When I started freelancing I had no idea where I was going to end up. I wasn’t planning to start a business, I was just following a wave of inspiration and an opportunity. Anyone who’s been in that position, however, knows that it doesn’t always last! Eventually, you need space to spread your wings, evolve your ideas and goals, and often it is incredibly beneficial to look for a community of people who you can lean on for support.
That’s when I started looking into coworking and what it could bring to my business.
Being based inBrighton in the UK, I’m blessed to have a whole spectacle of coworking spaces within a stone’s throw of where I live. It made my choice far harder, but also helped me get a grasp of what really matters in a coworking space.
In the end, I was attracted to a small, independent coworking space right by the seafront called Projects. What drew me to this particular coworking space though, may be different from what another freelancer or entrepreneur may consider valuable. So to help other entrepreneurs and coworking spaces, I thought I’d share what contributed to my decision which I hope will help inspire and open the minds of other coworking spaces, looking to improve their coworking service.
You need to know what kind of professionals you’re trying to attract when putting together the aesthetic for your space — whether you’re looking for students and startups, entire teams, or even if you have a specific industry in mind, you can tailor your space to suit them.
Pinterest can be a great resource for inspiration if you’re struggling for ideas.
Working in the tech industry as a startup, I was drawn to a mix of industrial decor and plant life; it made me feel at home but still kept me focused.
For drawing in a student or creative clientele, there tends to be an element of comfort to the spaces —Weserland in Germany is a great example, they even have hammocks for power naps!
Even the color palette of the space and the patterns you choose can completely change the tone of the room, so make sure you have your ideal members in mind when putting it all together. For example, some spaces, like Duke Studios in Leeds UK, focus on bold colors and patterns to draw people in and spark creativity. Other spaces will focus on neutral colours and soft textures, such as East Room in Toronto, with the idea that you can settle in and work all day without getting distracted.Image credit: East Room, Toronto
You may even decide a crisp, clean, modern look would suit your members best, similarly to Cospire in Lausanne, Switzerland — it’s about knowing the ambiance your members will want to work in.
What’s your ambiance worth if you don’t have the basics down? Not a lot!
When moving from a home setting to a coworking setting, all I wanted was to be able to work more comfortably and see some other people — the last thing I needed was to lose access to basic necessities.
So what mattered to me?Firstly, the kitchen.
A must for me is daily coffee, tea, and milk available to use, as well as a fully stocked cupboard of mugs, plates, and cutlery. No one wants to move from a home setting to an office and suddenly find they don’t have a fork for their pasta!
My coworking space ended up having a cafe downstairs as well, giving me the option to buy food and drink on-site if I need to — not having to run around the city center on my lunch break is definitely a winner. Connecting with local businesses to see if they’ll partner with you to supply goods for your kitchen or even branch a cafe into your space could be a great idea!
Secondly, temperature control.
This might be a more specific need that is dependent on climate, but Brighton’s summers can be brutal especially when you’re trying to maintain a professional appearance, so having an air conditioning unit was a massive plus for me. It’s also been noted that temperature can significantly impact productivity in the workplace, so it’s worth the investment for your members!
I’d implore you to consider whether there are any other region-specific needs that you can meet for your members as well. For example, if you’re based in Canada, you’re going to want a decent heating system, otherwise, no one will be comfortable enough to work. If you’re based in Spain, having an outdoor space for people to work in could be worthwhile.
Thirdly, you need to be able to actually work in the space.
Just because it’s beautiful, it doesn’t mean it works — having multiple businesses operating out of one building is going to require different resources than what you might expect.
My favorite thing about my coworking space? The sound-proofed phone booths and different floors for different noise levels, so you don’t have to be disturbed by other members if you don’t want to! Hotdesks are great, but when someone’s been talking to a client for the last hour it can get a bit distracting — thanks to the phone booths that’s almost never an issue, and if it is, I can relocate to a quieter floor.
People like to work in different ways, so ensuring a variety of options are available is a must. A mix of booths, small desks, and larger desks is crucial for differently sized teams. Even the chairs need to vary in height, armrests, and back support. All of this combines to allow your members to adapt the space to their preferred work style, not the other way around.
As an example, I can’t work on a spinning office chair, I would just spin all day instead of getting things done, so being able to switch the chair at my desk to a static one is a small thing that makes a huge difference to me.
