If you’re a solo entrepreneur, working from home may be the cheapest option. But domestic distractions and loneliness make it untenable for some. It’s also not practical if you want to expand. For a small business, traditional office space is often too expensive and can require years of commitment. Executive suites and co-working spaces can offer a more affordable and flexible alternative with many baked-in benefits.
Here are some of the perks you can expect with a shared office space from a couple of the companies that offer them.
1. Cheaper office space
Co-working spaces, which charge a membership fee, may mean substantial savings over traditional office space. Nick Clark, founder of The Common Desk, a co-working space with two locations in Dallas, maintains that a business could save 75% in total costs. Clark, who spent seven years in commercial real estate before starting The Common Desk, says a 2,000-square-foot office space for six workers could cost $4,000 monthly, not including supplies or utilities. He compares that with Common Desk’s $200-per-person membership; a team of six would add up to $1,200 per month, including most utilities and supplies.
“There’s obviously a point where it begins to make more sense for a business to have their own office space,” Clark says. But he’s seeing that threshold move upward, with 10- and 15-person companies opting for co-working space to save money.
2. Better office space and location
Executive office suites, which like co-working spaces charge a membership fee, have been around for decades. They can provide a way in to expensive, in-demand spaces in prime areas that new small businesses otherwise might not be able to afford.
Amata Office Solutions, an office suites provider with six locations in Chicago, purchases entire floors in major office buildings, then offers this space to individuals and small businesses on a membership basis. Co-founder Frank Chalupa says if some small-business owners tried to get office space in that kind of building on their own, they’d likely be snubbed because their businesses are too small.
Amata leases a whole floor and essentially cuts the pie into smaller pieces. This gives small-business owners access to the types of offices and locations they want. Depending on the size of the space, a monthly membership at Amata can cost from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars, Chalupa says.
3. Fast setup
With shared office spaces, there’s no need to do an expensive move — they’ll do the heavy lifting for you. For instance, Amata will “go into major high-rises, take out an entire floor, gut it, redesign it, and turn it into individually leased offices,” Chalupa says. “You lease by the office, but it’s not just a box.” As with many executive suite memberships, Amata’s offices are “plug and play,” he adds, with phone, Internet and other utilities already set up. Bring your computer, and you’re good to go.
4. Free amenities
If you lease your own office space, you’re responsible for paying for utilities, supplies and amenities. With shared offices, utilities such as water and Internet are included, as are other amenities including coffee and kitchen supplies. This reduces costs and some of the details you have to tackle day to day.
Some offer more. The Common Desk, for instance, has free shared printers, beer on tap and unlimited conference room use. Some executive suites, like Amata, offer conference rooms on a credit or pay-per-use basis. Amata also includes free mail sorting and delivery.
5. Flexibility and scalability
Most shared office spaces offer month-to-month memberships, as opposed to traditional office leases, which lock you in for years. The Common Desk and Amata Office Solutions offer different membership levels with private office and open co-working options.
Since you pay a monthly or annual membership for a shared office rather than a long-term lease, you can typically upgrade or downgrade plans at any time. If your business expands or contracts, you can add or remove space as needed.
6. Affordable support staff
While co-working spaces have staff to help members, they generally don’t assist with administrative tasks. But executive suites often have administrative staff for free or on a pay-per-task basis.
For example, at Amata Office Solutions, reception support and mail services are included with membership. Two of Amata’s locations are near a courthouse and specialize in serving legal businesses, so they offer members on-demand legal assistance, such as docket and paralegal services, on a project or hourly basis. “For an attorney to come in and start his own firm, he’ll have to hire a receptionist or paralegal to do dockets,” Chalupa says. At a shared office space with these offerings, an attorney can pay for these services as he or she goes, bringing significant savings over having a full-time staffer.
7. Networking opportunities
Not all executive suites and shared offices emphasize community, but Clark says it’s a core value of co-working. With an open floor plan and events for mingling, co-working spaces allow for easy networking. Clark says many of his members find work through fellow co-workers, in addition to a talent pool suited to small-business owners needing to add employees.
As you decide on your working environment, keep in mind there can be major differences in working in an open space with a group versus working in a private office. Some people find their productivity drops in an open environment, Chalupa notes. Though there’s value to having a community, some small-business owners may find they do better if they have a private office.
For related information, visit NerdWallet’s resources on how to start a business. For free, personalized answers to questions about starting and financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.
Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @emstarbuck.
Photos of The Common Desk via Lindsey Miller Photo.