Entrepreneur Files: Why I’m Renting a Coworking Space

June 11, 2014

“Wait, I don’t get it. You want to get dressed and commute when you could work from home?”

This is what one of my career-driven girlfriends said to me when I told her I’d rented an office space in downtown Washington, D.C. I get it, because that’s how I felt three years ago when I turned my side gig into my full-time business, issuing myself a license to work in my pajamas.

Now I feel differently, and in a moment I’ll explain why.

Though I’ve been looking at coworking spaces for about a year, it took me this long to commit to one, partly because I wanted to find the right match, but mostly because of the cost. Office space in cities isn’t cheap, and most of the co-working spaces popping up across the country cater to teams of (funded) startups that need desks for three or more people. What all the news articles about how coworking spaces are everywhere fail to mention is there aren’t many affordable options for solopreneurs and freelancers (or bosses of remote teams), people who want just one desk or small office.

Finally I landed at UberOffices, where I’m now renting a 1-2 person office for $850/month. Since most of my Socialexis team works remotely, I’ll be the only person working there most of the time, though I’m hoping our DC-based team member will join me occasionally.

Image: UberOffices

UberOffice’s motto (Photo from UberOffice’s Facebook page)

So why did I finally decide to suck it up and pay for an office space?

1. It gives me a reason to get out of my house

It’s awesome to have the option to work from home, but it’s not so awesome to work from home all the time. It’s too easy to get distracted by chores that need doing and cookies begging to be eaten, plus staring out the same window day after day gets old. Working from home has lots of advantages — mainly comfort and convenience — but it also has disadvantages, including that it sometimes gets lonely.

In truth, I’ll probably still work out of my home office several times a week, but I’m hoping that having an office outside my house will help me focus and increase my personal productivity — therefore increasing the productivity of my company.

2. Coffee shops weren’t cutting it

I’ve spent a lot of time in coffee shops over the last three years. While I appreciate the change in scenery as well as the lattes, lately I’ve found myself being less productive at cafes for lots of reasons: unreliable WiFi (although now I combat that with a WiFi tool called Karma), no accessible power outlet, too-loud neighbors, an uncomfortable seat, etc. These are all details you don’t really think about when you work in an office, but they can quickly keep you from getting much done as a remote worker.

I also got sick of lugging my entire virtual office around D.C., stuffing my backpack full of my mini-laptop, power cord, mouse and mouse pad, replacement batteries for the mous, full water bottle, power cord for my phone, sweater (for air conditioning)… you get the idea. With a permanent office outside my home, I can leave all of those things there rather than toting them around.

Plus, one of the perks of working at UberOffices is you get a handful of hours in conference rooms every month, which means no more meeting clients and training team members in loud coffee shops with unreliable WiFi.

3. Co-working helps you meet people

Most adults meet friends at work. But if you don’t work in a traditional office, you lose that potential for relationships. Working online has helped me meet a lot of great friends who understand the online side of my life, but I still crave in-person interaction. And now that I’m planning to stay in the D.C. area for a few years, I’m willing to invest time into making more friends here.

I had this in mind when looking at office space, which is why I chose a hip environment full of startups, where I’m likely to meet other like-minded individuals who share my interests. I probably could’ve found a small, quiet, windowless office in a random building at a cheaper rate, but half of what I’m paying for is the people.

Coworking also provides potential to meet clients. Several of our clients are startups, and we’d love to work with more innovative companies. Working at UberOffices will help them find us. In fact, I first learned about this particular co-working space because one of our clients has an office there.

This is an experiment, not a lengthy commitment

While moving into an office can feel like a big commitment, UberOffices allows us to rent month-to-month, which makes the financial investment a little less daunting. If I don’t end up spending enough time there or our company profit drops to a point where we can no longer afford it, I can always go back to working in my home office. Looking at this as an experiment — rather than a long-term obligation — makes the decision less scary.

And if I were to be totally and completely honest, I’d say this might also be a baby step toward creating a not-so-virtual arm of Socialexis. I love how well my team works together remotely, but I also see value in having more in-person interaction, and I might eventually want to build a D.C.-based team. Of course, traveling and working remotely would still be encouraged — one of the best perks you can give employees is flexibility — but we’d have a home base that’s more permanent than Google Hangouts.