I’ve had colleagues who would always pick a standing desk over a seated one, or who refuse to sit in booths because it makes them tired after a while, so make sure lots of options are available.
These may seem like obvious tips, but keeping these small things in mind while you put your offices together could be the difference between a member choosing you or another space.
Now, this really was a make or break for me — I want to be able to settle and stay in the same space for the long haul!
When you start off as a freelancer, it’s only you and your clients you need to worry about. Thanks to the pandemic all of my meetings have been online recently, and having a coworking space means I have offices and meeting rooms to book and hide away in if we do need to meet in person.
But what happens when I need to bring on another team member? Or several? After spending so much time with my coworking community I wouldn’t want to leave it, so being in a space that can accommodate my business as it grows is ideal.
And it’s not just about hiring my own team — getting to watch other freelancers in my coworking community grow their teams is really inspiring and can keep me going during rough times.
Most coworking spaces have tiered memberships, with different access to different aspects of the space based on how much you pay — so make one of those tiers serviced offices if you can! Spaces such as Work Life in the UK already have really great systems in place to accommodate the growth of their members.
As an added bonus, allowing your tribe to grow with you helps with member retention. If a business can stay with you as they expand, why would they leave?
Some of the best things about a coworking space are the benefits you get alongside the actual offices. Being able to lean on a community for advice and help is great, but if I’ve not talked to them before I’m unlikely to actually go and ask. Part of bringing the community together is putting activities in place to actually facilitate that bonding in the first place.
Depending on where you’re based and who your members are, the kind of activities worth planning will differ. My coworking space is beachside, so they offer paddle boarding passes, along with weekly beach walks, and meditations.
They’ve clearly looked at their location, thought about the type of people who would choose an office in that place, and tailored their events to that — if you’re choosing to work by the beach, you probably like the beach!
Taking your location into account could spark some really unique ideas and give you an edge on competitors. Of course, the usual coffee mornings are always a winner as well. No one’s passing up a free hot drink, and it’s a great way to get everybody together and networking.
It’s not just the events that pull people into your space, though. What other resources can you include as a member's benefit that will draw people in? My space decided a coworking gym was the way forward, and I have to say I’m very excited for it to be built — being able to merge my gym membership and coworking membership into the same payment is an enormous weight off my shoulders.
Image credit: Projects Brighton, Gym.
Benefits like these could sway a freelancer to choose your coworking space over another, so it’s worth thinking about what you can add to your space that’s specific to your target audience.
If your focus is more on tech startups, could investing in a games room benefit you the way it has Puzl in Bulgaria?
Is making the building pet-friendly going to set you apart from other spaces nearby? The Ministry in London has an entire cinema in their space, but it’s the fact they’re dog-friendly that brings in most members — no one wants to suddenly start leaving their pet at home all day!
You might be surprised by the types of things people are looking for, so I would recommend doing some market research. Look into what coworking spaces near you provide, as well as asking your entrepreneurial friends what they’d want in their ideal space — knowledge is power!
There’s a reason you’ve started a coworking space (or at least I’d hope so) so make that a key part of your company ethos!
Do you want to prioritize mental health during a time when lots of people are working from home? Then make yourself available to your members and ensure you’re offering your support whenever you can. Did you always want a fun-loving and silly community of professionals around you? Then infuse that energy into the events you run each week.
So often people forget that you are what makes your business unique — no other coworking space can bring the energy and value that you can bring to your own space.
The same thing goes for your hired colleagues. If you give your team members the opportunity to run their own classes on site, the skills of their team eventually become the skills of the business as a whole. If you hire a receptionist with a love for crochet, have them run a class to teach crochet to members! Use what you have around you to your advantage, instead of scratching your head for mediocre ideas. You might be shocked at some of the skills your colleagues are hiding from you!
In the end, what’s really key here is working out how you contribute to your space’s brand — coworking is community-focused by nature, so building and branding your community around your own values is a great way to stand out.
So what are my condensed tips for those running coworking spaces?
Overall, it’s to put yourself in the shoes of your members.
You can clearly tell the spaces that prioritize community from the ones that don’t, and your community will thrive best when you personally align with the values your community promotes. If you focus on building a community you’re proud to be a part of, all your members will share that pride with you and become your own coworking space advocates before you know it.
The article was written by Madeline Breed. Maddie is a freelance writer, content creator, and social media marketer from Brighton, UK. She works with small and sustainable businesses, giving them the content and the knowledge they need to take their business to the next level.