5 Reasons Shared Workspace Will Kick-Start Your Business
WeWork, The Farm, The Productive; you may have heard of at least one of these if you have visited any urban dwelling in the last three years. If you haven’t, the term ‘co-working space’ or ‘shared workspace’ should have penetrated your eardrums at some point, perhaps whilst buying an overpriced organic latte from a trendy vegan coffee shop.
I never considered shared or co-working spaces when I started a post-production audio studio in Brooklyn. I was under the impression that I either had to find an empty floor and fit out the space myself or work from home. In my eyes there were few options for in-between those two extremes (in New York at least). For my business, shared or co-working space was a fantastic middle ground alternative that offered my company and my clients a unique and relaxing work environment.
The Old Model
I had the 9-5 work mentality engrained into me my whole life. Work for the weekend, save for retirement, work hard and it will pay off…blah, blah, blah. And I don’t disagree with that attitude, it’s given me a fantastic work ethic and it often keeps me focused when procrastination is on the horizon. This doesn’t mean I should feel bad for making my own hours and not working for some huge corporate Death-Star though. Long gone are the days of the cluttered cubical, florescent lit, suit and tie wearing, awkward water-cooler conversation filled office spaces. Huge modern companies like Google started this trend of relaxed working environments and flexi-time hours by realising that most of their (and I hate the term) millennial employees think that life is short, work sucks and what’s the point in working for retirement when you’ll be too old to enjoy it anyway! In my opinion, I couldn’t agree more. It’s no secret that most people have to work for a living. Even the most free-spirited, anti-establishment, “fuck the man” person will understand the need to create revenue in return for the luxuries of living.
So why torture ourselves day in, day out with monotonous desk jobs that we pretend to like when really we just want to be playing in the sun or enjoying a nice afternoon tipple in a cosy pub somewhere? Oh right, because we are adults, have rent to pay, and we are established, respectable members of society… well, I don’t buy it. The great thing is, you don’t have to buy it anymore. You can have the best of both a salary and freedom to live your life.
The New Model
Shared workspaces are everywhere these days. A huge range of businesses are now exploiting this model, from sole-trading entrepreneurs to huge corporations with hundreds of employees. More and more ex-factory buildings such as Bond Collective, Empire Stores, and Industry City are being gut renovated to house a vast array of different industries. Like-minded people are all in attendance at these spaces, even if it’s not the same industries. Rather than awkward water-cooler conversations with colleagues, each trip to the boutique coffee counter is a networking opportunity. This opens up endless business leads for a small business owner like me without having to dealve too deep for the privaliage of having a commercial space to work from. Here are the 5 Reasons Why Shared Workspace Will Kick-Start Your Business:
I discovered the perfect space for my audio studio by accident. I had a meeting with a production company about becoming a potential client and agreed to meet at their ‘office’ in the Gowanus branch of Bond Collective (previously Coworkrs) in Brooklyn. As I walked into the ex-tile factory I was greeted by high ceilings, exposed brick, wooden beams and generous helpings of modern trimmings such as floor-to-ceiling glass walls, leather couches and an interior designer's wet dream of a staircase. This airy and friendly space drew me in immediately. After my meeting I had mentioned to my clients that I was looking for commercial space and they informed me that a lot of the tenants in the building were in the production industry. On top of that the building has embraced it’s organic attraction from content creators and fitted out a production room plus a voice over booth. This is was what really sold the space to me. If I wasn’t already enticed by the unlimited craft beer and coffee, the voice over booth would actually improve my business and add another string to my bow. For one monthly fee, Bond Collective offered me the client-friendly curb appeal I was after as well as all the included amenities; high speed internet, unlimited printing, utilities, snacks, beer and coffee. The building host various free events and happy hours weekly too, which pay off for more reasons than just free booze (more on that later)!
Most coworking spaces offer similar amenities that are usually included in the rent. You can’t put a price on the value of networking and face-to-face communication on a day-to-day basis.
2. Low Overheads
If you’re just starting a business as I did, you’re probably going to want to keep initial costs down. I went through the dilemma of working from home/coffee shops and keeping costs really low or splashing out for a commercial space. In my particular case, I am a sound designer where I have quite a lot of equipment and working from headphones all day is not really an option. That ruled out public spaces like cafes and libraries. For most people though, a laptop and headphones will work just fine so why not just sit in a cafe and do your work there? Well...see reasons 3, 4 and 5!
