How to choose the right coworking space for your business
Looking for the perfect coworking space for you? Our detailed step-by-step guide - and list of key questions to ask - will help you zero in on the best choices...
With hundreds of coworking spaces across the country – and numbers swiftly rising as their popularity soars – the task of finding the one that suits your start-up best can seem overwhelming.
But, by following a few simple steps and answering some key questions, you can go a long way in whittling down your options until you’re left with a few solid choices.
This article will guide you through this process, exploring the following steps to choosing the best coworking space for you…
1. Settle on your coworking budget
First thing’s first – you’ll need to decide how much money you’d like to spend on your coworking space.
In coming up with an ideal price range, you’ll be able to narrow down your options significantly. You will find that your budget influences the type of package, style of space, included facilities, and location that you can plump for.
Take a look at our guide to how much coworking costs to get a clearer idea of the prices you might be looking at.
2. Choose a location to work from
Of course, you’ll need to decide on the region, city or town – or the area within that town – from which you’d like to run your business.
This could be a no-brainer for you – maybe you live near Bristol city centre and can’t imagine working anywhere else, or perhaps you’ve got your heart set on launching in Shoreditch.
But if you’re up for shopping around, there are a few things to consider:
- Your budget. The average cost of a coworking desk varies dramatically both across the country – check out our list of prices by location – and within each area. Generally, the more desirable and busy a location, the more expensive the coworking spaces in it (though there are usually exceptions!).
- The local amenities. Is it important to you to have cafes, bars, supermarkets, and/or certain shops nearby? How often will you want to buy your lunch off-site? Do you plan to foster a company culture that includes team trips to the pub? Would you make use of a professional printing shop or post office on the next street?
- Your transport needs. You’ll get tired, stressed and financially strained if your commute is difficult and lengthy. Make a list of all the transport options that would be easy for you, and seek out coworking spaces that fit in with these, and are near your favoured transport hubs.
3. Decide how and when you want to work in the space
Many coworking spaces will offer three key packages – hot desking, working from your own dedicated desk, or working in a private office, depending on the space they have available.
Again, this may well depend on your budget. Hot desking – turning up to the coworking space and just getting to work in any vacant seat – tends to be the cheapest option.
Hot desking can also work well if you like to keep things flexible, and appreciate a change of scenery. On the flipside, though, it can feel a little less secure and reliable.
Which of these options you choose will also depend on the size of your team. A cluster of dedicated desks, always reserved for your team, will be more sensible than hot desking if you have a number of employees.
Similarly, a private office compartment will also work well for teams – although they can be a lot more expensive.
While all coworking spaces offer full-time memberships, you’ll find that some also offer part-time plans for entrepreneurs who don’t need to go into the space everyday.
Much cheaper than full-time packages, these reduced-access plans allow a set number of hours in the coworking space each month.
So, if you only really need an official workspace for one or two days a week, it’s worth investigating these options.
4. List the facilities you’ll need
Coworking spaces can offer a range of business facilities and services, including:
- Meeting and conference rooms
- Printing and scanning facilities
- Secure storage spaces
- Mail handling services
- Reception services
- In-house IT teams
- Event spaces
Consider which of these facilities and services would be crucial to the smooth running of your start-up, and remember to seek out spaces that have them.
5. Research your coworking space options
Once you’ve got a clear idea of the price, location and coworking package that you’re looking for, it’s time to start your search in earnest.
There are a few ways to go about finding and comparing coworking spaces that fit your criteria:
- Do a simple Google search for coworking spaces in your favoured location and check out their websites to compare them.
- Use a workspace database website such as Hubble, Deskcamping, Coworker etc to compare spaces and prices on one screen.
- Enlist the help of a coworking office broker who can put in the legwork to match you up with a suitable space.
- Ask your network of fellow entrepreneurs, business owners and freelancers for recommendations of their favourite spaces.
6. Work out which one is right for you
Once you’ve got a list of coworking spaces to consider, it’s time to thoroughly investigate each option.
To do this, you can:
- Explore the coworking space’s website
- Read online reviews for the space (and not just the ones on the space’s website – these will only be positive and may not give a full representation)
- Contact a member of the space’s management team
- Contact other small businesses who work at the space
- Arrange to visit and be shown around the space
- Ask for a free trial day at the space, and speak to fellow members while you’re there
As a starting point, try to answer the following key questions about each space (and read what other business owners had to say about these subjects) to measure how well it suits you…
What is the atmosphere like?
Think about what helps you to be productive: would you thrive in a buzzy, chatty environment, or do you work best in quiet and calm surroundings?
One start-up office manager says: “Some of the spaces we looked at were quite cramped and noisy, with lots of people working within fairly small offices.
“We wanted a dedicated space that was quieter, so we could get our heads down and actually get some work done.”
How flexible are the owners?
Flexibility is key when it comes to accommodating the unpredictable growth patterns of a start-up.
Find out how easy it would be for you to upgrade your package if you, say, needed to make a quick new hire or increase how much space you’ve got.
