Co-working companies are proving to be an ideal office niche for freelancers, remote groups and small businesses. These well-lit, aesthetically pleasing spaces are popping up all over, and they’re often filled to capacity. Starting with a meager 14 spaces in the U.S. in 2007, their numbers have soared to over 18,900 in 2018, with an estimated 6,000 additional spaces available by 2020. This uptick in popularity reflects the needs of many micro and small businesses: maintenance-free office space with lots of amenities, and the desire to network and collaborate.
Co-Working Essentials: What You Get
Most co-working spaces offer a variety of desk space, as well as several conference rooms, phone booths, lounge areas and a kitchen/break room. You rent desk space according to your needs, whether that’s a seat at a table shared by others, a dedicated desk where you can store your laptop and other items in a locked drawer (and have pictures of your kids on the cubicle wall), or a private office with a desk, furniture and a locking door.
Rental packages are fairly flexible – you can rent space by the hour, day, week, month or longer term. Contracts (or “memberships,” in co-working-speak) may be month to month, or on six-month, 12-month or 24-month terms; the longer the contract term, the lower your monthly cost. Drop-in hourly or day rates usually do not require a contract. That said, here are typical cost ranges, which vary by location:
- Open-area work space: $200 to $400 per month
- Dedicated desk: $350 to $700 per month
- Private office: $1,000 to $1,600 per month
You get high-speed Internet access, and you can use shared equipment like copiers, scanners and fax machines. A receptionist greets you on the way through the door, which is a very nice touch, and you can use the co-working company’s business address for your company’s mail and to receive packages.
In addition to low costs and zero maintenance, co-working spaces provide a great environment for meeting with clients and to work on group projects. Most rental packages include a certain number of conference room hours per month, which you can reserve online, and you can rent additional time if needed.
Of all the perks offered by co-working companies, networking is key. Whether you strike up a conversation with someone in the lounge or attend one of many social events, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to meet people from other companies, learn about their services and possibly form business relationships that benefit both of you. To spread that net even wider, some members host luncheons or workshops as a marketing tool either on-site or at a nearby location, and lean on the co-working company to promote the event to its members.
Co-working companies really want their members to succeed. Some companies offer business planning and strategy sessions, and introduce you to potential partners as a freebie to long-term members.
A Few Drawbacks
If you opt for desk space in the common work area, be forewarned that it can be distracting. On any day, you might encounter a small group poring over project details or a salesperson chatting with a customer, right next to you. It’s a lively environment at times.
There’s also a concern for privacy. The open floor plan leaves your computer screen exposed to anyone walking by, setting up the potential for confidential information to be viewed. Plus, phone booths are not typically sound proof, so people sitting near the booths can hear your conversations if you talk loudly. If you use your computer’s audio for conference calls and have the volume cranked up, they can hear other meeting attendees as well
Before You Decide
While co-working is the perfect solution for some of us, it’s not for everyone. If you have several choices in your area, be sure to visit two or three facilities before making a decision – each shop has a different vibe – and try one as a drop-in to find out if it’s suitable for your company.