Coworking vs. the Coffee Shop: Who Wins?

In the spirit of New Year’s reviews and resolutions, I’d like to propose an exercise. Look back on the last several years of your life. How many hours, in aggregate, do you suppose you’ve spent staring at a computer and drinking a hot beverage?

I’m in the “too many to count” category, as are many corporate functionaries, programmers, designers, etc. When you’re a freelancer, those hours have potential to become decidedly isolated. It is treacherously easy to fall into Lazy Freelancer mode, which involves rolling out of bed, turning on the coffee machine, and sitting in front of the big glowing screen all day in your pajamas.

The Bane of the Coffee Shop

When the pajama piece gets old, freelancers often head to coffee shops. There, you can be isolated among other lone wolves, experiencing human company, familiar faces, and a placeboic level of social interaction. The coffee shop allows freelancers to feel as though they’ve accomplished in that old-fangled world outside of the Web.

Admittedly, some freelancers are enterprising types who dress nicely every day, attend meetings and workshops, and expose themselves to open skies on a regular basis. I cannot count myself among their ranks. In my world, the suction capacities of the Internet tend to overwhelm the urge to self-present as a professional member of society. Fortunately, or unfortunately, I live in a town where business owners walk around in ski pants and dogs run around office spaces. You get away with less here, appearance wise.

Why Coworking is Better

But that’s not my point. My point is that working at home gets lonely; coffee shops are a little bit better, but coworking rocks. I say this having never done it (there is no venue in my town; I am considering opening one). I imagine that it must rock. Consider the average coffee shop, where:

-A cafe latte sets you back $3-$4. You feel guilty if you sit around without purchasing a new one, making an average day of work there cost around $12, excluding yummy baked goods.
-You may or may not end up next to really loud, gossipy people.
-You feel like a ham if you are the only one with a laptop.
-The seats are often uncomfortable.
-You can’t talk on your cell phone inside. Well, I don’t. Plenty of people do. I consider it rude.
-You are obligated to look somewhat hip.

Coworking, on the other hand, allows you a range of cafe-like benefits, without the cafe:

-You pay a flat membership fee instead of a daily fee.
-Everyone has a laptop!
-You get the chance to collaborate with your peers.
-The seats are probably more comfortable.
-Cell phone use is more acceptable–it is a workspace.
-The hip factor may not be a factor, although I am not sure about this point.

I can only imagine that coworking will burgeon as more people turn towards freelancing. Having frequented far too many coffee shops, I will allow myself to claim, having never coworked, that coworking is better.

Have you coworked, or do you own a coworking location? If so, how does it compare?

Written by Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.