Melbourne's best co-working spaces: Working outside the square

Michelle Legge
Business Journalist

Michelle Legge is the Smarter Business™ Digital Editor. She's the former editor of by Qantas and contributes regularly to small business, social media and lifestyle publications

Michelle Legge
Business Journalist

Michelle Legge is the Smarter Business™ Digital Editor. She's the former editor of by Qantas and contributes regularly to small business, social media and lifestyle publications

Cubicles, permanent desks and fluorescent lighting are SO passé. Instead, innovative entrepreneurs and freelancers are finding flexibility and success in Melbourne’s new crop of coworking hubs.

hive Studio Melbourne

Who needs overheads?

Unless you’re happy to lease in the middle of nowhere, office rent is a dollar drainer. Add the costs of running and equipping the joint, and your seed capital starts to run thin. It’s the same story for consultants and freelancers who want to transition out of the home office. Plunging into a commercial lease can stress fragile budgets to the point of breaking.

The good news? Coworking hubs offer the perfect place to shift from the dining table to a professional setting without the costly commitment. Coworking spots offer the same benefits to those wanting to ditch current leases in search of a more cost effective office arrangement. In this scenario, flexibility is the key to saving money, and coworking offices offer flexibility in spades, allowing members to drop in at reasonable day rates, or book desk space at weekly or monthly rates. 

Not in Melbourne?

Check out our guides to coworking in Sydney here.

Find out moreNot in Melbourne?

Share the love and the dollars

More than just a desk for hire, coworking hubs are a hotbed of creativity, collaboration, and clients. The sheer opportunities for networking and exposure to new work makes coworking a no-brainer for freelancers in creative fields. Designers working along developers for instance, can benefit from professional symbiosis, pooling together on jobs, and ultimately sharing their client database. Those same opportunities exist for solo professionals in law, finance and accounting. 

Start up heaven

Got a great idea but nowhere to make it happen? Or, need inspiration and people power to get a new business venture off the ground? Before you sign that lease, a coworking space offers fertile ground for start-ups to move from stealth mode to launch without the shackles of office rental admin. Access to coworking neighbours like marketing and PR freelancers, or finance and insurance consultants, means professional support is but a chat away. If ‘bootstrapping’ or ‘agile’ are in your start-up business plan, then coworking hubs make perfect sense.

In our Smarter Mobile Office Guide, we look at the best spaces to untether and network, city by city. Let’s start with Melbourne. 

1. York Butter Factory

Billed as ‘the coworking space for Melbourne's high-potential early-stage technology entrepreneurs’ by founders Stuart Richardson and Darcy Naunton, York Butter Factory is considered to be Melbourne’s most reputable coworking space for early stage tech start-ups. The atmosphere here is exciting and positive.

Established in 2011 inside an 1850s heritage-listed space near the corner of King and Rialto Street, York Butter Factory is also home to the founding partners’ own venture capital business, Adventure Capital  - an early stage technology venture fund - lending a stable core to the space. The 24 hour access coworking space is spread out over 2 floors with room for around 60 mobile-deskers a day. The vibe in communal areas is buzzy, while desk spaces are a model of ‘heads down’ productivity.

What are the perks?

The perks are many:

  • A desk in a heritage listed bluestone in Melbourne’s business centre heart
  • An established community, with access to a very high quality of advisory support services, finance opportunities and mentoring
  • 5 meeting rooms, a 100 Mbps symmetrical U/D fibre internet connection
  • Apple cider, barista grade coffee, Mario Cart gaming nights
  • Regular industry events, community nights on a Friday, and weekly show and tell sessions
Who will it suit? 

Tech start-ups in stealth mode, marketing, PR and social consultants, digital agency freelancers and B2B enterprises. York Butter Factory is serious about its culture, so expect to collaborate and innovate with fellow nomads. Regulars include, Startup Victoria, and social media outfit Ntegrity.

2. hive Studio

Positioned as a quiet space for professional free-agents to get stuff done, hive Studio was one of the first in Melbourne to jump on the global coworking bandwagon. Established in 2007, founder Tony Matulic converted a then carpark into the kind of coworking space he himself had been searching for – a non-traditional yet hardworking workspace. Split across two sites in Fitzroy and Collingwood– one on Kerr Street, the other on Johnston Street, hive Studio’s major offering is a clutch of quiet, lockable suites for concentrated productivity.  

What are the perks?

hive Studio delivers the goods in many other ways:

  • Full or part-time desks and lockable suites in vibey Fitzroy and Collingwood
  • Meeting room, WiFi access
  • Table Tennis, small outdoor space, kitchenette, bike parking
  • No coffee machine, but that’s what café laden Brunswick and Smith Streets are good for
Who will it suit?

Microbusinesses, freelancers, creatives, coders, and consultants who need a professional desk away from the home office to knuckle down. 

3. HUB Melbourne

Global franchise HUB’s catchcries include ‘innovation through collaboration’ and ‘diverse member community, connect and be inspired.’ Its communal claims are proven true in their super-connected Melbourne offshoot, founded in 2010. Based on busy Bourke Street, HUB is all about the community, boasting a fulltime ‘connections catalyst’ whose daily goal is to connect members and cultivate introductions.

The networking and collaboration ethos is strong, making HUB an excellent choice for freelancers and consultants looking to grow their client base almost by osmosis. Workspace wise, HUB offers a variety of options from open and collaborative desk space to private areas for bigger teams.

What are the perks?

Think HUB might be right for you? They have even more to offer:

  • An enviable city location, filled with networking go-getters
  • ‘Spark Program’ – a launch pad for first time entrepreneurs
  • 24/7 Access, bookable meeting rooms, WiFi
  • Vaulted timber ceilings, beach-style time-out space, spacious kitchen, and café
  • Vibrant member club scene; cycling, running and coder clubs
Who will it suit?

It’s probably fair to say that HUB’s key benefit is exposure and new work opportunities rather than ‘getting stuff done’ – the place is just not as quiet as some of the other offerings. But for solo entrepreneurs seeking growth, HUB makes an excellent, unbeatable new business incubator.  

  1. I’m a solo business owner or have a small team of less than 5 members
  2. I want a flexible place to work where I can come and go, and without the commitment of a commercial lease
  3. I want to meet people and collaborate
  4. I want exposure to new client networks

  1. I want a quite space where I will not be interrupted and won’t need to interact with anyone
  2. I’m on the phone all day, I’m better off in an office space of my own
  3. I don’t want to collaborate or pool resources – I’m self-sufficient
  4. I’m poised for rapid growth, my expanding team will soon need its own space

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