A Coworking Space that Works for You
Starting your own business is an exciting venture, but entrepreneurs often miss the structure and networking opportunities that come with the typical office experience. That’s where coworking comes in. Coworking is when like-minded entrepreneurs run their respective businesses from a shared workspace. With coworking spaces growing 20% worldwide in the last year, there’s never been a better time to set one up.
Take a look at all you can expect when you start to create your very own shared space.
For-profit or not-for-profit
If you’re trying to get your own startup going, a coworking space doesn’t have to be a for-profit endeavor. There are plenty of benefits to a coworking environment without making money. For example, 64% coworking participants surveyed said their coworking networking was an important source of work and business referrals. Creating a not-for-profit coworking space allows you to have a professional environment with lower overhead, gets you in the thick of burgeoning companies, and lets you benefit from the advice and experiences of like-minded people. All of these benefits can be enjoyed without reaching for a strong profit.
If you’re looking to make a profit on a coworking space, a 2019 Global Coworking Survey found that there are four things consistent in most profitable coworking spaces:
- They have more than 200 members
- They are older than one year
- They are profit-oriented
- They do not subsidize their operation through other businesses
While the first two points will take time to achieve, during early development you can focus on planning separate budgets for your personal venture—if you have one—and your workspace venture and make sure the two remain separate. If you start pulling money from your private venture, it’s likely that you’ll overextend the budget and lose both.
Find your niche
When Duncan Logan’s coworking community, RocketSpace, started taking off, he thought that requiring startups to have their first round of funding would limit the number of applicants. On the contrary, the interest doubled. He explained this phenomenon in an entrepreneur.com article by saying, “Harvard’s greatest success isn’t in the curriculum it teaches, but in its ability to attract the very best.” By narrowing the applicant pool to more serious start-ups, it became more appealing for people to participate because they knew they would be working alongside, learning from, and networking with motivated and successful entrepreneurs.
Logan’s experience illustrates the importance of specializing your workspace. Focus on an industry and tailor the space to attract freelancers and other professionals from that sector. Whether you want to attract a more creative crowd or a techie class, the more defined your niche, the easier it will be to draw in participants.
Unlike typical jobs where you’re stuck working where they put you, coworking participants aren’t obligated to commit to a space that doesn’t work for them. That’s why location is a huge factor. You might be able to get a great deal on shared office space in buildings that have been unoccupied for a while, but that doesn’t mean you should rush to sign the lease on the place with the cheapest rent.
Consider how easily accessible the office is. Are there major highways nearby? Will clients be able to find the building when coming in for a meeting? It’s also important to consider its potential for being converted to a professional workspace. You’ll want to make sure that the space can accommodate private offices, conference rooms, a break room, and space to take private calls. And do your best to find a place that incorporates natural lighting, as a Future Workplace Survey recently found that people feel more drawn to places with natural light exposure.
Make utilities a priority
Imagine putting all that work into making a coworking space that’s comfortable and efficient, finding like-minded entrepreneurs to enlist, sitting down to work, and your internet service can barely manage to load the page. This could be your reality if you don’t put time and effort into finding a reliable high-speed internet service designed to handle business traffic. How many Mbps you need depends on the number of users and type of online activities they’ll do. A typical household needs at least 25 Mbps to function and that’s with just a single family’s internet traffic. Add several coworkers to that and you’ll need at least 250 Mbps for a business of 15-20 people, more as you get closer to 30.
While the bulk of your cost ought to go to providing a convenient and useful workspace with internet service that can support the traffic, there are certain amenities that you can add to your service and set your office space apart. Consider providing a break room where people can unwind, watch a show, and snack on something healthy. Invest a little in nice interior design that makes the office feel more like a living space. Capitalize on the natural light by placing potted plants throughout the office and help colleagues feel refreshed and invigorated. If you can’t get a space with natural light, adopt some low-light plants and invest in good lighting to avoid a caged feeling.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re designing a space for profit or to gather like minds, don’t take the ambiance lightly. You’re catering to entrepreneurs who have rejected the traditional workspace, so be creative about how you welcome them into yours. Offer a homey environment with plants and comfortable lighting and be sure to create a space that is conducive to creativity. Foster a community of people who can learn and teach together and host networking events to help them share ideas and get settled. Since coworking spaces are about collaboration, consider reaching out to established coworking spaces in other areas and ask for advice. Most of all, be aware of your expenses and ready to adjust your approach. If you find that any one of your additions is an excessive drain on your budget, scrap it or consider cheaper alternatives until your workspace is profitable.