Sharing Creative Studios or Commercial Kitchens

Sharing space makes great sense for artists, caterers, and others with expensive equipment and space needs.

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Office workers are not the only ones who can benefit from sharing commercial space. A wide variety of self-employed people in the arts and culinary fields find sharing space and equipment works for them, too.

Shared Creative Studios

It's very common for artists to share studio space. Many artists need a place where they can fire up loud machinery; use products and media that have an odor, are messy, or require certain conditions (for example, a particularly cool or warm temperature); create the best lighting for their art, whether that means lots of natural sunlight or a wall of klieg lights; work on large pieces over a long period of time; or invite the public to view their art or performances. Although artists who've hit the big time can create a separate space in their home or elsewhere for artistic pursuits, many artists are not the lucky, and have to rent studio space—often affordable only by sharing with other artists.

When it comes to sharing studio space, you'll do best to find a fellow sharer whose work is compatible with yours. The last thing you want if you paint in oils is to share space with a woodworker whose sawdust flies all over the place. Make sure you talk through how each of you plans to use the space: Smells, dust, noise, drips, hours, and visitors are all relevant. To get started, follow our advice in What’s Involved in Sharing Office Space.

One benefit of a sharing agreement for artists or craftspeople is the possibility of sharing expensive equipment like a kiln, lighting equipment, drafting or light table, or jewelry-making or woodworking tools. For new artists, this may be the only way to afford setting out on your own. A written sharing agreement is crucial here, because you need to be clear about who owns the equipment and, if you share ownership, who has the right to buy out the other if the arrangement ends.

Another benefit of sharing is bulk discounts for buying supplies in larger quantities than one person would use alone. Here you only need an agreement about who will make the initial cash outlay and whether you'll divide the items equally or in unequal shares. If you don't know how much each of you will use, you'll need to keep track of how much you use so that you can settle up later.

If your studio space is large enough for both of you to use at the same time, you'll need to decide how to share equipment when you are both there, as well as things like whether and what type of music can be played and whether visitors are allowed while you're working. If the space can only be used by one person at a time, you'll need to set up a schedule. You can choose a set schedule (for example, one of you uses the space in the morning and the other in the afternoon) that will remain the same over time, agree to come up with a schedule on a regular basis (for example, weekly or monthly), or come up with a system for signing up in advance to use the space (the Google calendar can be very useful). You'll also need to agree on whether you want to share time equally and pay equal rent, pay unequal amounts based on your anticipated use, or pay based on your actual percentage of use.

Finally, you'll have to agree on acceptable uses of the space. Where will you keep works in progress or finished work waiting for transport? Do you both want to participate in open studios in your area? Do you want to open the space for selling at other times? Does the studio have to be kept clean to accommodate potential buyers?

Most of these issues are not covered in the Sample Office Sharing Agreement included in this section, but use it to get started in thinking how to structure your agreement.

Shared Commercial Kitchens

Cooking is another field in which equipment can be very expensive, making sharing a great idea for caterers and producers of artisan or other specialty foods. Perhaps you are a bread baker selling to local organic food stores, and your best friend from cooking school makes cookies that she sells to individual consumers on her website. You could rent a commercial kitchen space together with the right type and size oven for your needs, agree on a schedule, and split the cost of rent and utilities.

You can also join a shared commercial kitchen—these are available in larger metropolitan areas. Many such kitchens are sponsored by "incubator" programs, which provide resources and work space to small start-up businesses. These kitchens have the advantage of being already licensed by the health department, so you don't need to worry about that regulatory hurdle. They provide all the necessary equipment, and you schedule time as needed. Most allow you to do anything there—cook, teach a cooking class, or even film a cooking video.

Interested in other resources you can share? Check out Nolo’s book The Sharing Solution for ideas and forms on other successful sharing arrangements—from cars to housing to child care and more.

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