If it turns out that changing your plan with minimal fuss isn’t possible, this may not be the right space for your growing venture.
What are the opening and closing times?
Start-up owners have been known to work some unconventional hours, and it’s important that you can access your workspace during these times.
If you’re an early bird, a night owl, or simply cannot anticipate how many hours you’ll need to work from one day to the next, it might be a good idea to pick a space that’s open 24-seven – or at least that has longer hours than the traditional 9am to 5:30pm.
Charlotte Hall, marketing manager at Digital Risks, says: “For us, 24-seven access was really important. Like most start-ups, we want the flexibility to work as much or as little as we like.”
What does the space look like?
Aesthetics are big in the world of coworking. By default, coworking spaces tend to be stylish and modern – often with a bit of quirk, too – in order to compete.
But it’s important not to be dazzled by impressive interior design, and instead ensure your chosen space has all of the key features that you need to run your business – design comes second to that.
Freelance web developer Hector Lorenzo says: “Some of the coworking options I looked at were either so sophisticated that they looked like nightclubs, or right at the other end of the scale, so they seemed a bit chaotic.
“I found that the perfect design for me is having plenty of meeting spaces, and a good mix of serious and quirky elements.”
Having said that, you should like your space’s design – you’ll be spending a lot of time there, after all.
You should also consider your clients, investors and other important figures – is this the sort of space they’d be impressed by if they came to meet with you? Does it convey what you want it to about your business?
Layout and structure are also key factors. Hall says: “We wanted a space with lots of natural light to keep us alert for the whole day.
“It’s never good when you don’t know if it’s the morning or the evening outside – something we’ve experienced at other offices!”
Similarly, your wellbeing will be greatly enhanced if the cowork has breakout spaces like cafes or lounges, so you can grab some time away from your usual desk if needed.
Are the perks worth paying more for?
Membership at a coworking space can come with fun perks, such as:
- Free breakfasts and lunches
- Free beer and wine
- Kitchen spaces stocked with snacks and drinks
- Free exercise classes and clubs
- Recreational activities like dart boards, pool tables and table football
- Discounts with local businesses
However, it’s often the case that monthly membership costs are higher for coworking spaces that provide treats like these.
Lorenzo said: “I found that the perks come at a price, even if they are initially presented as being free.
“If you have to pay £100 extra a month for free beer, that isn’t something that is really appealing to me. I just want a coworking space where I can work.”
Take a look at the perks listed for the coworking space you’re investigating. Would they add real value to your experience there, or would you be happier with a cheaper option that doesn’t come with such benefits?
It’s worth noting that perks like these can be a big draw to potential employees when you’re advertising to fill a role in your business – but their novelty can wear off, too.
Are there any additional costs involved?
Some coworking spaces will charge a base rate, but then ask for additional fees on top of this – and for services you might have expected to be free.
For example, in some spaces, you might be required to pay to use a meeting room or a printer, or for reception services.
Obtain a full list of everything you’d need to pay additional money for each month, and try to work out how much you’d need to fork out based on your business’ needs.
What events does the space run?
If you’d love regular opportunities to learn, network, demo your products or services, and meet investors, clients and mentors, you’ll want to check out each coworking space’s programme of members’ events.
And, if you’re a social butterfly, it’s worth finding out whether or not a space runs socials so its members can have fun, get to know one another and enjoy a drink or two.
What’s the security like?
Protecting your business’ data and tech equipment is, of course, vital – so you’ll want to check up on each coworking space’s security strategy.
Is CCTV in place? Will anyone be manning the entrances and exits? Will members need a key to get in? Are there lockers in which you can store your important things?
Lorenzo: “I found some coworking providers a bit lax when it comes to security – for example, making a point that you don’t need a key to get in.
“But that makes me wonder who else is going to be coming and going, without needing a key.”
What’s in the fine print?
It might seem a complex and dull document, but it’s still crucial that you read any tenancy agreements or contracts in full before you sign them – especially the fine print.
Simply by being vigilant, you could end up narrowly avoiding a nasty surprise.
Hall confirmed: “We’ve seen some crazy agreements – for example, clauses to allow the use of our intellectual property and IT policies, and allowing the management to read or access our data!”
If you’re unsure about what something in your agreement means, you can always ask for advice from a legal professional.
What is the management like?
To mitigate any potential problems or frustrations that you might encounter during your stay, it’s really important that a coworking space’s management team is attentive to your needs, and responds to any queries or requests that you have quickly and professionally.
Luis Segui, founder of PRE Technologies, said: “We had a bad experience at one coworking space, where they kept moving us from one office to another and they were really unresponsive to our needs.
“After that, finding somewhere that was professionally-run was really important for us.”
Lorenzo added: “Some of the coworking providers I spoke to were very aggressive and impersonal in their approach, whereas I wanted somewhere where they would look after me – things like post, or dealing with a parcel if it gets delivered to the office.
“The coworking space I chose was the only one that responded to my feedback and concerns, which is ultimately why I chose them.”