Are You Ready to Give Up Your Latte for Co-Working?


A couple of months ago, Jackson West described his day at the Hat Factory, a new co-working facility in San Francisco. ABC News recently did a story, video here, about the co-working phenomenon sweeping the country. Business Week gave the concept similar coverage. So-called “lonely” freelancers looking to “go to work” in a space where initially the only thing you have in common with your co-workers is the space itself. If working out of your home drives you stir crazy and you’re beginning to loathe the constant smell of coffee, is co-working the answer?


As ABC points out in their piece, there are some who like the hustle & bustle of a coffee shop, thankyouverymuch. The white noise of background conversation mixed with the whirr of the cappuccino machine can be oddly comforting while working through a problem. At a coffee shop, your only commitment is in what you consume. Stay an hour, stay an afternoon. No obligation to get your money’s worth on your time, especially if you commit to a monthly rate at a co-working facility.

When you visit your favorite coffee shop time and time again, you do begin to build some sense of community. The baristas get to know your preferences, you get to know the other regulars. Some find they are more creative when they’re working right in the middle of everything, rather than in an office environment where everyone around them is usually, well, working.

Despite the fact that you are “going to work,” co-working is all about the community. No need to create a virtual social network of people working towards similar goals to help keep you going through your solo day, you can have the real thing. No cubicles here. Instead, co-working locations are set up for community and collaboration with open spaces, bookshelves and meeting spots. Stuck on the best way to phrase a sentence, configure a website or address a sticky client issue? Odds are better that a fellow Co-Worker will give you the support and motivation you need than that soccer mom who just ordered a half caf nonfat grande mocha. Most co-working facilities also give you access to the standard tools of the trade such as office supplies, phone line (often at extra cost) and a printer. All you need to bring is your laptop, money for the daily or monthly rental rate and your desire to work surrounded by living, breathing and talking humans. Each facility has its own culture, social calendar and pricing structure. Some may only be looking for folks in certain industries, so check around.

If you’re interested in learning more about co-working, the best place to start is the wiki here. Locations are popping up in major cities around the world.


Chris Messina

Thought I’d chime in with a few thoughts.

First, coworking (and its many forms) has been around or centuries. What’s new today is 1) how we’re using community infrastructure to seed these spaces and 2) the technological environment that allows these spaces to spring up with little overhead or cost.

At Citizen Space, our coworking space in San Francisco, we’ve taken a hybrid model in operating and charging for the space. Rather than charging drop-ins to use the space, we offer it free, first come, first served. We do charge, however, for folks looking to leave equipment and gear and get a key for 24-hour access. This means that we’re able to draw lots of interesting and resourceful folks to our space for less than the trip to the cafe but also offer something of value to those who don’t want to lug their 30″ Apple Display around with them.

After opening in November and with little promotion, we’ve attracted five monthers (filling our available seating — but leaving the entire “coworking” area free for drop ins or for meetings and other purposes. We also offer an enclosed “conversation room” out back for similar uses.

Our experiment in openness seems to be going pretty well so far, and suggests more that there isn’t any one “right” model for coworking. And, as you suggest, if the cost of a latte is all someone has to spend for an afternoon or an hour, there are coworking spaces cropping up to meet that demand, with the community and infrastructure (like power and reliable wifi) that independent workers crave and find worth migrating to.

Personally, I love the idea of a world-wide network of spaces that I can visit and work in wherever I go… and I also love the idea of reclaiming cafes for casual (non-work) socialization and actually enjoying the coffee. There’s certainly benefits in having spaces that serve dual purposes, but I also think there’s room for more third spaces dedicated to being productive in a social environment.


I’ve been scouring my local area for coworking set ups. Unfortunately i have yet to find one so I may wind up renting office space. There’s just something about being by yourself all day, everyday that can get you ya after a while :)

Jim Willis

One of the values of coworking (or just being in regular contact with other freelancers in a way that doesn’t seem to happen organically at the local coffee shop) is the ability to take on larger projects because you know you can outsource the design part of the job (or whatever piece of the job isn’t your strong point) to the freelancer across the table. Alternatively, it’s a good way to pick up new, small projects if other freelancers are outsourcing pieces of projects to you.


There are a lot of freelance workers who end up renting office space because maybe they feel more productive leaving the house every morning or maybe it helps them feel more professional or maybe they can’t get anything done with dishes in the sink. I actually spent a number of years working a home when my daughter was little. Sometimes it’s easier to get distracted.

I had a friend who worked for a company remotely long distance. Every day, he would go to the local University in the student union building and use the freely available wireless and work from there. He liked having lots of people around.


This might be a good use for an enterprising person to take advantage of some of the half-empty strip malls in the suburbs of many American cities. Some of these malls are so empty that they practically give the space away, or just rent for the Christmas and Tax seasons…

Andrew Flusche

This is quite interesting. In fact, lawyers have been doing something similar for a long time. Solo lawyers can help cut overhead by “office sharing.” They band together to just use the same office space, but not actually form a law firm. It sounds a bit more formalized than co-working, but similar.

Comments are closed.