Over the coming days we will be sharing our thoughts on how to choose the best coworking space for your business.  We’ll cover many different aspects – all or some of which will be relevant to you and your business.

Let’s get started with Part 1!

Your desk doubles as a kitchen table.

You share your whiteboard with your toddler.

There are never enough available electrical outlets at the café.

Do these scenarios sound familiar?

If you answered ‘yes’ it may be time to consider upgrading your operations to one of those Coworking workspaces everyone seems to be talking about lately.

Great decision!

Just some of the benefits include: improved productivity, improved creativity and inspiration, networking opportunities, a collaborative environment, the ability to teach and learn from others, cost savings and flexibility, sense of community, and the ability to let someone else worry about the mundane while you work on building your business.  Oh, and WiFi that is fast and always on!

But which coworking space? 

There are so many awesome spaces in almost every city that narrowing it down can be tough.  There are spaces that focus on specific niches, such as hardware startups, spaces for creatives, spaces for mining industry players, and some spaces that are specifically child-friendly.  Some spaces have a variety of desk and office types, some have shared space only.  Some serve Starbucks brew while some serve shade-grown, organic, fairly-traded, Sumatran dark roasted espresso (on endless supply).

So where to start? How to choose the right space for your business?

[Side note: It may be helpful to create a coworking space wish list containing “must-haves” and “like-to-haves” to keep in mind while checking out spaces.]

Here are the first five (of the many) themes compiled by the team at 99spaces.co to keep in mind when searching for your perfect coworking space:

1.What Stage is your Business at?

Business at different life cycles stages have different needs.

Literally a start-up?  Independent freelancer? You may be looking for a space to replace the garage or basement.  Moving to a coworking space will alleviate the loneliness, plus help you make great connections (and clients) that could help you build your business.  Your options are plentiful – almost any coworking space (within reason) with deskspace and Wi-Fi will work great for you.  Access to a conference room that you can book by the hour will be perfect as well for when you wish to meet clients.

Do you already have a small team working out of disparate locations?  You probably want a space that will enable you to bring everyone together at one location to create cohesion.

If your business is more established, a coworking space that provides permanent office space may work best for you.  This setup would generally provide dedicated office space with lockable doors and storage, and the privacy that comes along with it.  Benefits include leaving the infrastructure and logistics to be managed by others so your team can concentrate on business building.

Another thing to keep in mind – if you love a location you may want to stay there as your business grows, so it’s worth checking to see if the space has the flexibility to scale up with your business.  (We’ll go deeper into this idea later).

2. Tech

In the business world there is probably nothing we rely on more than technology.  We live in an ‘always-on’ world and our businesses must keep up.  Reliable, high-speed internet is as important business as air to humans.

The best part: in a coworking space it’s the operator’s responsibility to make sure that it’s always up and running.

Ask any space you are checking out which internet service provider they use, what are their upload and download speeds, and their historic uptime.

Additionally, Coworking space users often have access to hardware such as videoconferencing tools and facilities, laser printers, large format printers, 3D printers, monitors, and more.

Remember to also keep an eye on the electrical outlets – how many are there per user?  How accessible are they?

Make sure your technical needs are accounted for in the space.

3. Security

If you require more than just a laptop to get your work done or your business requires anything that isn’t too portable you will need lockable storage in which to keep it.

Additionally, if your work involves clients who demand outmost privacy you workspace will need to reflect that.  This is especially true for those in legal and financial occupations, for example (such as lawyers and accountants).

Many coworking spaces provide secure offices, lockers and storage.  Additionally, many spaces are located within buildings that are monitored and secured 24/7.  This should allow you (and your clients) to rest easy.

Consider the phone conversations that may be audible to others.  Many spaces contain private phone booths or rooms that enable you to have that conversation in quietness and privacy.

4.Community & Networking

This is one of the major benefits of coworking.  There is no better place to network than a coworking space.

Simply put, successful networking = successful business.

Coworking spaces are full of freelancers, soloprenuers, and small businesses, all working side-by-side, sharing facilities, all under the one roof.  This collaborative environment fosters camaraderie and a sense of ‘we’re-all-in-this-together’.  Need some UX advice?  Ask the designer sitting next you.  Need help figuring out your taxes?  Introduce yourself to the accountant in the space.  You never know the knowledge you can gain or share.   You’re an SEO guru?  Share your knowledge freely (or at least freemium-ly)!

Besides for the ability to get quick advice, coworking provides a natural networking environment in which to expand your network.  Meet other businesses looking for your services and earn projects you may never have otherwise known about.  This is especially true when you are starting out – you must maximize every resource you have.

Additionally, many coworking spaces host events that are perfect for networking and meeting like-minded entrepreneurs.  Some events are purely social while some are professional developments events, such as inspirational speeches, coaching from businesspeople sharing their knowledge to help you build your business, and workshops and presentations from experienced entrepreneurs.

Coworking spaces that act as incubators may be a great option for your business or startup as well.  These spaces generally require going through an application process and being approved.  But once you’re accepted the access and exposure to investors could take your business to the next level.  If an incubator is an option for you, research the mentors, the type of businesses already in the accelerator and whether they are in a specific niche, such as FinTech.  Also ask about the VC’s the incubator is connected to and the history and relationship with the VC’s.

Either way, connections and friends are there to be made in coworking spaces.  Let serendipity lead you to new business and collaborative opportunities.

A cohesive space that places importance on fostering opportunities and actively maintains and builds community among tenants is a huge asset.  When researching or touring a space ask about the events and networking opportunities.  Check out a calendar to see any upcoming events.  Check the website for photos from events.  Try to get a sense of the type of businesses you would be sharing the space with.  ‘Interview’ the host or community manager to see how they encourage collaboration between members.

5.Current Tenants

A large part of the community and networking benefits to be derived from a coworking location come from the location’s tenants.  When doing your research check out the list of current tenants – are they in your field? A similar field? A complementary field? Do you think you could learn from the current tenant roster? Some spaces are specifically geared towards industry niches, such as FinTech or Mining so be sure to check for that, while some have tenants from a cross section of industries and businesses.

You may prefer one style over another, and there are benefits to each.  Most space managers curate their tenants to a certain extent so ensure that the tenant mix will work for you.  Keep in mind that these co-tenants will be your working neighbors on a daily basis.  You want to make sure that you will be able to take advantage of the networking opportunities naturally presented in coworking spaces.  In most cases using a free trial day will help determine if the tenant mix is right for you.

Part 2 Coming Soon!

What would you add to the above?  We’d love to hear your thoughts, and we’ll happilly give you a shoutout! 

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