Starting a new coworking space while employed fulltime

I currently work for a company remotely and spend my days at a coworking space. I am looking at the option of starting my own coworking space to meet a need in a particular location in town. I’ve read some stories of others starting their own space while working fulltime, but those posts were from 3+ years ago. Not to negate the value of experiences that are old, I wanted to see if there’s anyone that has done that recently and how it impacted your ability to start your space.

The other aspect of this that is probably more difficult to predict or control is profitability and the ability to actually do this full time. A comment I found on this forum said regarding the time to make the jump to doing coworking fulltime was “it’s a singular moment where you just know.” I wanted to hear from other owners here if it is possible to actually do coworking fulltime, or if I should not even be thinking along those lines and just focus on solving a need here in town and let it grow as it does. I’m curious what others have seen in their experience.

I’ll be doing some digging here and possibly even have some questions around recommendations for management software, door locks, etc. But for now, I’m honestly just open to hearing advice from those that have gone down this road and learned lessons that I’d prefer not to learn the hard way :slight_smile: Whether that’s business partners, leasing vs. owning, etc., I’m open to advise and wisdom from all the experts here.

I’m so glad I found this group - looking forward to reading and learning!

It’s tricky. I did it, but I had a partner. Without Susan, it would have played out very differently. There are just so many layers that need your attention that presence is required, not just physically, but mentally.

The first few years (or more) are figuring out your processes. Even if you adopt those of others, you still need to wrap your mind around them. That means every little thing, like buying paper towels for example, is also a dozen other things like deciding where you buy your supplies? Do you pick them up or have them delivered? Where do you store them? How much do you buy? Do you want paper towels or cloth towels? And there are a million little things so that adds up fast.

And operations things like that are an order of magnitude easier then the REAL work of running a coworking space: being present for your members. Sure when everything is running smoothly people get along and everyone pitches in… but things don’t always run smoothly. And when they don’t, it’s your problem right then, right now, and odds are you are busy doing something else for your full-time job. If someone wants you to hold their hand setting up the printer, it doesn’t really matter that you have a deadline. If someone is having a rough day and needs someone to talk to, you want to be there for them. It’s important. If one member decides the radio should be at a higher volume and another decides it needs to be at a lower volume, it’s in your best interest to negotiate that quickly and quietly before it blows up in to something big. You might miss the signs until it’s too late if you have your head in your other job.

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And all that is just keeping the lights on and people happy. You still need to reach out to the larger community and bring people in. Lots to think about. I’m most protective over the softer things as it’s easy to overlook and just hope for the best.

Jacob

On Thu, Dec 18, 2014 at 6:18 AM, Jason Phelps [email protected] wrote:

I currently work for a company remotely and spend my days at a coworking space. I am looking at the option of starting my own coworking space to meet a need in a particular location in town. I’ve read some stories of others starting their own space while working fulltime, but those posts were from 3+ years ago. Not to negate the value of experiences that are old, I wanted to see if there’s anyone that has done that recently and how it impacted your ability to start your space.

The other aspect of this that is probably more difficult to predict or control is profitability and the ability to actually do this full time. A comment I found on this forum said regarding the time to make the jump to doing coworking fulltime was “it’s a singular moment where you just know.” I wanted to hear from other owners here if it is possible to actually do coworking fulltime, or if I should not even be thinking along those lines and just focus on solving a need here in town and let it grow as it does. I’m curious what others have seen in their experience.

I’ll be doing some digging here and possibly even have some questions around recommendations for management software, door locks, etc. But for now, I’m honestly just open to hearing advice from those that have gone down this road and learned lessons that I’d prefer not to learn the hard way :slight_smile: Whether that’s business partners, leasing vs. owning, etc., I’m open to advise and wisdom from all the experts here.

I’m so glad I found this group - looking forward to reading and learning!

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


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I agree and can relate very much to what Jacob wrote. When I started Collective Agency in 2011, I got a Council of myself and 3 other people in June, and 5-15 group organizers by July, and 50 volunteers regularly doing outreach in August, and 150 people regularly promoting each day in September. I put in a few 70 hour work weeks, and was there full-time. People want to talk with the person who has the autonomy to make agreements, and who has the willpower and the vision to shape this vision that is bigger than everyone individually involved.

Years in, unless you can (and want to) sell it, I think you will still need to focus a lot of your willpower and relationships around it.

"Why does this exist as a place?" always is slightly changing, sometimes buffered, sometimes solved, and always needs someone to steer the rudder of the ship, while having a good work-life balance and having fun with it.

