When it's time to bring your ideas into the real world, there are many tempting mistakes to make. Usually, it’s not because you think it will make things easier, but because you've seen other spaces do something and thought it was a great idea. The first thing to know is that the flashiest forms of communication are often the last, and the least important, steps you’ll want to take. Here are some ground-level mistakes and the ways to avoid these pitfalls.
Taking poor photos/expecting your members to post good ones
When you start a coworking space, everyone knows that you need a strong online presence. Unfortunately, new operators often see their’s picture-perfect Instagram pages and launch straight into their insta-game; spend hours crafting their “about us” on Facebook; and neglect the two most important elements for attracting members: A good website and good photos. Not coincidentally, these steps take work, aren’t glamorous, and most likely involve hiring a professional (either web designer or photographer). But they are also how the majority of people will end up at your space. Think about it:
- When someone is looking for a coworking space, proximity is very important, so they’re almost certainly going to search Google Maps. You don’t want them to see dark, blurry, or unflattering photos of your space that your members post. Or even worse: no photos.
- If they want to know what you offer, they’ll look at your website, not Facebook. Facebook is an unbeatable tool for reaching your existing community; but prospective members aren’t a part of your community—yet.
Hire a web designer and make your site stand out. Then commission a good photographer and upload those photos to your google business page so that they're the first thing people see when they search for you. Whatever you do, don’t seek out the cheapest option you can find (or try to lowball someone), find professionals and pay them what they’re worth (as a former freelancer I can vouch for two maxims: You get what you pay for, and nothing is more expensive than the cheapest option).
Expecting organic growth out of the gate
Coworking is popular, the industry is growing, and there's more demand than supply. Ok, that’s great. But it doesn't mean that opening a new spot will mean you’ll start growing without building up your marketing fundamentals. In fact, if you open and haven’t already sold memberships, you might already be too late.
What you should be doing is aggressive research and marketing. Is your space in a region overflowing with freelancers? Get in touch with a few of them and see what they’d want out of a membership. See what they’d be willing to pay. And then, offer them annual membership at a discounted rate if they're willing to be part of your first memberships. Offer them a permanent discount if they agree to prepay the first year. Having a core group of members who will not only vouch for your space, but be there day-in and day-out will be the most valuable resource you have.
I can’t stress it enough: Sell as many memberships as soon as you can; not as soon as you open. Not only is this a source of revenue, but this is your market testing, focus testing, and stress testing all wrapped into one. Luckily for you, the people who sign up early invested in your success and will be your biggest cheerleaders going forward.
Trying to please everybody
If you try and please everyone, you’ll end up pleasing no one. You obviously want everyone to like your space. But nobody raves about a space that's good, they talk about one that’s great. A space that's interesting is more valuable than one that's inoffensive. In fact, even if they might not personally like something about it, they’ll tell their friends who they think it would be a perfect fit. For example, maybe it’s a spot for freelancers with children, including daycare, activities for parents, and toys and games designed to occupy kids during the day. That might not be the right space for someone who values a quiet environment—but it’s a perfect fit for a member who needs those services, and if you make them happy they’ll be your biggest advocates.
Waiting to prepare for growth until it's too late
There are a lot of things that won’t feel urgent. If you only have a few members, you can probably handle most tasks by yourself. It’s hard to find time for long-term planning when you’re knee-deep in today's problems. But from day 1, you need to be thinking about your plans for next week, next month, and next year. So many things in coworking are like ripping off Band-Aids. Using an automated access system might feel like overkill now, but there will never be an easier time to install it than before you need it. Excel spreadsheets might work for a bit—but by the time you realize that it’s costing you time and money and you want to automate your accounting, it’ll be as time-consuming as rooting out blackberry bramble. And twice as painful.
Put your plan into action
With these pitfalls in mind, remember that like any business, the hardest and most important work is the work that your members will never see. Take pride in the fact that you're about to make it look effortless!
Guest article by Sam Bender | Cobot
Sam is the Communications Specialist at Cobot, where he writes about the faces of coworking, interesting spaces, and engaging collaborative work stories. Cobot is the leading software for managing your coworking or flexible workspace, freeing your time for what really matters: spending time with your coworkers.