Coworking spaces have become a viable alternative for freelancers, small business and start-ups. The choices seem to be endless and new spaces keep popping up. With this flood of coworking spaces it should be easy to choose. However, at the same time, this mass can make it difficult to find the one which fits your needs best. Based on my own experience with coworking spaces, I have put together the major factors you should consider when looking for a new space.
This is really obvious, but I would still like to state it here. Choose a coworking space with a convenient location. It should be easily accessible via public transport. If you have a car, enquire about parking. Furthermore, take some time to explore the area around the coworking space – Are there restaurants for lunch break, coffee places, shops, etc.?
Needless to say, the cost of the coworking space will play a major role. Firstly, check which packages are available. Most of the coworking spaces use tier-systems such as “Hot Desks” (you arrive and take any seat and desk available), “Dedicated Desks” (you have a fixed desk) and offices. Very often, the Hot Desks, ie. the cheapest version are advertised to lure customers in.
If you choose the Hot Desk option, make sure to visit the coworking space at its peak time and see how easy it is to get a seat. Also check how busy and noisy the Hot Desk area gets. Furthermore, depending on the country, try to negotiate the price or services of your package.
Check the Package and Contract Carefully
I looked at a lot of coworking spaces and most of them advertise additional services. Sometimes they are included in the package, very often, they are not. I made the mistake with my first coworking space in Hong Kong that I assumed that printing, scanning and coffee was included in my package. It was advertised in a way which was easy to misunderstand. I then got so annoyed when I realised that I had to pay for every single page I scanned in addition to the relatively high monthly fixed rate.
Furthermore, check if additional facilities such as lockers are included.
I highly recommend a coworking space which is accessible 24/7. It does not mean that there needs to be a reception all the time. But check if you can get a membership which allows you flexibility. There is nothing worse than being really productive but then you have to leave because the office closes down. Similarly, I am a morning person and want to start as early as 6.30 am. Therefore, I need to be able to access whenever I want to.
It is definitely an advantage if your coworking space hosts events such as mentoring sessions, classes or podium discussions. All of these are a great way to expand your knowledge and network. However, check how often there are events and where they are located. Most of the coworking spaces need events as a second revenue stream and frequently rent out their space to third parties as well. In my first coworking space it was a big nuisance because there were events almost every evening. For me, this meant from 6pm onwards, I was not able to focus. The space was quite small and the area around my desk was used as the networking area after the events.
Crowd and Your Needs
Apart from the mere need for a work space, a major driver to join a coworking space is the networking. Visit the coworking space at busy times and try to get a feel for the crowd. Moreover, ask the sales representative about the industries represented at their space. A lot of spaces have a certain industry focus.
I chose my first coworking because of the crowd – I needed to network within Hong Kong’s creative and fashion scene. At first, I looked at coworking spaces in the tech field as I developed an app. But soon I realised that I had quite a strong tech network already and needed more support in other areas.
Check the Facilities, Internet Connection and Overall Atmosphere
Take a look at the pantry, printer areas and noise. Visit during day time and see if there is a lot of natural light. I also recommend to visit in the evening to check out the light situation. (I personally hate agressive white light and need warm light tones.) Explore the meeting and phone rooms and check if you feel comfortable holding client/team meetings or telephone conferences from there.
Most importantly, try the internet connection. If the internet is bad, you will have major issues – no matter how nice the coworking space is. I usually try to stream videos and see how fast it works. Also enquire about the upload speed of their internet connection.
In general, your gut feeling is a reliable indicator. Do you feel comfortable working at the place? Is it somewhere you want to go to every day?
Present and Future
Assess your present needs when it comes to office space but do not ignore the future. Do you plan to expand your business and hire people? If yes, does this space offer you alternatives? Is it a place where you can see yourself running a team, hold meetings and meet clients?
Talk to People
Ask around if you know people at the coworking spaces you consider. Alternatively, ask the sales person to show you around and talk to the members. This will give you a much better idea than just listening to the sales representative.
Most coworking spaces offer trial days for free or at a special rate. I highly recommend such a trial day before signing up for a monthly contract. You can try and see how you like it, meet people and get a much better perspective on the place.
Take your Time
Do not let anyone talk you into anything you may regret later. Look at different coworking spaces and assess them. Similar to house hunting, the sales representatives may be pushy because they want to make money. Take your time. There are so many coworking spaces out there. Therefore, the competition is very high and they can wait for a few days for your decision. And even if you may end up not getting the one you like, there are plenty of other options out there.
I hope this article helps you find the coworking space with the best fit for you!
Do you work in a coworking space? Would you recommend it? What were the factors determining your choice?