The Best Coworking Spaces in The UK-Colony Manchester

There's no doubt that office and coworking spaces have taken a massive hit over the last year, but thankfully most remain open and provide inspiring and stylish spaces to work for freelancers.

Our new series reviews the best coworking spaces across the UK and first up, we spoke to Alex Campbell, Founder of Colony in Manchester which has three stunning sites in the city centre.

Tell us a bit about the business. 

Time flies when you’re having fun.

I can’t believe it’s been just over three years since we started Colony. It feels like yesterday that we opened our first venue in Ancoats in 2017. Like most start-ups, it was somewhat of an experiment. We knew that we wanted to establish a community of like-minded freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses and see if we could provide a space in which the members of that community could collaborate, thrive and see their businesses flourish.

With no prior experience, we picked up a tape measure, put pencil to paper and set about designing playful spaces that we felt on instinct would satisfy a freelancer’s requirement for networking, productivity and inspiration. A key challenge for us was to fulfil these needs while providing a professional environment that freelancers would be happy to present themselves from. A few months later, with the space complete, we opened and got word out across social media and we were pleased to see there was a lot of interest from people looking for something like this.

 

Our community started to take shape and within 6 months we had reached capacity. We then began to look towards expanding the network across the city. Since then we have welcomed two further venues to the Colony fold; Colony Piccadilly and Colony The Astley on The Northern Quarter / Ancoats border. As the network continues to grow, so too do the opportunities for the members within.

 

 

How does Colony cater for freelancers?

Being a freelancer is challenging. It is a way of life that requires creativity, courage, focus and drive. Coming from creative backgrounds ourselves, we at Colony know and understand this. We have used our previous experience of working in the creative industries to provide a range of purpose-built amenities for freelancers to do their best, most creative work. Focus areas, collaboration zones, phone booths, meeting rooms, printing facilities, reception staff, business address and mail handling, social events, all available within their chosen Colony venue.

Each venue has a different style and aesthetic, and Colony Members have access to all three so that new inspiration and productivity is always close at hand! Freelancers across the Colony Community find opportunity to meet other freelancers and businesses (either within the venues or via our online portal) and as we have witnessed time and time again, this leads to new business relationships and exciting creative partnerships for our co-workers.

 

 

How has Covid affected your business?

It is difficult to talk about the previous 12 months without mentioning the ‘c’-word. We can all agree that this year would have been a lot smoother without the C*vid pandemic. However, as our work and social lives have changed in line with lockdowns and other covid safety measures, the pandemic has allowed Colony to look at the way we do things differently and we have adapted accordingly. As a business, this period of rapid adaptation has been extremely challenging and difficult, but has also provided a useful change of perspective. These forced changes of perspective are to be welcomed and embraced, regardless of the cause. It isn’t productive to dwell on the negative impacts of the situation, instead it is to be seen as an opportunity to gain new insights, and develop new ways to improve and enhance what we are offering our customers.

 

 

How have you been able to develop and change during the pandemic for the Colony Community?

Having discussed the impact of the pandemic with many of the freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses within the Colony Community, the resounding requirement for people at the moment is flexibility. More than ever people need to be able to change their schedules at short notice. As a result, we have decided to increase the level of flexibility that we offer. Giving our members the option to now pause their coworking memberships for a month at any time means they don’t have to worry about any possible unexpected change of plan.

Our pausable memberships have been especially welcomed by freelancers because it also allows them to pause a portion of their overheads when taking unpaid holidays.

 

Our spaces have changed too. We are fully committed to providing safe workplaces and further to implementing a plethora of covid safety measures, we have also reworked and refined layouts to ensure necessary social distancing. We have also limited our capacity, as a result increasing the amount of space that each member has at their work position. The recent prevalence of zoom calls within the business community is evident too, and we have installed additional phone booths to provide extra private space for those who need it.

The Colony community is outward looking. It stretches way beyond the walls of Colony and it is open to all. We are enthused by the creativity which is evident in all corners of the City. We have a proud and rich history of involvement and promotion of cultural & social events, art & photography exhibitions, debates and discussions, through which we have had the privilege of welcoming non-Colony Members into the community. Our events schedule has been paused for covid safety reasons, but we have continued to work with artists where possible and are currently exhibiting the work of local artist Greg Meade at our Piccadilly venue, we recommend you drop by and have a look as soon as you get a chance – lockdown restrictions permitting!

