The number of freelancers, solopreneurs, remote workers and independent professionals is growing, and they need a place to work. One study predicts that over 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be a contingent worker by 2020.
Many of these independent professionals work from home, but that can be distracting and isolating. Many work from coworking spaces, but these can be cost-prohibitive for some entrepreneurs just starting out.
One of the best-kept entrepreneurial workspace secrets is the library. With free wifi, an abundance of business resources and a variety of spaces to work, the library is the perfect spot to get a business off the ground.
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1. Space to Focus
Libraries have a long history of being quiet spaces. Though 21st century libraries have incorporated makerspaces, more gathering areas, more community programming and even coworking spaces, you can still find a quiet area to go heads-down to focus and get your work done. If you prefer to work with background noise, sit near the entrance or in an area with steady traffic. If you work best with music, bring your headphones and create your own work soundtrack.
2. Free Wifi
Wifi is expensive. That’s part of the digital divide — that not everyone can afford to pay the monthly bill to bring internet access into their house. Libraries offer free wifi so you can utilize all the tools necessary to bring your business to life, including research tools, productivity tools, project management platforms, customer management tools, social media and more. Note: As with all public wifi, there are digital security precautions you should take in the library before logging on.
3. Business Resources
Libraries contain business resources, such as business license requirements and forms, industry trade journals, computers for setting up and maintaining your business, local tax information and more. The easy access to these resources is one of the perks of having the entire library be your extended workplace.
4. Reference Librarians
One of the most underutilized amenities in the library is the reference librarian service. Reference librarians are there to help you, whether you need to find out the necessary requirements to starting a business in your area, the average number of tourists that go to Bora Bora each year, how to find funding for your project, or any number of other business or research questions you may have. Enlist the help of these folks — you’ll be amazed at how much they know and can help you.
5. Professional Events
As libraries reinvent themselves as information hubs for the 21st century, the programming in many libraries has grown to include more business and professional events. Check you local library for a listing of meetups, workshops, presentations, coworking sessions and networking events.
6. No Office Overhead
Office rental is expensive. Coworking is a wonderful alternative, but even that can be too expensive for a budding entrepreneur who is not ready to commit to a membership. Libraries offer workspace at no cost and many of them provide the peripheral amenities necessary to start and run a business, such as a printer/scanner/copier, projectors and a variety of workspaces and meeting areas.
7. Meeting Rooms
When you need to meet with a client, your team, or an independent contractor, make use of the library meeting rooms. Some of these are large rooms designed for community meetings and presentations, but many libraries offer small meeting rooms designed for small gatherings of people.
At the risk of stating the obvious, libraries have a lot of books. Within library collections are books on writing a business plan, marketing your company, lean entrepreneurship, social media, branding, bookkeeping, work-life balance, and everything else you can think of. Yes, the digital age is upon us, but books are still one of the best ways to do a deep dive into a topic, including those that help you start and grow a business.
9. Library Coworking
A small-but-growing number of libraries offer coworking, which is when independent professionals who would rather work among people than alone, gather to work on their various projects in community. Coworking started as a small movement in 2009, and has since grown into a massive, global industry. But coworking, at its heart, is still a group of people working independently, together. Libraries lend themselves nicely to coworking, as the wifi, tables, and public accessibility are already built-in. Check your local branch to see if they offer any coworking. If they don’t already have one, suggest that they start a coworking initiative.
If you’re an entrepreneur, don’t overlook your local library as a great business resource and workspace. In addition to getting you out of the house, you’ll have on-site access to tools, amenities, wifi, a place to focus, and a knowledgeable library staff.