Entrepreneurs, startups, and small-business owners have been flocking to co-working spaces for a variety of reasons — in fact, more than 7,800 co-working spaces currently exist worldwide, and solid growth is projected for the future. Solopreneurs express a desire for social interactions or a way to separate home and work life, whereas startups and small-business owners cite savings on rent and overhead as significant benefits of using co-working spaces.
Most business owners tout the networking benefits of these spaces above all else. Co-working gives you opportunities to meet likeminded individuals and businesses you can partner with, sell to, and learn and buy from.
To experience the benefits, however, you will need to do some research and keep a few factors in mind.
How to Find a Co-Working Space
The most effective way to find a co-working space is to ask for personal recommendations. Someone in your circle of influence likely uses or has heard of a space that could work well for you, too. Ask other small-business owners and people in your networking groups for their recommendations. They may know a co-working owner or may have been to an interesting space for an event.
If asking for recommendations doesn’t get results, go beyond a basic Web search and use an app specifically for finding co-working spaces near you, like ShareDesk and DesksNearMe. These sites can help you find available co-working spaces and meeting rooms around the country — or the world.
How to Choose a Co-Working Space
Once you have a list of possible co-working spaces to check out, visit them in person and ask about a trial period before committing to a contract. Get familiar with their spaces and terms, then rank them by the following 10 factors before making a decision.
As a business owner, you understand the importance of sticking to your budget. You don’t want to spend more money on a co-working space than you would on rent for a commercial building, so look for a space with a reasonable price that fits your budget. Keep in mind that many of the perks offered may not actually be included in the standard fee — make sure to ask about additional charges for printing, kitchen access and snacks, phones, Internet, and any other amenities. Be careful to avoid scrimping and choosing a space you don’t like, though, as that could hinder your creativity and productivity as well.
Location matters, even for co-working spaces. Pick a place that’s easily accessible so you don’t waste time on an unnecessary commute, but don’t be selfish: consider how the location could affect your team and clients as well. The most effect co-working space will be one that works for you, your business, your employees, and your clients.
- Hours and Access
Always inquire about the hours of access before committing to a co-working space. Many spaces are open 24/7, while others hold traditional office hours. If you prefer to work late or need flexible access to your space, look for a location that meets your needs.
You wouldn’t scrimp on security for a commercial lease, and you shouldn’t neglect it at a co-working space either. You won’t have as much control over the security when co-working, but you should research how the location handles access to the building, as well as its policies regarding theft.
- Physical Environment
Office design can positively or negatively impact your productivity. Knowing the type of layout that works best for you will help you pick the most effective co-working space. Open workspaces are great for some people, for example, but many others get distracted when surrounded by other people. Most co-working locations employ the open structure, but some have private rooms that can be contracted out.
Amenities such as a kitchen or storage space might not be crucial to you, but accessible meeting rooms should be. If you don’t have a traditional office, you will need a place to invite potential clients and existing customers for meetings. Look for co-working spaces with private conference areas that you can schedule as necessary. Always ask about what amenities are included in your contract and which cost extra. Things you might consider necessary, like high-speed Internet access, printing capabilities, or private rooms for making phone calls, may not be included in your monthly fee.
- Infrastructure and Network Security
Always ask about Internet speed, bandwidth, security settings, and other infrastructure and network security concerns. Most locations offer some sort of password-protected Wi-Fi — at least when you first join the network — but you should always add an extra layer of security with an IP VPN when connected to a public network. It’s an efficient, reliable, and mobile way to keep your company data and intellectual property safe and secure.
- Networking and Education
Networking and educational opportunities are two of the biggest benefits of using a co-working space. The space you choose should be one in which you can learn and mature — personally, professionally, and financially.
A good co-working location accomplishes all three aims. The best co-working spaces has weekly or monthly training and networking events, giving you plenty of opportunities to learn, market your business, and develop your pipeline. You might even be able to lead a workshop to build your brand and become better known in the co-working space and local community.
Owners and staff set the tone for a space. If you don’t get along with them, you won’t like the space long term. You need a location where you feel comfortable working, not one where staff is never available to assist you or are always peering over your shoulder and interrupting your work.
Every co-working space has a vibe. Some act as incubators for think tanks and technology startups, while others cater to creative professionals and artisans. Many land somewhere in the middle, and you’ll find businesses ranging from accounting firms to boutique ad agencies. Figure out the best mix for you and your business’s needs and seek out co-working spaces that capture it.
Remember that a co-working location is a place to grow. You might have a small team now, but you will add to it in the future, especially as your networking efforts and educational opportunities begin to pay off. Keep that fact, plus the benefits of cost savings and convenience, in mind as you consider and choose your first co-working space.
Have questions about finding the right co-working space for your business? Share these tips on social media and tag @FrontierBiz to get the conversation rolling!