Being a freelance writer who works from home is pretty rad. I get to roll out of bed, throw on some pants (optional), turn on my laptop and boom, I’m ready to pummel through my to-do list.
But the fifteen-minute breaks tend to stretch out to hour-long ones, and my work tends to bleed into the wee hours of the night — and the weekends. So to create a bit more structure, I’ve considered getting a membership to one of the coworking spaces in Los Angeles, where I live.
Here are some things I’ve learned to keep in mind when looking into being a member:
Location, Location, Location
The great thing about coworking spaces is that you get to pick your commute. As the LA city organizer for the monthly global coworking event, Freelance Friday, and a regular to Freelancers Union Spark events typically held at these spaces, I’ve seen my fair share in LA, Chicago (where I’ve been spending the last two summers) and beyond.
My conundrum was that, while there are plenty of coworking spaces on my side of town, my favorite was Kleverdog Coworking in Chinatown. The daily commute would take about an hour each way on the light rail. No bueno. Unfortunately, the ones near me are a little too pricey. For the time being, I’m taking advantage of free coworking days, and I’m considering subscribing to Deskpass in 2018 so that I can easily hop from one coworking space to the next.
Community Is Everything
Whether you’re just starting out as a freelancer or you’ve been doing it for years, having a sense of community can help you foster your business and push you to achieve your goals. With the backing of a robust group of fellow freelancers, you have friends to bounce ideas off of or vent to about difficult clients. No matter what type of coworking space you choose, it’s important to consider where you can get the support you need.
There are two main types of coworking spaces. While both include members who are creatives, the first category has more of a tech vibe. These spaces are usually part of a network, such as WeWork or Cross Campus. They’re populated with small startup teams, along with your usual lone freelancer.
The second category is made up of creative solopreneurs: web developers, writers and graphic designers. These spaces have more of a rogue freelancer vibe. They’re smaller, more intimate community spaces and are independently owned and operated. There are also some more niche ones, like Reunion in Chicago, which is for queer, people of color and femme-identified individuals.
Most spaces offer mixers, workshops and other events to talk shop and get your mingle on. Some are even part of a global group of locations where you can network and work from. For instance, WeWork has an app for you to network with fellow WeWork members, plus check in to any of its spaces around the world. There’s also The League of Extraordinary Coworking Spaces (LExC), a group of global spaces. Getting access to the network is usually included with your coworking membership.
Kombucha Bar, Anyone?
My dear friend and fellow freelancer Dustin once asked me if a space I checked out had a kombucha bar. I “LOLed” in response, and he texted back, “I’m being serious.” Kombucha bars are not a far-flung amenity at a coworking space. And depending on the space and how much you want to spend on a membership, you’re looking at craft beer on tap, taco truck Tuesdays, on-site visits from a masseuse and so forth.
Not only do these spaces serve as impressive places to meet up with clients, but the bonus amenities make it all the more easier to leave the comfort of your living room couch, get out there and build your business in a focused space. If you need a reason to look forward to the workday, look no further.
Note that most coworking memberships include access to conference rooms, printing privileges and free coffee, tea and water. On top of that, there may be “luxe” amenities that are unique to a particular space.
Scoping Out Your Options
As for costs, there are different levels of membership you can sign up for. Most have similar pricing tiers. There’s a flex desk, which is the least expensive and means you work at one of the communal spaces. I’ve seen these start at $150 a month. Then there’s a desk assigned just to you, usually starting at around $375 a month. If you’re working with a small team, you can also rent out an office — starting at around $1,200. Some spaces also offer a part-time membership or “night owl” option for those who only need a space during the off-hours.
As these spaces may potentially be where you trek to work every day, you’ll need to take a tour. Some locations give a free one-day pass — and one space let me try it out for an entire month. You can also see if a particular space offers a free coworking day each month. I’ve found free or inexpensive coworking days through a Meetup coworking group, and you may have some in your area, too.
Check Out Alternative Spaces
While these spaces may be great for small tech startups and solopreneurs, what if you’re a glassmaker, woodworker or visual artist who needs a larger, more unconventional space? If that’s the case, you can check out artist studio cooperatives like the Goat Farms Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia, or the 1108 Artists’ Cooperative in Minneapolis, Minnesota. What’s great about these artist cooperatives is that you’ll find like-minded makers with a shared artistic mission. And like a coworking space, you can become a member and pay a monthly fee for your own studio space and use of amenities. Note that these spaces may be more selective in who can join, and there may be fewer spots available.
While I’ve decided to table being a member of a coworking space for now, it was helpful to see what’s out there. When the time is right, I’ll have a solid idea of what I’d like in my ideal coworking space.