As working from home and freelancing becomes an undeniable fact of life, so do co-working spaces -- places where people and companies gather to work next to each other, collaborate and share ideas.
My game company, Lunar Giant, recently opened its first co-working space called SpaceLab in Mokena, about 45 minutes south of the city. Though not the first space we’ve started (we also founded the hackerspace Workshop 88), there have been some real challenges and new lessons to learn along the way.
Here, we'll go into the work behind building an online community for a co-working space.
Community events are a critical component of any space both at its inception, and on an ongoing basis. They allow your co-working space to grow its membership by getting new blood in the door, raise funds through classes and workshops, and give back to the local community. Also, be sure to announce these using your online community.
Here are some events that we have in the works at SpaceLab, and have also run successfully at Workshop 88:
• Game nights. At Lunar Giant, the natural thing for us to do is host video game, tabletop RPG, and board game nights -- so we do. This is a great way to get people out to the space, promote what’s going on, and promote other upcoming events. The people who turn out to these might not be interested in becoming members, but that’s okay, because it’s all about spreading the word.
• Outings. Bar outings and outings to other businesses are a great way to make sure you aren’t staying insular, and use your numbers to help make an impact and spread the word about what you’re doing. Call a place ahead of time and let them know that you’re coming out during one of their slower days of the week: They’ll usually be happy to set aside space for your group at no charge.
• Guest speakers, classes and workshops. Similar to outings, but in the reverse direction. By bringing great outside ideas into your community, you both broaden horizons and show outsiders what you’re doing. Take broad, shallow strokes with your classes (intro to programming, simple business advice, etc.) in order to appeal to as many people as you can.