TLDR: Offer free coworking days on any day. Don’t make events out of them. You run the risk of creating something that’s actually quite different than a normal day in your space.
Always a disclaimer: These are my experiences at Hygge. You may have a wildly different experience and that’s awesome. Send me an email here and I’ll update the post with your experiences.
In all the time that Hygge has been open, we have done one traditional Free Coworking Day. We had been open for less than five months. We set out with the goal of filling the space with potential members and giving them a chance to see what coworking is all about.
We promoted the crap out of it. There were Instagram posts, tweets on tweets and a Facebook event page that was shared a few times. Things were looking up and we were beyond excited.
Then the free coworking day came. We made the space perfect, bought donuts and bagels, and had the coffee ready to go. All hands on deck which meant me, my partner and the few members we plead with to be in the space so it didn’t feel empty. Then we waited.
Slowly but surely the free coworkers started to drop in. We smiled, gave them tours, fed them donuts and got them set up at one of the tables. It was working! We had between 15-20 people show up throughout the day that had never been in the space or experienced coworking and that’s where it went all wrong.
This wasn’t normal. Something seemed off. Everyone was smiling, laughing and having a grand time. It was like a networking event. We missed the mark here. We were supposed to be giving people an awesome place to get shit done but instead fifteen to twenty people that never met before came together and chatted each other up. No one was getting any actual work done. We weren’t either. It was way too social. It bordered on loud and distracting at times. What a mess.
The day ended. We were exhausted but still optimistic that this experiment might bear some fruit.
Did anyone sign up?
Nope. We followed up with every single person that came through that day. We got a couple responses that thanked us for the space but that was the extent of it.
Could we have done it differently?
Yeah, sure. Hindsight is 20/20 but in this case, I think no matter how much we prepped people on what to expect we were inevitably going to create an adverse experience.
Did we get any actual feedback?
Yes. From the members that showed up to help us fill out space. They actually complained. It was too much for the space and was a huge distraction. They loved meeting all the new people but they could not get a single thing done. When it was one or two people it was great but the moment ten new people walked through the doors we changed the dynamic of the space for the worse.
The few people that responded to the follow-ups said they enjoyed their time. That’s it. No criticism.
What are the takeaways?
It’s just one day. Could we have continued to jam on these for a while and see if they worked better? Sure, but at this point, I was willing to trust my gut since things just felt way off.
Here’s what we thought. We need to ensure that the experience for someone coming for a free coworking day is exactly the same on any one day. Do we do donuts and bagels every day? No. Then why did we go out of our way to do all these things? We messed up. We always show up and we’re always smiling but on a normal day, there’s not fifteen to twenty new people hanging around.
Ensure the experience is the same no matter what.
What do we do now?
Every day is free coworking day. If someone wants to try the space out on any weekday then we make it happen. Rather than make a big deal out of something we have just made it the norm.
More recently we gave it an official name. We call it the First Date.
We made it easy to book the first date. This banner is about halfway down the main page and a couple interior pages.
Clicking that button brings them to a landing page and a Calendly calendar to book Monday thru Friday. They can choose the time they’d like the date to start. We pay for the premium Calendly so we can follow up with custom email notifications. It’s totally worth it at $9/month and a cheaper annual rate to be able to add a bit of a personal touch to the automatic follow-ups. Plus it will send them a calendar and text message reminder. No more no-shows!
How are the first dates going?
Coworking is associated with flexibility so making it so a new potential member can pick the day and time that works best for them sets a positive tone right from the get-go. Over the last month, we’ve had 4 first date requests. Two of these first dates have led to full membership sign-ups. The other two haven’t signed up just yet but we’re feeling good about their future as members.
These are people that very well might have just requested a normal membership but they thought diving right in and trying the space was the right way to go for it. They wanted more than a tour. It’s essentially the same thing as a tour except the tour ends with them sitting down and jamming.
Perception is everything. We’ve made it easy for them to feel at home and find out if hygge is the right fit. They already know they need coworking. That’s why they are here. We’ve taken the first steps to ensure they have an easy and awesome experience (first date) with us.
What if people abuse it? Does it take away from day pass purchases?
They might, but listen. If someone wants to snag a first date, take a tour, listen to me chat them up for a bit all to get a free day pass worth $20. That’s cool with me. I would not get hung up here.
Right around the same time that we launched first dates, we put day passes on the site to purchase directly. We’ve since seen a major increase in day pass purchases. I don’t see these two things (first dates and day passes) as connected at all. Frame them correctly and people will end up choosing what’s best for them.
Put more emphasis on giving people ownership over how they get their foot in the door gives them the confidence to be all in.