Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Office Away From Home

I just returned from a Webgrrrls networking event at a co-working space in Manhattan called "WeCreate". The space is located in one of the old manufacturing buildings around Union Square with an industrial elevator staffed by an "elevator man" (why aren't there any elevator women?) who manually closes the metal gates enclosing the elevator as it rides through the shaft. The space itself features long wooden communal tables, a shared coffee machine and bathroom, as well as a conference room fashioned by partitioning off one end of the loft-like space. There is also a shared printer, WiFi and a (possibly staffed) receptionist's table.

So why would anyone pay between $50 and 200 a month for basic membership to work here in his/her own business? For people with absolutely no space for a desk at home, this is probably quieter and nicer than their local coffee shop. Given recent cuts to the public library system here, an open branch library -- especially one equipped with WiFi -- may not be available when needed. Plus one meets other entrepreneurs -- unlikely in one's own home.

I do have a good-sized home office (my grown daughter's old bedroom), so why would I be contemplating space elsewhere for which I have to pay? Mostly, I'm not really looking that much, but meeting others around the water cooler does have its advantages. Plus, I wouldn't want to meet potential clients in my own home. Is that really enough to justify the cost of such a space? I'm not sure it is, particularly for a space that offers absolutely no privacy, no way to store anything and very limited workspace beyond parking my laptop.

There are, however, part-time shared spaces that offer more of a "real" office. That may be worth exploring if I am marketing myself to end clients and need to present a more professional image than my converted bedroom with its home-made desk extension and 20-year-old filing cabinets. The space I saw tonight does rent the conference room to non-members on a one-time basis, and so do other spaces. So maybe that's the way to go ...

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