Thinking of starting a coworking space? You aren’t alone! As more workers transition to coworking and require flex benefits, demand in the flexible work and coworking industries is causing rapid growth—and a need for more workspace.
So you’re getting started, and you want to make sure that you haven’t made any major oversights. Run through this checklist for starting a coworking, flex, or hybrid space and see if there’s something you might want to consider now. It’s always easier to do something right the first time rather than correct an error later.
Note that every point could fill it’s own article. That’s why we’re linking to more comprehensive articles along the way that reveal even more about the coworking journey.
You need to officially exist!
You know how important SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is for every business. Make it easier at every step by choosing a unique name that won’t see heavy competition when you start looking into organic and paid search.
This will vary from country to country but registering your coworking business as soon as possible is a no-brainer.
There’s no such thing as a bad location, only a mismatch between expectations and reality. Coworking spaces have succeeded in urban, rural, and suburban communities, but their locations inform their services and their revenue model.
Get everything in writing! This is a complex legal document so you will need to ensure that you are aware of everything inside, but here are some starting things to think about.
If you have an idea of what kind of coworking clientele you want to serve, then you had better make sure that your location lines up with that idea.
Depending on your arrangement, you may have full control over your space or you may have little to none. If your business plan calls for a unique design, you may find yourself butting heads with your landlord if they need to approve every design change. On the other hand, if you are more interested in community management, it may be to your benefit if you don’t need to worry about achieving a certain look through renovations. But either way, you will save yourself time and trouble by understanding what will and won’t be possible ahead of time.
There are all kinds of business partnerships. Some coworking management teams are essentially partners with the landlords. Others are simply tenants.
There are different ways to develop your business based on your risk profile and the requirements laid out in your agreement.
Though at first this may feel purely aspirational, having an outline from the beginning will save you in headaches, time, and frustration later. Building the right team will mean fewer growing pains when you scale.
Not everything will happen at once, and focusing on key short term steps will make the long term goals less difficult. Breaking goals into milestones means that you can celebrate successes as they happen rather than feeling aimless when some things don’t go according to plan.
Have you decided what kind of business you’ll be?
Coworking is an umbrella term, but the business model of a multi-location community for tech startups is very different from that of a single-location nonprofit community hub. If you know what you want to be, then you’ll be able to figure out the next step more easily.
Whether you’re planning on selling lemonade or offering private trips to outer space, developing a business plan (or a business model) is how you ensure that you are setting out on a path to success. Concretely, it means analyzing your market, your target audience, your plan for profitability and, depending on what it looks like for you, growth. Without this leg work, you are building a house with no foundation.
Though it may seem like an easy question, it turns out that the way you structure memberships has an outsized impact on the structure of your community. If you want to rely on companies moving their teams to your space, you’ll want to incentivize long-term bundles with team access. If you want to create a space for locals to stop by, offer discounts on flexible use bundles. Know there are a lot of remote teams and you have great meeting rooms? Include meeting room passes in your memberships. Just remember that the way that you structure these incentives will influence your community so be deliberate and intentional with your structure.
Alex Hillman of Indy Hall has a great guide for structuring your membership agreements.
Here’s the higher level of organization - your community!
Make connections with local groups early. Seek out business networks, nonprofit groups, and freelance organizations. If you can get these people into yourspace early, it will help snowball into more demand early. Even if they don’t stay long term, it will help when new prospects come into the space if it is already busy.
It’s important to know who your competitors are. It doesn’t mean that you can’t work together (after all, the coworking industry is growing and as we all grow, more people come to coworking and we all benefit). However! You do need to be aware that if you are going after the same target audience as a coworking space on the same block, you may find it difficult. Understanding the local layout means positioning yourself to take advantage of every opportunity and avoiding unnecessary pain.
As above, get people into your doors early! A full space is paradoxically easier to sell because people don’t want to set up shop and find community when it looks empty, they want to feel the energy from day one!
Get your members excited. Get the community to take note (especially in a rural or suburban environment where good word of mouth can make all the difference.
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