50 Shades of Coworking

By Natalie Burg June 27th, 2014

Not all coworking spaces are created equally.

A friend of mine recently investigated a local coworking space and described it as: “Everything I hated about having an office job in the first place. Ugh.” All participants at this particular space had assigned office chores, were expected to maintain jolly, coworker-type relationships, and prospective members had to be endorsed by multiple existing members to get into the place. It was basically a country club for people who will never be able to afford country clubs.

While some freelancers might salivate at the idea of having something akin to coworkers and a friendly office environment, clearly that is not the case for everyone. Some people just want other humans occasionally in the room.

Here are a few different shades of coworking spaces out there and the type of freelancer right for each office:

Aspirational coworking

Perfect for: Freelancers with a mission

A freelance world-saver, are you? You’re not alone. These freelancers are often dreamers and big thinkers. There are places for them to work alongside each other, allowing their aspirational projects to grow, so everyone can save the world together. The Centre for Social Innovation—which has locations in Toronto and New York City—is worth looking into. It’s got all the typical lounge amenities like meeting rooms and Wi-Fi, paired with what they call “vibrant programming and a community of passionate change-makers.”

Niche coworking

Perfect for: Highly specialized freelancers

Like Liam Neeson, these freelancers have a very particular set of skills. Sometimes these skills require seriously expensive equipment or scarce resources that can be difficult to acquire alone. Enter niche coworking spaces. Some, known as maker spaces, like Ann Arbor’s Maker Works, offer tools like table saws and CAD software along with classes and expert advice. Others offer space and resources for a particular group of workers, like Philly Game Forge, which supports the city’s indie game developer community.


Perfect for: Ambitious freelancers

Is freelancing your first step on the path to global domination? Do you aim to be a thought leader? Does this sound like the beginning to an awesomely bad infomercial? If your eyes are on the top rung of your industry’s ladder, a coworking facility with the resources to facilitate growth is your best bet. For example, Parisoma, in San Francisco, is part incubator and part coworking facility that sets up freelancers with classes, events, mentors, and partners right alongside startups.

Community-based coworking

Perfect for: The social freelancer

Working solo can be a tough gig for extroverts. There just isn’t much instant feedback and chatter at the home office. And when you’re by yourself, there aren’t enough hugs, either. That’s why a sense of community can be a big selling point for a coworking space. Consider New York City’s The Fueled Collective, which promises ping-pong tournaments, a “dope chillout couch,” and a family, not just an office. For those who have asked their dogs for a good synonym for “isolation” one too many times, a true community could be a key part of the ideal workspace.

DIY coworking

Perfect for: The anti-establishment freelancer

If the worst thing about working in an office was the fact that it was an office, this hybrid of coworking and working from home might be just the right mix of comfort and human contact. A freelancer with enough friends and skills might just not need anything more. Rotating through the homes of a small group of self-selected freelancers grants more flexibility and privacy than an established workspace. What are the rules? Whatever you decide. What does it cost? Nothing, unless it’s your turn to bring bagels.

Good luck finding one coworking space that is exactly like the next. Most facilities vary, from places that essentially supply a chair and an outlet, to those with closely guarded rules about member behavior. Freelancers are humans, after all, and humans are pack animals. It’s all about finding the right pack. And writing better than E. L. James.

Image by BidnessEtc
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