For many new entrepreneurs on a tight budget, setting up a business at home is the only option. Fortunately, this can work quite well for some businesses such as Internet-based distributors, accounting firms, or technology-based companies that simply require a fixed address in order to receive mail. Working from home can have many benefits, but it isn’t always a feasible option, nor the best atmosphere for creative juices to flow. This is where shared workspaces come in: office spaces that encourage entrepreneurs and freelancers to interact with one another and get their work done in a social environment, while sharing the costs of office space.
While it may be tempting to rent a private office or studio, in his book Starting a Successful Business in Canada Kit author Jack D. James strongly advises new business owners to set up shop at home, if possible, because whether or not the business turns a profit that month it will continue to have expenses. It can take several weeks or months (even years) to turn a profit in a new business so minimizing expenses is important. Not having to pay rent for office space is a great start! This is solid advice especially for new business owners on a tight budget. But what about people who don't have the option of working from home, or established business owners and freelancers who have spent years working from home or in coffee shops? Working from home can become isolating and quite boring for some people. Keeping the economic considerations in check, could one find a middle option between working from home and working from an office? Yes, in the newly trendy form of shared workspaces.
Share Space for Increased Productivity
Shared office space (also known as co-working, communal, or shared workspace) has been made easier by recent technological inventions such as laptop computers, wireless Internet, and services such as Dropbox and iCloud that give business owners flexibility in their work environments.
This flexibility has given shared workspaces a huge boost. According to a March 2012 survey entitled “Global Coworking” conducted by Deskmag, an online magazine about co-working, the number of shared workspaces has doubled each year since 2006. There are currently about 1,300 shared workspaces worldwide. While many of these spaces exist in large cities, the latest trend in the US has been the expansion of shared workspaces into small cities with average populations of 20,000 people; it's not just for big cities.
These shared workspaces provide unique environments for business owners and freelancers; they are not simply cheap office spaces. Many co-working organizations believe in fostering creativity, networking, and collaboration. The shared workspace becomes a social environment where users are community members. Other shared workspaces have different philosophies. Toronto’s Camaraderie Coworking Inc.’s slogan is “work independently, not alone.” Even in quieter workspaces, the idea is that in simply being around others, the quality of your work and your work ethic will improve.
Just as some students choose to study in libraries because they find it fosters increased productivity when they are around others who are working hard, it's the same theory with shared workspaces.
Cut the Costs
Some business owners and freelancers use shared workspaces on a part-time basis to break the monotony of always working at home. Shared workspaces offer this flexibility. If you were to rent a private office, the rent would be the same no matter if you were there for 20 hours or 160 hours a month. However, with shared workspaces, if you’re not in the office, you don’t pay for the space! The Creative Space, a shared workspace in Barrie, ON, even offers part-time memberships. For $180 per month, a business owner or freelancer has access to workspace three days a week. That is about $15 a day to work in a professional and creative environment with several amenities included in the price.
In the past, people would spend the day in a coffee shop for a change of scenery. It might only take two beverages to spend that $15, and you might be jostled around by other customers who are not working, or perhaps who are not interested in giving you an appropriate environment in which to work. Shared workspaces offer a new option, sometimes with coffee and tea included in the price.
For businesses, office space (as opposed to a home office) can provide an increased sense of professionalism for the company. Many workspaces offer mail services so that a company can have a commercial address without the cost of renting private office space. There is usually a receptionist on staff to greet your clients at the door and walk them to a rented meeting room.
For some businesses such as consulting firms, having a professional image is very important. Eesmyal Santos-Brault, founder of HiVE Vancouver understood this and kept it in mind when designing his shared workspace. The nonprofit organization is situated in downtown Vancouver, BC, where its customers are given a professional postal address in the business district as well as a convenient and suitable place to meet clients. The workspace is in a renovated historical building and offers amenities such as wireless Internet, meeting rooms, kitchen, and mailboxes.
All of this is available at a highly reduced price making it an affordable option for small-business owners.
Shared Workspaces Are Appealing to Many
A change of scenery; flexibility in rental options, office hours, and workspaces; being surrounded by other entrepreneurs; and the opportunity to meet clients in a professional space are all appealing attributes for a small-business owner or freelancer wanting to run his or her business out of the home without sacrificing significant revenue.