Even though coworking spaces have been around since 2005, when Brad Neuberg started the Hat Factory in a loft in San Francisco, and there are currently thousands of coworking spaces all around the world and dozens of resources dedicated specifically to coworking, there is still a lot of mystery surrounding what a coworking space is, who it’s for, and why it’s beneficial.
It’s completely understandable. I was also confused about coworking when I started interning for greenCOW Coworking a few weeks ago. Coworking is relatively young, and none of the business classes I’d taken in college or any of the articles and books I’d read over the years about entrepreneurship talked about coworking at all.
However, after coworking doubled my business network and I learned more about it just by actively participating in events and conversations here at greenCOW, I realized that it was important to raise awareness about coworking because of how I have seen it benefit so many different people in so many different stages of their careers financially, educationally, and socially.
Many people who either have a basic understanding of coworking or are just learning about coworking assume that coworking is solely for startups. It’s a reasonable assumption, because it’s absolutely, 100 percent true that a coworking space is very beneficial for startups.
As an entrepreneur in the startup stages of my career, coworking spaces are a dream come true. I don’t have to worry about spending lots of money on a professional space to work at; classes that teach everything I need to know to start and run my business, such as business plan guidance and financing, are often free or discounted; mentors and potential partners are in the same room nearly every day. A coworking space allows me to focus on getting my business off the ground in such an inexpensive, inviting way that I can actually focus on the business itself in a professional environment.
All that said, coworking is NOT just for startups.
Coworking is for established solopreneurs and small businesses. It’s for people in need of a virtual mailbox, employees, students and instructors of online classes, and virtual workers too, and I’m going to tell you why.
Established Solopreneurs, Freelancers, and Small Businesses
Depending on the business, most solopreneurs, freelancers, and small businesses only need a small office with office equipment to set up shop. Even if your business is established and profitable, saving money by working in a coworking space with inexpensive fees is always a good choice so long as the space doesn’t deter or confuse your clients.
For instance, greenCOW Coworking offers members free usage of a small conference room and discounted usage of a medium and large conference room, so if you need to meet with clients in a private space or have private meetings, you can still do so. The tables in the open coworking space can seat 4-6 workers if you have a small business so everyone can fit at the same table when you’re getting work done.
Furthermore, there is a refrigerator, wi-fi, and a printer as well as receptionists. Many coworking spaces offer similar amenities/services as greenCOW that are directly beneficial to freelancers, small businesses and solopreneurs at a rate much cheaper than renting or purchasing an office and purchasing your own equipment.
People in Need of Virtual Mailboxes
Some people prefer to work at home, at libraries, or at cafes. Maybe, like me, you’re always traveling and working, or perhaps you have a job that requires you to be on the move.
In situations like the ones above, it’s important (and comforting) to have a solid physical space where you can pick up your mail or an address that you can list as your own to keep clients separate from your personal life. Many coworking spaces, greenCOW included, offer inexpensive virtual mailboxes, similar to PO Boxes, even if you don’t become a coworker.
If you’re an employee, you most likely work wherever your employer works. Even so, coworking spaces can still be useful to you.
For instance, let’s say you need to meet with a client who is far away. A coworking space closer to the client can be a professional alternative for meeting with that client.
Furthermore, many coworking spaces offer inexpensive classes and certification programs that can help improve your skillset at your job.
Students and Instructors of Online Classes
If you’re a student, the benefit of taking online classes is that you can make your own schedule and work from anywhere. My last semester before I graduated, I took all my classes online, which allowed me to travel during the semester, but the problem is that if you don't have a place and time set in stone for when you’re working, it's easy to fail simply because you lose track of time and forget about work.
A coworking space can fix that problem. When you tell yourself, “This is the time and place I’m going to put aside for school work,” you’re more likely to get into a mindset that better prepares you to tackle your online classes. Even better, some coworking spaces offer discounts for students. For instance, greenCOW gives students a 50% discount.
Coworking spaces are just as useful for instructors teaching online classes looking for a place to grade assignments, host on-site office hours for online students, and develop material.
With the popularity of websites like Fiverr and Upwork, picking up remote gigs and becoming a virtual worker is becoming more commonplace for many people. Not only have I worked remote gigs, but I’ve also hired virtual assistants to assist me with my business. However, if you’re working virtually, that often means that you’re going to need an inexpensive professional space to work at just when you’re completing gigs, and that’s where a coworking space comes in.
Are there any other uses for a coworking space not included in this list? Do you fall under one of these categories and now you’re considering a coworking space?