Should Your Small Business Consider a Coworking Space?

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As your small business grows, it will eventually become too big to run out of your home. With steady clients coming in or an expanding workforce of people you've hired, you probably don't want to keep conducting business in your basement or at your kitchen table.

When the moment arrives that it's clear a change is necessary, it's a major milestone and you have two choices. You can rent a traditional office or you can move to a coworking space. Both have their strengths and weaknesses and neither is right for every business. Here's a look at the differences between the two options to help you make the right decision.

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Office or coworking?

Coworking spaces are shared workplaces where you can opt for access to communal spaces, your own permanent desk, or a private office. This type of workplace generally charges by the person or, if you rent a full office, a pre-determined number of people can have access.

If you opt for a coworking space, you will generally get a ready-to-go workplace. You won't need to buy furniture, set up an internet network, or do anything else. You should be able to start working immediately and, in many cases, you won't have to sign a long-term contract (though you can usually snag a better price for committing longer term).

The most obvious negative of a co-working space is that it's not entirely yours. While you'll enjoy access to conference rooms, printers, and even coffee, you'll be sharing the communal areas with others. Each coworking operater sets their own rules, and sometimes there will be certain hours you can't access your office (though some spaces offer 24/7 access). You can't control how other people behave in these offices outside of your own company, so be sure to try a trial workday before committing to a shared workspace to make sure the environment and noise level suits you.

A traditional office comes with more freedom but also more headaches. Typically, you must sign a lease (at least a year, but three or more is common). You will also be responsible for paying for utilities and setting up the Internet, in most cases.

In exchange for those hassles, you will get a space that's yours to use as you see fit. If you want to cram 11 people into an office built for six, that's your prerogative. You can also personalize your space more than you're generally allowed to in a co-working situation (though your lease may have limitations).

Which space is right for you?

Coworking spaces come with more flexibility but more rules. If you have a lot of part-timers, for example, find out if you must pay per person or for the number of people using the space at any one time. You may also only be able to get a certain amount of keys for after-hours access or might find that you need a conference room for more hours than your plan comes with.

A stand-alone office takes more work to get set up. You have to buy furniture and worry about things like getting phone, internet, and electricity turned on. If you're willing to do that, however, you get a space that's all your own -- where the mysterious condiments in the refrigerator belong to someone you know.

If you want a hassle-free office set-up and you're willing to share part of your space with others, then it's hard to argue against a coworking space. This route also makes it easy to expand or contract if you have a seasonal or cyclical business, and it's pretty amazing not to be forced into handling things like fixing the copier or printer.

An office is best for a company that wants its own space, or one that doesn't play well with others. It's a much bigger hassle and a longer-term commitment but with those things comes a level of freedom you won't get in a shared space.

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