Coworking naturally creates community—it’s the beauty of freelancers and independents working together in a shared office space. No doubt you’ve benefited from this coworking community goodness. But have you ever thought about having a group that is more focused on a niche you’re interested in? Here are 8 easy steps for how to create a local meet-up group for other freelancers and small business owners.
1. Choose a topic & purpose.
Who do you want to get together and why? Do you want to get freelance web designers together to talk about the latest Adobe Illustrator shortcuts, or would you rather get people from diverse professional backgrounds together to talk about a specific industry? There are limitless themes around which to organize a meet-up. Make it specific, but allow yourself some creativity! (For example, a meet-up named “Freelance Writers”? Boring. A meet-up named “Freelance Writers Who Care About Going Green”? That’s more like it!)
2. Ask two people to join you.
“Two?! Only two people?!” you shriek. Settle down. Ask two people who would fit the niche meet-up group to help you. For example, two other programmers if it’s for a programming group, or two other freelancers interested in non-profit organizations. Not only will having two other minds make choosing a time and venue easier, it will help diversify and grow the meet-up. And even if it’s just the three of you that end up attending the first meet-up, three people can do a lot of brainstorming and sharing.
3. Choose a time.
Check to ensure that your meet-up idea isn’t already happening somewhere in your area. If a similar group exists—great! Offer to join forces. If not, make sure your meet-up doesn’t conflict with other events in the area. Will the event be weekly, monthly or bimonthly? Will attendees likely have availability before, during or after work hours, or perhaps on the weekend?
4. Choose a venue.
Coffee shops, restaurants with private rooms and local community centers are a great place to find free or low-cost space for your group. But y’know what would be even better? Ask your coworking space if you can use the space during an off-time (evenings or weekends).
Did you know Cohere offers conference facilities in Old Town, Fort Collins? Reserving a conference room at Cohere is affordable, easy and perhaps best of all—très chic! (No kidding around: there is latent Business Awesomeness and Uber-Creativity floating in the air at Cohere.)
5. Set up an online event.
There are several online tools that allow you to share event description, time and venue with others. Make it simple for potential attendees to find the pertinent who/what/where/when/why info. Some easy-to-use online event tools include:
6. Share the event with your network.
- Post information about the meetup at your coworking space.
- Tell your friends on Facebook and your followers on Twitter.
- Talk about it on your blog.
- Announce it at other events you attend (but only if it’s relevant!).
- Share with your professional groups.
- Send an email to friends, former colleagues and anyone else in your network that seems like a perfect fit for the meet-up (especially if it’s someone that might not use Facebook or Twitter very often).
7. Be prepared.
If the meet-up group is hosted at your coworking space, do you want to provide snacks or refreshments? Or perhaps you’ll need a whiteboard & markers, a giant brainstorming notepad, or a laptop for taking notes and looking up websites. An LCD project and screen? Nametags and markers? Think again about the topic and purpose of the meet-up group, and ensure you have all the materials and “little things” needed to make it a great event.
8. Have fun!
The meet-up group you’ve helped create should be fun, information-rich and valuable for everyone involved. Enjoy it!
Why have a meet-up? Because it builds community. Because you can share resources, tips & tactics. Because you can help someone else by sharing your knowledge and skills. Because it’s awesome to hang out with other awesome people. (That’s awesomeness squared!)
Have you ever started a local meet-up group? What worked and what didn’t? Tell us below in the comments!
Image Credit: Flickr – bump