Travel back in time 15 years, when coworking was new and exciting. If you were an entrepreneur, it may have seemed like the perfect niche market to enter. Now, however, it seems like flexible workspaces, including executives suites and serviced offices, are everywhere. The once novel area seems to be occupied, and on every corner you can find a flex office option.
If you’ve been thinking about starting a coworking space, you may feel like you’ve already missed the boat. Are you too late?
Short answer: No.
You are not too late to start a coworking space. The market is ripe in a couple of very important ways.
- We stream movies and music instead of buying them.
- We use Uber and Lyft instead of buying a car.
- We cowork instead of signing a long-term office lease, buying office equipment and furniture, and setting up in the Wi-Fi and other necessary infrastructure to support a fledgling business.
People are willing to pay to use these items instead of investing the capital to own them outright. Frankly, it just makes good economic sense whether you are starting out, on your own or just value flexibility.
Most leases lock you in for a year or, in some cases, multiple years. For many individuals like startup owners, freelancers and independent contractors, such leases can be incredibly daunting and expensive. They also impact your balance sheet. Shorter term leases can be hard to come by, and even those might be too much money to plunk down.
Given the rise of the gig economy, coworking has the potential to grab large portions of traditional tenant/lease market share. Joining a shared workspace location offers the ability to control expenses while getting the flexibility and the resources needed to grow a business. You’ll get furniture. You’ll get WiFi. You may even get a visitor registration kiosk.
In fact, coworking and flex offices have continued to grow exponentially as of the end of 2018. What was once seen as a passing trend has become a market fixture in many places around the country.
In case you think coworking is only for individuals and startups, it is good to remember that corporations find many benefits to such flex spaces. Up to 40% of coworking space is currently rented by enterprise companies.
With coworking gone mainstream, it might seem like there is no longer the unfilled niche there used to be. This is far from the case. Even when it seems like the market is saturated with flex workspaces, there are still audiences that might be craving something just like what you want to create.
Sometimes it is about searching for micro audiences – the smaller segment of consumers that haven’t yet been tapped.
Consider beer. For years, the beer industry has been practically owned by two huge companies, yet in the last decade, small craft breweries are growing and enjoying more market share. The reasons: customers want local, superior products and more variety.
Coworking is all about building communities. Coworking events offer a chance to learn from people both in and outside of your field in a noncompetitive way. What niche community might like the opportunity to work together to learn from one another? Here are a few that are currently in operation:
- Sesh for women
- SonderCenters for health professionals
- Law Firm Suites for lawyers
- The Artist Coop for artists
If creating a new flex office is something you’ve been considering, there are ways to find the perfect niche for your business. Categories of potential members can be as large as half the population (women) or tiny (etsy sellers). It is a matter of market research. Where is the need? Find it, then fill it.
Summary: Coworking is the Future of Work
Coworking has the potential to keep growing and growing, and to serve more and more areas of our lives. WeWork is branching into schools and apartments. Other organizations are looking to engage different audiences. People appreciate the flexibility, the ability to control costs. In our cyber-and-screen controlled world we also crave community. We all want to find our niche; the people who think like us, push us to the next level, help us think through a problem.
Coworking can help fill those desires by creating a flexible environment filled with people who are experiencing similar issues and have similar needs. With several years of industry insights, you are primed to combine your niche with best practices and avoiding pitfalls. Getting into this business is just about finding the right niche and running with it.