potential clients whom I can meet and work with face-to-face (True Story: MilTribe cam as a result of connections formed at Geekdom. This isn’t a rare occurrence.)
- Competitors, who keep me on my game
- Entrepreneurship events, led by local leaders which challenge my thinking and give me opportunities to “give back”
- Space to help the community, like as with my meetup Dinner and Code
And of course, a co-working space also fosters friendships that aren’t colored by shared employment. Without the shared space, I’d have to spend hours at meetups or online in order to build the same network. Instead, my networking happens as I walk through the building and go about my daily work routine.
And it’s not just entrepreneurs like me who love co-working spaces. Remote employees are working at co-working spaces, too:
“First, they’re being used as an alternative place for people to work. Michael Kenny, Managing Partner of San Diego-based Co-Merge, told us, “In the past year and a half, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the use of the space by enterprise employees. We have seen teams come in to use various on-demand meeting rooms. We have users from global companies of size ranging from several hundred to several thousand employees who use the space not only to allow their distributed workers to get productive work done, but also to attract employees who demand flexible workplace and work time.” – Harvard Business Review, Why People Thrive in Coworking Spaces.
I’ve seen SlideWave grow as a result of our co-working space location and relationships, and don’t regret the decision at all. But as with anything, there’s always a price to pay.
There’s something powerful about co-working spaces. Until, of course, it ceases to be so beneficial. Shared office spaces can wreck havoc on productivity, especially if you’re a developer or a creative:
- Offices For All! Why Open-Office Layouts Are Bad For Employees, Bosses, And Productivity
- Open-Plan Offices Are the Worst
- 9 Reasons That Open-Space Offices Are Insanely Stupid
At least co-working spaces offer the benefit of some anonymity. Most of the people you’ll talk to as a member don’t know who you are or what you do and thus have no reason to interrupt your work. Once they do, though, all bets are off. It can be hard to get to work when you’re constantly being chatted up.
When deadlines loom, it’s no wonder developers opt for late-night hours and weekend code sprints instead of the typical 9-5 the meeting-friendly business types prefer. The inability to get real work done is a stressor for many developers and contributes to burnout. I know there are times where I’m very glad to have an office door so I can get more work done.
Another drawback? Scalability. As co-working spaces fill, desk and office space dwindles. This lack leaves people with the sense that they might be better off with a traditional space they can scale as needed.
So far, my team and I have been happy with our setup. We have a dedicated office with enough desk space for our local team.
What are the Alternatives?
There are alternatives to co-working. If you’re a freelancer, you might not have the funds (or the desire) to go the full office route. Let’s say you didn’t want to invest in a co-working membership. What are alternatives to co-working?
- Use the free space and internet at the library or a coffee shop
- Work at a free space and use the money for a mentor, coach, or mastermind group instead (to grow your business)
- Work from home and use the money to buy more comfortable and reliable office equipment
There’s no rule that says that you have to join a co-working space. But if you do, I think you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh your cost.
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