For freelancers and those involved in startups, it seems to all begin at home. Chances are that you’ve got most of what you need to allow you to work at home. To be honest, these days it doesn’t take much more than a cell phone, a laptop and fast internet connection to get started. But before you know it, the time will come when you need to expand past the walls of your kitchen or even your own personal study at home, leave the family and pets behind, and go to another location to get some work done.
For the past decade or two, freelancers and other independent professionals have been gravitating towards coffee shops as a place to work. But is this really the best place for you to “set up shop”? Co-working spaces are also becoming increasingly popular as an affordable alternative to leasing a full office suite. Let’s look at the pros and cons of each.
The Coffee Shop
It’s the standard in the “gig economy”. It’s a different working world now, and those who don’t keep conventional office hours work at home, and use cafes like Starbucks when they need to meet someone face to face. Anyone who has ever set foot in one of these shops is familiar seeing people camped out with laptops, making it a quasi-office environment.
It’s nearby and convenient. No one really enjoys commuting, and even a co-working space is probably going to require some amount of driving. Even if you’re out in the burbs, there’s probably a nice cafe in your home town. City dwellers will rarely have to leave their own block to find a coffee shop.
Caffeine. And Wifi. Need I say anymore?
Noise: No matter how many freelancers or salespeople are in the cafe, it wasn’t built just for them. Not all of the denizens of the shop are there to work, and they may not maintain the level of decorum that you really need to work productively.
There’s WiFi, but… Most coffee shops now share their WiFi with patrons at no cost. While it’s super-convenient, there are some downsides. Those internet connections are notoriously spotty and often slow due to the number of people on the network. And you should always be concerned about security and privacy on any shared network.
They don’t really want you there all the time. The barristas may know you by name, and just how you like your coffee, but the didn’t build the cafe to support your business. Management is looking for a rapid turnover of paying patrons. Nursing your latte for four hours isn’t really in their business model, and eventually they’ll get impatient with you taking up space that could be bringing in revenue.
It’s a professional environment. While a coffee shop may be almost a professional environment, co-working spaces are the real deal. Everyone is there to work.
All the supplies and machinery you could need are there.
It’s a fully equipped office, with everything you need to conduct business. You can expect to find phones, printers, copy machines, fax, in a co-working space, as well as fast, secure internet connectivity.
There are excellent networking opportunities.
While your neighbors in the co-working space may not work for your company, or even in the same field, you can count on the fact that they’re all professionals. Every person in the shared space is a potential source of new information, inspiration, and maybe even a deal as well.
Oh, yes, there’s coffee too. A lot of co-working spaces include quality coffee as a perk of your space rental. The bill for those cappuccinos can really add up over time.
There are some potential downsides to utilizing a co-working space. The primary concerns are that some co-working spaces may be lacking in the above benefits. These can easily be overcome by making sure to tour the co-working space, and ask the right questions
before your settle in.