Things I Appreciate About Coworking Now That We’re On A Break

Coworking Break up

by Cohere Member-at-large Beth Buczynski

Coworking and I are going through a rough patch.

I thought I could just move away to another town, and everything would still be alright. I would visit a couple of times a month, and still come around for special occasions. We’d talk on the interwebs, and everything would be ok even though we wouldn’t see each other every day.

It’s not the same.

Coworking, I miss the way you used to motivate me to brush my teeth before noon and put on pants that weren’t of the pajama variety. When we were together, I got up early, took regular showers, and left the house excited for what our day together would hold. Now I sleep until the very last acceptable minute, wander across my living room, and sit in an office chair for almost 8 hours without talking to anyone but the cat.

I miss the way you would help me find new work, and point out opportunities for fun collaboration with our mutual friends. I’m still doing ok at work, and have even found a few new gigs since I’ve moved, but it’s not the same without people with whom to share my excitement.

Most of all, I hate thinking about all the good times you’re having with everyone when I’m not around. Parties, workshops, Snooze pancakes–I can only imagine all the great freelancers and business owners you’re meeting without me. I miss belonging to that kick ass community of motivated entrepreneurs. By the next time I come back, you’ll have so many new friends and they won’t have any idea who I am at all.

Don’t forget about me, ok Coworking? I know it might be a while until we can get back together, and I hope you’ll wait for me. I’m sorry that I had to spend a few months without you to truly appreciate all the ways you made my life better. I hope whoever you’re spending time with now knows how lucky they are to have you. I promise that if we get a second chance to make things work, I’ll tell you I love you every day.

Yours from afar,

Beth

Understanding The Value Of Coworking Part 1: Be More Than A Seat Filler

Coworking Participation

The coworking community talks a lot about the value of coworking, and what makes it such a life-changing style of work. Each coworking space has unique characteristics that set it apart from others and define its community.

But there are some universal attributes that apply to coworking in any setting, whether it’s a massive space in New York City or a tiny community in rural Virginia.

The importance of community engagement and participation is one of these universal truths. Basically, the more you put in to your coworking experience, the more you’re going to get out of it. Period.

If someone shows up for the open desk and the free coffee, and leaves as soon as their work’s done, they’re not giving much to the community. Chances are their coworking experience will be shallow and forgettable. And when it comes time to renew their membership, these “desk fillers” probably won’t see a reason to return.

But when members make a conscious effort to be a resource and encouragement to other members, they often find that the community returns the favor ten-fold. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Cohere members had to say about “getting what you give.”

“The give/get thing is the essence of coworking. Without the exchange of energy, information and camaraderie you just have a bunch of people together in a room.”

“I absolutely believe that [you get what you give]. However, I feel like I was given so much before I was able to give back. I still feel like I have received more than I’ve given, and it’s that self-lessness from the community that encourages me to pay it forward in every way I possibly can.”

“What you get out of coworking is one part how you perceive your involvement in the community, and one part how the community perceives you. If you see the community simply as a place to network and toss your business card around, you may or may not get good connections — it depends on what the community expects. If members expect to be networking most of the time, you will be welcomed with your card, otherwise, you won’t be. Each coworking facility has its own rhythm, its own beat. And if you don’t move by it, you won’t get anything out of it, no matter how much you give.”

“I think if you come in to a collaborative workspace, put your head down and work away, than people won’t talk to you and you won’t be tapping into the “collaborative” part of what coworking offers.  However, if someone just wants a workspace in an environment with a bunch of cool people, but doesn’t really want to interact, that’s okay. It’s not bad, it’s just that they won’t get quite as much out of the experience as someone else might.”

“The main reason I joined [a coworking space] was for the community and quality memebers. It’s nice to have a different space to work outside of my home office, of course, but it’s my connections with the amazing, generous, open-minded community members at Cohere I value most as a solopreneur. I offer advice, assistance and resources to other members as well, without feeling obligated. It’s all very natural.”

In case you’re thinking that all of this collaboration and connection takes hours of effort, most of the members who responded to our little survey stated that all they had to “give” was a positive attitude, a friendly personality, honest feedback, an expert opinion, or news of a work opportunity.

Coworking folks tend to be an upbeat bunch, so for many of you, becoming more than a seat filler simply means being yourself!

Got an opinion about “getting what you give” in a coworking community? Share it in a comment! 

Also watch out for the next installment of this series!

