For some freelancers, working from home can be stifling. The distraction of the washing in the corner, lack of spontaneous human interaction, absence of ad-hoc afternoon drinks, and blurred boundaries between work and play, can wreak havoc with creative output.
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A shared workspace could be the answer. But with so many options out there, from self-contained studio with communal areas, to a desk within an agency, a creative incubator or a co-working set-up, it's difficult to know where to start looking, and what to look for.
So, if you're fed up with sketching in the kitchen or brainstorming in the local cafe, take in these top tips on how to find the perfect shared workspace.
First things first: Is a shared space for you?
Some creatives thrive on solitude, having their own space, and being able to go from bed to computer in one small step. However, if you need people to bounce ideas off, or to vent to, as animator and designer Joanna Susskind puts it, sharing a space could be for you. Susskind finds working in an open-plan scenario difficult, but reckons it's worth it "for the chatter, feedback, coffee breaks, dog play-time and pull-ups in between".
Illustrator and art director Ben Tallon, who just released his first book Champagne and Wax Crayons about life in the creative industries, agrees. Sharing for the first time was a revelation. "That space helped me connect with my art in a big way, having a space where we could all share ideas."
Put yourself out there
There is not shortage of advertised shared workspaces. You can peruse listings such as Gumtree, or tap into social media to find out about what's available in your preferred location. Just a cursory Google search brings up a host of options, from converted tea factories in Bristol (Spike Design) to spaces by the Brighton sea (The Skiff), or a conglomerate of artists on the Thames (Second Floor Studios & Arts).
But don't discount your personal contacts. Tallon, who has shared spaces in Preston, Manchester and most recently London, found most of his locations by "being proactive in terms of networking – by surrounding myself with the local creatives, I was on hand to hear about when opportunities came up".
‘Location, location, location’, as they say
As with any bog-standard property search, location is a crucial factor when looking for the perfect working space. Ideally, the location should be convenient for you and potential clients, so consider how long your commute would take, and how quickly you can get around town for meetings.
Security is another aspect worth taking into account. Check out the local area and gauge what security a building has on-site. And don't forget to scope the area for after-hours. As Susskind points out, good lunch and beer spots are pretty important too.
The costs of sharing
Costs of shared spaces can vary significantly, from £40 to a few hundred pounds a month, so your budget will invariably play a role in finding the perfect spot. You should always weigh up the benefits you can expect from a space versus the rent charged.
Chris Price, for example, works from Spike Design in Bristol, and appreciates the professional outlook of the place. It has meeting and quiet spaces from where you can ring clients, and offers business support to its tenants at extra cost. It's also worth getting a sense of what the landlord looks for in new tenants. Some have no criteria, while others look for specifics.
Next page: sussing out the vibe and meeting your perfect match...