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As a self-employed individual, working from home can get boring and isolating. Getting out of the house and surrounding yourself with other ambitious professionals can help you become more productive and creative. And as many have already discovered, a coworking space may be just what you need to thrive.
What is a Coworking Space?
While they have been around in some form or fashion for years, the idea of a formal coworking space is still a relatively new concept. They first started popping up around 2005-2008 and have experienced tremendous growth over the last five years.
According to data gathered by Global Coworking Unconference Conference (GCUC), there are currently an estimated 2.3 million coworking members in the world. That number is expected to grow to 5.1 million by 2022 – a 24.2-percent average annual growth rate. There are currently 17,725 coworking spaces around the world, though this figure expected to increase to 30,432 by 2022 to account for increased demand.
But what is coworking and why does it matter? These are questions that employers, employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs are asking – and there is not necessarily an easy answer.
A coworking space is basically a designated area where people can gather to work independently, while still enjoying the social interaction and synergy that comes from being around other likeminded people. From a practical point, it is also cost-effective (with members sharing the burden of different expenses). But it goes much deeper than this.
“Coworking is not just about the sharing of infrastructure and cost, it is about belonging to a community, accessibility and sustainability,” Coworker.com explains. “Coworking is the new way of working and sharing. Coworking spaces are designed to provide a productive and collaborative environment for their dynamic inhabitants, and created without corporate constraints on what is perceived to be an ‘office’ environment offering flexible memberships to suit most needs.”
Members of coworking spaces tend to be entrepreneurs, freelancers, and self-employed individuals. However, there is nothing stopping employees of other companies from using coworking spaces when they work remotely. There are opportunities for everyone.
4 Things to Look for in a Coworking Space
If you live in a big city, you likely have dozens of coworking options. But even if you live in a smaller city or less industrialized area, it is likely that there are a handful of different options. Knowing how to compare various coworking spaces will help you make a smarter decision on which one to join.
Here are some different factors to look at:
Where is the coworking space located? You will want to think about this in proximity to your home, gym, and other places you frequent. It is also smart to take traffic patterns into account, as this can add on a considerable amount of time to your daily commute. (If you can find a coworking space that has multiple locations in your city, this is ideal. It allows you to plug in, even on days where your schedule takes you to different areas of town.)
2. Membership Fees
“Membership fees and how much you’re willing to pay each month are fundamental in choosing a place to work,” entrepreneur Cameron Chardukian writes. “Memberships at premium spaces, with full access and amenities packages, massages and even fitness and living accommodations can go for several thousand dollars a month.”
Likewise, you can spend less than $100 per month for a basic coworking space and limited amenities. In the end, most people end up paying somewhere in the middle. It all depends on the market you are in and how many different services you need. If you are simply looking for a spot that is convenient, quiet, comfortable, and has fast internet, fees will be relatively low.
In all likelihood, you are looking for something that gives you reasonable perks, without forcing you to spend on things you do not want or need. Manhattan-based Kettlespace is a good example. They have membership plans starting at just $25 per month and offer things like free coffee, tea, and snacks, reliable WiFi, member events, discounts on lunches, happy hour specials, and multiple convenient locations. There should be comparable coworking spaces in your city, as well.
You want to feel safe when you are working. As you compare different coworking spaces, make sure you look consider things like:
- Is the coworking space in a good or bad part of town?
- What is the process for getting inside? Do you need a key or pin code, or can anyone come in off the street?
- How secure is the internet? Are there advanced cyber security protections in place?
- Are there private offices or nooks? Or is everything out in the open?
Details like these matter. You always want to feel safe and secure when you are working – otherwise you will continually be looking over your shoulders or feel uneasy leaving your belongings when you go for a bathroom break.
4. Networking Opportunities
One of the beautiful aspects of coworking is that you get to surround yourself with different people – not just individuals who work for the same company or in the same industry. As you compare various coworking spaces, take the networking opportunities into account. The more they have to offer, the better.
Strike a Balance Between Structure and Freedom
A coworking space provides the perfect blend of structure and freedom. It allows members to continue working autonomously, while also establishing some rules and frameworks to keep people engaged. As you seek out a coworking space, be sure to look for one that strikes a balance between these two ideas of structure and freedom.