Today, many freelancers, entrepreneurs, and start-up companies are building their businesses from their “home offices” -- also known as their basement, kitchen table or garage. However, being a small company doesn’t mean you have to stay cooped up in your home (or even the local coffee shop) until you can afford to pay office rent. Coworking spaces are a relatively new and innovative solution for those who want a professional workspace, without the high price tag.
Not familiar with coworking spaces? No worries. Smart furniture solutions company, Turnstone (a division of Steelcase), has been studying the coworking movement for a few years and put together a pretty sweet highlight video.
We spoke with coworking space owners all over the country to better understand how coworking benefits the up-and-coming entrepreneur. It turns out coworking spaces do a lot more for you than keep your rent cheap while providing you with a professional appearance.
1. NETWORKING, NETWORKING, NETWORKING
Startups, entrepreneurs, and even established businesses all benefit from the networking opportunities that are a byproduct of coworking spaces. Communal offices mesh several companies together, so there are numerous professionals right around the corner to consult, talk, and interact with.
Realizing the tremendous impact of networking opportunities, Craig McAnsh named his Asheville, NC coworking space Mojo Coworking, “with the idea that everyone (soloists, freelancers, remote employees and entrepreneurs) needs to get their dose of creative, social and entrepreneurial energy. The collaboration and creative spirit of Mojo is what most communities need to foster small business acceleration.”
Networking connections can be useful for any company, especially those in their infancy. For instance, if your company is a tech startup and you belong to the same coworking space as a seasoned accountant, you may have just found your go-to-person for accounting questions. If you’re seeking new clients, Jay Catalan suggests joining a coworking group right away! As the cofounder of The Network Hub in Vancouver, Canada, he has personally witnessed hundreds of new relationships materialize right in front of him. “Quite a number of consulting gigs and projects have resulted from people exchanging business cards with coworking members sitting next to them.”
2. COLLABORATION YIELDS RESULTS
Need to bounce ideas off a person, not just a wall? A communal workspace lets you use your officemates as sounding boards for ideas. Craig Baute agrees. “Coworking brings smart people together to share ideas … versus people just sitting at home and rarely sharing ideas with someone and inadvertently being forgotten.” He believes in the concept of “accelerated serendipity” so much that he named his Denver, Colorado coworking space Creative Density.
In some cases, relationships formed at these spaces can even lead to starting a new business venture. When Paul O’Brien left Silicon Valley and moved to Austin, TX, he didn't have a job or a plan. He immediately joined Cospace to connect with like-minded people and to figure out the next chapter in his career. Fast forward 18 months, and Paul along with the 2 original cofounders of Cospace (Kitrus Dixon and James Weddle), launched Group Charger, an integrated social networking platform. The trio consequently developed Cospace’s BUILD program to help other Cospace members strategically accelerate the growth of ideas into sound businesses.
Collaboration can also come in the form of conducting research among peers. Morris Levy, owner of The Yard, in Brooklyn, NY, shared how members of his coworking space collaborate to conduct web site beta tests among programmers who provide genuine and timely responses before launch.
3. A CARING & SUPPORTIVE ENVIRONMENT
Coworking spaces also provide a supportive environment. If a potential client rejects you or your sales leads have dried up, you're not alone. Those next to you feel your pain... because they’ve been there, too!
Fellow coworkers provide different perspectives as well. Diane Helbig and David Clements, cofounders of Vision 21 in Lakewood Ohio, recently discovered their members creating mini mastermind groups to provide one another with feedback and support.
In addition to coworkers being supportive about your business, they also care a great deal about you! A few months ago, Donna Cutting, owner of Red Carpet Learning Systems, was “out of the office” for an extended period of time for professional and personal reasons. “It was so nice to come back and have 'coworkers' ask about me. I never got that when I was working in my home office alone.”
