Choose carefully whom you co-work with! (published for Linkedin)

Co-working spaces are all the rage these days. Everyone and their uncles are starting co-working spaces for entrepreneurs and freelancers.

The proliferation of such offerings shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone though. We are amidst an entrepreneurial revolution. According to a 2010 report by Intuit – by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce will consist of freelancers, solopreneurs, independent contractors, and temps. Anecdotally, the numbers for other geographies don’t look too different either. As such, there is a definite business case and demand for co-working spaces. Startups get an opportunity to stay focused on the products they are building without bothering about the availability of required supporting infrastructure.

Working with a global growth coaching company on a mission to ‘make startups investable businesses’ and with a social call to ‘democratize access to world-leading advice for the other 95% startups,’ I meet many young and smart entrepreneurs trying to solve real problems in unique and interesting ways.

One of the oft-highlighted challenges from entrepreneurs and wantrapreneurs is ‘how to choose the right co-working space.’ I recently conducted a study on co-working spaces not only to understand the variety but also ascertain the quality of such offerings. Although most co-working spaces offer similar perks and charge comparable amounts, there are a few factors that will make a particular co-working space just right for you.

Before I distill the top three attributes that you as an entrepreneur should evaluate before choosing the right co-working space, let me share some of the findings of the study:

  1. 77% reported that their productivity improved significantly

  2. 63% felt they became more creative

  3. 42% reported an increase in their revenue (a lot of them were pre-revenue still)

  4. 84% said they experienced increased level of confidence

  5. 56% highlighted satisfaction with the mentoring connections

No doubt that co-working spaces are beneficial, but choosing the right one is critical. Below are the three key factors to consider:

  1. It’s all about CULTURE – Every co-working space has a different vibe. You should always visit, or better yet, try it out for a month before committing.

Ask yourself: Does the culture of the place make you feel comfortable and inspire you to work better?

  1. Mentoring – Many co-working spaces have resident and/or visiting mentors who can provide guidance on navigating business challenges. You should research about the profile of mentors at the facility and their level of involvement with participant startups.

Ask yourself: Can the mentors at this co-working space support me in my business?

  1. Networking opportunities – Understand who are the current tenants. Some co-working spaces are specifically geared towards certain type of industries, and thus operate in certain niches offering targeted deep expertise. Others can have a wide variety of tenants including tech startups, non-profits, designers, lawyers, and accountants that can allow you to connect across industries and share knowledge. Also, many host social events to foster the sense of community.

Ask yourself: What type of networking opportunities will be more meaningful for your business and does this co-working space offer those opportunities?

Choosing a co-working space can be tough, but if you evaluate all your options carefully, you can find a space that’s just right for you. A good workspace will enhance your productivity and allow you to make valuable business connections.