What is Co-Working?

A new breed of office tenant is choosing ‘space for hire’ rather than renting an office, creating a growing trend in vibrant co-working spaces for start-ups, freelancers and solopreneurs.

If you’re just venturing out in business, or you’re a freelancer trying to become established, the cost of renting an office can be daunting; overheads can be a pain.

Add to that the fact that working on your own can be a lonesome affair with only your own inspiration to rely upon. So, the days of working in a traditional office with cubicles separating colleagues, and with the only social interactions happening around the water cooler, seems to be a thing of the past.

What’s taken over is co-working. In case you don’t know what it is, co-working is where small teams or individuals share an office space that offers a flexible base of operations without committing to fixed leases – these spaces have created flourishing communities, albeit with the cliche ping pong tables and Astroturf rugs, and help connect and inspire people from differing professions around common goals.

The new breed of office tenant is choosing a co-working space as a way of cutting costs and increasing creativity and motivation while taking advantage of the valuable support and connections this way of working brings.

Building on creative energy

Co-working has witnessed significant growth over the past few years, especially among tech startups and with more contingent workers – solopreneurs, temps, professionals working independently as freelancers, or contractors. They attract developers, designers, programmers, and the creative alike who come together to build their creative energy.

While the concept has been around for a few years, co-working spaces are trendy, with the ‘space for hire’ idea now popular in Australia which has a long list of great places to work on your project, with most in Victoria and NSW.

Co-working offices are more than just renting desk space. By working in these ‘spaces for hire’, startups can join like-minded communities and ecosystems, build networks and grow. Some co-working set-ups work better than others for the diverse professionals, with some spaces offering open-plan layouts, mentoring programs, networking events and training sessions. The location of the facilities, their proximity to home, and the cost and any extras are all taken into account.

Considering that there’s no guarantee anymore that a university degree will land a graduate a job, many have become much more flexible and imaginative with their professions, so they start a business, create a job for themselves and hustle for the next big chance to become established. This has sprouted the co-working movement; workspaces have sprouted to accommodate the growing number of nomadic workers and it is a thriving business in itself, with fees charged for the space on a monthly, weekly or daily, casual basis.

Professional, personal and social gains

There are more benefits to co-working than just WiFi, sound-proofed meeting rooms and unlimited coffee. Professional, personal, and social gains are more advantageous than working in a coffee shop or home office/living room/dining room. The new working environment can be a melting pot of creativity, but it can also have a downside, like everything.

So, of course, co-working doesn’t suit everyone. Tech start-ups revel in the concept of collaborating and bouncing ideas off the like-minded, but the typical accountant probably won’t be able to work in these conditions. A communal workplace can be challenging, particularly when noise and activity from other tenants becomes too distracting and some entrepreneurs who are prone to ups and downs might find it difficult.

Some of these communities have amenities such as meditation rooms, free beer on tap, and karaoke, and this can cause problems for other workers when there are new startups coming in every month or even every day with the advent of the daily desk rental opportunities.

What to look for in a co-working space

When considering a co-working space probably the first thing you’d want to know is how much they charge – these can vary from free access to up to $700 a month membership, with drop in prices of $25 to $30 – but also whether or not the establishment specialises in a particular type of freelance community. Ask for a breakdown of tenant types before deciding if it’s a community from which you could benefit.

It’s also wise to ask about the standard services the space provides, including car parking, and it’s best to speak to other tenants and find out what they love about the co-working space under consideration. Also, it’s a good idea to consider transport options, check out nearby lunch-spots and other services and ask about add-ons and decide if they could really benefit your business.

Here are some of Australia’s best (un-ranked) co-working set-ups.

VibeWire: A youth-led Sydney not-for-profit collaborative workspace in Ultimo, Sydney. Its innovation lab is a place for young people to develop ideas. VibeWire was one of the first co-working spaces in the country, hosting an eclectic mix of creatives, entrepreneurs and tech types.

The Emporium: Located on Sydney’s Manly Beach, this space was opened in August 2013 after founders Darren Younger and Luke Bridges converted an old pool hall above the Corso. It has an open-plan cafe feel and for a monthly fee inhabitants have access to desks, meeting rooms, high-speed internet and of course Manly’s beach lifestyle, restaurants, coffee culture and bars. Incubator TechBeach is also at The Emporium, hosting regular pitch reviews, mentoring breakfasts and panel discussions aimed at growing startups using its network of local entrepreneurs.

Tank Stream Labs (TSL): This space is across the road from the ASX in Sydney’s CBD and has some of the country’s best up-and-coming companies with Pocketbook, taxi booking app GoCatch and AirTasker all in residence. According to the website, to date about $19 million has been raised among the startups at TSL.

Fishburners: Here’s another co-working facility which has two spaces, one in Sydney’s design hub Ultimo and another in Darlinghurst. The co-working space and startup incubator hosts over 200 entrepreneurs from about 100 tech startups. Some include collaborative consumption site JayRide and education startup General Assembly. Apart from supplying members with desks, internet and meeting rooms, Fishburners also puts on regular networking events and education sessions.

Hub Sydney: This space, based in Darlinghurst,is a bright, industrial and airy environment hosting a growing co-working community. It has the cliche ping pong table and Astroturf rugs but manages to pull in some big names for its learning events, e.g., Survey Monkey CEO David Goldberg spoke recently at Hub Sydney. Hub also has co-working spaces in Melbourne and Adelaide.

Spacecubed: Perth has a 1000 sqm entrepreneurial hub in the heart of the CBD, where teams and individuals can grow their businesses in a supportive, collaborative environment. These spaces were designed by the members – a mix of entrepreneurs, innovators and changemakers who want to get their idea off the ground.

Majoran: This is one of Adelaide’s coworking communities for the tech and creative freelancer communities and startups.

York Butter Factory: Co-founded by the partners of Adventure Capital in a heritage building in Melbourne, this co-working space opened in 2011 for early stage tech startups. It has more than 50 residents, many of whom are consumer tech ideas workers. York Butter residents go through about 13 kilograms of coffee every month with a barista grade coffee machine onsite. There’s also a Nintendo 64 for Mario Cart racing and weekly show and tell sessions with beer and cider supplied.

Inspire9: The Melbourne inner city suburb of Richmond hosts this co-working space for startup and freelancer co-workers in the same building as 99Designs and Eventbrite. Inspire9 is home to about 70 permanent residents including startups like Adioso, Attendly, rome2rio and Tablo. The space is reminiscent of a renovated New York style warehouse and has a free drop-in policy, whiteboard walls for mass brainstorming sessions, a ping pong table, and a pretty impressive ball pit. The community also hosts regular tech and lean startup events as well as weekly Friday night drinks and has been a big supporter of women in tech, hosting the first She Hacks, Startup Weekend Women and the Girl Geek Dinners Meetup Group.

River City Labs: This is one of Brisbane’s few co-working spaces and is located in Fortitude Valley. The space has all the usual facilities including fast internet, meeting rooms and as much coffee as you can drink but what puts River City on the map are the regular networking events and mentoring opportunities it offers to the Queensland startup community. It has about 100 members, including Uber and games accelerator Right Pedal Studios, and has three sound proof meeting rooms, one of them is even painted to look like a blue Tardis phone box.









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