10 years ago coworking spaces began creating places for freelancers, entrepreneurs, and startups to work independently but together. Coworking began in 2006 in New York City and San Francisco, closely resembling hackerspaces that began in the mid to late 90's in Berlin. By 2007, coworking began to take off with 75 spaces worldwide.
The coworking movement continues to expand and grow every year with 40% of professionals expected to work remotely by 2020. Some coworking spaces leave much to be desired but the best coworking spaces know what it takes to build communities that thrive. Here is what the best coworking spaces have in common.
For the quickest way to find the quality of a coworking space look at their events page. The places with an empty calendar could possibly be nice but the odds are that they do not have a vibrant startup community. The best coworking spaces have events almost every day. Here's an example from Geekdom in San Antonio and their list of events over the next week-
Thursday- San Antonio PyLadies for women interested or working with Python.
Friday- Bicycle to lunch.
Friday- Fermented Friday. After biking to lunch you can bike home after happy hour at the co-working space, they thought of everything.
Tuesday- One hour of yoga.
The important thing is that they have a mix of fun and professional events. A poker night once a month is nice but if a co-working space offers little else they probably do not have a robust entrepreneurial environment. Having exclusively tech or business related events can become boring, look for a coworking space that offers a nice mix of both.
Without fast WiFi, a coworking space is not serious about offering a good experience for you and your team. A good hack for finding a great AirBnB space is to closely look at the pictures of the bathroom before you book a place. The quality of the bathroom and how well it is cleaned will tell you how much detail goes into keeping the rest of the home clean. For an AirBnB, you want a sparkling clean bathroom, for a co-working space you want lightning fast Wi-Fi. Questions about the WiFi will tell you that the founders see you as a dollar sign and little more. Lightning fast gigabit WiFi tells you that the co-working space is trying to not only create a space that is building an entrepreneurial environment but also a productive place to get work done.
This one doesn't need much explanation. A co-working space should be flexible for you to come and go as you wish. If a co-working space feels the need to lock you into a long-term contract this is a huge red flag and a deal breaker. A good co-working space is close to capacity and understands that freelancers and entrepreneurs need as much freedom as possible.
If a co-working space wants to lock you into joining for specific hours do not consider their offer. This is usually a sales tool to get you to upgrade to a more expensive package. With all the extra work and stress that comes with running your own business one of the perks is that you set your own hours. A co-working space that tries to sell you a package for specific hours is not sensitive to the needs of their clients. This is equivalent to a gym only being open from 9-5 Mon-Fri.
Do not underestimate location. A co-working space is somewhere that needs to be your second home when you have deadlines looming. This is a place that you're going to build your business from. The last thing you need is a long commute or a place that is not in a good location. Make sure you pick a co-working space that is easy to get to and in the middle of the startup community in your city. If you're a freelancer being centrally located is less important, but make sure they have a fantastic freelance community and are close to where you live.
Free Coffee & Free Printing
This is another quick and easy way you can judge a co-working space on the quality of their product. Charging for printing is understandable but tacky. It reminds me of when a friend invites you over to watch a pay per view event and then asks for some cash as you're walking out the door. It's understandable, but tacky just the same.
Coffee is another simple indicator of the quality of the co-working space. An old-school coffee pot with bad coffee left on all day like a diner in New Jersey is a bad sign. You can also expect folding tables for workspaces, slow internet, little to no events and long-term contracts to lock you in. Premium coffee offered for free is another way the best co-working spaces build an office that does everything they can to provide the most efficient place to work possible.
The best co-working space in San Diego, Hera Hub has created a place for female entrepreneurs to bond together while they build their startups. GoodDesign in San Francisco is building a coworking space exclusively for architects. The Hatchery in
Los Angeles is for writers because it's illegal to live in L.A. unless you have your own movie script you're working on.
Most co-working spaces including the best ones do not cater to a specific crowd of remote workers. Finding a co-working space with a specific community is not the important thing. What's important is that the co-working space you're thinking about joining does have a community that bonds together and they have created a much better atmosphere than working at home.
No matter what the field you're in the biggest problem with freelancing or starting your own business is that it can get lonely. You can go to a social event in the middle of a hectic workweek and wonder if life is passing you by. This isn't a problem for Wall Street investment bankers, surgeons or lawyers that work more than you do. They are usually around their peers, comparing notes, letting off steam, developing competitive rivalries, and making life-long friendships. None of this is possible starting at your screen all day at home by yourself. Find a co-working space that has a dynamic community for a more balanced life while you grind away during the early stages of your company.