Image Credit: Flickr – nateOne

4 Factors That Prove Coworking is a Way of Life

I’ve been thinking about what environmental and personality factors make coworking attractive for some and utterly horrifying for others. A text from a homeless friend early this morning helps illustrate what I’ve been thinking AND that these concepts span across all situations making coworking less of an office trend and more of a way of life.

Text message I got: “I felt weird about going in to Wal-Mart this morning to brush my teeth. When I got to the men’s room, I found a small Chinese man already in there taking a bath in the sink. So I’m like screw it, I’m ALL IN too.  I met a total stranger and now we might become roommates!”

What does this story have to do with coworking? It might be hard to tell at first glance but hang with me a bit longer.

Fulfillment of a need: my friend and his budding roommate needed to take baths and brush their teeth. They went to the same place to do it. In coworking, members need a place to get stuff done and they all come to a shared coworking space.

A container for those actions: when you’re homeless, getting a shower is just a matter of finding a public restroom that works. Coworkers need wifi, desks, chairs and a sprinkling of other people. Coworking spaces are the container.

Something in common: it was easy for my friend to join in the restroom hygiene routine because someone else was already doing it. It normalized the behavior! Coworkers attach to a coworking community faster when they find things in common with one another like the same client problems or the inability to get off social media when procrastinating!

A sense of adventure and openness: taking a sink bath isn’t anyone’s first preference but because both my friend and the man were OPEN to what might happen they will probably end up mutually solving their housing problem by sharing resources (rent). Coworkers who merely want a desk are unlikely to enjoy the experience of coworking. Coworkers who remain adventurous and open to what *might* happen themselves collaborating and having richer experiences within the community.

If you need a place to go, want people to have something in common with and have even a little adventure/openness in you please don’t put off trying us out! We won’t be bathing in the sink but we might be coloring pictures of unicorns. Are you willing to make coworking your way of life?

Join us for our Fall Potluck on Friday 10/14 from 6p-8p.

Image credit: mathplourde

 

 

 

 

From Coffee Shops to Coworking in Old Town Fort Collins


Beth abandoned coffee shops and joined Cohere as a Wayfarer where she writes and writes, smiling all the while.

**enjoy this post by member Beth Buczynski from our archives**

Then…

Before I became a freelancer, I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be the master of my own professional domain. No unreasonable boss limiting my creativity, never being forced to support something I didn’t believe in, and no need to leave the house to work- ever.

When I finally made the leap to full time freelancing, I realized that while working right across the hall from my bed was oh-so-convenient, it didn’t always encourage me to be productive (or professional).

The Pain…

So I set out in search of alternative work environments, and like so many freelancers, soon found myself adrift in the coffee shop circuit in Old Town Fort Collins. Constantly searching for a dependable wireless connection, I bounced from one coffee shop to the next, feeling lost and frustrated, and hoping that my purchase of a bagel and bottomless coffee would be enough to buy me some uninterrupted time when I could finally get some work done.

Between tiny tables, screaming children, and constantly smelling like I’d used my own clothes to clean out the espresso machine, I managed to squeeze out just enough work to get by, but noticed myself becoming desperate for stimulating conversation throughout the day…and an internet connection that wouldn’t unexplainably kick me off right when I hit ‘submit’ on a really important assignment.

The week I was forced to leave three different coffee shops after unsuccessful attempts to coax my computer and their router to be friends, I knew I had hit rock bottom, and decided it was time to find a better solution to my office-less-ness. That something turned out to be coworking.

Now…

After a little more than a month at Cohere (update: Beth has been a member for over a year now), I’m happy to report that the urges to hurl my laptop out the window have completely subsided now that I have access to a rock solid internet connection, ample electrical outlets, and an amazing selection of desk space that allows me to spread out and get comfortable before a day of work.

Unlike a coffee shop, we encourage you to talk with your neighbors.

When I get up in the morning, I know that instead of fighting soccer moms, business lunches, and college kids for room to work, I have a specific place to come every day where the only other people within earshot are those also interested in being productive (and occasionally ignoring work altogether to laugh, debate the proper punctuation of a bulleted list, and devour a cupcake).

The members that make up Cohere have become a source of inspiration, motivation, innovation, and levity in my life, not only making me a better writer, but also a better, more connected member of the community at large.

If you’re tired of dragging your laptop from one tattered coffee shop couch to another, I encourage you to give coworking a try. You might come for the internet and the cushy chair, but you’ll stay for the conversation, collaboration, and support.

