Co-Working 2008

Pat Phelan writes about Co-Working in Cork: so if you could get 20 people to invest €25 per week, co working should be incredibly simple plus €50 from each to start-up ?? It really requires people who are passionate about it to start to put their money where their mouth is. I’ve spoken a lot … Continue reading “Co-Working 2008”

Pat Phelan writes about Co-Working in Cork:

so if you could get 20 people to invest €25 per week, co working should be incredibly simple plus €50 from each to start-up ??

It really requires people who are passionate about it to start to put their money where their mouth is.

I’ve spoken a lot about co-working in the past in conjunction with ‘Bedouin‘ working. Though it’s not something I could really take advantage of right now (due to the day job requirements and my partner working nights), it remains something I would support with my money as well as my mouth.

Looking at the costs though – and assuming £20 a week for Belfast:

20 people at £20 a week is £19200 a year if you assume 48-week occupancy. I did a quick search on Propertynews Commercial this morning targetting the City Centre, Botanic, Stranmillis and the University Area.

For £7000 pa (plus same again in Rates), you can get 1000 sq ft in a second floor suite on Shaftesbury Square. For £9000 pa (and again about the same in Rates), you can get the ground floor of a house on University Street (with 711 sq ft). For £13500 a year (plus a massive cost in rates), you can get about 1800 sq ft in Rosemary Street (just off Royal Avenue). These start to make the costs a lot higher but consider the crush in trying to fit 20 people into even 1800 sq ft when you consider that you are going to want desks, maybe even some sofas, breakout space, maybe even a conference room/meeting room or two. This is meant to be a relaxed place to work – not a sweatshop.

One of the most promising premises in terms of size is one on North Street which has 2300 sq ft already subdivided into offices and meeting rooms. The list price, £30 000 annually is high and the rates add another £10 000 onto the total. But the shape is wrong (with it divided into a host of one-man offices) and with the cost now hitting £40 000 (though a good negotiator could get that rent cut down to half), you’d have to charge people a lot more just to get in the door and that then doesn’t count operational or capital expenditure – desks, chairs, carpets, projectors, internet, telephones.

Nor does anything here take into account the necessity for 5-15 year leases.

I am convinced that running a Co-Working site needs to be a full time job for someone and, as a result, they’d need to get paid for it. Someone to keep the place clean, someone to make sure the bills get paid, to make sure the milk is fresh, to restock the coffee and to scrub the toilet bowl. Sure, this can be done by the co-workers themselves but I remain unconvinced that people will do it unless it is their job. It will always be someone else’s job.

And I also think there needs to be a retail element of it. You need to increase revenue by bringing in people off the street. No sense in buying decent coffee if it’s just going to be drunk by the people who turn up to the co-working space.

[UPDATE: from the comments, Co-working spaces need some definition. This graphic is taken from my 2006 business plan.

The NewWorkSpace aimed to fill in the gap. Coffee shop on the ground floor with normal coffee tables in the middle and ‘work booths’ around the edges. Stairway leading to reception and entry to the co-working floor – large tables, room for 2-5 people at each, sofas, kitchen. Office manager pay-for facilities here too like fax, printer. Door leading to offices on next floor and secure storage for members. There was a lot more visual detail which I’ll lead someone though if they ask.]

0 thoughts on “Co-Working 2008”

  1. For what it’s worth, I’ve said that I’m happy to make Manager a part-time job for myself alongside freelancing.

    And we’re still developing the project, working on it full time between us, we’re just waiding through bureaucracy currently to see which local organisations are going to support the project. Once we get through that stage, we definitely need to get you into a more active role into deciding what to do – if you’d be keen. Something should be up and running before the summer, never worry!

  2. Hi Andy,
    Much more than anything, you need commitment from people in a sense much more than ‘yay, cool’.

    And until you get the numbers up, I guess it may need a lot of funding from interested bodies.

    I’d do more but…this is your (you and David) baby. Did I ever send you that business plan I wrote?

  3. From around 4 pm until late I’m available on AIM (pelorus at mac dot come). With some notice, I can probably meet for a couple of hours during the week after 3 pm.

    I’d suggest that we try to rope in some of the other interested people – this was a hot topic at the last 5 minutes of BarCamp with myself, andrew Gribben, and Matt Keenan. You were running around organising things and I think David (Rice) and David (Newman) would obviously need to be involved too! (which means we’d have two Andrews, two Davids and two Matts just to make things interesting)

  4. It sounds like the model is very similar to that run by Regis and other virtual/instant office places, but with a couple of exceptions:

    1) Overheads will be kept to a minimum for all parties
    2) The raisons d’etre are very different

    However, in looking at the similarities between the models it brings to mind a secondary source of income with pure virtual offices: mailboxes, phone numbers, fax-to-email, etc. that have no or negligible square footage overhead. Working with someone like The Company Shop could then feed leads back and forth.

  5. Hi Aidan,
    This was covered before – Regis and other serviced office companies do not offer co-working. They offer an office. My experience when touring Regis on two occasions was that it was filled with small offices containing one person who kept the door wedged open in the interest of trying to foster some human contact. It was crowded, poorly air-conditioned and at the same time, desperately lonely. And for those reasons I didn’t take an office there (and instead went to Mallusk).

    There is mileage in offering the Virtual office, of managing the phones, fax, storage (virtual as well as physical) but again this makes it into a business that needs a manager.

  6. mj: you missed my point. The business model for the two is quite close, regardless of what they are trying to accomplish. I totally understand the differences between the two.

    I was just trying to show that places like Regis make money using a bunch of techniques, many of which would still be applicable to the co-working place.

  7. Yes, the first step for establishing a basis for a co-working facility was checking out other co-working facilities and serviced offices – even pulling down the Regis annual reports made for some interesting reading.

    Regis is still moving towards a more open facility with their ‘card’ based service and expanding hot desking – in effect making their office more virtual – the costs are pretty in extremis (as you’d expect).

    I think a co-working facility can be run as a non-profit, but there need to be salaried staff.

  8. From my experience with CoWorking Dublin, which is nothing close to that ultimate vision of what CoWorking could be, I can tell you now that keeping a place such as that described above running as a part-time job will be a serious challenge. Basic admin takes lots of time. There are so many small, distracting, time-wasting, monotonous tasks required that would cripple someone that can’t dedicate their full working day to the job.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t discourage anyone from giving it a good shot and getting help with the administration as you scale the initiative. Best of luck to Andy and anyone else trying to get CoWorking Belfast going. I thoroughly recommend you pester Paul Campbell ( for ideas and feedback on anything you do with it; he knows CoWorking better than anyone else on the island and has worked in a few of the original spots like Citizen Space and set up CoWorking Dublin.

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