The Pros & Cons of Coworking Spaces

The Pros & Cons of Coworking Spaces

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Coworking spaces are one of the hottest trends for those starting or growing a small business: Instead of working from a corner of your bedroom or renting an office, you find a shared space to hang your shingle. In the U.S., coworking spaces can be found in most major cities and some smaller ones, as well as in countries around the world.

These arrangements offer the ability to rent space in a place dedicated to entrepreneurs and working professionals. In many, you have the ability to choose the type of shared workspace that is best for you from a spot to sit—first come, first serve— to a private office.

There are a variety of perks that come with coworking spaces, ranging from learning and networking opportunities to childcare in some.

6 Reasons to Love Coworking Spaces

Here are some reasons you may want to take a closer look at coworking:

1. You’re on a budget.

You can usually find a coworking arrangement that will run you a few hundred dollars a month (depending on the market and whether you need a private office). At the most basic price, you should get reliable internet, and you may also get limited access to a private office or conference room for meetings. (You can often pay more for additional services.) You may also get other perks such as access to office equipment like printers, copiers and scanners. Typically there is no long-term lease, and some even give you access to spaces in other cities as well — great for business owners or sales pros who travel.

2. You crave connection.

Starting and running a business can be a lonely endeavor at times. These spaces often bring together creative, motivated individuals with whom you can share ideas as well as the simple ups and downs of running a business. Some facilitate after-hours activities, such as happy hours, as well. You can meet interesting and inspiring people who may help you become more productive.

3. You love networking.

Some entrepreneurs have reported significant success drumming up business among their coworking peers. Others have found introductions to important partners, or even future employees.

4. You need to get out of the house.

If you find yourself working at home and constantly getting interrupted by chores, kids, pets or even neighbors, this may be an ideal way to have a dedicated place to work at an affordable price. You won’t wear out your welcome at the local coffee shop, and unlike the library, you may feel more free to take and make phone calls or take care of business.

5. You want to learn how to build your business.

Learning can take place in a variety of ways. Some will occur simply through conversations with others in the space who are working on interesting projects or have interesting skill sets that can help you plow through sticky business problems. In others, it may be more formalized. Some spaces bring in speakers for “lunch and learn” programs or after-hours workshops. Nav has taught entrepreneurs about how to build business credit and get small business financing at coworking spaces, for example. (You can check your own business credit scores and get advice on how to grow your business for free with Nav.)

6. You’ll have a professional space to host potential clients.

Looking like a legitimate business is one of the main hurdles new business owners have to overcome. Having an office space that’s out of your home and in a thriving or trendy part of your city can send positive signals to a potential investor, client or business partner. When one bad handshake can wreck your small business — whether it’s a client that never pays their bills or a shady supplier — business owners are careful who they partner with, and having an office space that shows you’re committed to your company can help build trust.

6 Shortfalls of Coworking Spaces

Despite the benefits, these arrangements aren’t for everyone. Here are some possible reasons you may not want to go that route.

1. You get distracted easily.

For some, the social benefits of working in one of these spaces can be outweighed by the distraction. Shared space can be loud and you never know when interruptions may happen. Some people use headphones, or even rent private office space, but at some point, you may be better off in a different environment.

2. You hate the commute.

Getting into a car or on the subway to get to your office can be a drag, so you’ll need to make sure the space you choose is convenient and worth the commute.

3. Your budget is just too tight.

Many spaces offer flexible payment options, but if you’re really strapped you may be better off using the free space a library offers, for example, and perhaps supplement that with visits to local coffee shops for a change of pace.

4. You’re easily annoyed.

In your own office, you can set the rules, but in a coworking space you are forced to adapt to the rules and culture of that space. You could find yourself frequently interacting with people you’d rather not spend time with.

5. You catch everything going around.

If you have kids who bring home the latest version of the flu/colds/whatever is going around, then you probably don’t have to worry about whether you can pick something up at work. But if you’re accustomed to working from home, you could find yourself getting sick more frequently. You’re sharing office space and bathroom space, and you simply can’t guarantee how careful others are about trying not to pass along germs.

6. You need more privacy.

Does your work mean you will frequently need to be on phone calls or conference calls? An open floor plan or paper thin walls in “private” offices could mean your conversations are going to be heard by others in your space. Will you be OK with that?

A coworking space may or may not be for you, but it’s worth considering—these spaces are tried and true for a number of successful companies, and carefully considering the pros and cons can help you decide if it’s the best option for your young company.

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About the Author — Gerri serves as Head of Market Education for Nav, which provides business owners with simple tools to build business credit and access to lending options based on their credit scores and needs. She develops educational programs and content for small business owners, and works on advocacy initiatives. A prolific writer, her articles have been featured on popular websites such as Yahoo!, MSN Money, ABCNews.com, CBSNews.com, NBCNews.com, Forbes, The Today Show website and many others.

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  • Michael Godwin

    I want to further my discussion on coworking spaces. Ask someone within the four walls of a coworkering space what the average length of time a person stays at that entity. If at most it is relative short stays be cautious. At the Alloy26, in Pittsburgh PA, it seems to have a high turn over rate. Further, it’s estimated 50,000 Sq. ft if space is mostly unused. Currently I see incompetence within the management level if this operation. I don’t know how those are classed there, either as renters, occupants or members. So much emphasis is on booking weddings, outside gigs that is non related and non essential to those who are working hard to make a go of it in the business world. I further can make this point as well, it has been brought to my attention that the so called security is a non registered non licensed entity. So many black holes exist there. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.