Alex

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Alex Linsker | Business Owner
Collective Agency | CollectiveAgency.co
(503) 517-6900 office | (503) 369-9174 mobile
322 NW Sixth Ave, Suite 200 | Portland, Oregon 97209

It is very difficult to do both. We just opened up in September and myself and the other co-owner work full time outside of the city of where the coworking space is. There is not a way for us to do our job remotely as we are in the human services field. Myself the other co-owner are here in the space in the evenings after work and we take every other Saturday. We have workshare members that man the desk a couple of days during the week.

I think you have an upper hand because you are at least in the space so if people come in,your there to answer questions.

We are aren’t at the point yet that we can even think about quitting our jobs. There isn’t anyone (family members, significant others, nest egg) we can fall back on.

It’s tough. We are restrategizing for the upcoming year, because we really want to make this work.

Are there other people that own the space? Do you have a Community Manager or front desk person?

Jess

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On Thursday, December 18, 2014 9:18:31 AM UTC-5, Jason Phelps wrote:

I currently work for a company remotely and spend my days at a coworking space. I am looking at the option of starting my own coworking space to meet a need in a particular location in town. I’ve read some stories of others starting their own space while working fulltime, but those posts were from 3+ years ago. Not to negate the value of experiences that are old, I wanted to see if there’s anyone that has done that recently and how it impacted your ability to start your space.

The other aspect of this that is probably more difficult to predict or control is profitability and the ability to actually do this full time. A comment I found on this forum said regarding the time to make the jump to doing coworking fulltime was “it’s a singular moment where you just know.” I wanted to hear from other owners here if it is possible to actually do coworking fulltime, or if I should not even be thinking along those lines and just focus on solving a need here in town and let it grow as it does. I’m curious what others have seen in their experience.

I’ll be doing some digging here and possibly even have some questions around recommendations for management software, door locks, etc. But for now, I’m honestly just open to hearing advice from those that have gone down this road and learned lessons that I’d prefer not to learn the hard way :slight_smile: Whether that’s business partners, leasing vs. owning, etc., I’m open to advise and wisdom from all the experts here.

I’m so glad I found this group - looking forward to reading and learning!

I may be the exception here, though I'm not totally sure why. I opened a coworking space back in 2012 while working a full-time, remote job. While there were absolutely challenges, I never felt like I was being torn between my day job and running the space.

Reflecting on it a bit, I think there are two keys to pulling it off:

1) Ideally, get a crew to help you open the space. The more hands you have involved, the less responsibity is going to rest on your shoulders day-to-day
2) Set new member expectations and stick with them. From day one, we emphasize to our members that we're a coop at heart and everything is everyone's responsibility—nobody is here to wash your dishes and clean up your mess. The day you start doing all the dishes is the day you lose that battle and you'll find the responibilities of running the space interfering with the day job.

Beyond this, I would also suggest requiring dropins and people asking for tours to schedule a specific time to come in. That definitely helped me continue to keep up with the day job while also being available to sign up new members and do the tasks that come along with running a coworking space.

That’s funny, I say the same thing only it is cleaning the floor, not washing the dishes. Maybe the influence of tracked in snow and road salt, lol.

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On Monday, December 29, 2014 3:39:55 PM UTC+1, Andy Soell wrote:

I may be the exception here, though I’m not totally sure why. I opened a coworking space back in 2012 while working a full-time, remote job. While there were absolutely challenges, I never felt like I was being torn between my day job and running the space.

Reflecting on it a bit, I think there are two keys to pulling it off:

  1. Ideally, get a crew to help you open the space. The more hands you have involved, the less responsibity is going to rest on your shoulders day-to-day

  2. Set new member expectations and stick with them. From day one, we emphasize to our members that we’re a coop at heart and everything is everyone’s responsibility—nobody is here to wash your dishes and clean up your mess. The day you start doing all the dishes is the day you lose that battle and you’ll find the responibilities of running the space interfering with the day job.

Beyond this, I would also suggest requiring dropins and people asking for tours to schedule a specific time to come in. That definitely helped me continue to keep up with the day job while also being available to sign up new members and do the tasks that come along with running a coworking space.

Thanks for the feedback guys!

I’m also not at the point where I can quit my day job to do this fulltime, but I’m interested in that possibility in the future. For those that went from double-duty to fulltime in coworking, what was your turning point to know that it was time to quit your day job because things were able to make the income you needed to support your family/lifestyle/whatever. Any insights into making that transition?

One other question regarding the startup - any thoughts on investors vs sponsors vs no outside capital?

