There are tons of different perks that come along with being a freelancer. However, one of the biggest has to be the freedom and flexibility to work whenever and from wherever you want.
Yes, you hear the same cliché sentiments repeated to you time and time again after explaining what you do. And, they usually go something like, “That must be so cool to be able to work in your pajamas!” or “Ugh, I would love not to have an awful commute to work every morning—that must be so nice!”
And, yes, that’s true. The freedom that goes hand in hand with the freelance lifestyle really can’t be beat. But—let’s face it—there are those times when it can actually be a little isolating and lonely.
Being able to camp out on your couch with your laptop sounds ideal. But, day after day? Well, you can start to get a little bit of cabin fever. When you keep the pizza delivery guy on your porch for an extra five minutes—just so you can have some human-to-human interaction for a fleeting moment of your day—you know you need an escape from the house.
Here’s where the popularity of co-working spaces comes into play. They provide an opportunity for freelancers and other solopreneurs to bust out of the house, connect with like-minded professionals, and work in an environment that is conducive to both creativity and productivity.
With the number of freelancers and independent contractors on a steady rise (many studies show that 40% of the workforce will classify themselves that way by 2020), co-working spaces are only picking up steam and gaining popularity.
But, does that mean a co-working space is the right fit for you? Let’s dive into the nitty gritty so you can decide whether you should venture out to one of these facilities, or just stick with your home office (you can always talk to your cat, right?).
What is a co-working space?
Let’s start with an overview of what exactly a co-working space is. These spaces can vary and come in many different forms. But, to boil it all down, a co-working space is where freelancers and other independent workers can pay a fee to rent a desk or a room.
These facilities often provide things like WiFi, printers, copy machines, and even meeting rooms—which takes quite a bit of pressure off a freelancer who would otherwise have to handle those business necessities things by themselves.
Basically, a co-working space is a one-stop-shop where you can show up, crank out some work, and maybe even connect with others in your same industry.
Pros and Cons of Co-working
Now that you have the definition down pat, it’s time to take a magnifying glass to the potential benefits and drawbacks of using a co-working space. After all, nothing helps you come to a conclusion faster than a good, ol’ fashioned pros and cons list. So, let’s start with the good stuff first, shall we?
Pros of Co-working Spaces
It gets you out of the house and gives you an often much-needed sense of purpose and structure. So long, cabin fever.
It allows you to better separate work from home, allowing you to feel more relaxed and at peace in your “off hours”.
You’ll have access to things that would otherwise be difficult to come by. For example, you can host a professional client meeting, without needing to worry about the roar of the espresso machine in a crowded coffee shop.
You can connect with other freelancers and solopreneurs, allowing you to bounce ideas around and collaborate (with someone other than the pizza delivery guy…).
If you find yourself wanting a true brick and mortar business location, a co-working space is much cheaper than leasing your own dedicated office.
Cons of Co-working Spaces
While cheaper than a traditional office, it’s still going to cost you more than just parking on your own couch or at your kitchen table.
If you’re easily distracted, constantly having different people buzzing around you could serve to pull your attention away from your actual work.
Speaking of people being around, if you work in an extremely competitive or confidential industry, privacy in a co-working space could be a concern.
You can’t show up in your pajamas. Well, you could. But, we wouldn’t encourage it.
Is Co-working Right for You?
“Alright, that’s all good stuff to know,” you’re likely mumbling to yourself now, “But, that still doesn’t help me determine if I should take the leap or not.”
As you already know, deciding whether or not a co-working space is the right fit for you is a personal decision—there’s no black and white answer or tried and true formula that will tell you exactly what to do.
However, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help you land on a conclusion that suits you best.
Take a minute to ask yourself the following:
Do I feel like I’m lacking structure in my workday?
Am I craving an excuse to get up and out of the house?
Do I enjoy collaborating and working with others?
Have I been searching for an outlet to connect with professionals like me?
Am I able to tune out noise and distractions happening around me?
Do I plan to stay a one-person show for a few more years (as opposed to hiring employees or other contractors)?
If you answered with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” to at least four or more of the above questions, then you’ll likely want to give some serious thought to checking out a co-working space. But, if most of these questions just made you cringe? You’re probably better off sticking to your home office—our apologies, pizza guy.
Finding the Right Fit
So, you’ve determined that a co-working space sounds like the missing piece in your freelancing puzzle and you’re eager to find the one that completes you. However—as we mentioned earlier—not all co-working spaces are exactly the same.
Before jumping in with two feet, you’ll want to take some time to evaluate and reflect on the things that are most important to you in a co-working space. That way, when you head in and look around or take a tour, you’ll be able to ensure that the space checks all of your boxes.
Here are a few things you’ll want to make sure to consider when determining whether or not a space is the right one for you:
The amenities offered in co-working spaces run the gamut from totally bare bones to completely over the top. Are there specific things that are important to you—such as a stocked kitchen and coffee bar, personal storage, or extra fast internet access?
Make a list of the things that you absolutely need—as well as the nice-to-have things that you want—so you can make sure a space fits the bill.
If you’re planning on ever hosting a meeting or conducting an important phone call in your co-working space, you’ll want to be in-the-know about the privacy offered there.
Are there meeting rooms or smaller spaces with a door that you can rent? And, how much advanced notice is needed to get your name down for one of those? Will that work with your schedule and workload?
Remember that final question above that asked you about any possible expansion in workforce for your freelance business? Considering where your business will be a few years from now—and not just tomorrow—is important. If you’re aiming to bring on a few employees and expand your team, you could quickly outgrow a co-working space.
Many freelancers consider hiring assistants, bookkeepers, and other people who can take all of those dreaded, pesky administrative tasks off their plate. But, if you sign up for an app like AND CO, you can accomplish that very same thing—without needing to worry about payroll or needing to find a bigger space to work. It’s a win-win!
You knew this had to appear on the list somewhere. Cost is another big thing you’ll want to take into consideration when selecting a space. Just as features and amenities vary greatly, so do price tags.
So, make sure you have a good handle on your monthly budget (yet another thing AND CO could help you with) in order to choose a co-working space that doesn’t spread you (or your wallet!) too thin.
Co-working spaces have been steadily gaining popularity, and it’s easy to see why—there are numerous benefits that come along with working in one of these shared spaces. But, just because they’re trendy, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best fit for everyone.
Luckily, now you have all of the information you need to weigh your options and find the solution that fits you and your business best. Now, go out there and get after it!
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer who has a real passion for helping other freelancers find the work they love and grow their businesses in the process. Her career, productivity, and self-development advice has been published by Forbes, Inc., Fast Company, Business Insider, Time, and Mashable. When she manages to escape the chains of her computer, she loves reading, baking, babying her rescued terrier mutt, pretending she's a runner, and talking her husband into yet another DIY home renovation.