Co-Working Spaces: Are They Worth It?

By Kylie Jane Wakefield September 10th, 2012

The freelance life isn’t always glamorous. Working at home can become dull, distracting, or depressing, while coffee shops can prove to be quite frustrating.

A co-working space “is essentially the best of both worlds,” HongKiat’s Jennifer Moline wrote. “This concept consists of you renting a work space for a period of time at an office where other people do the same. You and other co-workers are not employed by the same company, working on different projects yet you work side by side with the others creating an ideal working environment. You still get to punch in and out as you please and you are not under the watchful eye of your boss but in the very same time, you get a change of environment and engage in watercooler talk.”

Michael Benvenga, a freelance graphic designer, has been a member of Brooklyn Creative League, a co-working space in Gowanus, Brooklyn, for eight months. Before that, he worked from home for three years. “Working at home I just got depressed,” he said. “It was claustrophobic after a while. I wouldn’t want to stay at home and eat dinner so I’d eat out and spend extra unnecessary money. When you’re not working at home, you come home and relax. It doesn’t feel weird because you haven’t been there all day. You can enjoy your house.”

Although it may seem like spending money on a co-working space was not necessary it helped Benvenga’s career. “When you leave your apartment to work and go to a dedicated space, you get more work done more easily. You end up working longer hours because everyone around you is working. There’s a good group effort feeling going on.”

Co-working spaces also offer members the chance to network and build their businesses. At Brooklyn Creative League, Benvenga says there is an online bulletin board where people list services they need, and his fellow co-workers will frequently ask around the office for help.

At a co-working space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, community is a huge aspect as to why it functions well. “Everyone can benefit each other and work off each other,” Founder Nick Robalik said. “It’s alienating to be a freelancer and you can get cabin fever working at home…[There we have] a community of freelancers who work off each other. Being around other people is helpful. Being able to go get lunch and chat about work and talk to anybody throughout the day in person and in the same industry is beneficial.”

Robalik, said that setting up shop at Bitmap is more conducive to productivity than working at home. “I get a lot more work done there. If I am at the office I’m working on something. Everyone else surrounding me is working on cool stuff, so I want to work on cool stuff too.”

Although the fee to rent out a co-working space might be scary to freelancers, who often don’t have steady incomes, the added convenience could end up being a money saver, like it was for Benvenga. He points out that in coffee shops and libraries, it’s difficult to do business over the phone and the Internet might be spotty. If time equals money, and time is wasted by stepping outside to take a phone call or waiting for the barista to fix the wifi, then a freelancer is spending less time making money. According to Moline, co-working spaces can even be written off as a tax expense.

There are the initial costs, but the benefits of joining a co-working space are clear: It’s social, it can lead to valuable connections, and it’s a better working environment than the home, library, or coffee shop. After eight months, Benvenga says he has no regrets. “I felt like I’d be saving a lot of money, which is why I held off doing a shared workspace. … I had a month to month agreement. Once I tried it, though, I was so happy so I didn’t want to stop.”

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