Sharing office spaces is not a new idea. In many small towns, it used to be common to have the accountant and the lawyer, for instance, share the same building. But the present-day definition of coworking – ‘a shared working environment, where the workers involved are not employees of the same organisation’ – is certainly unique.
Coworking space is simply a space for individuals to work independently, together. The idea of shared office space is gaining in popularity in Australia, with many major cities offering multiple options.
Coworking is comparatively an inexpensive way of setting up an office. It is especially attractive if you are a small business owner, a work-from-home professional or an independent contractor who is currently working out of your home.
In most cases, the coworking space is basically a large open space, very much like an office – with several desks and chairs. You take out a membership which entitles you to work there for a certain time period. Some spaces offer 24/7 access to your workspace, and the ability to leave your belongings overnight.
Most offer additional features like a kitchen, meeting rooms or event spaces that can be pre-booked and additional learning events for entrepreneurs and freelancers.
Coworking space presents several benefits – especially to business owners who are just starting out. Here are some of the advantages:
When you are struggling to get your business up and running, the initial investment required for opening an office can be tough to manage. Most office spaces ask for high rents and require you to sign long-term leases. There is also the infrastructure requirement like paying for furniture, printers, scanners, fax machines and telephones. The monthly expenses for rent, utilities, high-speed internet and cleaning also add up.
It is also important to remember that on a small budget, you might only be able to afford equipment of a certain quality. With coworking space, you can get top quality equipment – and you only pay one monthly payment. This is often a wonderful option for entrepreneurs on small budgets.
Flexibility can be another advantage of coworking spaces. You can rent spaces for months, weeks, or even on a flexible basis like twice a week. Some even allow a couple of days’ free trial. Coworking spaces can be very useful if you travel to different cities and need an office for a couple of weeks. It certainly beats working from a hotel room!
Conducting business from your home might be tempting, but it is important to present a professional front to clients. Coworking spaces allow you to rent private rooms for conducting meetings with clients – a face-to-face meeting in a professional environment is always better than a Skype conversation for building trust. It improves your credibility, demonstrates your commitment to your business and can be the difference between you and a competitor who uses a public place or a home office to meet up.
• Networking options:
Any businessperson knows that success depends on the people you know. Networking is extremely easy in a coworking space – you meet a lot of like-minded individuals. Getting new leads, referrals or even a strategic partnership can be significantly easier there than if you work in your own independent office.
The learning and social events organised are also a valuable opportunity to widen your network as well as knowledge base.
• Sense of community:
One of the drawbacks of working from home is how it isolates you socially. Social exposure is important to most individuals and it helps build self-confidence and the ability to present ideas with clarity. Sharing a coworking space with other bright, ambitious business owners can also spark your creativity and help you come up with new, improved ideas.
It also allows you to shed that feeling of ‘the universe against you’ that can creep up during difficult times. Sharing your experience with like-minded individuals who share the same passion for business can re-energise you and make you more productive in trying situations.
Ultimately, if you are used to working in a busy office, coworking is really not that different. It is certainly something to be considered, especially if your business is in the developing stage. The ideal period in a coworking space is anywhere from 3-12 months whilst you build up a team and enough cashflow to have your own office.