Sometimes being a solo entrepreneur can be lonely. Even if you are a member of a team, if you work from home full-time, it can lead to feelings of isolation. This is one of the biggest downsides of full-time self-employment and the freelance economy. Even if you can stave off the hermit effect, working at home may not be the most productive environment for your work style.
The natural solution for these issues is coworking. Coworking spaces are shared office spaces for entrepreneurs and small teams. For a monthly fee, you can access shared workspaces with fast internet and open desks or offices. They are great for some, but not for everyone. Let’s take a look at some pros and cons of coworking.
My coworking experience
I quit my job last year for full-time freelance self-employment, and at the same time sold my house in Portland and moved south to Ventura, California. As was the plan, my family moved into a modest apartment for a year while we got the lay of the land in our new hometown. This meant working at home would be in the kitchen of a 2 bedroom apartment I shared with a wife, 1-year-old daughter, and 2 dogs. This is not the most productive work environment.
To escape the kitchen table and expand my network, I joined Connect Ventura, a local coworking space with about ten members. In the beginning, I would go daily or at least a few days per week, but I found myself working from home more and more, so the $69 per month fee was not worthwhile for me. While building my new business, I decided it was better to invest the cash elsewhere. But some days, I still long for the community from coworking.
The big benefits of coworking
While I decided coworking was not for me, it is great for many people. There are some big benefits from going to this type of workplace that home workers do not experience. Most of them revolve around the social and collaborative environment found in coworking offices.
Colleagues – Even though I see my wife and daughter working from home, I rarely see other entrepreneurs unless I make an effort to get out of the house. Having rapport with others in a similar working situation. This can help you feel better after a tough day, as you see the struggles of others. It is also a great feeling to share successes with others who are excited to cheer you on.
Collaboration – Even if you work in different fields, you can collaborate with others in the same office space. When I was working on my mega post infographic on side hustles, I asked others for feedback and opinions. I implemented those ideas to improve the article, which is my most successful in more than ten years of blogging.
Make friends – Making new friends is tough as an adult. Once you get past college, meeting new people and building real friendships is tough. When you see the same people with similar interests regularly, you are more likely to wind up as friends.
Coworking has its costs
While there are some great benefits, coworking isn’t free. The biggest cost is the monthly fee. The $69 per month coworking space I went to is a bargain price in the industry. About a half hour up the road is Santa Barbara, where there are a few coworking options. The comparable plan to what I was paying at Impact Hub Santa Barbara runs $350 per month, plus you’ll have to pay more if you want a place to park.
In addition to the monthly cost of your coworking plan, you have to commute to the coworking space. I lived a 15-minute walk or a short drive from Connect Ventura, but getting myself up, out, and to the space had a time cost that I didn’t have to consider working from home. My commute today is a 10-second walk down the hall to my dedicated home office.
Coworking spaces offer their own distractions
Coworking is not always rainbows and unicorns. There are some distractions that can take away from your work as well. Some of these distractions are the same as a regular corporate office, but something you can go without when working at home.
One day I had to keep my head down and work on a few articles, but a new member wanted to get to know me and everyone else. As a potential new friend and long-term coworker, I didn’t want to be rude. We had a great discussion, but that took away from my writing time.
Coworking rooms can also be chatty in general, or you may be sharing the area with someone on a conference call or in a visitor client meeting. Maybe there’s an event that sounds fun, but you are too busy working and it becomes another distraction. Some of the benefits of coworking can double as downsides.
Coworking is great for some people
I recently learned that my city government has a coworking space I can use for free on occasion, which is a great option to supplement my visits to the library, coffee shop, and my own office. I have one friend who lives in Portland and has worked full-time in various spaces for years, and he swears by it. But for me, it wasn’t the best fit.
Everyone has different work requirements, personalities, resources, and goals with their business and social life. Coworking may be a great fit. If you’ve never tried it, I highly recommend giving it a shot. You might find it isn’t great for you, but you may find coworking is the perfect fit. You never know unless you try.