In 2005, the very first so-called “coworking space” in America opened in San Francisco. Ten years later, this number has ballooned to nearly 800 such spaces. New York City hosts a fair share of that number, which seems to be growing by the week. Considering that 40% of the American workforce is expected to be freelancers by 2020, the incredible demand for coworking spaces does not seem to be slowing down.
With so many spaces to choose from, trying to find the right fit for your and your business can be tedious. It goes beyond location and price—so much of coworking’s benefits stem from its community, culture, and environment.
So where to start? We’ve put together a self-asssessment guide to help freelancers and entrepreneurs find the right vibe and tribe among New York’s numerous coworking spaces:
Step 1: Evaluate your company and your work style
What type of worker or business are you?
Are you a startup or a “solopreneur”? An established or expanding company? Some coworking spaces cater specifically to startups, while others are more suited for the solo freelancer. You’ll also want to know if a space accommodates business of your size, and whether they meet your budget requirements.
Typical types of businesses:
- Startups / early stage companies
- Freelancers, consultants, or “solopreneurs”
- Established or expanding small companies
- Nonprofit organizations
What industry best describes your work?
Sometimes it’s good to work alongside others in your field, other times it gets too competitive and awkward. Some coworking spaces even cater to specific industries, which can be a benefit in terms of shared resources (such as maker spaces for artists and designers). Other coworking spaces specifically curate for diversity and complementary businesses. Decide what’s right for you.
Typical industries in coworking spaces:
- Tech or Tech-based Services
- Tech Services (development, engineering, data services)
- Creative Services (graphic or digital design, illustration, advertising, marketing)
- Creative Makers (art, fashion, architecture, interior design, industrial design)
- Media (writing, blogging, filmmaking, photography)
- Business Services (financial, legal, public relations)
- Nonprofit / Social Innovation / Education
What are your work habits and productivity needs?
Deskcamping, a new platform that connects freelancers with available offices and hot desks in New York, London, and Berlin, has developed a list of work “vibes” to describe your work style. Are you a “head bubble” who works only with headphones on? Are you a “bulldozer” who is completely work focused? Write them all down.
Some examples include:
- I need a place to call my own—and leave my stuff if I want to
- I need a quiet space with few distractions and conversations
- I need 24/7 hours and access
What would be nice to have in a coworking space?
Here is where you list out everything you think would make for an ideal work culture and environment. You can even go as far as saying “I want an ice cream machine,” because, why not?
Some examples include:
- I want to find others that I can socialize with outside of work
- I want to find like-minded businesses who share the same goals
- I want a space that I can impress clients with
- I want classes and networking events
Step 2: Evaluate workspaces
Once you have evaluated all your work needs and wants, it’s time to evaluate potential coworking spaces. Using a spreadsheet, put in the leftmost column a list of requirements for your company and industry, as well as your workplace needs and wants.
In the following columns, list potential coworking spaces that you are evaluating. For each item on your list, assign points (0-5) based on how well that space suits a specific need of yours. We recommend weighing points so that non-negotiables are given a maximum of 5 points, needs have a maximum of 3 points, and wants have a maximum of 1 point. Total up your point count and see which one best fits your needs.
Step 3: Do a trial run
If you’re interested in a long-term membership or lease, most spaces will allow you to have a trial workday, depending on your situation. The only drawback to this is that it’s very hard to discern the coworking culture of any specific space until you’ve been there for a little while. You may find that it’s more beneficial to negotiate a paid trial before fully committing.
Most coworking places will have a community manager that manages networking, events, classes, and other happenings at the space. Make sure to have a sit down with that person to get a sense of what working at the space will be like.
NYC coworking spaces: a quick starter guide
It’s impossible to generalize all the workspaces in the city, as they all are unique and yet all have many similarities at the same time. If you’re looking to just get a general sense of where to start, here’s a list of some spaces to investigate:
Some spaces, such as AlleyNYC, Projective Space, and Fueled Collective, have built their culture around the tech startup scene in NYC (a.k.a. Silicon Alley). For some, this can be immensely beneficial, especially if you’re looking to network or take workshops catered to startups, as Projective offers. And the generally younger crowd usually means lots of socializing and “perks aplenty”—AlleyNYC hosts many happy hours, for example, while Fueled boasts a “totally rad” ping pong table.
Sometimes it’s good to find your tribe. There are many spaces in the city that are catered to specific industries. Social innovators can find other like-minded companies and organizations at the Center for Social Innovation or Impact Hub (a certified B corporation), while women entrepreneurs can find guidance and support at In Good Company. Other spaces are even more specific: Blueprint Health works specifically with health tech startups, Brooklyn Writers Space is for writers, and SparkLabs curates tech and media entrepreneurs.
Creatives may find a home at places such as The Productive (artists, filmmakers, animators—founded by an SVA alum) or Studiomates (designers, illustrators, bloggers, developers). If you’re a creative that needs to do some hands-on stuff, consider maker spaces like Con Artist (art collective), WECREATE NYC (design, fashion, photography) and Collab (design, manufacturing, engineering), which offer the space and sometimes the tools to make things happen.
The modern office: a new way of working
Many of these coworking spaces are not just startup driven but adapted to a new modern way of working. They provide freelancers with a way to get out of the house, or offer expanding companies an affordable transition into a new city. Most of these coworking spaces offer a mix of open space, dedicated desks, and private offices, as well as necessary amenities such as conference rooms, phone booths, cafes or lounges, and more.
If impressing your clients matters, NeueHouse and WorkHouse both have taken a design-centric approach to their spaces that are good for the established creative types (advertising, marketing, design), while Regus, OfficeLinks and soon-to-open Silver Suites offer a high-end corporate feel.
If you’re on the move a bit and need multiple locations, consider coworking spaces with multiple locations. You can go as far as at the world (WeWork), major U.S. cities (Grind, Coalition Space), or even just Manhattan and Brooklyn (Cowork RS).
For those that just want a modern but no-frills workspace that is affordable, places like Ensemble, New Work City, and SoTechie Spaces offer a variety of pricing plans to suit your needs. But if you want the most affordable, Wix Lounge, hosted by website development company Wix, is completely free. Just be prepared to wait—they are currently at capacity.