Most of you are familiar with the idea of a shared tenant services for small businesses that can’t afford their own office space but want to take advantage of a common collection of services such as fax machines, conference rooms, reception areas, and the like. But what if the $400 or so a month fee for these services is still out of the park for your nascent business owner? And what if working out of a coffee shop or other free WiFi place isn’t really professional enough? In between these setups, several different kinds of shared office spaces are also available. Let’s look at the options.
First up is co-working, which also goes under various names, including the “Jelly” movement started by Amit Gupta. The idea is that people who want more than just a virtual water cooler of email, Tweeting and posting online can actually get out of the house and spend some time nearby other humans doing their work too. The goal is to create a community of like-minded people but from different walks of life, skill sets, and interests – just like your local Faceless Big Company Cubicle Warren. Bring your own laptop and cell phone, tie into a WiFi connection, and sip some of the included coffee. The “rent” is reasonable – about $50 a month or even less, depending on how often you need to show up. Some facilities have more, such as multiple-line phones and conference rooms, and some have less. All are a step up from Starbucks, though. Some are in business district locations, some in more residential areas that are not much more than a converted home with a bunch of desks in them. Some are sponsored by local governments, others are setup by private businesses.
Probably the best thing to do is just to check out some of the many resources on co-working on the web. Look at the co-working wiki, listings by city, or the link for Jelly (listed above). Call a few of the places that are in these directories and find out the basics, such as price, hours of operation, and what else is included.
Before you visit with your laptop and cell phone, make sure you have a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones along too. Some of these places can get noisy, and you’ll want some protection from all the hubbub. Also, if you do get a lot of phone calls, consider leaving your desk and finding someplace a bit more private, so as not to disturb your fellow co-workers.
Somewhat different from co-working is where companies are renting spare office space by the hour. This is the growing trend in some California cities. An article in ReadWriteWeb talks about this and where you can find these kinds of services.
Still, my work style wouldn’t tolerate such close quarters – at one of the co-working sites that I visited last week, it could easily house ten people in a large bullpen area. I like it nice and quiet and no one else around, because that is what I need to write and to interview people on the phone. But perhaps you are different, and crave the company and companionship. You might want to investigate co-working, and see if there is someone in your area that has such a setup, or even start one in your own house.