Going to Work” as a Freelancer: Co-ops and Apartments Providing Much-Desired Space



Photos of Ampersand, a co-op workspace, in Montgomery on May 7, 2014. (Joe Birdwell)

Photos of Ampersand, a co-op workspace, in Montgomery on May 7, 2014. (Joe Birdwell)


For many in the United States, freelance jobs provide the flexibility to work from anywhere, be it from a home office or a local coffee shop down the street. But these locations aren’t without their distractions, leading some freelance creatives to seek alternative work spaces.

Co-op work spaces are popping up all over the United States and are growing in popularity for many freelancers, including writers, artists, entrepreneurs, and even students who need a distraction-free environment. These co-ops are developed to help offer a sense of belonging and collaboration to today’s freelancers, as these types of jobs can often lead to feelings of isolation because of their independent nature.

In response to the growing need for distraction-free spaces, co-ops offer everything from a place to gain WiFi access to a worker’s own desk, storage space, and business address, if needed. The amenities can vary depending on the location, and so can the fees. 

Ampersand, is one such space; its developers, Stamp Idea Group, aim to “bridge that gap” between providing space for local agencies and allowing creative types to enjoy a collaborative atmosphere. The 1,200 square foot work space provides 24/7 internet access, group and independent work areas, a copier, a printer, a scanner, a kitchen area, and private meeting rooms and phone booths, all for a monthly fee of $150 (or $75 for students).

Other spaces are similar to Ampersand, with some fundamental differences, but they seem to be available in all major cities of the U.S. For instance, some spaces are unofficial co-ops: the Ace Hotel in New York City offers free access to its lobby and is the site for many young creatives.

However, some spaces are only open to a select few: Hera Hub, in San Diego, is only available to female entrepreneurs, and Paragraph, in New York, is for writers and is open 27/7/365 to accommodate the irregular hours that writers can keep. Monthly fees in co-ops all over the country can include private desks and storage for a little bit more, and they can climb as high as $400 a month for an all-inclusive plan, such as the one at NextSpace River North in Chicago.

For other freelancers, the need for privacy and the desire to spread out might not lend itself well to shared space, so many are choosing separate spaces for themselves only. Some freelancers may find themselves renting another apartment to provide studio space and lessen daily distractions, and this option may fit better when compared with some of the potentially high costs of joining a co-op. 

Like co-ops, an apartment can give the sense of “going” to work for those who don’t necessarily need to work from any particular spot. A freelancer’s own space gives the opportunity for a business address and complete freedom over the use of a space, but it doesn’t come without difficulties: such rentals will require the freelancer to develop a checklist of places to call in order to set up utilities, mail, and, of course, internet access.

Even though the costs of renting an apartment or joining a work space co-op can seem a bit high to those who get paid per gig, the benefits can get be worth the costs. Said one creative about Montgomery’s Ampersand space, “I’ve worked out of Starbucks, and it’s got a nice little atmosphere, but it has some disadvantages too. Having a place like this, I can connect with other creatives.” 

Private and shared work spaces around the country are providing freelancers with a place to get things done on a day-to-day basis and, if needed, from month-to-month, as well. So for freelancers lamenting their distractions at home or in crowded cafes, there are options to boost productivity, but it would be wise to let the benefits outweigh the costs.

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