With the movement towards shared office space spreading from freelancers, creatives, and remote workers to early stage startups, the benefits are clear. Not only does sharing space offer cost savings and flexibility versus signing a traditional office lease, it also avoids the hassle and expense of planning a move, outfitting an office, and handling all the time-consuming administrative details.
So how do you choose a coworking space that’s right for your business?
Consider your stage
Are you literally just starting up or have you been working out of ad-hoc spaces for awhile and are now looking to gather your team in one place? If it’s been just you and the dog at this point, moving into a shared space will bring a welcome sense of connection, enhanced professionalism, and needed office infrastructure.
And if it’s you and a couple of others, it can allow you to communicate more easily and start to gel as a team. These days there are a ton of options. Choose the one that will offer you the best solution for where your business is now and that has the potential to act as a multiplier for your network.
Contacts and potential for collaboration
What types of businesses/members use the space? Is there a cohesive community and/or formal networking opportunities? Some spaces foster collaboration by organizing social and business events, including coaching from experienced entrepreneurs and advisors, as well as a variety of seminars and classes geared to helping business owners fill in knowledge gaps and get practical support..
Some even act as incubators (with an application process and entry subject to approval), providing exposure to VCs and other potential investors, If this is the route you want to take, make sure the programming will be of value to you and that you choose an incubator with a track record of successfully nurturing startups.
What’s the culture/environment like?
This depends partly on the client makeup: is it a known hub for software startups, a hive for creative freelancers and independent business owners, or a mixture of the two? Is there a predominance of certain industries represented within the space? You want to choose a locale that will maximize your opportunities to meet and network with people who could help you grow your business. And don’t assume a place is right for you just because all the other tenants are in your same specialty. Visit and try to talk with some of the other users to get a feel for the demographics and the dynamics.
Location and Logistics
Not only is neighborhood and ease of access for you and your team important, but is it in a convenient location for you to meet with clients and potential business partners? Of equal importance are the amenities. Make sure the facility offers what you’re looking for in terms of equipment, receptionist services, and administrative support. Is dedicated workspace available or is the setup just-in-time seating only? Is reserving private meeting rooms an option or is your only choice a bullpen? Again, think of the nature of your business: whether and how often you’ll need to discuss confidential matters, schedule conference calls, or host meetings with clients, members of your team, or potential business partners.
This may be obvious, but can you afford the rental or membership costs? What if you don’t hit one of your milestones and/or your funding is delayed? Be clear on all the terms before signing up. What’s the minimum lease term you can sign for? And what’s typical in terms of rental increases? At some point, assuming all goes well, you will have secured a round of funding and be in a position to find your own digs. How much notice do you have to give before leaving? Make sure that whatever space you choose has the capacity to grow with you (with room to expand as your business grows) and offers enough flexibility for you to quickly adjust, whether that’s expanding or downsizing, when the time comes.
What’s been your experience with coworking? Tell us about it in the comments section below or contact Early Growth Financial Services for for startup advice.
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David Ehrenberg is the founder and CEO of Early Growth Financial Services, a financial services firm providing a complete suite of financial and accounting services to companies at every stage of the development process. He’s a financial expert and startup mentor, whose passion is helping businesses focus on what they do best. Follow David @EarlyGrowthFS.