That’s a ways off though, and I might decide against it entirely depending on the choices I make in my personal life during the next few years. Because while this business has grown and morphed, it’s still first and foremost a lifestyle business, one that’s meant to support and accommodate the life my team and I want.

Now, that life includes an office in a pretty cool coworking space. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or work-from-homer, have you considered joining a coworking space?

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15 Replies to “Entrepreneur Files: Why I’m Renting a Coworking Space”

  • Jess Green says:

    I’ve only been working from home as a freelancer for about a month, so the novelty of working in my pajamas or in coffee shops is still exciting to me 🙂 but I do see the benefit of co-working spaces. Like you said, they get you out of the house, allow you to meet new people, and can offer more focus and concentration. I luckily have a few clients I’m working with who belong to the same women-focused co-working space called Hera Hub (which is about to open its 1st east coast location in DC by the way!). The biggest benefit I see so far is the ability to reserve meeting rooms. Coffee shops & restaurants can be hit or miss for meetings (too loud, etc.).

  • Marlene says:

    Great insights and rationale for testing out a co-working space. I’ve done it in the past and loved it at first, but then after a while, found it hard to motivate myself to do a commute that I didn’t *have* to.

    That being said, it’s been a few years and I’m starting to miss it again. There’s are a number of great options here in Toronto and one in particular with the perfect community for me. I’m getting closer…let’s see if I actually get lured back!

  • Razwana says:

    I love this, Alexis. I recently found a co-working space in Paris that is simply awesome. It also gives me a reason to speak French !

  • Jaclyn says:

    Cheers to you Lexi! This is a great and well considered step. I very much agree with the reasons you laid out for why coworking is a great option for freelancers. I’m sure this will be an excellent move for Socialexis, and I look forward to hearing what you learn.

  • Erica says:

    I, too, recently joined a coworking space as an experiment. (As in just last week). It’s really on a trial basis for the summer. I went full-time into my business as the end of March, and quickly found that too much isolation led to lots of chats with my dog, which she loves, but you know… =)

  • Susan Shain says:

    Woohoo — so exciting! Can’t wait to stop by next time I’m in DC.

  • Becky Roley says:

    All of these reasons to rent space make perfect sense. I went from the corporate world to freelancing for a year and back to the corporate world. Each has its benefits and I’m ready to return to working from home. I found while freelancing I had to make regular lunch dates to break from the isolation. When I get back to freelancing I’ll need to plan ahead for meeting spaces (I’ve also moved to a more remote location) and perhaps schedule a regular time to get out of the house and interact face to face. Thanks for these great reminders, will look forward to hearing how it goes for you!

  • I absolutely understand what you mean about the coffee shops Alexis, it can get old with the annoying Wifi chiming on and off. Acquiring a spot for business is always risky, but what is being an entrepreneur without risk. Love your post, stay committed.

  • Yep, I’ve looked at it as well here in Toronto. There are a number of options, though I’d probably go with the one just a short walk from my home. =) Right now it’s simply a financial reason why I haven’t booked a desk there on a monthly basis, but I love the notion of getting out of the house a couple of times a week, meeting new people, and just feeling like part of the community again. It’s been a year and half of working from home, and while I love it, I do miss the social aspect of working in an office. A co-working space would solve that.

  • Sofia says:

    I love checking out coworking spaces particularly in DC. I am fond of the Cove DC spaces, but that’s because they closer to my budget. I haven’t been to UberOffices myself being new to DC and as a freelancer don’t have the funds yet to rent a space out yet so Cove DC fits the bill. I really liked WeWork in Chinatown but it was more than I needed. It’s a few months after you posted this article- do you feel the same way about coworking? How has it been so far?

    • Alexis Grant says:

      It’s been great! I find I use the office 2-3 days a week, and it’s worth having. It means I can truly be productive when I leave the house, I have a place other than my office to do calls and meetings, and I don’t have to lug my laptop around. I’m also slowly starting to meet people there, which is a nice perk!

  • Jennifer says:

    Hii..!!!
    I love the idea of co working as it gives us a reason to wake up daily and get ready. It’s like I am on a “mission” everyday.
    Working from home doesn’t works out for me as it’s really difficult to stay in the same place everyday, working 24*7. I loved all the points that you have highlighted buddy. Worth reading post.

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