Working for yourself has its perks. If you work from home, there's no clock to punch and greater flexibility. It also has drawbacks. Household chores can be distracting and you miss out on the face-to-face exchange of ideas you have in an office. These days however, self-employed people can enjoy the positives without the negatives. A growing number of co-working spaces make it possible to have the freedom of self-employment and the camaraderie of an office.
Launch Pad (643 Magazine St., Suite 102, 504-267-9111; www.lp.co), an 11,000-square-foot co-working office, was the first of its kind in New Orleans when it opened in 2009. It provides complete technological support – Wi-Fi, printers, scanners, faxes, mail delivery, projectors and more — in a spacious environment with modern furnishings and contemporary art. Shared and semi-private space can be rented month-to-month. Traditional offices can be leased six months at a time. It offers three levels of membership ranging from $275 to $750 a month.
Founders Chris Schultz, Barre Tanguis and Will Donaldson designed Launch Pad for the startup and creative community. Marketing itself as "culture without the corporate," the business's diverse mix of professionals includes CPAs, attorneys, graphic artists, financial advisors and marketing specialists.
"We tend to attract tech-focused companies but we're really for anyone," says Katy Tackett, Launch Pad's community manager. "We have a little bit of everything you need. We have someone who could notarize something for you and someone who could make an app for your company, all under one roof. And we have our own email group so you can reach out and probably find someone to help you."
The in-house network of more than 100 members allows employers to find new workers and vice versa. "We actively try to foster relationships," Tackett says. There are more than 100 events, programs and meet-ups each year, including two major annual conferences — TribeCon in the Fall and Launch Fest in the spring. "The real amenity of Launch Pad is the community," Tackett says. "You're surrounded by people who can support you."
Community is the lifeblood of Propeller Incubator (4035 Washington Ave., 504-564-7816; www.gopropellor.org) as well. Propeller's 10,000 square feet are occupied by 15 companies that are part of its nonprofit accelerator program and approximately 70 individual and organization memberships, many with social or environmental missions. "We market ourselves as an opportunity to network with like-minded people, change makers and people who are inspired," says Julia Stewart, the programs and business manager at Propeller.
The Propeller Incubator facility, a joint venture between Propeller and Green Coast Enterprises, is located at Washington Avenue and Broad Street. It includes private offices, permanent desk spaces, shared desk spaces, conference rooms, event rental space, a lounge area and a kitchen with unlimited coffee. Like Launch Pad, it provides tech equipment (including 3-D printers, laptops for checkout and audio/visual equipment), as well as workshops, seminars and events on topics related to technology, entrepreneurship and design. The daily price for all of the above, according to Stewart, is what you would pay for a couple of drinks at a coffeeshop (rental options start at $10 for a day and go to $700 a month). Propeller's goal is to provide workspaces that are affordable for startups and people on a budget.
"One thing to consider is the cost of being productive," Stewart says. "If you work from home or a coffeeshop and you're being distracted, that has an indirect economic cost." Stewart says Propeller's philosophy is that when people work together, they get things done. She notes that its internal community has been a boon for the greater Broadmoor community. Members patronize the newly opened coffeeshops, bakery, cafe and health clinic.
The historic Maritime Building in the CBD is home to Beta (800 Common St., Suite 220, 504- 681-6183; www.betaneworleans.com), a shared workspace serving locals and visitors since 2012. Designed by architect Marcel Wisznia, who led the renovation of the 19th-century building, Beta offers a sophisticated design scape of iconic mid-century modern furnishings amid a backdrop of huge arched windows providing a view of downtown.
"People tend to be drawn to the design and aesthetics of the space," says Christopher Brancato, director of special projects at Wisznia Architecture and Development, which owns the Maritime Building. "I feel great every time I walk in. We think the environment should be of a quality that you want to represent yourself. That's important to us because we think it's important to the tenant."
Named for the phase when a company or business has passed the incubator stage but is not yet fully formed, Beta caters to a variety of renters, from residents of the Maritime to entrepreneurs stoking full-time careers and side businesses. In addition to tech support and multiple work space options ($495 to $895 a month), member advantages include a 24-hour doorkeeper, 24-hour access, use of the Maritime's amenity deck and health club, discounts at the restaurant in the building and more.
Brancato says shared workspaces are not only a desirable alternative to the freelancer's coffeeshop office (or what he calls "the coffice"), but they also have become part of the corporate landscape. "Companies are creating more shared workspaces so that different departments interact more and there are more open environments," he says. "We are working in a more social way in the physical world as well as the Web."
Beta has a mobile app (developed in conjunction with one of its tenants) that allows customers to pay rent, ask questions and connect with other tenants. Workspaces at Beta, Propeller and other venues also can be reserved through Liquidspace.com, a website listing numerous shared space venues.