NEWPORT, Ky. – Tired of working out of your home, hotel or car? You’re not alone.
Hundreds of independent professionals are joining co-working spaces as a way of connecting with other professionals or as just a place to meet clients when needed. New co-working spaces are popping up across the Tri-State, particularly in Northern Kentucky.
What is co-working space? It’s essentially a shared workspace where freelancers and other independent workers can go and get the basics of an office – desk, internet access, conference room, shared printers, mail service – and get the benefits of office colleagues of a sort who are good to bounce ideas off or seek feedback from, according to research by the Catalytic Fund, a private-sector nonprofit that provides financing assistance and technical expertise for projects in Northern Kentucky’s river cities.
Members buy time in the space from a few hours a week to full time, sometimes even having a dedicated desk or small office. Fees depend on what the worker needs, but they can be less than $100 monthly to about $350 for a more dedicated space.
“People want to be a part of a community,” said Stacy Kessler, owner of Platform 53 in Covington. “People who see themselves in an isolated situation – they’re home all of the time or working on their own – want to be surrounded by like-minded people.”
Darrin Murriner, owner of Borderlands Creative Workspace and Studio in Newport, said that, at the core, people want to help each other. Unlike working for a company, using this kind of space means “you could have all the co-workers without all the drama and politics. You strip all that stuff.”
The value comes from sharing, Murriner said. “We found there is a lot of value in people with different disciplines and in different stages of their careers.”
Platform 53 just celebrated its two-year anniversary. It's adding some dedicated desk space later this year where they see a need. She added that a lot of folks come because they need to focus, and many come for the social aspect and the ability to collaborate.
“We have a few members that drive an hour to get here because they get something from it,” Kessler said.
One of the newest spots in Northern Kentucky is Odd Fellows Coworking, located in, of course, the old Odd Fellows Hall that has been rehabbed after a fire wrecked it in 2002. It has more dedicated offices as well as open shared spaces. They’ve also attracted a mix of workers.
“We’ve got a construction guy, general contractor, architect, comedian who shares (an office) with actor, and a social media infographic company,” said manager Nathan Chick.
Anderson Township has also opened a co-working space in Anderson Center. The space, dubbed CoWorks, opened Sept. 1 in vacant space that had housed the internal television station.
“We knew we would be fulfilling a different kind of need, plus we had a different kind of space,” said Steve Sievers, assistant administrator for operations. What they found is that more people want private office space, “whether that’s a byproduct of the space or location, we don’t know.”
Anderson had more inner office spaces that they originally thought would be shared spaces, but more people wanted a lockable space, he said. They’re also attracting workers who are more established in their business.
Despite the growth in co-working spaces, the region is behind the curve from larger cities, which tend to have more and bigger spaces. Research by the Catalytic Fund shows freelance and independent workers will make up about 40 percent of the workforce by 2020 – about 65 million workers. Co-working space owners are looking to help fill the need.
Murriner’s exploring shared memberships with other sites across the city, which would allow members to work at different locations, depending on where they are that day. He’s also planning to open more space in the St. Vincent de Paul building, also on Monmouth Street in Newport, but that’s likely not to open until 2018.
Kessler said there is still a need to support small work groups that want dedicated space.
Murriner agrees. Borderlands has only two locked office spaces with doors, and both are leased, but they could probably fill as many as they could create, he said.
Murriner said the suburbs also could use some co-working spaces.
The trend is likely to keep growing as freelancers and entrepreneurs continue to grow, said Chick.
“People think of it like a gym membership,” said Chick. “You use a gym as you need it and a co-working space as you need it.”