Most shared spaces allow members to ‘hot-desk’ for as little as $25 a day, or even rent entire floors if you’re a larger establishment. The larger spaces I looked at (Empire Stores, Industry City, 1000 Dean) would have been fantastic but only after a lot of hard work and a huge initial spend (about $50k to fit them out). They were all very similar in vibe, exposed brick, lots of creative people floating around, unlimited supplies of coffee and beer. The trouble with these spaces was that the units for rent were too big for me. The smallest space at Industry City was around 600 sq.ft. Which, would be perfect for a studio with a control room, voice over booth and a small reception area. However, they were completely blank rooms with huge ceilings and no utilities included. For somebody starting on their own with no angel investors and very little capital, this was near impossible.
If you’re a client facing company by any definition, having a base camp is key. Purely the fact that you can tell your prospective clients “let’s meet at my office” gives you immediate legitimacy. Even if you just hot desk. These spaces have conference and meeting rooms you can book (also included in the rent) or why not take them up to the rooftop or grab a sofa for a more relaxed conversation. Client can’t meet at your location? Generally that’s not an issue with the larger co-working companies such as Bond and WeWork since they have multiple locations which members can utilize if need be.
I have great pleasure in asking my clients to meet me at my studio. In my industry a sound designer could easily be a freelancer working from home which is completely fine but I know that as soon as prospective clients walk into my building they are wowed. And a wow factor will put you ahead in most cases.
Even having an address to send business mail and deliveries to also adds professionalism and saves running to the post office to pick up packages. On top of everything else, the community behind you at these spaces allows you to feel legitimate. I recently taught a class on the production process of creating content and having the support of the building made the entire process easy. Offering a comfortable space to host, helping out with promotion and embracing the idea gave my attendees confidence that this was a class run by professionals.
Another key player in kickstarting a business is being able work comfortably. I don’t just mean having a fancy office chair or one of those cool height-adjustable desks. I’m talking about being in a working environment and reducing the temptations of procrastination. Now you might say that free beer, rooftops and puppies running around (they allow dogs at some spaces) are difficult distractions when you’re not in the mood to write that blog you’ve been meaning to, however this brings me to my point about work/live balance. There has to be an even (or at least a less one sided) distribution of working and living in everyone’s lives. What’s the point in counting down the clock until 6pm if you know you’ve done all you can for the day? Leave early, go for a walk, play with the dog. Whatever it is you want to be doing, as long as it’s not destructive then you should do it. Having few restrictions will actually help your business in the long run. If I need a break away from my studio to regain sanity it will benefit the project and ultimately my client if I decide to sit on the rooftop with a cold one for half an hour (despite my 9-5 mentality fighting me on the idea). Taking a break engages creativity quite often and why wouldn’t it? Sitting in my windowless studio in the basement listening to the same 30-second commercial over and over will take its toll on my mind, my ears and my soul. Walking around and seeing other creatives doing their thing, or starting up a conversation with somebody I haven’t seen before might spark that idea that’s been rolling around in my head all day. Coming back to my desk with a fresh head will provide a better product and service to the people paying my bills.
Creating a good workflow is so important to business and it doesn’t mean you have to force yourself to sit at your desk all day. Surround yourself with positive and creative people and your business will thank you.
After I made the decision to move to New York, not only was I away from my native country, I had to start from scratch with building my clients up. Exciting times but also scary as shit! If you’re starting your business and working from a coffee shop at first, there’s a small chance you’ll make a client by getting chatting to the lovely tattooed, bearded fellow next to you. Generally though, a public space is not a professional environment. Not everybody is there for business. Call me crazy but 90% of patrons are either there for coffee, snacks or free WI-FI. The other 10% are there for the bathroom (at Starbucks it’s the other way around!).
Opportunity is the greatest asset to me and it didn’t rear it’s head until a month or so after moving into my building. By simply introducing myself to the people immediately surrounding my unit and inquiring as to what they do, I have picked up 5 clients as I write this. This reinforces my point that anybody would struggle to pick up that kind of business from visiting their local coffee shop or staying at home to work everyday. Being in a communal and shared space kickstarted my business. Fact. This kind of networking and opportunity may not work for everyone but word-of-mouth and talking to potential clients in person is definitely the leading way in which I pick up business. It’s surprising how quickly word spreads too, which is often aided by the staff that work at Bond in my case. As I mentioned earlier, the community within the building has a large impact on my opportunity too. If I have a creative idea that could benefit the tenants or want to be introduced to a company that may need my services, I can reach out to one of the Community Managers here and they will make sure it happens. Monthly happy hours introduce the newbies to the building which offers another chance to get to know the people you ‘work’ with and strengthen the creative community. It’s this positivity, embracing creativity, and sense of support that has made growing my business successful. When you start a business all your inhibitions bubble up to the surface and you often doubt your abilities or even ask yourself “what the fuck have I just done?!”. Having a reassuring pat on the back from both staff and other members of the community gets me out of the entrepreneur funk that most startups will face.
I CAN do this and I WILL be successful.
Need audio for your project?
Check out what we can offer: fullenglish.co/what-we-do