Why a coworking space didn’t work for me

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“The whole idea of coworking is to bring bright, creative people together and let the ideas collide”

Often with things in life you have a vision of what it is going to be. Essentially until that one thing becomes a reality you never stray from that vision.

From jumping into the freelance/self employed world I’ve always wanted to work from a coworking space. The prestige of my own desk; working with like minded people and that feeling that we had all escaped the office.

I decided to take on a coworking space in my local city of Wakefield. New to the area and new to freelancing I assumed this would work perfectly for me. I mapped out what I wanted from the space which can be summarised as the following:

: Collaboration
: Client introduction
: Positive atmosphere
: City centre location

One and a half days into the space I decided I wouldn’t return to the office. Now this is not me shitting on the entire coworking community; far from it. This is just an honest opinion of some coworking spaces and why you should do your research before committing.

My summary of my coworking experience is that it cost me over £150 a month to drink crap coffee (Nescafe Original) and sit in an isolated space on my own with temperamental internet.

But please do not let my bad experience deter you if you think it’s the right move for you. There are multiple wonderful coworking spaces throughout the UK where freelancers share visions and work within an atmosphere which is conducive to creativity.

Tips when choosing a space:

The space I chose was bad. Too corporate, poor occupancy and more style over substance. It wasn’t a shared coworking space; it was an open plan office. To avoid choosing the wrong space I would recommend you work off the following:

– Do the people running the space understand coworking? The guys at Duke Studies have got this right. Excellent vision and a space which matches the type of individual they are looking to attract. They understand coworking and what people want from it.

I however went with an international organisation who clearly knew nothing about coworking. It seems I’m not the only one who echoes these thoughts.

– Trial it first – most coworking spaces offer some level of hot desking. Give it a trial run first to see if it’s for you. Not just the space itself but also whether you feel comfortable in a shared working environment. I missed my home comforts however you may thrive.

-Ask about occupancy – one of the huge issues with office environments is occupancy. The space I signed up for had 10% occupancy at the time of signing up across the office spaces and the coworking environment. Essentially I was the only individual within the coworking zone from day to day. I signed up for communication, sharing of ideas & like minded people to bounce off. I got none of this.

– Think about home comforts & what you may miss – perhaps I played down how much I enjoy having some time at home every week. Sure I still work in client’s offices from time to time however there are at least two days a week I’m at home which I absolutely love. No morning cloud, quality time with my wife and daughter, an environment where I can flourish. I immediately missed my home comforts and accessibility to all the things I enjoy.

– Accessibility & convenience – How close is the space to your house? How comfortable are you with the transport links? The office space I rented was 15 minutes from my home (20 in traffic). I didn’t think about how this would impact on my routine in a morning. I had that ‘getting ready for work’ feeling again where you rush around, prepare lunch to dive out of the house. I reminded myself why I went freelance in the beginning. Is coworking convenient for you or is it just another morning ritual you may want to avoid?

– Check the internet connection – we work in a digital world and a temperamental internet connection is a no go. On my first day I lost connection for around 40 minutes. I appreciate this can happen anywhere but it left a real impression from the word go. Besides the internet on a whole seemed slow.

– Think about financial outlay – £150 a month is not a huge sum if you feel the specific coworking space will enhance your business. I thought the same! However there were extra ‘hidden’ payments I never considered at the time of signing up. Commuting to the shared office space, the temptation of buying things out or going out for lunch to just name a few. You will be spending more so you need to make sure it’s worth the extra financial outlay.

I’m glad I did it:

Coworking is incredibly popular right now and you will most probably achieve huge value from it.

For me it just didn’t work. Even though financially it cost me £450 to rent a space I didn’t actually use I’m glad I did it. For years even before going freelance I had created this illusion in my head; this visual that coworking was the answer and I would meet like minded people, I would be inundated with business enquiries and it would be a great experience for me.

Sure the space I rented perhaps wasn’t what ‘coworking’ is all about and I would be open to trying more authentic spaces however I still feel there’s an overriding conclusion that home just works for me.

I would suggest to every freelancer to give it a go as it might be the environment you need to flourish in business. For me home is where the heart is and is the comfort zone which helps me produce the best results for my clients.

1 thought on “Why a coworking space didn’t work for me”

  1. Timely article as I was looking at coworking spaces myself recently. I ended up working in Manchester Central Library a few days a week. Lacked the buzz and community I imagine you’d get at decent coworking space but they have a decent cafe you could meet clients in, decent(ish) internet, quiet, city centre location, computers to use (even iMacs) and best of all it’s free! Have to confess, though, that I’m also opting to stay at home more to avoid the 50min each-way commute (especially if it’s raining).


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