When spearheading your own startup company, one of the scariest things you’ll have to face is the future. Will your fintech model succeed? Will your new app launch an entire empire? How big will your team grow, and is it healthy—or even humane?—to cram all of the new employees into that small, florescent-lit office space? All of those question marks can tie your stomach into knots.
But if you actually look at the patterns of new businesses, question marks easily shoot up into exclamation points. Officevibe expects that by 2020, 40% of the workforce will be made up of freelancers, temps, independent contractors, and solopreneurs. You know, people like you: Free radicals that just don’t fit into boxes or cubicles. The future may not bring space travel and flying cars, but it can offer the space to spread out and innovate on the fly. And coworking is the best setting for that new way of work.
But just like startups, coworking isn’t one size fits all, and the options can get dizzying. So that just adds one more question mark to the list: How do you pick the right space for your startup?
Now and Later: Find a Space that Knows What You Need Before You Do
When selecting an office space for your startup, consider what you need now and what you’ll need later—in one month, six months, or a year down the line.
Some of you already know the drill; this isn’t your first time at the entrepreneurial rodeo. You may not have clients yet, but you know you’ll want state-of-the-art conference rooms for those pitch meetings. You may not have your retail-ready product, but you’re going to need a mailing address to receive all the prototypes. You’re always thinking one or two steps ahead, so you don’t trip over your momentum.
But if you’re the type that can’t even predict what you’re going to order from Seamless tonight, you should just prioritize flexibility. Look for spaces that offer open seating plans, as well as private team rooms. Get an understanding of fees, too, and how membership options can change as your company grows.
Ultimately, you should find a space that knows what you need before you do. Bringing success to a new business should be built into its very blueprints. “There’s something nice about the way in which it’s designed, and the way in which it’s laid out—the coffee, the tea—it’s just like everything’s on par,” Jason Wisdom, Co-Founder of the Design Gym, said of Grind. “It gives you the sense of confidence about yourself.”
In fact, Officevibe reported that members of shared workspaces were 90% more confident when coworking—that’s because they trust their space to get them where they need to go. “It gives you this kind of momentum which is very hard to get, especially if you’re a start-up.” Architect and Developer Ritu Saheb said, when asked why she chose to work out of Grind. And that’s exactly what you should look for when searching for a coworking space: an environment that will propel your startup from now to later.
Ca-Ching: Check Your Sticker Shock at the Door
Working out of your apartment may seem like a good way to cut costs now, but that doesn’t really account for the future of your company. Can you imagine hosting team meetings out of your kitchen, or introducing potential investors to your cat Warren Fluffet? Not the best first impression.
When searching for a coworking space, you have to check your sticker shock at the door.
Coworking membership may seem like a big expense, but it will prove to be the smarter option. Nick Clark, founder of The Common Desk, claims that a business could save 75% in total costs when choosing a coworking space as home base, while Officevibe determined that 50% of coworking members report higher incomes. Think of it as an investment in your own company.
When you opt for a coworking membership, you’re opting out of the overhead.
Maybe you can’t afford a Park Avenue office right off the subway, but a coworking office can. Your space can cover happy hours for you employees, too, as well as printing and office supplies—you know, all the little stuff that can make a big dent on your profits.
At a coworking space, you don’t have to worry about furniture, utilities, service charges, or the inordinate amount of post-its you go through each week. You don’t even have to worry about where to get you’re your next cup of coffee. Coworking spaces sweat all those details so you don’t have to—freeing your mind to focus on what matters most: your new business.
Fewer Frills, More Focus: Figure Out What Gets Sh*t Done
Coworking is designed for better focus and function: 64% of coworkers are better able to complete tasks on time, and 68% said they were able to focus better while coworking. “It’s a fun environment to be productive in,” Firebrand Group Founder & CEO Jeremy Goldman said of Grind. But remember that fun should never get in the way of function.
Don't be swayed by all the bells and whistles when shopping for a new space; just because a space offers your favorite beer on tap, doesn't mean it's the right space for you.
Ping-pong tables, pinball machines, and other fun amenities should only be a priority if they’re really going to contribute to what we call the G.S.D. Factor: Getting Sh*t Done.
You’ll want to find an energizing environment that will inspire you to get working, whatever that means to you and your startup. Do you wake up with the sun, and expect your workspace to do the same? Or are you a moonlighter burning the midnight oil? Some coworking spaces encourage collaboration and conversation, while others promise privacy and quiet. Do you need meeting rooms, phone booths, napping stations, or just really strong coffee? There are just as many work styles as there are coworking spaces, and there is no wrong way to G.S.D.
Just make sure you pick a coworking space that feels like an actual workspace. Your startup doesn’t need a clubhouse or frat house; it needs a space where you can feel confident about the work you’re doing, and the direction you’re headed.
In Good Company: Get to Know the Network
When you work out of a coworking space, you become more than a company; you become part of a community. You inherit the space’s culture as well as its network of members, collaborators, and staff. “It’s about the people. And how that level of personalization means something here,” Digital Flash Co-Founder Laura Mignott celebrated. Participants of the 2015-16 Global Coworking Survey agreed: 70% felt either very strongly or quite strongly that they were part of their coworking community.
Still, some spaces are more collaborative than others. It’s important to ask about the membership network before you settle into a space. Does the space target a certain demographic? Is it an industry-specific incubator, or a place where you can cross-specialties and expertise?
It’s also imperative to understand your accessibility to the space’s network. You may be stationed next to the perfect investor or business partner, but never meet them if the space isn’t conducive to building relationships. When touring a location, ask about community events, collaboration tools, and successful partnerships fostered in the space. The best coworking spots will cater to both introverts and extroverts, offering multiple ways to connect.
Community building isn’t just about cocktail parties and workshops; spaces now offer their own social apps, communication tools, and have entire teams dedicated to the coworking network. You’ll definitely want to see if there’s a community manager on site to help cultivate some kick-ass collabs. If not, pay attention to the space’s physical design. Does it seem to invite conversation? Do you see mobile whiteboards, break-away rooms, or any other hints at collaboration?
The importance of community in coworking spaces cannot be overstated. “You kind of have that serendipity, where you can raise your hand and say ‘Does anyone know a good designer, or a good front end developer,’” Jesse Podell of Startup Bootcamp said of co-working space. “And you might be able to meet that person.” Pick a space where you know you will meet the right people, and where you’ll enjoy the company you keep.
The Easy Choice: Do Your Research, but Trust Your Gut
While nothing—not even satisfaction—is guaranteed, coworking is actually a pretty safe bet. Officevibe found that 92% are satisfied with their co-working spaces, and the Global Coworking Survey says four out of five people plan to stay in their space. Two-thirds haven’t even considered leaving. No matter what space you pick, the odds are in your favor.
That doesn’t mean you should make your move on a whim; you still need to consider your startup’s specific desideratum when picking a coworking space. Think about your future growth, your work-style, and your networking needs. But if you find you’re too overwhelmed with options and don’t know what to do, why not go with your gut? You’ll know what fits, and what feels right. At the end of the day, you’ve already made the right choice when you decided to move your startup to a coworking space.