A couple of weeks ago, I saw a post from another writer on Medium that mentioned “co-working.” That wasn’t the focus of her piece, but it caught my attention. Since I decided I’d try to make my next career working mostly for myself, I’d seen some posts and articles about the practice before.
A co-working space is a place where freelancers, soloprenueurs, start-ups, and small businesses pay a membership fee to have a place to work. The proprietors provide the space and the infrastructure. Wi-Fi, printer, conference spaces, and (usually) coffee. They almost always have open spaces with tables and desks available on a first-come, first-served basis. You can even arrange for a dedicated desk, usually for a small up-charge. Some of them even include small private offices you can rent.
The advantage is you get an actual workspace and the usual office structure that goes with it. You can also network – more on that later.
Freelance writers can work from anywhere. Sometimes we work from cafes or pubs, which are comfortable (and usually tasty), but can be as distracting... and expensive. Most of us do a lot of work from home. As convenient and comfortable as that is (it’s undeniably a perk of the job), it has its own drawbacks.
In my case, I’ve spent the last few years in a furnished apartment. The convenience of not having to furnish a second residence – and the nearby places to eat that don’t involve my cooking or washing dishes – have generally been positives. But, as I approached the time where I would stop going to the office every day for my soon-to-be-former job, I was leery of the potential for domestic distraction.
You see, I know me.
I know I’d have a hard time not turning on the TV. I know I’d finally get annoyed with the mess in the kitchen and finally clean it. I probably wouldn’t get so carried away as to actually dust, but you never know. And the bargain desk I’d bought for my “big” PC is, frankly, not super ergonomic. But, then again, it was a bargain.
And so, this post I’d stumbled across spoke to me. The author wrote about how the co-working space she’d joined had dramatically increased her productivity. Since I’m entering a world where my personal productivity is directly related to my income, I was intrigued. So I went to the Google machine and happened to find just such a space right in downtown. Five blocks away from the aforementioned furnished apartment, as a matter of fact.
For less than I’d spend working out of a coffee shop or alehouse for a week (again, I know me), I was able to get a month’s worth of unlimited access to an open office with plenty of desks and tables, internet access, all the coffee I can drink, a printer, and the ability to focus and get stuff done. Everyone here is amazingly friendly, and there’s an energy from everyone working on their own thing trying to bring something new into the world.
It’s also already offered some great networking. On my third day working there, someone hosted a Hawaiian themed happy hour – not that I need an excuse to eat kalua pig and pulehu chicken. Among the folks I met was the proprietor of an events planning business. As we got to talking, I learned that she knows the guys who run a website I just started working on a couple projects for. I learned that her company is putting on North by North at the end of the month – a 49th State version of the very similarly named festival in Austin, Texas. And she said she’d be willing to give me a free pass to the event – the sort of event where I could make the sort of connections that could pay off my month’s membership to the co-working place in short order.
When I move to... well, somewhere (that’s a different post), I’ll have a more dedicated space in an actual house to work from. The kitchen will be out of sight. It will be comfortable and convenient – but I already know I’ll miss the vibe and the connections. I may or may not miss shoes and pants; too early to tell.
If you’re a freelancer, remote worker, or entrepreneur, or small business, it might be worth your effort to see if there’s some sort of co-working space near you.