Striking out on your own as an entrepreneur is exciting, but many small business owners who plan to work from home quickly encounter a range of challenges. Some find that they miss the buzz of working in a bustling office surrounded by dynamic people that they can bounce ideas off and chat to. Or they may long for the structure of going to work each morning and returning home in the evening.
Others find that working from home can be distracting and unproductive, especially when they keep getting interrupted by their children or their domestic tasks. And of course, budget is always at a premium, so many small business owners try to delay moving into office space as long as they can to keep cash flow up and costs down.
If you are wrestling with any of these challenges, a coworking space could be the answer to your problems. Coworking refers to individuals or small companies sharing office space and facilities rather than renting premises of their own. The owners of these facilities usually provide all the amenities one would expect to find in a typical office, including a desk, Internet connectivity, meeting rooms, kitchens and in some cases, printing facilities, reception services and unlimited coffee.
Coworking spaces have mushroomed across South African towns and cities, and you can choose from a range of options that match your needs. For example, some are geared towards attracting hip, young tech startups or creative professionals, while others offer suitably sober spaces if you need to host meetings with corporate clients. Some even allow you to bring your dog to work!
Here are the ways in which opting for a coworking space can benefit your small business:
Save time and money
When you’re starting out, you’ll want to keep your costs as low as possible and retain your capital for the essentials such as marketing and product development. If you opt for a coworking space, you will be able to access a fully-fitted office without signing a lease and putting down a deposit on your own office.
Plus, you might be able to avoid spending money on office furniture and save money on operational costs like utilities, insurance and connectivity. The time-saving is also invaluable for a busy entrepreneur – you’ll save hours or even days by avoiding office-hunting, shopping for furniture and applications, and getting a fibre line installed.
Network with other professionals and small business owners
One of the biggest perks of coworking is the chance to meet other freelance professionals or small business owners. Many solo entrepreneurs find that they miss having the watercooler discussions with colleagues – in a coworking space, you’ll be able to get a bit of that office buzz and bustle again. You will also be able to meet other people who could become trusted business partners or clients.
For example, if you run a small digital marketing consultancy, you might meet a web designer who offers services that complement yours or the owner of a tech startup that needs help selling its products to the world. And if you need a Java developer at short notice, there may well be one in your coworking facility.
Separate your office from your home life
Distractions abound in our homes, and not every home business owner or self-employed professional finds it easy to ignore them. Children running around the house yelling at the top of their lungs, a pile of dirty dishes demanding to be done, a new episode of your favourite series, and other diversions are not conducive to working productively.
At the other side of the extreme, many home-based business owners and freelancers find it hard to switch off at the end of the day. Using a coworking space allows you to keep work and personal life separate – enabling you to get more done during the working day and to achieve a better work-life balance.
Central and professional space for client meetings
If your job involves a lot of client meetings, you might not always want to meet people in coffee shops or hotel lobbies, especially if you need to discuss confidential matters. And many professionals and business owners prefer not to hold meetings in their family home. Coworking spaces usually offer meeting rooms and boardrooms in central business areas, where you can host your clients in a professional setting.
These days, many of us handle the bulk of our meetings on the telephone or by videoconference. The problem for you as a home-based worker comes in when your toddler barges in while you’re on a call or a courier rings your doorbell and sets the dog off. With a coworking space, you can secure a quiet environment for these virtual meetings.
The beauty of coworking is that it is not a one-size-fits-all solution – you can tailor it to your budget and your professional needs. You can secure a coworking space to use as your nine-to-five working space, but there are other options. For example, if you’d like to get a bit of office atmosphere and to meet other business owners, you can pay for a space once or twice a week.
If you’re doing noisy renovations at home, you can get a place for a month while the builders do their job. Or you can pay by the day when you need to meet with clients or want a quiet space to make an important phone call. Many coworking spaces give you the freedom to decide whether you want a hot desk in an open plan office or an office of your own.
Be part of the future
The shift towards coworking is part of the general move towards more flexible working arrangements. For the freelancer or small business owner, it’s an opportunity to grow the business and keep costs under control. Most coworking spaces offer flexible options to suit every type of business and finding the right one for your needs could start with a simple Google search.