There comes a time in a freelancer’s life when, after four days of remaining in pyjamas and not moving from in front of your laptop screen that you tell yourself you’ll join a coworking space.
But a full-time subscription to a coworking space doesn’t come cheap. While more coworking spaces are sprouting up in the CBD, that doesn’t mean they’re something you can afford.
Here are some factors to help you decide whether a coworking space is worth the money.
Reasons a coworking space subscription isn’t worth the money
It eats into your profit margin
For instance, Spacemob charges $365 for a flexible space that lets you work in their common areas. To have the privilege of a fixed desk, you pay $580 a month. For that kind of money, you could almost rent a room in an HDB flat and outfit it to become a home office.
More importantly, as a freelancer every cent you spend on frills eats directly into your profit margin. Sure, it’s nice to have a place to work where the staff don’t shoot you dirty looks because they think you’re cramming for your O levels.
But with $300 to $500 a month, you could sign up for a state of the art MMA gym membership, go on an overseas weekend getaway every single month, or go to a spa every single week. Ask yourself if what you get out of the coworking space is worth that much to you.
There are ways to get the same benefits for less
Coworking spaces are different things to different people. Some folks just want a quiet place to work where they don’t need to fight for seats and where there’s a free flow of coffee.
But for many, the real value of a coworking space is being able to network with a bunch of hopefully cool and relevant people who can send work your way.
Still, there are probably free or cheaper ways you can enjoy the same benefits without having to join a coworking space. It’s just less convenient and requires more initiative and effort on your part.
For instance, there are now more than enough wifi cafes in Singapore that will let you sit there for hours for the price of a coffee or two, especially on weekday afternoons when there’s nobody there.
Sure, it takes a bit more courage to put yourself out there, but it’s definitely possible to build a big network without joining a coworking space, especially in Singapore which is full of transplants who have arrived just to work or set up businesses.
Loss of flexibility
Working from the lonely confines of your home can be boring, but it does offer the ultimate flexibility. You can have your meals at any time, eat whatever you can make in your kitchen, work in the buff if you wish, work till 4am and squeeze in a workout in the middle of the day.
When you work at a coworking space, you lose a bit of that flexibility. Not all coworking spaces offer 24/7 access to all subscribers, which means that you’re burdened with the need to show up at a decent hour. You also spend time and money commuting to the coworking space just like an employee would, and you might also end up spending more eating lunch and dinner out.
To be fair, some loss of flexibility can actually be a good thing, as adding structure to your day can make you more productive and motivated. If you find yourself accidentally spending days on YouTube or waking up at 4pm when you work from home, the structure a coworking space offers might actually be useful to you.
Reasons you might want to sign-up at a coworking space
The space and community raise your productivity
Productivity is a lot more important for a freelancer than it is for a salaried employee. When you’re unproductive, you’re losing money.
A good case for shelling out the money to join a coworking space is when working in one raises your productivity.
No matter how lucky people think you are to be able to work from home, it’s all too easy to get consumed by the many distractions and the fact that there’s nobody around to judge you if you start watching Korean drama serials in the middle of the day.
Being surrounded by dozens of other freelancers and entrepreneurs can also motivate you to work harder and be more engaged. That translates to more money and more inspiration, which could be worth the pricetag of the subscription.
You’d enjoy a high networking conversion rate at a particular coworking space
While you certainly can certainly network effectively on your own, depending on your situation you might be able to get better mileage from certain coworking spaces.
For instance, if you’re in the tech industry, working on a new startup or are a web developer or graphic designer, you could well find coworking spaces a useful place to find new clients, collaborators, projects or simply a good outlet for brainstorming—far better than some random mixer at a bar.
Of course, not all coworking spaces attract the same crowds. But if you can find one with the sort of people you want to be around, it could be worth the money.
Have you ever tried working at a coworking space? Share your experiences in the comments!