The freelance economy is contributing significantly to Britain’s growth, as more employees opt to become their own boss. According to the Labour Force Survey from ONS and IPSE 2015, since 2011, the freelance economy has increased by almost a quarter nationally and, in London, close to a fifth of workers are freelancers. An increasingly popular way of working, one of main draws is having control and flexibility over how you work. Whilst one of the advantages of entrepreneurship is working from wherever you want, conversely finding a suitable workplace is also one of the bug bears of freelancing.
Although working from home has its benefits, such as better work-life balance and avoiding the horrors of the daily commute, it’s not always conducive to a productive day’s work. We’ve all experienced calls with people working from home and wondered how the demands of their unruly children made it on the agenda. Then, there is the issue of isolation – people want to work for themselves, but not by themselves. So, what other options are there?
Cafés with free wifi are a popular choice for freelancers on the move to grab a couple of hours to do some work. They are relatively cheap as a short-term option, assuming a daily spend of around £20 for coffees and lunch, and they are usually easy to get to as there are many near main transport hubs.
But before we all rush to the nearest café with our laptops, there are some cons to consider. Cafés have cottoned on to people using them as ‘offices’ and some are now shutting down their wifi. Then there is the difficulty of getting a table at a busy café as well as the noise, which for some can be distracting. Furthermore, a café is not an impressive venue if you want to boost your credibility when meeting clients, plus freelancers who set up shop in cafes run the risk of a caffeine overload.
Co-working spaces, where freelancers and start-ups share space, have expanded rapidly on the back of the freelance economy and tech scene during the last few years. But, it’s not just about techies. Freelance writers, accountants, professional service consultants and people from many other industries are choosing to work from co-working spaces.
Good co-working spaces have a variety of spaces and facilities, from meeting rooms and cafes to gyms and different working areas to suit different styles of working. Many have the option of private offices too, so entrepreneurs can grow their business and move to an office. The attraction isn’t just the flexibility of the workspace, as co-working also provides membership to a community and the opportunity to socialise and network.
Some people can find co-working distracting, while hot-desking means you can’t leave anything on the desk between use, but well-designed workspaces will have lockers to leave belongings and quiet areas to work from when you need to focus.
Costs vary with the type of package and location. Co-working space providers offer a range of packages at different costs, from daily desk hire to unlimited passes at many buildings or just one, so it’s important to look at what’s being offered, what the buildings are like and whether the time limits suit your business.
A traditional office lease is usually out of the question for freelancers, due to a requirement that leases are typically of three five, or ten-year duration. Most businesses find it difficult to predict requirements in six months, let alone three years. Furthermore, for new businesses, landlords often want to see a sufficiently long track-record of accounts from the tenant before signing the lease. Even if you get passed these hurdles, the cost of leasing office space can be prohibitive.
Private members’ clubs
As an alternative, private members’ clubs offer attractive, designer spaces with excellent dining, other social facilities and good networking opportunities, and some are beginning to provide dedicated workspaces.
However, the emphasis tends to be on social space and networking and some are also quite exclusive with long waiting lists. Full annual membership is typically around £1,500, but there are cheaper membership options available and the sector is also making membership for young people less expensive.
When it comes to looking for office accommodation, there is a lot of choice available, so take time to visit the workspaces to find an environment that works for you. Furthermore, do your research on what package will best suit your budget and workstyle depending on how much time you plan on spending there.
Getting out of the house and into the right workplace could do wonders for your business, from boosting productivity and motivation to meeting like-minded people.
Olly Olsen is co-CEO of TOG (The Office Group).