Working from home certainly has its benefits, including flexible hours, no commute and the ability to work in your pajamas. It also has a big downside: A sense of isolation and lack of interaction with coworkers. For these reasons, you may want to look for a coworking space.
Shared work spaces, popping up nationwide, offer communal offices and a community vibe that many solo entrepreneurs and freelancers crave. In fact, according to the coworking publication Deskmag, there were more than 10,000 coworking spaces open globally in 2016. The average site has 76 members, a 50% increase from 2014, according to Deskmag’s 2016 global coworking forecast.
Yet, there isn’t one size that fits all when it comes to a coworking space. To find the one that works best for you, take a look at these three factors:
If one of your favorite things about working from home is the lack of a commute, you’ll probably want to find a coworking space close to home. For me, a short commute is key. Unfortunately, there is no coworking space within walking distance from my house. If so, I would probably be writing this story from my shared coworking digs instead of my solitary office.
When thinking about location, the commute isn’t the only factor. You might also want to consider whether a coworking space has plentiful and free parking or if it’s conveniently located near public transportation. One more thing: Is the office near restaurants, banks and other services you might want to hit on your lunch break?
Most coworking spaces operate on a membership basis. The amount you pay is based on how much space you need and how often you’ll use the office. Prices also vary based on whether you use a communal desk or a designated desk. Fees at Boston-based Workbar start at a $30 for a single day on up to $350 for its most popular option: Unlimited use of the site plus up to five days a month at any other Workbar location. Want a dedicated desk? This can be yours for about $400 a month.
For comparable rates, a single day at the rapidly growing global chain WeWork, with 110 locations worldwide, will run you $50. Monthly use of space at a WeWork office, with an available desk in a common area, starts at $220 and a dedicated desk starts at $350 a month. My tip: Before you sign up for a coworking space, check to see if your desired office is running any new member promotions. When I considered joining Workbar, the site was brand new and it was offering a $100 a month introductory rate for the first three months of unlimited use at this location.
Amenities and services
These days you’d be hard pressed to find a coworking site without free wireless, ergonomic office furniture, unlimited coffee and private phone rooms. Some facilities also offer a kitchen stocked with unlimited snacks, conference rooms, and other perks for members like negotiated discounts on internet hosting technology and gym memberships. Many also offer access to business seminars and social events. WeWork, for example, offers virtual networking to its 80,000 members worldwide. This way members can share resources and market their business services to other freelancers and entrepreneurs.
If additional perks and services are important to you, a coworking chain like WeWork may be the best bet for you. But if extras don’t matter so much, you may want to stick with the facility that offers the best price value and is closest to home.
Ideally, you can use these guidelines to help you narrow down your search for the perfect coworking space. Before you sign up for your new office, it’s a good idea to visit the location in person. You can do this by scheduling a tour or just stopping by. Some sites will even let you use the facility for a day. Regardless of whether you spend an hour or a day onsite, make sure you sit in an assortment of desk chairs to make sure they are comfortable. You should also try out the coffee and sign on to the Wi-Fi to see that the connection is speedy and reliable.
A parting tip: Stay for a while and people watch. If you do end up joining this space, you’ll be hanging out with these folks regularly. You might even wait for a future coworker to get up and grab a cup of coffee. This is your signal to do the same and strike up a conversation. At the end of that chat, you may have found your new business home. That’s what I call coffee talk with a purpose.
Image: Haldane Martin