To Co-Work or Not to Co-Work. An Essential Freelance Question
One of the more common questions freelancers ask themselves is “co-working, is it worth it?” That question has become even more prevalent in the pandemic. Will freelancers, who are stuck at home after being used to working from anywhere they want, return to co-working spaces like never before? We certainly all need to get out of the house when things become safe again, but does that mean taking the leap and joining a co-work space. If you’ve decided you’re going full steam, or are still making up your mind, take your time to find an option that suits you, your rhythms, and your budget.
You’ve heard of all these companies. They’re easy choices because you can be sure they have spaces in every major city in America (and many abroad).
One of the earliest entries in the co-working industry, WeWork boasts almost 850 offices in 123 cities worldwide, with 35 across the U.S. and more opening all the time. WeWork offers a variety of office configurations; from an extensive private suite for teams from 20 to 200 or a single seat in a greater shared workspace. Amenities include a work-ready environment, coffee and fruit-infused water, high-speed internet, office supplies and printers, and front desk service. They have a heavy focus on community and events (lunch and learns, happy hours, networking events) and take pride in helping people network. WeWork also offers access to health care, payment processing, IT support, payroll, legal and more. They offer a few membership plans and pricing to fit your needs – prices vary widely based on location.
The most prolific offering in co-working spaces, 3000 Regus offices can be found in 900 cities and 120 countries. In the U.S., over 500 office locations are available from coast to coast. While amenities and pricing vary by location, high-speed internet, office furnishings, and basic business machines (printers and such) are available at every location. Regus is concerned more about offering independent workers comfortable space to work, virtual assistants, meeting rooms, and other basic amenities rather than fostering community and throwing flashy events. Clearly, based on Regus being home to thousands of fast-growing businesses and entrepreneurs, people want those basics and are fine with no fancy extras.
Industrious has over 100 locations in the U.S.in over 31 cities, plus one in Singapore (who knows why). Industrious co-working spaces are probably some of the nicest and most well-furnished you’ll find, and also some of the most expensive. Their hotel lobby-like spaces come with amenities ranging from free dining options, a wellness center, and guaranteed parking depending on your location. With a highly rated and accommodating staff, Industrious is one of the more bougie options available if you’ve got the dough.
SMALLER BUT NOT LESSER
Not every co-working space can be as huge and widespread as the previous three. These next three don’t have as many location options, but their spaces and offers are just as good.
The Yard has eight locations just in New York City, but has also a few in Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. This east coast co-working brand offers swanky boutique office spaces and, like a lot of smaller co-working options, an increased focus on community and culture. They offer year-round networking and educational events as well as daily wellness activities like yoga and meditation. One cool perk is that members get discounts at local restaurants and stores. The Yard offers multiple co-working options including flex and dedicated desk options.
Now in 31 locations nationwide, Serendipity Labs is a quickly growing contender in the co-working world. While they don’t have as many locations as some of the major players, their model is closer to that of a Regus, than that of a smaller, more community driven, co-working space. Serendipity offers members an upscale, beautiful workplace environment with all the necessary amenities (desks, printing, Wi-Fi, snacks, meeting rooms, and administrative services), and that’s it. It’s a relatively bare bones option that’s also one of the cheapest and most flexible you’re going to find. If you literally just want a quiet space outside of your house to sit and work, Serendipity Labs is ideal.
Venture X is a newer company in the co-working space…space, but is expanding fast. One reason for their speedy growth is their approach to co-working. Each location is a locally-owned franchise because Venture X wants to put their money where their mouth is. They’re all about helping small local businesses and entrepreneurs grow their businesses. If your freelancing business is really taking off and you’re thinking about expanding or hiring other people, Venture X may be the perfect place for you to grow. Although Venture X has 41 locations across the country (and 12 international), they offer the widest variety of locations in Florida and Texas, with more sites being added all the time. Each of their sites are contemporary and chic, but not so different than that of any other co-working space.
OLD SCHOOL CO-WORKING
There are a ton more co-working spaces out there, but many only exist in one or two cities so wouldn’t be the best help for many reading this. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to “co-work” without literally co-working.
The main co-working alternative; don’t think about a coffee shop as second fiddle to a co-working space. They’re two different things and both have their advantages and disadvantages. Coffee Shops are of course much cheaper to use, although you will have to spend money on coffee and pastries and such. Coffee shops, on average, are also much noisier than a co-working space, but some people prefer that environment to get work done. That being said, you can certainly find shops on the quieter side. In fact, so many coffee shops have an almost entirely professional clientele that they’ve become mini co-working spaces themselves. The biggest downside to a coffee shop is that there’s no diversity of spaces. There’s no meeting room, no place to take a phone call, and no real guarantee you’ll get a seat at all. Whether a coffee shop works for you or not, it’s a very easy thing to try out.
The newest edition to the co-working alternative is the hotel lobby. Not that hotels are new, but many people are first realizing the potential of the hotel lobby as a work space. A bunch of hotels are turning their lobbies into literal co-working spaces to boost revenue. Hotel lobbies are well-designed, generally quiet, spaces with tons of nooks and crannies to hunker down and work. Worried that the staff will kick you out? As long as you’re not going to the same lobby everyday for weeks straight, they’ll just assume you’re a guest. Guests do work in hotel lobbies literally every day. If you feel guilty, order a drink from the hotel bar, you probably deserve it anyway.
Maybe one of the oldest versions of the co-working space (though oft overlooked) is the library. If your needs for a workspace are quiet and free, then a library is perfect. If you want a cleaner more contemporary space to work in, know that not all libraries are old and dusty like they might have been in your high school. If you live in a major city, and even some small towns, there are bound to be some beautiful libraries. Libraries are a common thing that local government will spend money on. They add pedigree and style to a destination and are for the public good. In some cases, working in a library means you’re working in some of the most architecturally innovative buildings in the world. Plus, no need to buy a coffee.
Whether you want to pay to co-work, it’s beneficial to get out of the house now and again, and work around your fellow freelancers.