Co-working spaces are popping up in cities across the country. These spaces are ideal for traveling workers, freelancers and anyone who needs a space to do their work while they’re in town.
The trick is finding a space that meets your needs, regardless of what those are. How can you find the perfect co-working space anywhere you go?
What is Co-Working?
First, for those unfamiliar with the term, what is co-working, and why would you need to look for a co-working space if you’re a freelancer in a new city?
The term “co-working” dates back to 2005 when Brad Neuberg created the world’s first co-working space in San Francisco. It was only open for two days out of the week and sat empty for its first month. No one had ever heard of a co-working space before, so no one knew what to look for.
Google defines co-working as “the use of an office or another working environment by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically so as to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge.” What does this definition mean, though?
Co-working spaces are safe, well-appointed places for people who need somewhere to work. They might not have the room at home for a home office, or they might be staying in town for a few weeks and need a space with reliable Wi-Fi and a printer to stay productive.
Maybe a crew is fumigating their office space, but they still need to get work done, even if they can’t go to their usual workplace to do it. There’s no limit to the kind of person who might need a co-working space or the reasons they might need it.
What to Look for in a Co-Working Space?
What should you be looking for in a co-working space?
The first and arguably most valuable, the thing you need in a co-working space is reliable Wi-Fi. Remote work, whether you’re at home or sitting in a coffee shop, requires a robust internet connection. If they don’t provide good internet — or any internet at all — it’s time to look for another option.
Location is another crucial criterion to consider. A co-working space on the edge of the city might not be as crowded, but it might take you a lot longer to get to, especially if you’re relying on public transportation or driving on unfamiliar streets.
Choose a space that is easy to reach, and is either close to public transport or has adequate parking for your needs.
Next, look at the amenities the co-working space offers. Do they provide access to a printer or other equipment you might not have at home? Is there a kitchen or a cafe for refreshments, or maybe an exercise lounge? Various facilities will offer different things. Make sure your chosen spot provides all the amenities you need.
Take a close look at the furniture in the space to see if it looks comfortable enough to sit on for an entire workday. Some co-working spaces offer soft seating from sofas to beanbags and everything in between, while others might only have stark tables and uncomfortable office chairs.
Don’t tie yourself down to one space. Try several until you find one that works for you.
What are Co-Working Spaces so Popular?
In 2005, no one had heard of the idea of co-working space. Today, there are more than 18,000 of them around the globe, and experts project that number will grow to nearly 26,000 by 2022. Why are these spaces so popular?
We have the rise of the gig economy and the independent worker to thank for that. The American dream doesn’t include working in a 9-to-5 job from high school until retirement anymore, and the number of people working remotely from home and from co-working spaces around the globe is growing exponentially.
Right now, there are 3.9 million remote workers in the United States, with 70% of them making the transition from office to remote in the last four years. Nearly one-quarter of remote workers don’t even have a home base they could visit as needed, because the entire company is remote.
With 57 million people making money from their side hustles and benefiting from the gig economy, co-working spaces are becoming the new office space. Remote work can be incredibly isolating, with people working alone from their living rooms or home offices. Co-working spaces give these remote workers the ability to network with their peers while giving them the tools they need to get their jobs done.
Networking in the Co-Working Community
Speaking of networking, if you move or visit a new city, the first thing you should do is start networking with the local co-working community to help you find a new space. Poke your digital nose into social media groups on Facebook or LinkedIn, and publish a post or two to let the local co-workers know you’re new to the area and looking for space.
You might be surprised how welcoming the co-working community can be, especially to a newbie who’s just made it to town. It can also be an invaluable opportunity to network for your business, making connections in a new city that could prove useful in the future.
Not everyone in a co-working space is going to be open to having a conversation, but these communal areas can be a font of information if you find someone willing to chat. If you’re new to a city, chatting with someone in your co-working space can help you figure out the best places to visit, the parts of the city you should avoid and how to navigate your way through unfamiliar areas.
Budget for Co-Working Memberships
Whether you’re a freelancer looking for a space in your hometown, or you’re moving to a new area and need a place to work while you’re setting up your home office, make sure you’ve budgeted for the costs of renting a co-working space. The price may vary depending on your location, but on average in the United States, you can expect to pay $387 a month for a dedicated desk and $195 a month for a shared desk.
Make sure to include these numbers in your monthly budget. It typically isn’t as simple as walking into a Starbucks or a Panera and taking advantage of their free Wi-Fi. You can work out of these places, or any other restaurant or cafe that offers free internet. However, the quality of the Wi-Fi is usually terrible, and you may run afoul of the crew if you’re tying up one of their tables for hours and only drinking one coffee, even if you tip well. Plus, it’s not healthy to subsist on Starbucks pastries or Panera Bread’s mac and cheese all day, every day.
Download an App or Two
Networking is one tool to help you find a co-working space in any city, but it isn’t the only tool in your arsenal by any stretch of the imagination. All you need is your computer or your smartphone and an internet connection, and you have everything you need to find open co-working spaces.
Websites like LooseCubes, Kodesk, and WorkSnug act like the Airbnb of office spaces, helping you find a place to work or even post your office space if you have room to rent. If you prefer to work on your smartphone, WorkSnug has an app as well. LiquidSpace’s app lists both co-working spaces as well as free spaces in local offices if you’re having trouble finding somewhere to set up.
Depending on your location, you may even find co-working spaces or office sublets listed on Craigslist. In spite of the site’s negative reputation, it can be a valuable tool for traveling workers or freelancers hunting for office space.
If you’re traveling and looking for a place to work, consider renting an Airbnb that provides wireless internet. It doesn’t offer the social and networking benefits of co-working spaces, but it does give you a place to both work and sleep, which often kills two birds with one stone.
If you’re not in a metropolitan area, you may have a bit more of a struggle identifying a co-working space, but they aren’t impossible to find, and more are popping up every year.
Remote workers are becoming a massive part of the workforce, and not all of them can work from home, which is why co-working spaces have started becoming so popular.
If you’re new to a city or need a change of pace during your workday, consider renting a desk in one of these communal spaces. You might be surprised how much more productive you can be if you’re outside your normal comfort zone.
Your best resources for finding new co-working spaces will always be the internet and the local co-working community. Take the time to network with other freelancers and remote workers on social media when you move into a new area, and you won’t ever have trouble finding somewhere to plug in your laptop when you sit down for a day’s work.