 

(photo: Pechakucha at Colony Jactin House, photo credit: Fiona Finchett)

We have also done our best to continue to support our cousins in the hospitality industry during these difficult times. Championing local establishments such as Nell’s Pizza, Gooey, Bondi Bowls, Trove and Burgerism to name a few, who all have great stories to tell of their entrepreneurial spirit during this difficult time (you can read their stories and experiences on the Colony Blog here).

 

How do you feel about the future of coworking?

I am excited about the future of coworking.

There is no doubt that peoples’ work habits have changed for the long term. There are more people working from home than ever before and there are so many positives to come from this (more flexible work patterns, less congestion, better for the environment etc). I don’t think that we will see a return to the pre-covid nine-to-five work commute. With a less predictable approach to the working day comes a requirement for greater flexibility in the workplace, something that Colony easily caters for. By offering a range of options from long term to short term memberships, single day passes or meeting room bookings,  Colony has always challenged the traditional approach to office space and we will continue to transform the workplace for the better. We will shape it alongside the evolving needs of the coworking community. Colony is listening to the community and we will develop our offering with an informed understanding of what freelancers, entrepreneurs and small businesses really need and want from a workplace.

Everything we have learnt over the past 3 years will be worked into our upcoming 4th location coming Autumn 2021. The way we are configuring this new location, which will be our largest space yet, will be appropriated to the post-pandemic world, new working habits and demands.

 

We know that this is a difficult time for freelancers, and we’re keen for the community to kick start their productivity in 2021. We would therefore like to give away a free day pass to any freelancers reading this. Further to this, followers of The Freelance Kit will receive a 20% discount off any Colony membership taken before April 2021! Simply get in touch (info@colonyco.work) and quote ‘The Freelance Kit’ and we will gladly arrange.

Our doors are open and our community is looking forward to welcoming you…

Email: info@colonyco.work

Website: www.colonyco.work

Twitter: @ColonyCoWork

Instagram: @Colonycowork

 

About The Freelance Kit

The Freelance Kit offers unique digital products, support and community for freelancers, including a 150 page high-quality and beautifully designed template kit. 

Inside the digital kit, you’ll find templates, planners and spreadsheets for every aspect of freelance life including a 15-page contract worth £300, financial planning documents, social media planning templates and ideas for content, blog topic ideas and much more. 

Along with digital products, The Freelance Kit has a private community and a soon to launch membership option. The platform was created by experts to help freelancers thrive and our hope is that the products and support will empower you to succeed, and help make your freelance life that bit easier.

You can find our 2021 guide with 45 tools and tips for working from home and managing your freelance business in a handy FREE downloadable PDF HERE. We also have a FREE private members group where you can find support and guidance from an established freelance community, join HERE

 

SHOP

 


top 10 freelance hangouts

The Top 10 Best Freelance Co-Working Spaces in the UK

Working every day from the same desk in the same office is a thing of the past for many. Nowadays, freelance, home workers and start-up businesses operate from coffee shops, museum cafes and a swathe of newly opened collaborative co-working spaces that have cropped up in disused mills and cool old buildings throughout the country.

We checkout the best co-working spaces across the UK. Pull up your MacBook and green matcha....

Ziferblat, Manchester City Centre

Manchester city centre’s Edge Street branch is the jewel in the crown of this quirky chain, and the largest of all its locations worldwide. Nestling in the vibrant Northern Quarter, this kooky coffee shop is designed to be an extension of your living room. And the most amazing thing?  You don’t pay for any of the food or drink, you simply pay for time spent. So for 8p a minute, Manchester’s growing freelance community can take advantage of free WiFi, meeting rooms, great coffee, cakes, soup, houmous - there are even board games and a piano if you fancy a little time away from the screen…

23 Edge Street, Manchester http://www.ziferblat.co.uk/edgestmanchester.html

 PLATF9RM, Brighton & Hove

PLATF9RM is split across two locations at Tower Point in Brighton’s North Laines, and the newly opened Hove Town Hall. This burgeoning creative community hosts both multi-national businesses and freelancers who thrive on collaboration. Brighton train station has eight platforms, so this growing collective is duly named as an extension of the city’s thriving business talent portfolio, many of whom used to commute to London every day.

Tower Point, 44 North Road, Brighton & Hove Town Hall, Tilsbury Road, Hove https://www.platf9rm.com

The Harpenden Collective, Harpenden

Located within the historic and beautiful Harpenden Hall, this professional yet chilled co-working space has it all. The Harpenden Collective can host 16 members at any one time, who pay just £14 a day for a desk. There are meeting rooms and desks for conversations, free cold refreshments and access to printing, copying and - of course - WiFi.

