6 Tips for Choosing a Coworking Space in San Francisco and Silicon Valley

photo credit: Josef Willems

For freelancers, entrepreneurs, and remote employees based in San Francisco, the coworking space has become the new office space, a place where like-minded professionals can work independently alongside one another. Whether you’re part of a startup company or self-employed, coworking can not only save you from the isolation of working alone, but also provide opportunities for networking, collaboration, and growth.

In San Francisco, where it seems like there are as many coworking spaces as coffee shops, it can be difficult to choose where you spend your work days. From sleek, modern offices to cozy open lounges, each one has a unique culture and provides a range of amenities for its members. Selecting a coworking space that feels like a good fit both professionally and culturally is important to your productivity and overall happiness.

Ask yourself these 6 questions before you choose your Bay Area coworking home:

1. How much space do I need?

Whether you’re a lone freelancer or a startup with several employees, finding the right amount of space is easy. Coworking spaces offer everything from a single table seat or desk, to private offices that will fit your entire team.

photo credit: Markus Spiske

2. How much do I want to spend?

Before you drop your credit card details, ask yourself how often and for how long you will use the space. If you want flexibility, look for spaces with hourly and daily rates, which run from $2-5/hour and $20-35/day. Monthly memberships plans range from several hours a month to unlimited hours and access.

Plans vary in price quite a bit and depend on your needs. Hot desking, or using any available desk, can cost from $175 to $605/month (see table below) while a dedicated desk might can range in price from $375 to $610/month. A private office at a space like WeWork starts at $900/month and increases in cost depending on the size of your team. Other spaces offer weekly rates, which is ideal for periods when you’re trying to buckle down on a project or are passing through the Bay Area.

Coliving in San Francisco is another great way to meet like-minded creatives and entrepreneurs, especially when you are traveling or in transition. Coliving spaces provide accommodations in addition to workspace for as little as a week up to several months. Other spaces offer weekly rates, which is ideal for periods when you’re trying to buckle down on a project or are passing through the Bay Area.

3. What amenities do I need?

Whether you’re searching for a place to base your startup or simply want to get out of your house, coworking spaces offer a range of amenities from printers and white boards to conference rooms and soundproof phone booths. Look for extras like mail services if you need a business address, and storage lockers for those things you don’t want to carry back and forth each day.

photo credit: DoSchu

Most spaces offer free Wi-Fi, but you may want to test the speed, particularly if you plan on making video calls or downloading large files. Make a list of your requirements and find one that supports your needs. At the same time, be careful not to get wooed by flashy amenities you won’t use as you may be paying for them with a more expensive rate.

4. What amenities do I want?

In addition to your basic office amenities, many coworking spaces provide complimentary tea, coffee, and snacks to get you through your workday. Some of the more social spaces have beer on tap for post-work happy hours, and common lounges and outdoor areas where you can meet your fellow coworkers, cheers to the end of the week, and let off some steam with a game of foosball or ping pong.

photo credit: Paul Sableman

5. What kinds of events would I like to attend?

Networking and social events are a great way to connect to other people in the coworking community. If you’re looking for professional development, seek out spaces that host guest speakers, panel discussions, and workshops centered around topics that would be helpful or interesting to you. Many coworking spaces in San Francisco also put on a variety of informal events such as yoga, breakfast clubs, and happy hours so you can get to know other members.

photo credit: Ed Schipul

6. What’s my work style?

Finding the environment that suits your work style is key to productivity. Do you need absolute quiet, or do you like a little white noise in the background? Do you prefer open spaces and communal tables, or private spaces without distraction? Are you looking for a professional, office-like atmosphere or laid-back, intimate vibe? If you have a chance to visit, pay attention to such things as noise levels and background music, desk height and chair type, and artificial and natural light. Be sure to check out opening hours, too. If you work best early in the morning or late at night, you might want to find a place with extended hours or 24/7 access.

photo credit: Luc Legay

Also, consider the kinds of people and businesses that are already members. Does the coworking space draw creatives? Entrepreneurs? Nonprofits? Tech startups? This will give you a good idea about how well the space is suited to your needs, and can give you a good idea of the culture.

In short, San Francisco has no shortage of coworking spaces that can serve not only as a work base, but also give you access to a community of people with whom you can collaborate, trade ideas, and share advice for a richer, more productive work life.

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