Why pay $400 monthly for a desk when you could be working from bed in your pajamas? Well, according to thousands of small businesses, freelancers and contractors, there are plenty of reasons. Coworking spaces have gone just beyond desks and Wi-Fi, but are evolving into communities, some even international.
Working from home all the time can make people feel isolated or stir-crazy. Other people miss the off-the-cuff collaboration and purpose-driven energy that a startup or studio-type office setting provides. Plenty of people can’t concentrate surrounded by all the distractions of home — pets, kids, chores that need doing. And for those whose role requires some face-to-face time with clients and colleagues, it makes sense to have an office, with access to conference rooms and equipment (and decent coffee that you don’t need to buy from a barista).
WeWork changed office culture forever by introducing a startup-friendly environment where freelancers and small businesses could rent offices and desks in a fun, creative yet professional setting instead of renting a cubicle in some manila-colored corporate suite. But once WeWork became the standard, would-be competitors began figuring out ways to improve upon it — either by offering different capabilities or more flexibility with rental rates, or by simply positioning themselves as a smaller and friendlier alternative to WeWork.
This has been a great development for the remote workforce. These days, there’s a flexible workspace to suit every budget, career focus and proximity requirement, even some that allow you to rent by the hour.
[bctt tweet=”These days, there’s a flexible workspace to suit every budget, career focus and proximity requirement, even some that allow you to rent by the hour. #freelancing #smallbusiness #coworking #remoteworkforce” username=”ClearVoice”]
Here we look at five coworking concepts that are friendly to small businesses, solopreneurs, freelancers, and business travelers.
Our requirements for inclusion: Featured companies have multiple locations, own and operate space instead of merely being a platform to showcase rental spaces, and offer a flexible rate structure that accommodates individuals.
Top coworking spaces for freelancers and independent professionals:
[bctt tweet=”Students mix with successful professionals, and enterprise teams with freelancers, in an inclusive mentor-driven environment at Galvanize. @galvanize | #freelance | #startups | #smallbusiness” username=”ClearVoice”]
Before ClearVoice moved to its current office space, the team members found a pleasant and productive coworking setting at this tech-focused campus-meets-workspace concept. Students mix with successful professionals, and enterprise teams with freelancers, in an inclusive mentor-driven environment. In partnership with Hack Reactor, different locations offer coding and software engineering bootcamps as well as less intensive courses in things like data science fundamentals.
Ideally, the learning, networking and working all mix together so people can hone their skills while working their startup job and networking at events in the “beer garden” with potential strategic partners. While the Galvanize setting is geared toward startups, we saw plenty of open table spaces and private “phone booths” for individuals during our time in the Phoenix location.
[bctt tweet=”Cambridge Innovation Center is a coworking space and incubator for the science, entrepreneur and non-profit sectors. @CICcambridge | #freelancing | #smallbusiness ” username=”ClearVoice”]
2. Cambridge Innovation Center
The New England-based multi-location incubator-slash-workspace actually was founded more than a decade before WeWork — and floundered in its first incarnation as an incubator only, before finding traction as a coworking space for the science, entrepreneur and non-profit sectors.
Science lab space is truly what differentiates it from other startup-friendly coworking spaces, though the “Wet Labs” are only available in two locations. Specifically outfitted as “wet and prep chemical and biological laboratory space,” they range up to 2,000 square feet in size and truly offer specialized capabilities that even the most stylishly designed coworking spaces cannot compete with. Additionally, CIC is proactive about interacting with the local communities to find worthy non-profits and allow them space at a reduced rate.
[bctt tweet=”ROAM is targeted to digital nomads who want to feel more of a community connection than they would at a hotel — but who want freedom to change scenery every few weeks. @roamcoliving | #freelancing | #businesstravel” username=”ClearVoice”]
A co-living space with coworking capabilities, Roam is for travelers, not residents seeking a daytime desk. Each property offers plenty of quiet nooks to plunk down a laptop or take meetings, but you’re really renting a bedroom/bathroom.
The concept is targeted to digital nomads with a mid-sized budget who want to feel more of a community connection than they would at a hotel — but who want freedom to change scenery every few weeks. Roam is a short-term rental concept currently available in five major international cities, with hopes but (no progress in the past year) to expand to several more. If you are a Roam member, you can move from Miami to Tokyo to San Francisco to Bali to London, monthly or even after a couple weeks.
Professionally maintained common areas differ by property. In San Francisco, the Roam house contains a breakfast room, a makers’ workshop space, and a conference space in the work area. In Miami, there’s a covered and furnished front porch, a library, and a huge backyard with a pool.
[bctt tweet=”Founded in Vienna, Austria, Impact Hub is a ‘locally rooted, globally connected’ concept and a collaborative international community as much as a coworking solution. @impacthub | #freelancing ” username=”ClearVoice”]
4. Impact Hub
Founded in Vienna, Austria, this “locally rooted, globally connected” concept is a collaborative international community as much as a coworking solution. Much like certain online-organized interest groups, it forms nuclei in cities based around a core group of people who share certain principles and purpose. It operates in approximately 100 cities, as far flung as Dar es Salaam and Kuala Lumpur, but also in tech magnet cities like Austin and Seattle.
The programming in each Impact Hub is different and largely guided by the local partnerships — for example, in Seattle there’s an ongoing arts activism partnership with art collective Amplifier, while Impact Hub Geneva has partnered with no less than the United Nations to form an accelerator for sustainability startups. There are also plenty of events designed simply to foster friendship and high spirits though, including monthly lunches and regular wine hours.
In keeping with its radical inclusivity, sustainable development and community engagement tenets, Impact Hub offers different types of membership and support, including an arrangement where those without the money for membership can pay for it with their skilled labor instead.
[bctt tweet=”Serendipity Labs offers comfortable, contemporary, flexible workspace that appeals to professionals. @SerendipityLabs | #freelancing | #smallbusiness” username=”ClearVoice”]
5. Serendipity Labs
There are a few interesting differentiators about Serendipity Labs. First of all, it has a hospitality-driven professional philosophy, meaning you can expect a better level of service than in many coworking spaces. Second, there’s a greater variety of membership plans, ranging from multi-month rental terms for “team rooms” that can accommodate small companies of 10+, down to multi-day packages for individuals who want coworking membership but don’t need to be there — or pay for —more than 5 or 10 days per month. Third, it’s a combination of owned/managed/franchised locations — meaning that it’s thriving in many cities where entrepreneurs saw enough potential to invest in a Serendipity Lab.
Name notwithstanding, Serendipity Labs does not offer actual science lab space. Nor does it share the “transformational” or “radical” guiding principles of certain other coworking concepts. Instead, it offers comfortable, contemporary, flexible workspace that appeals to professionals. Those who want free draft beer or morning yoga to be a part of their workday ritual should probably look elsewhere. Those who value enterprise class technology and a professional yet welcoming environment where full catered lunches and semi-formal cocktail events can easily be organized should be quite comfortable in a Serendipity location — currently open in 17 states with more on the horizon.
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