 

 

Cohere Coworking Launches First Small Business: Akinz

Cohere, a local shared office space is proud to announce the expansion of Akinz, one of its first small business members and purveyor of stylish clothing for an active lifestyle.

Akinz owner Suzanne Akin started designing clothing as a hobby in 2005, and as an avid wakeboarder and snowboarder, was inspired to create exciting clothing options for the action sports scene.

After moving to Fort Collins two years ago, Akin hoped to focus on growing her business, but also wanted to meet locals that were interested in art, design, and active lifestyles. She heard that a local business was offering “trial coworking days” in a shared office space as a way to build community among local freelancers, and couldn’t wait to check it out.

That business was Cohere coworking community at 215 Jefferson St., and Akin soon joined as the first official member.

“Suzanne came to Cohere every day for the first six months we were open,” says Angel Kwiatkowski, owner and Madame of Cohere. “During that time she created bright new designs for her clothing line, and every day, the coworking community members would offer suggestions about everything from t-shirt graphics to marketing strategies.”

Shortly after releasing its 2011 spring line, Akinz held a clearance sale at the Cohere space during which the business sold over $1,000 in merchandise in two hours.

Successful Akinz Sale at Cohere

Fellow Cohere members also gave Akin the motivation she needed to create local programs that have now become quite successful, like the annual Akinz Sunglasses at Night party and Akinz Bike to Work Day T-shirts with bike delivery.

“Being around other people that were running their own successful freelance businesses definitely helped boost the “I can do this” thought process,” says Akin. They are a great network of people that support me in everything I do!”

When she became flooded with beanie orders last winter (Akinz beanies are handmade and a big seller during the Colorado winter), Akin knew she had outgrown her Cohere membership.

“Around December 2010 I decided it was time for me to buy my own printing press so I could have more creative and financial freedom in printing my clothes, and that was the tipping point,” says Akin. “After that, there was no way to pretend that I could fit all of my business into our second bedroom and I knew it was time for Akinz to “graduate.”

Entrepreneurs who join coworking spaces get instant access to a huge network of brilliant, well connected professionals who are truly vested in one another’s success. Akinz is just the one of many startups that Cohere plans to help launch in the coming years.

Fort Collins shoppers can find Akinz clothing at The Wright Life, Killer Rabbit, and White Balcony, as well as online at Akinz.com and the new Akinz store at 432 S. Link Lane.

About Akinz

Akinz is a clothing line for those with an active lifestyle who expect the extraordinary. Started in 2005 in the studio apartment of founder Suzanne Akin, the Akinz motto, “Find your wings.” encourages men and women to find the one thing that motivates them to push life to the limit and reach for the sky. After all, life’s too short to settle for the ordinary. Find handmade Akinz clothing, accessories, and jewelry in local stores and online at Akinz.com.

About Cohere

Cohere is a collaborative shared office space and coworking community for freelancers, entrepreneurs and remote workers located in Old Town Fort Collins, Colorado. Coworking creates an environment that is more conducive to collaboration and success than coffee shops, executive suites, or private office space. Learn more about Cohere by requesting a free day pass at www.coherecommunity.com or by joining the Mobile Workforce meetup group.

 

My coworking internship at Cohere

Cohere Intern Betsy Brookshire

Betsy: Cohere intern

Two days prior to being hired at Cohere in Fort Collins I had never even heard of the concept of coworking. My coming to be an intern at Cohere can be described in two ways: 1) pure luck; and 2) a perfect example of one of the many benefits of coworking.

My story begins with getting an email from CSU with a job posting for an internship at Articulate City, an arts and culture social club in Fort Collins. I was immediately impressed with a business that puts “the art in party”. After a few exchanges of emails I was offered an interview.

The interview took place at the quaint little coworking space in Old Town Fort Collins known as Cohere. At this time, I had no idea what coworking was and certainly had no idea how much it was going to benefit me in the very near future. For as it turns out, I did not get the intern gig at Articulate City. But because these lovely ladies were part of the Cohere community, they knew that Angel, the Madame of Cohere, was also seeking an intern. And, because they’re awesome, they were kind enough to forward my e-mail and cover letter to her and suggest I may be a good fit for Cohere. So, included in my rejection letter from one business was a referral to another great business. And I had a message from Angel waiting in my inbox asking me to come in for an interview. Let me tell you, being offered a job immediately following the rejection of another definitely takes away the pain.

