Co-working is a hot topic, and for good reason: the spaces boast interior design, amenities, and social exposure that rival the cream of the tech crop. But amidst the hype, it’s easy to forget that coworking isn’t for everyone.
A recent survey by Share Your Office found that the majority of startups and entrepreneurs actually do find value in communal workspaces — but just as there are good reasons to sign up for a coworking space, there are plenty of reasons why it might not make the best investment right now. Here are a few signs that you might not be ready to rent at a co-working space:
1) You’re bootstrapped and you work by yourself
At this stage, your startup is still struggling to call itself a startup. You’re the sole employee, you’re living off of savings, and you’re working tirelessly to put together a minimum viable product to show off to angel investors. If you’re this early in your company’s lifespan, there’s frankly no need to bog yourself down with extra costs. Until you secure funding, running out of savings is your biggest threat. All you need for now is a quiet place to work, whether it’s your home, a public library, or a cheap subleased desk at another startup’s office.
2) You want more business connections, but your clients are not startups
Plenty of companies have enjoyed a boost in business from the connections they’ve made at coworking spaces. In the Share Your Office survey, Johanna of J Rich Design said that her business almost “tripled” thanks to the network she built at her coworking space.
But it’s important to keep in mind who your target audience is. If you’re a web design studio and your co-working space is filled with tech workers, you might find that half of your potential clients are also doing web design on the side. If your target audience is small businesses who aren’t too tech-savvy, you have to look where they’re likely to be. Similarly, for consumer products, you might be able to count on your coworking space’s members as beta testers, but not necessarily as potential users.
3) Your customers want privacy
In most industries, privacy is a matter of personal preference. You might book a private room if you’re meeting with an investor, but besides that, privacy is often not a big deal for startups. This is especially true for the younger, fresh-out-of-college crowd that’s used to communal living and working. As long as no one’s snooping your email or your code, it doesn’t really matter who overhears what.
It’s a whole different story when customers are dealing with sensitive information. If you’re in a field like law, finance, or medicine, chances are high that your phone calls will be personal. Suddenly, sitting in a “quiet” corner of a co-working space doesn’t quite cut it.
If your company will need to frequently book conference rooms and if you’re locked in your office all day regardless, it might be best to forgo co-working spaces and just rent a normal office. Coworking is cool, but let’s face it: some types of work aren’t very communal.
4) You’re not into networking in the first place
This is the most obvious piece of advice, but it’s also the easiest to overlook. Even if coworking spaces are inherently social, you have to be willing to use those social opportunities in order to benefit from them. As David from SplashOPM said, “if you don’t need the community, coworking is just a better coffee shop. You have to be interested in using the community.”
There’s nothing wrong with being introverted, and maybe your team is better off buckling down and focusing on the product for now. If that’s the case, then you probably don’t need a coworking space to do it. Focus on building your business, and if the time comes where you think you’ll benefit from expanding your network, you can look into signing a short-term desk at a co-working space.
I don’t mean to discourage anyone from joining a co-working space; they’re fun, lively, and generally well-liked. But it’s easy to forget that everything is situational. If your company isn’t built for coworking, that’s okay; the most important thing is finding an office that suits you, not one that you think you’re supposed to have.
Stefan Bhagwandin writes content for Share Your Office, a real estate tech startup that offers on-demand listings of offices, meeting rooms, and coworking spaces.