Harpenden Hall, Southdown Road, Harpenden http://www.theharpendencollective.co.uk

SoulShine Cafe, Bridport, Dorset

This gorgeous little cafe in sunny Bridport is a real gem. Built up with a passion for great food in a community setting, SoulShine sells amazing juices and smoothies, speciality coffees and fresh, tasty local ingredients. Freelancers, families, kids and business people are all welcomed with open arms, so the atmosphere is always friendly and kind. It’s a lovely little place to hang out and write, dream up ideas or plan your own empire.

76 South Street, Bridport http://soulshinecafe.co.uk

Pico Lounge, Glossop, Derbyshire

Glossop, a small market town in the High Peak, is located a stone’s throw away from Manchester but is surrounded by rolling hills and purple-heathered moors. Playing house to many of the town’s freelancers and home workers is Pico Lounge, a large, trendy and buzzy cafe bar, situated in the new Howard Town Mill development.  It’s lunch menu includes vegan and gluten free options and a brunch selection to die for. With decent WiFi, good coffee and a quirky interior that looks like your nan’s living room, Pico Lounge is a great place to work as you watch the world go by.

Howard Town Shopping Park, Victoria Street, Glossop https://thelounges.co.uk/pico/

Cambridge Business Lounge, Cambridge 

If you prefer a more professional atmosphere, this fantastic co-working space allows freelancers to work in a real office environment, where they can happily collaborate and communicate with other businesses. The Business Lounge also features serviced offices and meeting rooms, and - for a small daily fee - users are guaranteed to receive top notch WiFi and unlimited free Nespresso Coffee. The co-working space also puts on social events such as Beer Friday, so if you work from home a lot and miss the buzz of the office and after-work pre-weekend drinks, this place is definitely for you!

52 Burleigh Street, Cambridge http://www.cambridgebusinesslounge.com

The Elephant House, Edinburgh

A little bit legendary amongst creative and literary types, the Elephant House prides itself on being one of JK Rowling’s favourite hang outs when she was writing Harry Potter. Other writers that have found solace in its welcoming walls are Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin. The Elephant House serves up fresh, locally roasted coffee using Arabica beans, and a cracking plate of nachos, so if you want to soak up two decades of creative juices and give yours a nudge, this fabulous little place is the place to be.

21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. http://www.elephanthouse.biz

Bakesmiths, Bristol

Much loved by locals, Bakesmiths is a coffee shop, bakery, cakery (definitely a word, definitely), innovation and demo centre and has meeting rooms, test kitchens and even a photo studio for hire.  Knocking out an impressive brunch menu (the Eggs Florentine is to die for!) and the fanciest Flat White in town, Bakesmiths is a fabulous place to knuckle down and do some work and the freelance hang our du jour in Bristol.

65 Whiteladies Road, Bristol https://bakesmiths.co.uk/home/

Co-Up, Slaithwaite, Yorkshire

Co Up is one of the new wave of co-working spaces, designed to offer flexible and professional work environments for start ups and freelancers. Nestled in the South Pennines, Co Up in beautiful Slaithwaite (pronounced Slah-wit, trust us on this!) features hot desks, co-working spaces, permanent desks, pop up spaces and studios, either with a rolling monthly rate or a day pass. As usual, good coffee and great WiFi awaits the creative community of West Yorkshire.

Britannia Mill, Slaithwaite, Huddersfield http://www.co-up.co

Forge & Co, Shoreditch, London

Offering social working solutions for the creative community of east London, Forge & Co on Shoreditch High Street features two workspace floors brimming with desks for freelancers or small teams, meeting rooms, studios and and all-day dining experience at the Modern Grill. This achingly cool space allows freelancers to interact with others in a great environment for a few days or months - whatever suits.

154-158 Shoreditch High Street, E1 http://forgeandco.co.uk

 

You can find our top 45 tools and tips for working from home and managing your freelance business in a handy FREE downloadable guide HERE. We also have a FREE private members group where you can find support and guidance from an established freelance community, joinHERE

About The Freelance Kit

The Freelance Kit offers unique digital products, support and community for freelancers, including a 150 page high-quality and beautifully designed template kit. 

Inside the digital kit, you’ll find templates, planners and spreadsheets for every aspect of freelance life including a 15-page contract worth £300, financial planning documents, social media planning templates and ideas for content, blog topic ideas and much more. 

Along with digital products, The Freelance Kit has a private community and a soon to launch membership option. The platform was created by experts to help freelancers thrive and our hope is that the products and support will empower you to succeed, and help make your freelance life that bit easier.  

SHOP