Turns out, the entire point of this post is in the title.
There are two approaches to filling your empty coworking space. Community building versus membership sales.
Most spaces take the membership sales approach. The membership sales approach is where the most qualifying attribute of a prospective member is a valid credit card.
Few take the community building approach. The community building approach is where the most qualifying attribute of a prospective member is whether or not they add to the value of the existing community, your community.
The membership sales approach results in a lack of community cohesion, “that guy” problems (everybody has encountered a “that guy”), a compromise of your space’s values and mission, and the depressing realization that what you’ve built no longer fulfills you. Not to mention, if getting more dollars is your main goal, you’ll eventually encounter the cheap customer problem.
In contrast, building a community feels like a breath of fresh air. People talk to one another of their own accord, they co-create gatherings and events, they invite friends who eventually become members, they create value beyond the dollars they deposit into your bank account.
Unsurprisingly, the membership sales approach is most often taken by externally funded coworking spaces, while bootstrapped coworking spaces typically bake community into the framework of their growth (because they have no choice).