Montreal 'coffices' emerge to meet needs of self-employed
New businesses blend coffee shop, office to offer freelancers more flexibility
Finding a space to work can be a challenge for freelance workers in Montreal.
Home has too many distractions, office space is expensive and cafes often ask patrons to buy something if they want to stay.
And, as the number of self-employed continue to rise, new work spaces — part coffee shop and part office — are popping up to meet the demand.
GAB opened four months ago in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood, aiming to provide a "more flexible and dynamic than a collaborative space and more convenient and professional than a coffee shop," according to its website.
A survey conducted by the owners showed their clientele is equally split between freelancers, students and employees.
Café Coffice on Sherbrooke Street offers similar services, along with access to a printer and the option to rent a conference room. Anticafé on Ste-Catherine Street asks patrons to pay $3 for the first hour at the space and $2 for subsequent hours.
Customers are meant to treat the cafe like their home — you can eat food, drink coffee, invite friends over, and listen to lecturers and artists the Anticafe invites to the space every month.
Freelancing on the rise
The new businesses reflect a growing trend: more Canadians identify as self-employed every year.
The numbers have been steadily climbing for decades, reaching 2.7 million in 2015, making up more than 10 per cent of all employed Canadians, according to Statistics Canada.
There's a mass of people who are leaning towards this rhythm of life, who don't want to go to the office from nine to five.- Sandy Caron , event planner
"I needed a space to work, because at home, I can't be completely focused on my work," said Matthieu Vasseux, the artistic director for a company based in France and a patron of GAB.
"I also wanted to meet people and start projects with them. I was looking for a place where I could meet people in my field, and exchange with them every day and not just be alone, doing my work."
The co-working space is also an opportunity to make connections.
"I've been coming here for three weeks, but I've met people in my field," said Vincent Cantin, a programmer. "There's definitely a possibility of meeting people [to collaborate with here]."
GAB includes individual seats, closed working cabins and a big table for team projects at the back.
'This rhythm of life'
The owners of GAB, Phil Heroux and Gabriel Dancause, originally wanted to use the space on Saint-Laurent Boulevard to work on their own projects.
"We were looking for a coffee shop to work in a co-working space and we didn't find anything, so we thought that maybe we could take this location that we had and build something around it," said Heroux, who also works as a programmer.
"There's a mass of people who are leaning towards this rhythm of life, who don't want to go to the office from nine to five. I think there's a growing community. We're seeing a lot of these places and want to see more," Caron said.
"This place is perfect for us, for people like us."