These days, it can seem like everyone and their mother works in a coworking space. These workspaces for entrepreneurs and freelancers have mushroomed all over Singapore to cater to the burgeoning tech start-up scene and growing number of freelancers and remote workers.
Thanks to the sheer number of coworking spaces on this small island, there’s a huge array of types to cater to every budget, from the free-by-invitation SCAPE HubQuarters to luxury coworking spaces in the CBD like The Great Room.
However, the reason you still see so many freelancers struggling to drown out the noise at Starbucks or, worse, McDonald’s is clear: every cent you put into a coworking space subscription eats directly into your profits.
So is it worth the cash? Here are some factors to consider.
Benefits of coworking spaces
Change of environment
Unlike salaried employees who get paid to sit in an office all day, every minute you aren’t productive is a minute you’re not being paid for. For some, the change of environment afforded by a coworking space is worth the cash because it makes them work more efficiently.
Coworking spaces enable you to be surrounded by a bunch of other people who all seem to be working assiduously, which can be motivating for those who find themselves succumbing to the lure of the Internet all too often. You also get quiet workspaces equipped with desks, printers, wifi and whatnot, which is surely more conducive an environment than McDonald’s.
If this change of environment helps you to work more quickly and more efficiently, it’s actually earning you money. If a coworking space lets you shrink 8-hour work days into 5-hour ones, it’s definitely worth the money.
You may work in pyjamas every day, but you sure don’t want your clients to know that. Finding a decent place to meet your clients can be a bother, especially when you don’t want to go all the way down to THEIR office. If you’re working with multiple people to build something, it’s also nice to have a better place to meet than your living room or local kopitiam.
Coworking spaces usually offer the use of meeting rooms, so you can show up looking all professional and wow your clients with your stylish workspace, rather than lamely suggest that meet you at Coffee Bean.
Potential networking opportunities
One of the biggest factors influencing your choice of coworking space will be the type of people who hang around there. Most coworking spaces organise events such as after-hours mixers, classes, talks or movie nights so that their clients can mix and mingle. A well-chosen coworking space will be populated by the kind of community you want to network with.
Cost savings compared to renting a full office
If you’re an English teacher who gives lessons on Skype, you probably do not need a coworking space subscription. But if you work with more than one person (such as in the case of a start-up) or need a formal space to get your work done, a coworking space subscription costs less than renting a full office.
You also don’t have to worry about furnishing rental deposits or dealing with the other administrative requirements (eg. having to display the name of your business) involved in getting office space.
Signs a coworking space is not for you
Your team has grown too big
Early-stage startups with a very lean team of no more than a few people can save quite a bit by basing themselves at a coworking space. But beyond a certain point, it becomes cheaper to rent office space. Coworking spaces usually charge on a per-head basis, so it would clearly make no sense to pay for 50 subscriptions for a team of 50.
Need for privacy and space
No matter how hip your coworking space looks, it still affords less privacy and space than your own office would or, for solopreneurs and freelancers, your own home. Forget about yelling out to your team members whenever an idea strikes you, as you have to respect the fact that other people are trying to get work done. If you’re a freelancer who insists on propping your feet up on your desk or blasting music from your computer’s internal speakers, you’re better off working from home.