Coworking and hotdesking

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.

By | 2016-10-18T15:48:53+00:00 April 26th, 2010|Freelance Translation|13 Comments

About the Author:

Celine
I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.

13 Comments

  1. Marian Dougan April 26, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I’m in the lucky position of having my own office in a small business unit (other occupants include a marketing business, sports magazine publisher, and private detective). For which I pay only £250/month. I prefer working from home but it’s great to have the office – and a sense of community – when needed.

  2. céline April 26, 2010 at 10:24 am

    This is an option I’ve never explored, because my main concern is to be around other freelancers with whom to share and exchange. You mention a sense of community – how is that possible when you’re in separate offices and in very different setups?

  3. Olga April 26, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Dear Celine, thank you so much for this post. I came across your website and your blog not so long ago, so I’ve been doing lots of reading lately =) All your posts are very useful. I am also a freelancer, but I haven’t been working as long as you and there are still sooooo many things for me to learn! And this shared office option was something I’ve never even thought of. It’s a very interesting idea. May be I’ll use it some day…

  4. Andy April 26, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    Presumably, another Con on the Hotdesk coworking front is that you can’t keep your stinky trainers under the desk?

  5. céline April 26, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Well actually, that isn’t so much of a problem as I have a pedestal where I can lock up essential items, like stinky trainers and cheese.

  6. Rachel April 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    There’s a great coworking space in my downtown. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve seen the place and heard great reviews. They offer private or open spaces, and they let you choose between a monthly rent, a 10-day-a-month rent, and a daily walk-in rate. I like the idea of having a space for 10 days each month—I love working at home, but there are those days…

  7. Angela Dickson April 27, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I am curious; how do the computer arrangements work, especially as regards specialist software for translation?
    Do you hook your laptop to the cinema display, or is the coworking space networked so you can install your own software? Or is there another option I haven’t thought of?

  8. Marian Dougan April 27, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    A sense of community in that we share the same facilities, borrow milk and coffee, pop in for chats and so on. We don’t share work-related tips or advice, but I need to work on my own anyway – can’t even have the radio on, far less share workspace, or I can’t concentrate.

  9. céline April 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

    @Angela: We all have our individual log-in to access our customized account from any computer. We can install whatever program we like as long as it’s approved by the IT department – i.e. it has to be a legally acquired copy and it must be safe.
    The other option is to hook up your MacBook Pro (MacBooks won’t work) to the screen to run your system on it.
    I’ve installed Antidote on my office account because I’m allowed to have two copies on two different machines, but I’d have to buy another license to install Wordfast so I haven’t done it: I translate on my Mac and use the big machine to edit and proofread. Wordfast Anywhere might change this, however.
    Please note that this setup is very unusual: my coworking space is funded by the university and the EU to help new graduates start their own businesses. Old hands like me are welcome because we can share our experience with the young’uns and the person in charge feels that a mixed environment is more enriching for everyone.

  10. Sarah Dillon May 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Thank you for sharing the finer details of your coworking arrangement, Céline. It’s very helpful – as you know it’s a very timely issue for me!
    The set-up where I am at the moment is that a local graphic design company with some spare office space recently decided to lease out the desks individually to freelancers, small businesses, etc. I think it’s as much a trial for them as it is for me.
    The desks are dedicated to individual users, and there are no hotdesking arrangements. There is only space for about 8 people, but only 4 of us have ever been there at the one time so far. It’s still very early days so it will be interesting to see how the coworking side of things develops – hopefully into a “little hub of freelancing goodness” 🙂
    I pay AUD $150 per week, which I *thought* was good until I read about your experiences 🙁 (Now I think, “Ouch! WTF?!” I was originally comparing it to serviced offices in Brisbane which are much more than this).
    The cons are I have to bring my own laptop / supply my own equipment, and there are no printing or kitchen facilities.
    So, very much a trial for me at this stage, but I’ve been waiting two years for something like this to make it’s way here and it’s as good as Brisbane gets!

  11. Andrew Mann May 11, 2010 at 9:54 pm

    Hello, thanks for the interesting post. I met a speaker at an ITI event recently who gave a very interesting talk on coworking and in particular, Jelly, which seems to be an expanding coworking organisation. You can find more information on it here: http://www.workfromhomewisdom.com/tag/jelly/

  12. céline May 12, 2010 at 9:59 am

    @Andrew: Sarah on the French side of the blog mentioned jellies in the comments. I’d never heard of them and I must say I love the idea. Coincidentally, I found out last week while I was in Brighton that my cozy coworking space might no longer be there when I move back, so jellies might well become an option for me, especially as I know so many freelancers and it would be quite easy to set up. À suivre…
    @Sarah: £90 a week seems very expensive, and no printer or kitchen?? I would suggest you follow Andrew’s link – I find the concept of jellies extremely promising and it might be the answer you’re looking for. I’m surprised that a big city like Brisbane has so few options!

  13. Angela D May 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    This is particularly for Céline and Sarah – I’ve now been in my new coworking/hotdesking facility for a week and thought I’d post some observations (“Get your own blog!” I hear you shout – maybe one day).
    My setup is very similar to Céline’s in that it is partially university-run and funded and we have big Macs. The people who run it are keen to encourage a good mix of mostly “creative” types but let me (a translator) in anyway 🙂
    The costs are either £30/day, £90/week or £170/month, which in theory is for hotdesking, though for various reasons I have a dedicated desk & computer and my own cupboard, which has space for all my dictionaries. There is a printer, a kitchen, a lime green chair and even a window (something my home office lacks…).
    I don’t know how it’ll turn out in the long term, but I’m going to try for 3 months and see how it goes.

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