Co-working spaces, which bring together small businesses, sole traders and freelancers under one roof, have enjoyed explosive growth over the past decade. An estimated 1.7 million people worldwide were working in these hubs at the end of 2018, according to a study by Nexudus, a co-working space software provider.
Most offer desk space or studios, with shared facilities for the tenants. Crucially, they provide flexibility, with short leases and a promise to accommodate the needs of companies as they expand.
Holly Allenby started The Acey, an online retailer for ethical clothing, working at her kitchen table and “hopping around cafes”. It was only when she got her first intern that she moved to a dedicated studio on a 12-month lease, for £1,000/month.
Rent is a business expense so can be deducted from a company’s taxable profits. That is made simple for Starling’s business customers, who can categorise their outgoings with our Spending Insights tool, and share transactions with their accountant or accounting software.
The best shared offices and co-working spaces work hard to develop a strong community of members. Ian Elwick runs The Werks Group, which has several buildings themed around sectors, so members can support one another.
Ian says: “If you’re trying to grow, you need to talk to someone else with parallel experience. Basic things like, are you charging the right prices? There are automatically picked up in a collaborative environment.”
Co-working communities also throw up opportunities to work with fellow members. Holly says The Acey has collaborated with photographers and web developers from her building, and will always ask at reception for new leads.
Choosing to move out of the comfort of your own kitchen can be a difficult decision. If moving into a co-working space, business owners will have little control over their neighbours, noise levels, décor, or the heating.
Co-working spaces can be distracting, with their rooftop bars, table football, and well-stocked kitchens, which critics say make for an excellent social space but not necessarily a productive working environment.
Then there is the risk involved in incurring additional costs in the precarious early stages of setting up a business.
Ian says that staying at home has its own risks because you’re not “out there”. “If you get up and work in your pyjamas until midday, you’re not really helping yourself.”
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