Written by Mark Williams
There are now believed to be more than 2.7m home-based businesses in the UK, a 40% increase since 2000. The reason why many people run their own business from home is to save cost, of course. Having to pay a mortgage, lease or rent on commercial premises, plus associated costs, can provide additional overheads that many micro businesses and start-ups simply cannot afford.
But, as well as numerous pros, there are cons to running a business from home, with many owners admitting to feelings of isolation and loneliness, which has been described as a “silent epidemic”. Research carried out by AXA Insurance a few years ago suggested that almost 50% of home-based business owners suffered from loneliness, because they spent too much time on their own, with no one to talk to about their business challenges.
When experts provide advice on how to succeed when running a business from your home, to reduce risk of loneliness, they recommend getting out and about, so that you must to speak to people in social situations. Although they’re not without distractions, coffee shops are often cited as good places to take your laptop and sip away on a skinny latte while working.
What are coworking spaces?
Coworking spaces are another option for home-based business owners, freelances and contractors who want to occasionally work somewhere else. While the first coworking space opened in San Francisco in 2005, some believe the foundations were laid by “hacker spaces” in Germany, where programmers would meet to exchange skills and best practice in the mid-1990s.
The growth in the number of coworking spaces in the past 13 years has been remarkable. Worldwide, there are believed to be more than 18,000 coworking spaces, with experts predicting that number will double come 2025, which means many more of us will be using them.
The average co-working space in the UK has about 110 desks and 120 members. They’re now to be found in cities, towns and rural locations throughout the UK, however, a third of the nation’s coworking spaces are in London, said to be the global coworking space capital.
What do co-working spaces offer?
Regular or occasional workplace for a wide variety of freelances, contractors, micro-business owners and even employees of larger business, coworking spaces are usually large open-plan environments.
To encourage creativity and interaction, the ‘vibe’ is informal, with users able to decide where they work, whether at a table, desk (standing or sit-down) or comfy couch. Typically, you can hire enclosed offices or a meeting room, as well as use kitchen and toilet facilities.
So, why use a coworking space? They’re much more flexible – and therefore more affordable – than a conventional serviced-office arrangement. Normally you can pay for the space you need, as and when you need it. Other deals are available, where you agree to pay for a set amount of hours per month, which can work out cheaper per hour.
Research carried out by MoneySupermarket in 2018 found Sheffield to be the cheapest UK city for coworking, with an average cost of £199 per desk per month, followed by Nottingham (£218), Newcastle (£223), Glasgow (£238) and Liverpool (£247). The most expensive by some way was London (£613 per desk per month), followed by Brighton (£432), with Aberdeen (£405) not that much cheaper.
Normally, you can get out of an agreement with just a month’s notice or use more space more often as your business grows. And money spent to pay for a coworking space can be claimed as an allowable expense. Websites such Coworker.com enable you to search for coworking spaces near you, although other people you know might be able to recommend good coworking spaces.
Grow your network and business
Coworking space broadband connection is likely to be pretty good, and it’s normally included in your membership package, together with small-run printing, tea and coffee (possibly even something a bit stronger), which can mean you save a small fortune by not visiting coffee shops so much.
Many coworking spaces hold events, workshops and breakfast meetings, which can be excellent networking opportunities. You may be able to meet new customers or suppliers, or others with whom you can collaborate, partner or share know-how.
Working in a coworking space can be a great way to meet new people and grow your network. It can inspire you and make you feel more professional and much less isolated, which can be very good for you and your business.
Do you sometimes use a coworking space? How does it help you and your business?
Mark Williams is a freelance editorial consultant, editor, journalist and SME content specialist with more than 25 years’ experience. He has written for The Guardian, numerous leading brands and award-winning magazines and websites. Visit www.markiwilliams.com