> One other question regarding the startup - any thoughts on investors vs sponsors vs no outside capital?

http://dangerouslyawesome.com/2011/09/how-to-fund-your-coworking-space/ <<< probably my most popular article is on this topic.

With that said….

I’m pretty sure I can count the number of people who have gone directly from full time employment to earning a living from their coworking space on one hand.

That’s not to say that people aren’t making a living from coworking, but that starting a coworking space almost never their first self-employing business straight out of having a j-o-b.

There are, however, MANY people who I know have been successful in growing a coworking space alongside another otherwise profitable business (consulting/service, product, etc). In most of those cases, the coworking space actually served as a factor in growing their business…which is awesome, because they get to experience first hand the benefits of coworking to THEIR business, just like the other people who join their coworking space.

The good news is that soooooo many more jobs today can be translated into a freelance or consultant role. What kind of work do you currently do, Jason?

-Alex

···

The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.

Join the list: http://coworkingweekly.com

Listen to the podcast: http://listen.coworkingweekly.com

On Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 2:08 PM, Jason Phelps [email protected] wrote:

Thanks for the feedback guys!

I’m also not at the point where I can quit my day job to do this fulltime, but I’m interested in that possibility in the future. For those that went from double-duty to fulltime in coworking, what was your turning point to know that it was time to quit your day job because things were able to make the income you needed to support your family/lifestyle/whatever. Any insights into making that transition?

One other question regarding the startup - any thoughts on investors vs sponsors vs no outside capital?

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


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Thanks for the feedback, Alex.

I’m currently a sales engineer for an Internet Security company and I use coworking since I work remotely. My background is IT (~13 years in network/sys admin roles and 4 years in a CIO role), so that’s one aspect of the coworking space that won’t be a challenge for me in terms of management and acquisition.

While I don’t think my day job would necessarily benefit from the coworking idea, I think I could certainly grow my IT consulting business I have on the side from the coworking space, and maybe even incorporate the two.

Ah, that’s great Jason. I somehow missed that you were already remote in the previous email, but that obvs makes sense since you’re already a member of a space. :slight_smile:

Have you started in on gathering some early community members for your own yet?

-Alex

···

The #1 mistake in community building is doing it by yourself.

Join the list: http://coworkingweekly.com

Listen to the podcast: http://listen.coworkingweekly.com

On Mon, Jan 5, 2015 at 9:11 AM, Jason Phelps [email protected] wrote:

Thanks for the feedback, Alex.

I’m currently a sales engineer for an Internet Security company and I use coworking since I work remotely. My background is IT (~13 years in network/sys admin roles and 4 years in a CIO role), so that’s one aspect of the coworking space that won’t be a challenge for me in terms of management and acquisition.

While I don’t think my day job would necessarily benefit from the coworking idea, I think I could certainly grow my IT consulting business I have on the side from the coworking space, and maybe even incorporate the two.

Visit this forum on the web at http://discuss.coworking.com


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I’m working on launching a space now in NYC and I am also a Full timer (remote) and I definitely feel the insanity that comes with doing both at the same time. Early last year a friend said he wanted to come on to help launch things, but honestly I don’t think he really is interested and his input hasn’t done much to alleviate anything so I am about to drop him off he project. I luckily found two other co-founders who are awesome and passionate about getting things done and it’s a world of difference when you have a team that works well together.

···

On Thursday, December 18, 2014 at 9:18:31 AM UTC-5, Jason Phelps wrote:

I currently work for a company remotely and spend my days at a coworking space. I am looking at the option of starting my own coworking space to meet a need in a particular location in town. I’ve read some stories of others starting their own space while working fulltime, but those posts were from 3+ years ago. Not to negate the value of experiences that are old, I wanted to see if there’s anyone that has done that recently and how it impacted your ability to start your space.

The other aspect of this that is probably more difficult to predict or control is profitability and the ability to actually do this full time. A comment I found on this forum said regarding the time to make the jump to doing coworking fulltime was “it’s a singular moment where you just know.” I wanted to hear from other owners here if it is possible to actually do coworking fulltime, or if I should not even be thinking along those lines and just focus on solving a need here in town and let it grow as it does. I’m curious what others have seen in their experience.

I’ll be doing some digging here and possibly even have some questions around recommendations for management software, door locks, etc. But for now, I’m honestly just open to hearing advice from those that have gone down this road and learned lessons that I’d prefer not to learn the hard way :slight_smile: Whether that’s business partners, leasing vs. owning, etc., I’m open to advise and wisdom from all the experts here.

I’m so glad I found this group - looking forward to reading and learning!