4. LEARN SOMETHING NEW
Need to learn how to use Quickbooks? Need to know how use social media to promote your business? Most coworking spaces provide a full calendar of events including classes, workshops and 1:1 mentoring sessions. Hera Hub in San Diego, CA, a coworking space dedicated to women, has created a network of GURU's who provide weekly Q&A sessions on topics such as small business law, Power Point, public speaking, CRM, Wordpress and more!
And even if you can’t regularly attend your coworking space’s workshops, you can still sharpen your knowledge just by showing up. “Coworkers find that their skill sets are updated since they are in constant contact with professionals from a range of backgrounds,” shares Anna Cashman of Deskwanted a site which helps people locate flexible work spaces worldwide. Deskwanted also publishes Deskmag, the leading source of coworking news and information.
5. LOW OVERHEAD & SHARED COSTS
Another benefit to joining a coworking space is low overhead. There are no long-term, complicated leases involved. Instead, you usually pick from a few different levels of memberships, which can often be paid month-to-month. Some coworking spaces don’t even charge you to stop in, log on and mingle; but membership always offers more privileges.
By allocating less money to rent, an entrepreneur can invest more dollars in his or her company. Planwise.com is a technology company providing tools and information to help families maintain and realize financial security. CEO, Vincent Turner, believes “joining NextSpace really helped us save money,” by avoiding a traditional office and being able to turn its coworking membership on and off as needed.
6. WORK-LIFE BALANCE
There’s a blurry line between your work life and your personal life when you work at home. Sure, being at home has its benefits, like no dress code and setting your own hours. However, unless you live alone, working in your pajamas, or staying up until 3 a.m. to finish a project can be disruptive to the household. It also makes it more difficult for you to achieve a healthy work-life balance because the temptation to work 24/7 is a lot stronger when your office is only a few feet away. A communal office provides definition and structure to your workday and can help you find the proper work/life balance to avoid burnout. Small business owner Donna Cutting shares, “When I'm home - I can just be home! Heading 'out' to my office makes it easier for me to separate my work life and my home life!”
7. IMPROVED PRODUCTIVITY
Warning! Working from home can be hazardous to your success! Distractions are everywhere. Whether it’s putting away dishes or chasing the kids, household stuff can easily pull you away from your work. Sometimes the flexibility is awesome, but more often than not, these distractions take precious minutes (and sometime hours!) away from your work. A coworking space lets you concentrate!
At The Network Hub, Jay Catalan says, “New members mention the immediate improvements in their personal productivity within the first week of joining! Having a reason to go to a place to get work done makes a remarkable difference in what someone is able to accomplish.”
Andrew Schrage can’t wait to reap the benefits of joining a coworking space. A few years ago, Andrew started MoneyCrashers, and still works out of his makeshift home office today. Due to recent growth and the need for a more professional environment, Andrew has been researching his local coworking options in Chicago including 1871 and The COOP. Andrew believes interacting with others will provide the boost of creativity he needs to take his business to the next level. “I’m in a highly competitive industry and I’ve recently struggled to find original ways to promote, expand, and market my business.”
8. A MINDSET ON SUCCESS
Oprah Winfrey once said, “Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” In other words, if you want to be successful, you have to surround yourself with successful people. A communal office space fosters success because it’s filled with like-minded, entrepreneurial spirits like you! With the right people around to encourage, inspire, and motivate you, growing your business will come naturally.
Still need proof that coworking spaces are worth it? A recent study conducted by Deskmag suggests the high level of customer loyalty is proof that coworking spaces are doing something right. More than half of coworking space members surveyed stated they did not plan to leave their coworking space, and a further 17% said they had no plans to leave within the year. Interestingly, the biggest reason for entrepreneurs leaving is because their teams get too big (a third of the business in the study grew in numbers since joining). It's evident that growth happens through coworking spaces, and Deskmag’s 2011 Global Coworking Survey proves it.
Check out this directory to find a coworking space near you!
What's your experience with coworking? How has your company benefitted from joining a coworking space? Which coworking location do you recommend? Share your comments below.
Coworking spaces mentioned above: