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Are coworking spaces anything more than just glorified cafes?
Will working from home drive me insane before I even turn 27?
These are the thoughts that run through my head fairly frequently when I reflect on the past two years of full-time travel and contemplate my life choices.
I value my location independence above all else, so I’ve worked hard to build a life that lets me move around the world as I please. I work from home as a freelance writer (click here to learn how) and that lets me pack up my backpack and move to a new city every five weeks.
If you’re just embarking on a digital nomad journey you may not realize how much your work style and social life will be forced to change. Even if you strongly prefer working from home and have never considered a coworking space before, traveling full-time changes things up in more ways than you might expect. I’m here to hopefully share some of my hard earned insight when it comes to choosing between working from home or shelling out the cash for a coworking space.
Let the coworking space vs. work from home showdown begin. Both have their pros and cons, so keep reading to decide which one is right for you.
I think this one is a no-brainer but I’m going to include it anyway. Finances are one of the most important aspects in making the decision between coworking or working from home and the simple fact is that one is free and the other is definitely not.
It all depends on which country you’re in, but from scoping out coworking spaces in South America, the US, and Europe you can expect to pay around $300 on the low end up to $500 or more per month.
However, if you’re really picky about your work space a coworking membership could save you money in the long run because it frees you up to rent cheaper apartments that don’t have an office or the desk that you need. Most of us just make due with what we can afford though, and because of that working from home easily wins the finance category.
Coworking Space vs. Work from Home Cost Winner: Work from home
Which one will you be more productive in as a digital nomad? For me, this category is a tie and I’ll tell you why.
Coworking spaces help me be productive because I feel like I’m at work. I paid for the space and don’t want to waste money, and being surrounded by other entrepreneurs and remote workers motivates me. However, I get distracted by going out for lunch, talking to other people, and just lose time in my work day on the commute to and from the office.
On the other hand, working from home helps me be productive because I can wake up and get right to it. I’m not packing a bag with gym clothes, trying to remember 100 different chargers and adaptors, cooking breakfast before I leave, nothing. I can sit right down with a cup of coffee and be working within 5 minutes of waking up (and you may not believe me but this really is how I start my day). I can also cook lunch instead of go out for it and I have no one to talk to or distract me from my work. However, it’s also much easier to quit at 3 instead of 5 when I’m in my underwear at home instead of in an office setting.
I’ve always been good about motivating myself and that’s why working form home doesn’t create any productivity issues for me and the two are tied in this round. You know yourself better though and this can give you some food for thought about your own working style!
Coworking space vs. work from home productivity winner: Tie
Did you know that people with a healthy social life actually live longer? There’s no doubt that making friends and keeping an active social life is the biggest challenge that comes with traveling full-time.
Coworking spaces can help with that. Even if you’re only in a new city for one month it will create a place to network and form relationships. No matter how superficial they are it’s definitely better than nothing.
You may be saying: I can work from home and get my social life from meetups and that’s definitely true.
Paying for a coworking space pushes you to go daily while most meetups are only once a week or less. Plus, meetups have an ever-changing array of people attending and skipping, but you get a permanent cast when you go to a coworking space.
Another perk of coworking spaces when it comes to maintaining a social life as a digital nomad are the connections that actually transcend borders. Organizations like WeWork are a good fit for digital nomads because they are a global coworking network with spaces around the world rather than just in one city. With a WeWork membership you can join a solid community of remote workers both online and in real life and have access to daily social and professional activities like office hours with venture capitalists, tequila tastings, and more.
I used to wonder why people opt for coworking spaces when you can get the same thing from a cafe for the price of a coffee, and this is it. The social life and connections are mostly what you pay for when it comes to coworking and honestly I think it’s worth it.
Coworking Space vs. Work From Home Social Life Winner: Coworking Space
Doing just one thing out of your ordinary routine can open up your thinking in entirely new ways. Daniel and I try to make a habit to change things up often.
We go to a writing meetup weekly, but instead of working on Slight North or travel blogging, we stretch our creativity with poetry or even writing stand up comedy. And get this: we do it with a pen. On paper. Can you even imagine?
Inspiration is a dumb word that gets thrown around a lot but there’s honestly nothing better than that flash of a new idea or that rush of motivation that comes with new inspiration in your life, and the more you can seek it out, the better.
Unfortunately, working from home is the opposite of inspiring in every way. It’s so boring to sit in the same apartment day after day, take the same walk, go to the same gym, and then do it all again.
Coworking spaces can get you out of the house and open up your life to new people and new conversations. I always get the best travel tips form people that I meet rather than online and it’s a great way to learn more about the city you’re in and upcoming things to see and do.
When it comes to work inspo, coworking obviously wins again. Sofia is a great city for digital nomads and when I was there I went to a talk from a Salesforce exec about how to scale a company. It was not applicable to me in any way and very web dev oriented, but it got my mind moving in new directions. In a conversation afterward Daniel and I came up with some a unique idea for Slight North that is in the works as we speak.
Inspiration is exceptionally important for digital nomads working to build their own business or freelance careers and coworking spaces with regular professional events win this category without a doubt.
Coworking Space vs. Work From Home Inspiration Winner: Coworking Space
Compatibility with the Digital Nomad Lifestyle
I love moving to a new city every few weeks but it also comes with some pain points. We have to pack up, clean up, and actually move, and then when we arrive in the new place we start the process of settling down all over again. This means scoping out the nearest grocery store, figuring out public transport, and joining a new gym. Add searching for a coworking space to that list and it gets a bit overwhelming.
However, I like that WeWork has created a solution to that problem. The company has offices in locations all around the world and not just the major cities either. Daniel and I have been talking forever about how the first company who does that well will nail the coworking market for digital nomads. I haven’t used their spaces but to get the same quality and amenities no matter where in the world you are would make it so much easier to fit coworking into a lifestyle of full-time travel.
Of course, working from home is super simple as well if you take the time to vet your Airbnbs carefully. Get stuck in one with slow internet and no table (seriously, the one I’m in now doesn’t have a single table?) and working from home can become a chore.
At the end of the day both are pretty compatible with the digital nomad lifestyle though, and this round ends in a tie.
Coworking Space vs. Work From Home Digital Nomad Lifestyle Winner: Tie
The Coworking Space vs. Work From Home Showdown Winner Is…
Disregarding the ties, the coworking space vs. work from home showdown was pretty close with a 2 to 1 win. The main reason why coworking pulls out ahead is because of the social aspect. For digital nomads with a roomy budget renting space from a coworking place in your city can make your day-to-day life better.
I’m pretty introverted but I started having serious anxiety attacks in the first 6-months of full-time travel in Colombia and I truly believe a big factor was the complete lack of social connection. As we move toward the end of year two on our trip I can see clearly how important a real community and human connections are to digital nomads. Coworking spaces can help with that.
If you’re choosing between the two options, try out a coworking space and you may just love what you find!
PS Click here to see if WeWork is in your city, stick around to learn more about the digital nomad lifestyle with my long-term travel FAQ, or learn how I make money online with freelance writing and digital marketing.