How to choose a workspace that suits you

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Christine James who is on the Small Town Big Dreams team has a background in fashion design and co-founded Blick Shared Studios in 2007 after returning to Northern Ireland from Italy to set up her own fashion design business and spotting a gap in the market for creative workspace in Northern Ireland. Christine has had responsibility for managing Blick Studios since it was founded and with all her in-depth knowledge of the co-working and entrepreneurial sector, we asked her to share her top tips on how to find your perfect workspace.

#1 Find your Tribe

You’ll be mingling with your neighbours daily, so have a think about your company culture and aesthetic. Working alongside like-minded people you can share ideas, resources, build your network and collaborate with can be one of the most beneficial things about moving your creative business to a workspace outside your home. So make sure you take the time to think about who you want to be surrounded by, what size of space and community you think you will feel more comfortable in and what values and qualities are important to you and your creative business as it grows and develops. 

#2 Location

Make sure the space you choose is easy to get to from wherever you live so you actually use it and don’t end up paying for a space you never use. If you are likely to work late, make sure the area is safe enough that you feel comfortable coming and going on your own late at night. Choose a location that you feel reflects the values of your business e.g. prestigious, creative, cutting edge etc. Have a think about what amenities are close to the workspace, are there shops, coffee shops, public transport links, even parks and places to sit outside can be important added benefits for you to clear your head and seek inspiration.

#3 Flexibility

Think about your creative business needs now and as it grows and develops. Do you just need ad-hoc or part-time use to get started? Is it just a space for yourself you need or are you planning on growing your team? Are you just trying out a new business idea and unsure if it will be successful? It’s important to check out the flexibility of space suits your needs and also that contracts for the space are flexible enough that you can change your mind without too big or long-term a commitment. 

#4 Cost

Make sure you choose a work space you can realistically afford, so you don’t put yourself under too much financial pressure especially when starting out and income might be uncertain. Starting out working from home until you build up some regular clients or secure funding or investing is often the best idea so you can work out your budget and how much you can afford to spend. Make sure you factor in all costs, with studio or co-working spaces check for any additional costs such as meeting room use, telephone etc. If looking for privately rented premises don’t forget extra costs such as service charges (which can fluctuate dramatically from year to year and the tenant has little control or rights over), rates, waste, water, business improvement district fee etc and the associated admin costs of dealing with these issues yourself. Finally don’t forget about VAT, which may be liable, many small creative businesses won’t be VAT registered so having to pay out VAT on a property when you aren’t claiming it back can be a significant expense. 

#5 Design

Particularly for a creative business design can be an important element in choosing a workspace. It has to be a space you and your staff our comfortable working from, somewhere you feel inspired and creative, but also a space that within its design reflects the values of your business as a creative business. Workspaces come in all shapes and sizes to suit all tastes and needs from slick formal minimal design to more personable and characterful. Think about what’s important to you for your business, whether it’s natural light, plants, original features or bespoke designer furniture and choose somewhere you are comfortable, feel inspired, creative and feel reflects your businesses culture and aesthetics. 

#6 Service

If choosing a managed workspace think about the kind of service you expect or would like, from the workspace staff and management. Do you want a personal service where there can be some flexibility and you get to know the staff or would you prefer there to be more distance between workspace users and staff. It’s worth asking around and getting feedback from other space users and tenants so you can pick the right place for you and know that you will get the level of service you want and need.

#7 Facilities

Have a think about what facilities you really need for your creative business and what you would like but can live without. Do you need a quiet space for phone calls? A meeting room? A messy space? Sinks and water supply? Would a shared space suit or do you have confidential information or expensive equipment and need a private space? Remember that extra and/or better facilities will usually cost more in additional costs or built into the price so make sure when starting out and working on a budget you prioritise what is most important for you and your creative business to give you the best possible chance for success.


by Christine James