manifestoSince I started working in a shared office in 2005, coworking has really taken off and is an option for more and more freelancers out there. It has also changed: when I took a desk in my Brighton shared office, the only option was to rent a dedicated desk with 24/7 access. In Leeds, I work in a very different space, where you can’t have your own dedicated desk. It is based on a first come, first served, hotdesking basis. The wonderful thing about it is that every desk is equipped with a Mac and a cinema screen, which is very unusual for a coworking space and makes it a very comfortable work environment.
This type of hotdesk coworking is cropping up everywhere and is now offered in my hometown of Brighton, so I could carry on hotdesking when I move back. So how do the two types of arrangement compare?
Coworking with a dedicated desk
Pros:

– All your work-related equipment in one place
– Guaranteed availability
– 24/7 access
– A generally more fixed community means it’s easier to get to know people

Cons:

– Expensive (I used to pay £250 a month)
– Lack of flexibility if you’d rather work from home on a regular basis

Hotdesk coworking
Pros:

– Cheap (£80 a month in Leeds)
– Flexible – possibility even to use different offices
– Bigger turnover of people, more people to meet

Cons:

– No guaranteed availability
– Still need an office at home to keep your equipment

I’ve also worked in a third coworking space, which I hesitate to compare to the other two. Regus offer a campus product, which is a shared office environment like the one I was used to in Brighton. I had a miserable 6 months there, which taught me that a freelance coworking community doesn’t automatically happen. It has to be managed by people who know what it’s like to be a freelancer and care about creating the right type of environment and support that we need. So my advice would be that if you’re thinking of finding a coworking space, make sure that the people running the space you’re interested in are not just after your rent, but are passionate about creating a little hub of freelancing goodness.
So, which do I prefer? It’s difficult to say. Apart from my woeful experience at Regus, my five years of coworking have been incredibly enriching and rewarding. I enjoyed having a dedicated work space outside my home, but I’ve also really liked the flexibility of hotdesking. In the end, the main thing is to be part of a community. If you’re tempted to join other freelancers for mutual support and friendship, this coworking map might help you find a space near you.