Written By: Peony Wong @ Ooosh Coworking
In recent years, Hong Kong’s coworking spaces have emerged to meet the increasing demands of not only startups and tech companies, but also local SMEs, new economy businesses, and international brands. Each of the 200+ coworking spaces in the city has its own unique offerings, but it isn’t easy to compare them after looking at prices, services, and locations. As an individual or team looking for a suitable office rental, what should you compare to make the most of your membership? Below, we’ll cover some of the consideration factors for coworking spaces based on our experience running Ooosh as well as speaking to members and non-member businesses in Hong Kong.
Who are you?
Before diving into coworking space features, it is important to be clear on your business and needs. Are you:
a freelancer or someone growing a team?
a tech startup aiming for Series A funding?
an established SME looking for a more lively shared office?
Coworking spaces may not be suitable for all businesses. However, they are a strategic choice for many types of workers in the new economy because they not only offer a furnished office space, but often services that help members achieve their business goals. Below is a an example of common needs members and visitors to Ooosh have shared with us:
Individuals: Freelancers, Solopreneurs, Slashers
Affordable, pay-as-you-go office space
Convenience and flexibility with multiple locations
Business contacts and opportunities
Small Teams: Startups, SMEs, Regional Offices, Corporate Teams
Low up-front cost for small office rental
Flexibility for team size variation
Admin support and space management
A diverse business network
Though individuals and teams alike are looking for general features such as flexibility, exposure to a business network and contacts, how these services are delivered varies from place to place. To you as a potential member, it is not the number of perks a place has, but rather the number of facilities and services that are relevant and affordable for you.
Summary Tip: Before diving into comparisons, take a step back and make a list of your business needs based on three questions:
What type of business are you?
What are your business goals for the short-medium term?
What services can help you accomplish those goals or remove barriers?
What are my financial considerations?
Coworking spaces in Hong Kong are perceived to be more cost-effective to renting traditional, fixed-term office spaces and better suited for work than cafes. However, a more comprehensive way to approach financial considerations to breakdown the upfront costs and long-term costs.
The upfront cost is the membership and office fee, usually charged monthly or quarterly, which is more flexible than renting a 2-year office lease with deposits and renovation. The long-term costs are the on-demand services that you use often, such as meeting rooms or weekend access. The benefit of on-demand services is that members do not need to make investments on equipment such as a printer until there is a proven long-term need. However, the drawback is that the on-demand services are often at a premium and can add up. Many coworking spaces also bundle some on-demand services into their memberships, such as a fixed number of free meeting room bookings per month. Many coworking spaces have the following services:
Hot desk or office
Coffee machine and snacks (free)
Basic weekday office-hour access
Long-term costs of on-demand services:
Printing, mailbox, and other admin services
Meeting rooms and event rooms
24-hour or weekend access
Access to multiple locations
Additional membership charges for office teams
While coworking spaces may be a good solution for freelancers and teams to figure out their offices needs, anticipating your office needs can help you compare the real long-term costs between coworking spaces. In addition, if you have specialised needs, such as a 3D printer, projecting your 2-year needs will help you determine whether investing in one upfront in a small office or making use of the one provided at a coworking space is more suitable.
Financially, a coworking space is strategic for:
Seasonal office space
Fluctuating team sizes
Small office rentals with amenities
On-demand office facilities and services
Industry and cross-industry networks
Summary Tip: Ultimately, individuals and teams need to consider both the risk of upfront costs for the business as well as the spread cost over a time period. Coworking space give flexibility to remove the risk of costly investments, but services can add up over time.
What frequent operational expenses can I reduce?
Effective coworking spaces are designed to help businesses succeed by removing operational overhead. Finding the right coworking space often comes down to how the services your business requires are offered and whether the relevant ones are within your budget.
The more additional services coworking spaces provide on-demand, the more support members have to deliver their product and services effectively. For example, businesses may occasionally need venues for seminars, events, or team activities, where renting a larger office is costly and frequently venue searching is time-consuming. A well-designed, fully-fitted event space on-demand removes the need to invest in additional rooms and equipment as well as the uncertainties of venue sourcing. Another consideration is what perks come bundled with a membership. Freelancers or companies that have regular client meetings will benefit more from places that are open to guests as opposed to the ones with strict membership-only access. Finding the right types of included services can help you focus on your business, execute more effectively, or drive sales leads.
Summary Tip: Make a list of your regular business requirements and ask in detail about policies and support services for each coworking space you visit. Share why you need those particular services to see what coworking space can do to help you as a partner.
What additional factors can help my business grow?
Coworking space members that thrive usually directly benefit from the right of community members, which helps their business grow. In contrast, traditional companies such as accounting firms or legal firms may not be able to fully leverage this factor, which is why traditional offices are still needed!
Identifying the unique community that each coworking space nurtures is not a strategic choice to be taken lightly. Network size is not necessarily everything. For example, Ooosh has a mentorship program to facilitate knowledge sharing to increase synergies at the community’s individual level. Some members may be looking to learn from other industry experts to improve their business operations or grow their sales channels. In some communities, members may also develop new businesses together. For example, a woman entrepreneur running a trading company learned how to use technology to solve her business bottlenecks when she met tech startups and digital marketing experts at Ooosh. She later teamed up with two young developers at Ooosh to develop a prototype together and raised HK$1,000,000 in pre-seed funding.
Readers should note that business opportunities begins with building initial trust. Rather than thinking about coworking spaces as a group of people to extract from, it is a shared workspace where exposure can lead to new opportunities.
Summary Tip: Don’t just ask about a coworking space’s services or the community manager to describe the culture to you. Instead, ask specific questions that would be meaningful to you, such as:
What types of members fit or don’t fit here?
What types of events do you hold and why?
Are there member-initiated programs?
How do members get to know each other?