With thousands of new coworking spaces are opening every year, it’s clear there’s no shortage of demand for new kinds of shared spaces. Building a thriving coworking space, however, is no simple task. To get there, you’ll need to lay a strong foundation from the beginning. A few tips for you as you size up your project:
This guest post is written by Tony Bacigalupo who started New Work City, one of the first coworking spaces in New York. Today, he helps people build better coworking communities at New Work Cities.
1 - Gather interest early.
Before you’re even committed to your project, you can hold preliminary interest meetings to get a sense of who’s out there and what their needs are. At this point, it’s really easy to adjust your plans, so take in as much info as you can!
Once you start paying rent on a space, the burden of rent will hang over your head for the duration. Remove as much pressure from yourself as you can by taking the time to find and entice people who will become members after you open.
2 - Aim for small wins.
Organize pop-up coworking events, or find people who will work with you to do so. When picking a space, err on the side of smaller spaces—if you fill up the space quickly, you can use that to justify raising support for a larger space.
Build on the success of each of your incremental efforts, from informal gatherings to more formal interest meetings and regular pop-up coworking events and beyond.
3 - Pick and pursue a sustainable business model.
There are a number of proven sustainable business models for coworking spaces now, so you shouldn’t have to wing it. Feel free to mix and match from the following:
a - Coworking + offices
This is perhaps the most popular option. Private office spaces are proven profit centers. Offering them in a space that also is home to a vibrant community of coworkers makes them that much more enticing!
b - Coworking + events & educational programming
Planning to host a robust calendar of events offers double benefits: it gives you another revenue stream while also providing a natural pipeline of new potential members coming into your space.
You have lots of options here: You can produce your own programs or work with external content providers.You can charge for programming, or find sponsors to cover the costs.You can focus on technical, design, and entrepreneurship skills, or create an open-ended offering.You can focus on evenings and weekends, or have continuous programming throughout the week.
c - Coworking + consultancy
One of the most proven sustainable models for small-scale coworking, this model takes advantage of the symbiotic relationship between a consultancy and a coworking community.
There are two big advantages to this approach. For one, you’re spreading out risk between two businesses—so long as one is performing well, it can make up for slow times in the other.
Secondly, the coworking space can provide a nice pipeline of talent and projects for the consultancy, while the consultancy can provide nice work opportunities for the members. Everyone wins!
If you don’t have a consultancy yourself, you could partner with an existing one that might be looking to upgrade its space.
Some options: web development firm, design firm, advertising or marketing firm, small product company
d- Coworking inside an under-utilized space
A more recent trend in coworking is one in which spaces that often sit empty are repurposed into coworking space during business hours.
To keep costs down and get a lightweight offering off the ground quickly, consider partnering with a local restaurant or church!
e- Coworking in partnership with the city
The positive economic impact of a successful coworking space on its community is incredible. Consider aligning your project with the goals set fort h by the various departments and groups in your city, where there may be unique opportunities to access capital, publicity, and space.
The most important thing is that you do have a long-term sustainable model in mind. If you don’t choose any of these routes, then keep in ind that you’ll eventually have to address the issue of sustainability—or you can expect to eventually close.
4 - Recruit lots of help.
Don’t try to do everything yourself! If you’ve got other people bought into the idea, empower and encourage them to help you tackle the countless things you’ll need to do.
Invite these collaborators to help produce event programming, provide feedback on your brand, floor plans, furniture, and choice of location, get help building your web site and materials… anything that can possibly be delegated!
Doing this not only makes your life easier, it invites others to get emotionally invested in the project. The more people see that your space is the result of a collective effort, the more enticing it will be!
5 - Be human.
Coworking spaces are special because they break down the barriers to connecting between people of different backgrounds and disciplines.
Use a personable, positive and human voice in your correspondence and your interactions. Show people what it’s like to work together in a way that’s more collaborative and mutually respectful than what some of them might be used to.
And, most importantly...
6 - Organize fun gatherings.
People form strong bonds when they do fun things together. Organize happy hours, celebrations of major milestones, dinner parties, BBQs, game nights, anything that can spark joy between the people who will make your community special.
These moments are the ones that people will remember and tell others about. By applying these suggestions and the general mindset behind them, you’ll be building not just a nice shared workspace but a truly transformative and memorable community. That community will provide you and those who are a part of it much increased productivity, happiness, and friendship for years to come.
Coworking is a movement that’s changing our relationship between each other and our work. Thanks for being a part of it!
Tony Bacigalupo helps people build better coworking communities at New Work Cities, which offers a membership that includes a toolkit of 50+ templates, worksheets, and other resources, as well as online group coaching and discussion forums. You can get a free coworking space starter kit here.
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