Coworking has grown hugely in popularity over the last few years. In fact you’d be hard pushed to find a freelancer that hasn’t at least tried running their business from a coworking space. They’re a hub for hard-working entrepreneurs, and embody everything that goes against the nine-to-five job, defying the tied to the desk lifestyle of employees.
Coworking spaces are defined by the Harvard Business Review as “membership-based workspaces where diverse groups of freelancers, remote workers, and other independent professionals work together in a shared, communal setting”.
This might sound like a dream for freelancers, who pre-2005 have been stuck in the house motivated only by the entrepreneurial pazazz of the property developers on Homes Under the Hammer, however, they aren’t for everyone. With the upsides come a number of issues that can make coworking spaces a nightmare for some.
Unlike at the office, the coworking space promises shared interests between the people who work there; they’re all motivated to build a successful business. This can create a sense of community that isn’t always formed in an office.
Meeting with like-minded entrepreneurs provides a motivation for professionals to better their own career. It also provides the opportunity to learn from others, as many coworking spaces offer guest-speakers, as well as giving you the opportunity to speak yourself.
Coworking spaces are flexible in a number of ways. Firstly, you don’t have to pay for the full-time of a space if you’re not using it. Coworking offers a flexibility which will suit entrepreneurs by paying only for the time you’re there.
If you own a small business, coworking can accommodate to a changing size of the team, unlike an office. You can hire more or less space depending on what you need – a great and money-saving solution for small businesses looking to cut down their expenses.
While working from home offers an even higher level of flexibility than the coworking space, it does mean sacrificing your professional image. Unless you have room for a home office and have time to keep it spick and span, your house probably isn’t the best place to meet with clients.
Instead you might end up heading to the local coffee shop, which will do even more damage to your image and can make you to seem inexperienced.
With coworking, freelancers don’t lose any professionalism. An accomplished image is part of the deal with a coworking space, so you don’t have to panic and run for the duster the next time your new client wants an introductory meeting.
While considered a haven for creative minds and productivity, coworking spaces also have downsides.
One of the pitfalls that exists in both the office and coworking spaces is distractions. A quick word from someone, a mid-morning coffee run and general background noise can all keep you from getting on with work, and can make coworking spaces an impossible place to get anything done in.
Although the membership basis is a good solution for freelancers in need of a space, it isn’t always cheap. On top of the bills you’re paying at home and your small budget for anything that isn’t rent or food, a coworking space could be out of the question.
Of course, this might simply provide more motivation to get more work so you can afford a coworking space, but spending £200 a month on an office space that proves to be too noisy might not be an ideal way for you to spend your hard-earned cash.
There’s a lot to be said for the sense of community and networking opportunities that are available to people in coworking spaces, but unfortunately even this has disadvantages.
If you’re working in an office with three other freelance writers, then they’re your competition. There could be underlying tension that they’ll nab your potential clients, or start undercutting your prices.
Competition can easily turn into conflicts, so to keep these minimal you should play your cards close to your chest. You can also turn things around by suggesting a collaboration on a project – two heads are better than one after all!
Is coworking the revolution for freelancers? Or is it just a fad? Leave us your thoughts in the comment section below!