Seven Tips for Creating Your Own Coworking Space
1. Focus on community, then space.
Do your research and be sure there’s demand for a coworking space. Don’t assume that if you build it clients will come. The concept of coworking is new to many people, and some need to be sold on the benefits. Consider hosting a few events to gauge and drum up interest. Create a group on MeetUp or Facebook, and invite colleagues and friends to join.
Even if you don’t have significant demand for a coworking space, you should still pursue the idea on a smaller scale. Sometimes, it requires finding a convenient place to meet a few times per month. Starting small and growing into something bigger is never a bad idea.
2. Focus on function, then business.
Coworking spaces around the country are widely known for being contemporary, stylish and even artisan—they create wildly creative and energetic environments. This comes at a cost, so you need to consider what to charge for participation in your space.
Of course, you will need to understand the investment and ongoing expenses before coming up with a budget, but be honest with yourself up front: Is this a profit center or an inspiration center? Many coworking spaces are simply operating to break even, with the goal of creating a cool environment and benefiting from the incredible resources of their members.
3. Focus on location, location, location.
You want a space that’s convenient, safe and easy to find. By nature, coworking spaces work well in older and underutilized buildings. Look for a space that has been vacant for a while or is not being used to capacity. You may be able to strike a good deal with the landlord or property manager to secure an inexpensive lease.
4. Focus on utilities, then furniture.
Having a comfortable and creative environment to work is important, but more important is providing the right utilities, specifically high-speed internet, to your users. Work with the right utility company—many have special arrangements for spaces that are intended to serve the community. If you’re on a budget, consider taking donated items and even allowing your participants to add decorations.
5. Focus on local, then beyond.
Even if your coworking space is not a profit center, you still need to market it like a business. Creating the right marketing strategy that attracts the right type of people is important. Do not limit yourself to advertising locally, as many traveling customers look to coworking spaces in destination cities to have a place to work and network with other professionals.
6. Get local help.
Contact your state and local chambers of commerce to inquire about help or resources they may be able to provide. Many cities also have small-business development centers (SBDCs) or economic development corporations (EDCs) whose primary goal is to provide assistance and create economic opportunities for businesses. In every case, ask about available grants that could help you fund startup and ongoing costs.
7. Consult veteran founders.
If you’re still unsure about how to proceed, consider contacting coworking spaces in other cities that serve a similar target market and ask for advice. It’s all about collaboration, so most will be willing to help. You can also find a host of information online, including the Coworking Wiki, which provides a slew of useful information and resources to help you along.