CoWorking or open source office space

It has been nearly two months now since me and the rest of Refactr LLC have been out on our own and participating in the great experiment that is virtual officing. We have been using spaces such as coffee shops and libraries to meet and conduct our business. We have tried many locations and it works well when we have meetings in one part of the cities or another to just move around like nomads. It is very nice to have low overhead costs and use the three things we need: Internet access, electricity, and a table – all for the cost of a few lattes and maybe a bran muffin.

We find that it is great to get out of the house and work together, and have not missed a day of meeting, usually at 8am once we went out on our own.

However, like many things in life, the little jagged parts – issues that at first seemed pretty minor, begin to rub you the wrong way (or the same way but in the same spot repeatedly) until finally you can’t take it any more. In actuality, coffee shops are not free as each of the three of us has consistently spent between $25 and $50 per week on coffee, tea, and snacks. That adds up ($300-$600/month). Then we have to always cart all of our stuff in and out each day. We can’t bring too many books in our our good headphones. Bringing outside food is also, either awkward (rude to the establishment) or impractical (no refrigerator or microwave) so there are additional costs for lunch (both monetary and time-wise).

No wonder, so many start-ups or freelancers look to get together in a more permanent space using ideas described and put into in the form of things like CoWorking and Bucketworks.

These endeavors haven’t been easy as the headlines show – Saint Paul’s “Ren Box” in need of rescuing. I think that a primary problem is a lack of a person who devotes most of his/her time to it. I believe it really takes a lot of administration to do something like this, and people don’t get into this to be administrators.

Garrick wrote a summary of this topic a while back as well.

Now my friend Justin Grammens at Atomic Objects, is restarting the discussion for the Twin Cities. I am excited to see what comes of it.

  • I often wonder why you guys don’t use each others houses, perhaps in a rotating manner, each week (or perhaps you do, I don’t know). To me this would be akin to a sort of “office carpool”, where one person’s house isn’t used every day, and the time is shared between places to make it all equal.
    It seems this would solve a few problems (food, books, etc), because you guys already have all that stuff in your own homes. Plus you can all still work together and be loud and obnoxious if you need to be, or have quiet if you need it (probably not something you can get in a coffee shop).
    I suppose there are obsticals here too (wives?) but that would be the point of taking turns with locales as to not overstress one spot. But maybe I’m out of place here I dunno.

  • We have done that once or twice but the main drawback for me is actually our dogs. At least my dogs would bug us too much. I also think it is a bit easier to get off-track at someone’s house. If we were to do that I think we would setup shop in one of our basements and just work there the whole time. We could certainly try that though the rotating idea would deal better with potential tax implications that we are looking to avoid with home offices (I generally am not in favor of writing off any part of a home office unless you really make use of it – because if you do write a % of your house off, you then need to account for that % differently and pay tax on that part when you sell)

  • The ren box reference is spot-on, and brings back memories. I think it would have fit your needs well in some ways – they had a neat micro-office strategy. Oh the poor guy who poured his heart and soul into that project. He really wanted it to work – you couldn’t talk to him about it without rooting for him. Too bad it didn’t work out.

  • We are planning to have a session at Minibar on Coworking. Please come and join the discussion!
    http://barcamp.org/MinneBarSessions#Coworking