Co-Working Spaces: A Better “Work from Home” and Startup Model?

When you decide to become an entrepreneur, it’s exciting.  Thrilling, in fact!  You’re suddenly your own boss, very factually, even if you’ve been “your own boss” as a top salesperson or consultant at a firm already.  This has a host of advantages and positives.  And, it also holds a few interesting new challenges, especially if […]

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When you decide to become an entrepreneur, it’s exciting.  Thrilling, in fact!  You’re suddenly your own boss, very factually, even if you’ve been “your own boss” as a top salesperson or consultant at a firm already.  This has a host of advantages and positives.  And, it also holds a few interesting new challenges, especially if you’re an extrovert.

One thing not many articles about being an entrepreneur talk about is the transition that happens when you decide to go out on your own.  Whether you are a solopreneur, part of a consulting group, or the founder of a startup with employees, it’s different in many ways from being part of a larger organization.

Some of the things we get used to as part of a corporate or nonprofit team don’t exist anymore once we become entrepreneurs.  Aside from obvious tactical ones like buying your own benefits, which sound daunting but are in reality pretty easy to do, there are some things that people don’t think about right away.

Here are a few things you’ll want as an entrepreneur:

  • A space to do work that feels convincingly like “going to work,” whatever that means to you
  • Logistical necessities like a working color printer and fast wi-fi – working at all times
  • Places to meet clients that are private, if you need privacy
  • Rooms to be on webinars, podcasts, interviews, etc. that are not loud and don’t have random background noises that are unprofessional
  • Freedom from external distractions or temptations
  • A mailing address that is not your home address, or is a desirable address for global reasons, if applicable
  • A place for the whole team to get together
  • Camaraderie and people to bounce ideas off of, like people often do in an office
  • People to go to lunch, events, or happy hour with, if desired
  • Networking connections
  • A comfortable place to be, with people who share similar goals
  • Not feeling isolated for long periods of time (critical for extroverts)
  • Quiet spots to duck into to concentrate (critical for introverts)

In my own experience of being an entrepreneur in different ways at different times, and being a high extrovert, the key thing I learned early on was that working at home, by myself, for more than a day or two in a row, sapped my energy in a way that I would not have believed if someone told me it would.  Although it is nice to have a zero-minute commute, it’s even better to talk to people and rejuvenate my spirit and energy by talking to other people!  The difference between being alone, thinking about things, and being with people, talking about things, is like the difference between almost falling asleep, and drinking a large latte as far as my energy level goes.  (Full disclosure, my favorite thing in the world is public speaking and it energizes me the most, so I may not be a typical case).  Having people to chat with takes my mindset from “Zzzzz…” to “Yes!  Let’s do this!”

Another thing that gets missed and seems simple is having a working printer on-demand.  Something ready to print 25 or 50 color flyers/presentations when you/your client needs them in a pinch – that day.   Aside from the costs of printing at those well-known printing shops, there’s the time factor.  If a client needs something ASAP, it can become a huge challenge if you are relying on a service.  Most co-working spaces have one or more color printers ready to go, and most offer 24×7 access for members.

Also, talking to other optimistic, positive, creative people who are gung-ho about changing the world is a real game changer.  It’s deceptively easy to wallow in any tiny setback when you’re first starting out, but being among other entrepreneurs who have been there, done that, and come through swinging (and are pumped up to help you with ideas, cautionary tales of pitfalls to avoid, and words of wisdom to succeed) is incredibly valuable.  There’s nothing like talking to someone in a co-working space who had almost *the exact same thing* happen – and it turned out alright – to make you feel better.

Most co-working spaces also have conference rooms as well as smaller sound-proof “phone-booth” style rooms for people to use, sometimes with sign-ups.  In my experience, if you book a day or two in advance, conference rooms are usually available, often with no additional fees. This is ideal for a board meeting, client meetings, webinars, radio interviews, or if you are an introvert who *really needs everyone to please dial it down and be quiet right now*.

Every community has different co-working options, and (for quiet needs) don’t forget about your local library.  You can Google co-working spaces to find both larger and more niche options.

Most co-working spaces have introductory, day-pass, monthly, office, and other prices.  What works best depends on what is most convenient for you (to home, or to clients), how often you will use it, and how much “stuff” you need to access regularly.  A good idea is to try out several local places if you’re not sure, to see if you like the vibe, the commute, etc.

Since I am in Cleveland, I hop around between a couple of places. I use day passes or pop in as needed at Midtown Tech Hive, Start Mart, and Beauty Shoppe, and have a membership at LaunchHouse.  They all have unique personalities, and I meet clients where it’s most convenient for them.  LaunchHouse is close to me, and has a great start-up vibe, so that’s where I hang out the most.

Disclosure: None of the co-working spaces in this article knew I was writing this or had any input in it.  These are solely my personal opinions. 

What are your experiences with co-working spaces?  What do you like or not?  What spaces do you recommend for your city?  Please share in the comments below!

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