The 7 proven coworking business models

There are a number of sustainable ways to build a coworking space, but not all of them are obvious. Let’s makes sure you get on track to build something that can last!

Below, I’ve outlined some of the sustainable coworking business models I’ve seen:


Just a club!

That’s right—you can achieve a tremendous amount of impact and build a great community without ever building a space or running a business of any kind. The first community I mentioned above, Jelly, operated this way, and it was tremendously valuable to its founders and others without anyone ever exchanging any money.

This also serves as a great way to pave the way towards a more ambitious coworking effort. It was how I got my start, and it is how I recommend everyone who aspires to open a coworking space begin.

Why? Because this is a terrific way for you to start building interest in your efforts and to recruit help. It makes every subsequent step towards opening a physical space easier.

Coworking inside an under-utilized space

A more recent trend in coworking is one in which spaces that often sit empty are repurposed into coworking space during business hours.

To keep costs down and get a lightweight offering off the ground quickly, consider partnering with a local restaurant or church!

Coworking + consultancy

One of the most proven sustainable models for small-scale coworking, this model takes advantage of the symbiotic relationship between a consultancy and a coworking community.

There are two big advantages to this approach. For one, you’re spreading out risk between two businesses—so long as one is performing well, it can make up for slow times in the other.

Secondly, the coworking space can provide a nice pipeline of talent and projects for the consultancy, while the consultancy can provide nice work opportunities for the members. Everyone wins!

If you don’t have a consultancy yourself, you could partner with an existing one that might be looking to upgrade its space.

Look out in your town for web development firms, design firms, advertising or marketing firms, and small product companies. Might one of them be thinking about changing spaces sometime soon?

Note: The materials from here on will be agnostic to whether you do this. If you do end up going this route, you can still use these materials to determine how this sub-business would fit in with the larger model.


Coworking + offices

This is perhaps the most popular option. Private office spaces are proven profit centers. Offering them in a space that also is home to a vibrant community of coworkers makes them that much more enticing!

To go this route, you’re going to need upwards of 5,000 square feet—ideally, you’d find a sweet spot in terms of the business models in the 12,000- to 20,000-foot range.

Assuming you can finance and develop the operations to tackle a project of that scale, this will offer you the opportunity for enough margin to make the project workable.

Coworking + events & educational programming

Planning to host a robust calendar of events offers double benefits: it gives you another revenue stream while also providing a natural pipeline of new potential members coming into your space.

You have lots of options here: You can produce your own programs or work with external content providers. You can charge for programming, or find sponsors to cover the costs. You can focus on technical, design, and entrepreneurship skills, or create an open-ended offering. You can focus on evenings and weekends, or have continuous programming throughout the week.


Coworking + offices, 20k square feet and up

At this point, you’re looking at possibly having a whole building or several locations. This route provides no shortage of opportunity for profit, so long as you have the disposition to undertake a project that will require raising substantial capital.

Coworking at scale

You can always go for the full start-up route: identify a unique angle, raise venture funding, and build an empire!

We won’t get into the full details of how something like that might work here, but the materials here will give you a really great starting point to build on.

Get your numbers in order

Want to get a realistic, detailed look at exactly how a given business model might work?

Consider our Business Model Planning Kit, which includes a super powerful and easy-to-use template. Plug in some numbers and get realistic projections in a snap!