Alison Parmar, FSB Development Manager, explores the pros and cons of co-working for the self-employed and micro business.
Described as the next step up from café working, co-working can be a successful step for many self-employed and start-up business. But it is much more than hiring a desk or small office within a large building. The definition of coworking is ‘the use of an office or other working environments by people who are self-employed or working for different employers, typically to share equipment, ideas, and knowledge’.
Coworking does mean just that – working alongside other small businesses, sharing ideas, contacts and your daily ups and downs. And perhaps the coffee machine. But would it work for you?
Here are some of the pros and cons to consider before taking on a co-working space.
After staff salaries, the most significant cost to most businesses is office space. Coworking space could mean paying for desk space, perhaps for a few days a month. By moving your business up a notch from the garden shed or kitchen table may indirectly help you focus on your business more, and less on the washing machine rumbling away in the background. And by keeping your general overheads low, you can aim to keep your profits high.
An important benefit of co-working is the opportunity it gives you to work alongside like-minded people in similar industries. Being part of co-working space gives you a solid basis for building your business community. You will soon have trusted contacts that you could connect and collaborate with on a professional level, sharing knowledge and brainstorming.
“Co-working is all about collaboration,” says Sian Murphy of Stormchasers Digital, who is based at Dragon Coworking. “Not only does it give you affordable office space but you do support and collaborate with the businesses near you. A lot of it is support – it’s about being in an environment where you can bounce ideas off other people.”
Professional and safe
You may be doing well running your business from home, but what about client meetings? A local coffee shop chain may not be the best place to invite a potential client. At a co-working office space though, you will be able to invite clients into a professional working environment where you may have access to a meeting room or board room for presentations and pitches.
Scale up, or down
Renting one desk at a coworking space could lead to big things.
“Most of the Terrace businesses begin as a one-man band,” says Sean Henry, Economic Development Coordinator at The Business Terrace, Maidstone.
“But before you know it they have taken on staff, and they are growing and growing. Less than three years ago Intec Select was just one person; now they have 20 staff and 1,000ft of office space. They have grown with the Terrace space – in fact, they now take potential tenants round on a tour!”
You may find co-working space flexible enough to grow with you, as well as to downsize easily when that big project is over, and you need less physical space.
Support for your whole self
Paul Andrews owns Fruitworks, a coworking space in Canterbury. “We have seen so many businesses do well here because of the positive atmosphere,” says Paul.
“The fact that they share space is one thing – the main part is that the businesses here network, listen and interact with each other. They each bring a different skillset and quickly realise that they can learn from each other. We make sure we host a range of events that offer training, but also the chance to socialise. Being your own boss can be tough and sometimes a lonely. Fruitworks offers a coworking space with a support network so we can all do well in business.”
Check the space out before your commit. You may be looking for a co-working space that offers you the opportunity to network, learn new skills and share your skills. If offices aren’t offering events for their tenants, perhaps it is not quite the co-working atmosphere that you are looking for.
Enough chit chat
Once you are in, remember you are there to work! Yes, chit chat and brainstorming with others is great fun, but not 24/7. You will need to strike a balance between brainstorming with others, making the coffee and getting the job done.