Coworking as a Business: Which Model Is Best?

Coworking is part of a collaborative reorganization of the global workforce, but does that mean a traditional business model is out of the question?

(The below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for I would encourage you to read the full version and let me know your thoughts! Like so many issues in the coworking community, it has to be decided on a space-by-space basis. I’d love to hear from space owners using these and other models to achieve a cohesive, sustainable community!)

…Most coworking advocates fall into one of two schools of thought on this topic: those that believe coworking is best when it exists as a non-profit, and those who believe coworking can (and should be) a profitable business. The coworking community demonstrates that both (and many hybrids in between) are possible.

Coworking As A Non-Profit

The thing that sets coworking apart from all other styles of working is that it has the welfare, success, and ultimately happiness of the members as its most lofty goal. The community is the most important asset, and everything else–the space, location and amenities–are meaningless if the community is absent. One of the most attractive reasons to choose the non-profit model is the ability to let the community evolve naturally…

Coworking As A For-Profit

What troubles some in the coworking community is that creating a coworking space with the sole purpose of making profit can drive the focus away from the coworking values of collaboration, community, openness, accessibility, and sustainability. “Coworking spaces that fully embrace the value of community are not owned by anyone,” writes the founder of C4 Workspace in San Antonio, Texas. “They may be funded by individuals and other sources but they are “owned” by the community.” One can’t just offer desks and Wifi, call it coworking, and wait for the money to roll in…

Coworking As A Not-Just-For-Profit

While it might be easy to equate “profit” with the cut-throat individualism that typifies the corporate world, space owners shouldn’t be afraid to make money from a business that requires hard work. Instead, many look for ways to provide additional, valuable services to both the freelancers in their coworking community as well as the telecommuters, small business owners, and creatives of the community at large. Workshops, camps, classes, and mixers bring people together and make them better at what they do. Better yet, all of these things can exist within the community without defining it…

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2 thoughts on “Coworking as a Business: Which Model Is Best?”

  1. A little late here but as a community manager at a coworking space in Miami (MiamiShared), I would like to mention that the issue we’ve seen with non-profit coworking spaces is that they have a very short life span. They don’t last very long which kind of sucks for the members. We have also witnessed that the model of renting a space solely for a coworking space for profit also has a tragically short life. When the owners of the space realize that this concept is profitable the prices raise for the Coworking owners and therefore they must pass these fees onto the members, which again sucks for the members and leave the coworking space with no other option but to play landlord and rent to whoever walks through the door, who may not be into the whole community vibe. A positive trend that Ive seen are places that start from owners who either bought the space for their own company or who simply own the space for the coworking concept. Though the first seems to work best. Essentially in this cases the overhead costs are few, and there is already a community established, by the current company.

  2. This is not to say that you can’t have people from radically different backgrounds working in the same space – in fact, this is a significant benefit of coworking, so long as they complement each other. The classic example is of developers work alongside designers and online marketers. In this case, the common theme and dominant flavor of the place would be of early stage tech startups or online businesses.

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