London coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, as shown by this map from coworkinglondon.com.
But the nature of coworking itself is changing, as shown by rising prices, the “niche-ing” of spaces, the increase in established companies opting for coworking spaces, and the bigger office retail companies opening up coworking spaces – either under a sub-brand or under their own name.
There’s even a membership card for coworking spaces that lets you work at any number of different coworking spaces.
Take this recent article from Forbes on the changing nature of coworking spaces:
“Coworking’s quick spike in popularity means a new coworking space will have less innovative impact than it might have 10 years ago. And it means coworking spaces have saturated the startup culture so completely that they’ve caught the attention of larger companies.”
This means that large coworking companies who operate spaces over several areas in London are starting to appear, such as We Work, who already have a large presence worldwide.
So when ‘A’ – a solo freelancer who’s just getting started – got in touch and asked for my advice for a suitable coworking space she could use, I thought how hard can it be to find an affordable coworking space in East London for a freelancer?
Here’s the original email from Anne-Marie:
“I’m in the process of becoming a consultant after ten years working client and agency side.
When I move into consulting, I’m hoping to work in the capital for one or two days a week. Here’s the thing. I don’t need office space. Just somewhere offering ‘pay as you go’ service with a desk, wi-fi and printing service.
However, I’m finding it difficult to source a hot desking / coworking / rentadesk space at reasonable rates in London. Prices are around £40+.
One can’t spend entire days in coffee houses! Can you recommend anything? Perhaps this is blog idea for other freelances and their experiences?”
Coworking spaces in London that are affordable for newly independent consultants. Easy, right?
Turns out, it’s actually pretty tough.
The first coworking space that sprang to mind was Google’s Campus London, which has a coworking space in the basement of its East London building, just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station.
Campus London is very busy as it is free and has very fast internet speeds, but it’s likely the most suitable for solo freelancers looking for a space to work.
Campus isn’t going to suit everyone, though. I once had a client meeting perched right on the edge of a sofa where everyone within 5 feet of us could overhear our relatively private conversation, all because there was literally nowhere else to sit. It was the client’s choice, not mine, but it didn’t set the most professional atmosphere for a meeting.
Other coworking spaces we looked into and how much they cost to rent a desk:
- TechHub – £375 +VAT a year, for 2o hours use a week
- Impact Hub (various Locations) – £90 per month for 30 hours use
- Huckletree – £200 per month for 10 hours use
- Central Working – Shoreditch – £99 per month for their ‘Club’ membership
- Le Bureau – £316 per month for a small desk
- Club Rooms – £250 per month
- Innovation at 90 Main Yard – from £100 per month
- The Trampery – from £200 per month
- Clerkenwell Workshops – from £200 per month
So is there a gap in the market for a coworking space that suits solo freelancers that only need a desk occasionally, rather than smaller outfits and startups? Somewhere that bridges the void between a coffee shop and permanently renting a desk?
This is especially the case as workers – not companies – are increasingly driving the demand for where and when they work:
“Workers are now demanding the technology necessary to do their jobs whilst its impact on office design is twofold. Organisations need to identify and integrate the technology that enables their workforce to preform to their full superhero potential. It has also meant that workers have become far more autonomous with technology allowing them to work when and wherever they want, be that at their desk, in a relaxed open space or in a coffee shop.”
I recently met with Phil Marshall, co-founder of Lara Work Room. We had a great chat about the life of a freelancer, how and where we both work best, and the future of independent workers and coworking spaces in the UK.
Here’s what Phil had to say about coworking and the changing nature of the way we work:
“Many things have changed in the way we work in the last twenty years. If we are to get the best out of these changes, our approach to workplaces must change too. Work, for many people, is no longer a single place, it’s a fluid combination of short stay drop-in sessions in places like cafes, hotel lobbies and client offices.”
“We believe that, increasingly, people will choose to work independently and so, in the flexible (even unpredictable) flow of a working day, will have to secure their own work space, often at short notice and for a short stay. Lara Work Rooms will provide this, helping you stay focused and productive.”
So could Lara Work Room be the answer? Here’s their offering:
- Lara Work Room is a pay-per-use co-working cafe.
- Users will have a access to solo-work cubicles, group work benches and bookable private meeting rooms.
- A cafe and events space will also be offered, along with printer-scanners, bike parking, lockers and super-fast, super-reliable wifi.
- All spaces £6 per hour, opening late 2015
Sounds pretty good, but will people pay £6 an hour for a desk, even if they only use it for a few hours a day or even a few hours a week?
“In a competitive startup city like London no amount of free beer will make up for unreliable wifi, uncomfortable seats and high prices. Each coworking space has to focus on providing some basic services before being able to deliver the true value of coworking.”
If Huckletree, Lara Work Room or any of the other coworking spaces can meet these needs, then they’re sure to be one of the coworking spaces of the future.
Do you work in a London coworking space? Got a tip for the best coworking space in London? Have I missed any obvious London coworking spaces? Let me know in the comments!