Difference Between Coworking and a Virtual Office

(Orignally posted on TelBitConsulting.com)

Coworking has been gathering momentum in the past year or two.  As more and more coworking locations are established, more people learn what it is, there is more exposure, then more people learn about it……  That snowball effect is at it’s very early stages, but, in a year, or two, the awareness of coworking will increase exponentially.

It’s 2010 Folks

Where does a person work when they are not commuting to a centrally located office that took 2 hours to get to…..in traffic?

Well….they can work at home, at a cafe, at the airport, in a hotel, in an executive office, virtual office, or at a coworking location.  Anywhere, anytime, anyone.

The mobile workforce has arrived!  Well, it CAN arrive.  🙂

For those small businesses, freelancers, independents (and the rare commuter) what are some options for “office space”?  Lets take a quick look at the differences between two of the options:  a virtual office and coworking.  Remember I run a coworking location…so I am just a bit jaded, but, as a wannabe journalist…I’ll try my objective hat on.

Really Quickly

A Virtual Office is a traditional office environment….the only difference being a virtual office is shared and limited.  But it follows the traditional way of thinking for an “office”:  Secretary/Receptionist, phone, desk, file cabinets, 10 x 10 office with a door.

Coworking is a radically new way to work in a shared community.   Work in an open space, use private rooms for meetings or phone calls, use your own cell phone, and do your own work…all of it.  In most cases….your entire work life is your laptop or other mobile device.

Please keep this in mind as you read the following…..This just a guideline, places vary in what they offer, so the appropriate changes may be to be taken into account:


  • Virtual Office yes
  • Coworking no (who needs their cell phone answered?)

Telephone Service:

  • Virtual Office yes
  • Coworking probably not (cell phones, Google Voice…duh)


  • Virtual Office yes
  • Coworking many do, some don’t (old fashioned anyway…get with the future!)  🙂

Private Office with a desk:

  • Virtual Office yes
  • Coworking some yes, some no

High class fancy digs:

  • Virtual Office probably (a great place to show off your wealth and status)
  • Coworking many, but they tend to stress casual functionality.

Conference Room:

  • Virtual Office yes (mostly for extra cost)
  • Coworking most (mostly free with membership)

Access to Office:

  • Virtual Office limited number of days / month
  • Coworking unlimited and/or  limited membership options per month


  • Virtual Office no (close your door and work by yourself)
  • Coworking yes (collaborate, do things together, birthday parties, help with problems….evening gatherings, meetings, seminars, classes…..!)

Free WiFi:

  • Virtual Office probably not
  • Coworking yes (it is ingrained in the coworking culture)

Free Coffee:

  • Virtual Office probably not
  • Coworking yes (again this is ingrained in the coworking culture)

Month by Month rentals:

  • Virtual Office probably not, but, some are moving towards this
  • Coworking probably yes, but other options available

Monthly Cost Example (valid as of Nov 17, 2010):

Most Office Hours:

Virtual Office in Tracy, CA (from their web site): 40 hours in office, with all the phones, mail, receptionist, etc:

$135 set up, $275 per month (12 months committed), $325 per month (3 months committed)

AltamontCowork: Unlimited time in office (24×7), you answer your own cell phone, printer/scanner, free coffee, free WiFi, free IT support, conference rooms are free, mail:

$150 per month, month by month, no set up fees.

Least Office Hours:

Virtual Office: 10 hours per month in office, $135 set up, $160 per month (12 month commit), $200 per month (3 month commit)

AltamontCowork: 24 x7 unlimited hours in the office,  $150 per month, no set up fees, month-by-month.


  • Virtual Office no (it’s an office….business….you rent…period)
  • Coworking yes (it’s a community of like minded people working, collaborating,  and having fun, it’s from the heart)

Typical Virtual Office in Tracy, CA (very nice)

AltamontCowork, Tracy, CA


Some people may need the features offered by a Virtual Office while some may fit better in a Coworking location.

A possible general rule:  If you work at a Cafe to get out of the house…you will like coworking.  If you are a high powered future executive needing to impress…a virtual office is for you!


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