Freelancing or starting your own business doesn't necessarily mean going out on your own. Today's co-working facilities can provide overhead for your business, plus the vital community aspect to help bring in new customers.

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One of the most gratifying aspects of the improving Seattle economy, with an unemployment rate at a healthy 5 percent, is that many professionals today are feeling more confident about seeking not just a job to pay the bills but a career that gives their lives more meaning. However, as entrepreneurial workers begin testing the waters by starting their own businesses, many are held back by the challenge of finding the right place to locate their companies. It’s a tough leap to go from one’s garage to the overhead of downtown office space.

Fortunately, the concept of “co-working” — a shared office environment for entrepreneurs, freelancers and independent contractors working under one roof and pooling resources — has begun to mature in recent years. According to a recent Global Coworking Survey, conducted by co-working media firms Deskmag and Coworkaholic, the country’s collaborative work spaces will reach the 10,000-location mark before the end of this year; several dozen of them already exist in the Puget Sound region. (See the CoworkingWiki page for Seattle for a comprehensive look at the local options.)

With names like WeWork, Office Nomads, Works Progress, thinkspace and Impact Hub, these co-working offices around the region offer several tiers of office amenities — from one-day rentals for about $20 to $50 per day, to long-term arrangements for $500 to $600 per month to establish full-service office privileges. Each of the companies provides Wi-Fi access, utilities, VoIP phone service, office furniture and equipment, meeting rooms, some storage space and a professional atmosphere. Some even provide extra perks (for a price), such gaming consoles, meditation rooms, pool tables and other entertainment options to let workers unwind, socialize and network with each other.

By attending regular events at the various locations and maintaining ties with other companies, co-working arrangements can help drum up more business for members. “Through the WeWork network, I have brought in close to a dozen new clients in less than two months, a feat not possible without this resource,” said WeWork client David Perlman, co-founder of Iron Consulting & Staffing, LLC.

More important, these co-working firms — most of which have more than one location in Seattle — provide a crucial social element that many entrepreneurs and contractors thrive on, and that is often lost for those who work from their homes.

David Doxtater, co-founder of an events company called The Workshop, joined the Seattle-based Impact Hub co-working space to be part of a dynamic business environment. “As designers, we really thrive working in an energetic thinking environment, and love the open space concept, and the flexibility that the space offers,” he says. “I had a large office and staff for many years, but find the simpler lifestyle and lower overhead to be a boost to my company.”

Randy Woods is a writer and editor in the Puget Sound business publishing arena and a veteran of the local job-search scene. Email him at randywoods67@gmail.com.