[hackerspaces] question about hackerspace hourly rate, what do you think

Alan Fay emptyset at freesideatlanta.org
Thu Dec 19 21:22:28 CET 2013

There seem to be a lot of problems, if you're considering charging hourly

First, having paid staff is really difficult for a hackerspace to maintain.
 I have heard of only a handful of spaces that have staff (only Boston's
Artisan's Asylum comes to mind).  Do you really need staff?  Can you
convert some or all positions to volunteer?  At Freeside, about 10% of our
membership is in some volunteer staff capacity, and we also encourage all
members to play their part in keeping the space clean and organized.

Second, is your space more geared towards providing services, or building a
community?  If you build a strong community, then your members will support
your space.  If you provide services, then folks that use the space will
feel like consumers, and not take responsibility for the tools, and not
feel the need to contribute.  Community needs to be first and foremost -
sometimes I feel it's all the hackerspace has, really.

Third, you should only be spending money on rent and utilities - if you've
just started.  Members should provide or donate time, money, equipment,
materials, consumables, etc. - it's much easier if a strong community is
built first.  Most hackerspaces I've read about spend at least several
months meeting together in bars or public spaces before going in on a

Fourth, I think charging an hourly rate is a huge mistake.  You will solve
the problem of people not wanting to stop by just to tinker on
something...but you'll destroy any hope to build a community.  How do you
enforce this, too?  It sounds expensive to figure out a good system to
track that.

Fifth, are you open to the public more than once a week?  If you're
continuously open to the public, not only is that expensive in terms of
staff and utilities, but it also calls for very different strategies of
managing a shared space like this.  At Freeside's open house, we
occasionally do get a "taker" or two that will show up, but they don't tend
to stick around - even if they did, they're only allowed at the weekly open
house (no member keeps folks like that around, either).

Sixth, you should investigate if the monthly rate is priced appropriately.
 There could be other reasons why people don't want to pay, other than just
price alone.  If your space is open to the public most nights, why pay for
access?  If you don't have sufficient square footage for projects, or
sufficient equipment, the value might not justify the cost.  One other
thing to keep in mind is that you can't expect all visitors to seek
membership or pay anything.  Freeside, on its best months, retains about
1-2% of visitors as new members, on average.  I don't know how that
compares to other spaces, but we feel great about this.  It might also go
back to community - if there's no community, why would I support something
I don't feel like I'm a part of?

I wish you the best of luck - it would be terrible to have to close down a
space!  I hope these questions offer you a good starting point, or least
facilitates discussion with your leadership!

On Thu, Dec 19, 2013 at 2:23 PM, Florencia Edwards <floev22 at gmail.com>wrote:

> So we want or makerspace to have more people daily, knowing the feel of
> being here . Also we are losing money every day so if we don't do something
> about it we'll have to close eventually. Some times people are't willing to
> take from their pockets once a moth reasonable amount, that all together
> seems a lot and hurts. It hurts more than giving two dollars a day,
> something we don't even notice. Also a lot of people come here to sit in
> and don't collaborate, don't give anything back to the space, don't pay the
> membership. And staff wages are awful.
> This is why I thought of the hourly rate, for people that can't pay for
> the month and want to do small fixes or tweaks to their projects, so we can
> have more people at the space, and people that sit in can contribute
> hourly.  Do you think it could work or could it be even worse for the
> hacker space and it's sustainability
> Please help!
> thanks
> _______________________________________________
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> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
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