So I ended up getting an internship at a place I didn’t even know existed, a place that did something I knew nothing about. In my first few weeks at Cohere, I’ve been privileged enough to meet and witness over thirty members with different job duties and interests working independently together. And as a graduating senior who will soon be venturing out into the bleak job market, it is extremely encouraging to see people successfully working for themselves and loving their jobs.

Welcoming New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space

If you’re a coworking space catalyst or a coworking space owner, you should probably have a welcome mat in front of your space.

Okay—not a literal welcome mat.
Welcome New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space
I’m talking about making new members feel welcome by doing the basic “host”-type duties in your space: greeting potential & new members, giving tours of the space, introducing them to other coworkers, etc.

While these my seem like no-brainer things to do, I’ve discovered that in some coworking spaces, these things are simply not happening. Although not every coworking space has a dedicated host, for those spaces that do have a host, the following to-dos are musts. I’d venture that it’s a real challenge to get a community to grow—and grow bountifully—if coworkers don’t feel like they belong. The good news is that it’s fairly easy for you to help new members feel welcome.

In my mind, the following actions are musts:

  • Greet potential & new coworkers. When someone new walks into the space, is it clear where they should go or who they should talk to?
  • Provide a tour of the space. No matter how small the space may be, provide a tour to help new members feel comfortable and oriented. Heck, introduce them to the coffee-maker!
  • Connect them online. Provide the wireless name and password…and remind them of the website and any other communication tools available. For example, we use IRC at Cohere…old school geekdom!
  • Introduce new members to current members. With respect to people’s work and time, it’s amazingly helpful to introduce new members to current members—especially between members you think might have skills, profession or hobbies in common. This, too, helps foster community!
  • Orient them to the neighborhood. Do the current coworkers have a favorite lunch spot? Let the new member know what amenities, restaurants and other resources are near the coworking space.
  • Other community connections. Is there a calendar of events for the coworking space? Or a list of local meetup groups & events? Or simply a list of all the members? Show the new member! They can then explore these resources on their own time and get more comfortable with the community they’ve just joined.

The idea is to make new members feel comfortable. Imagine how intimidating it is to be the n00b in a group of people who already know each other and are established in their work and social patterns. This can be challenging, even for the most extroverted of people. Fortunately, it takes only a few simple actions to help welcome new members.

If you’re a catalyst or owner, do you have other or different ideas about how to welcome your new members? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Coworking is Not a Frat House (and the Evidence to Prove It)

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house,” “romper room,” or “social hour” for freelancers and independents.

Yikes. How totally inaccurate that stereotype is.

Not only is the success and level of productivity at Cohere anecdotal evidence of why this myth is untrue, but there’s also hard data to make the case.

Deskmag.com coworking survey

The Evidence

You may have already seen the recent global coworking survey—the first of its kind, seeking to gather data about coworkers and coworking space owners. Deskmag is digging into the survey data and sharing insights about many aspects of coworking. (See the end of the post for links to the Deskmag articles.)

Here are some relevant stats from the survey that dispel the “frat house” myth that often informs stereotypes people have about coworking spaces:

  • Connections: 43% of respondents reported meeting one to three helpful acquaintances within a two-month period, while another 43% have found four or more such connections
  • Income: 25% of all coworkers indicated that they earned more than the national average income
  • Motivation: 85% of respondents are more motivated and have better interaction with other people since moving into a coworking space
  • Teamwork: 57% now work in teams more often
  • Work/life balance: 60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home

These stats don’t show unmotivated nor unsuccessful freelancers. Coworking isn’t a rowdy frat house.

Community…and Work-Life Balance

The coworking survey reveals that one of the big draws to coworking is the community and collaboration that happens in a coworking space. And “community” doesn’t translate into “frat house” or “social hour.” On the contrary, one of the most powerful aspects of coworking community is to connect with other people while giving—and receiving—value and benefits.

While there are moments or afternoons that feel more “social” at Cohere—for example, when coworkers share funny stories, start a room-wide conversation, or head out to grab a mid-afternoon snack—it’s those moments that make the Cohere community what it is: a place for work AND social productivity—a place for a balanced work life.

If you want to read more insights from the survey, check out:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Deskmag

How Coworking and Community Translate into Dollars

Money - Jeff Belmonte

“Coworking” isn’t just a buzzword, although I may be preaching to the choir if you’re reading this blog. While the idea of sharing office space isn’t new, the idea of purposefully building a community of independent workers in a workspace—in other words, coworking—is growing like gangbusters. Many people recognize various benefits of coworking (such as the chance to get out of the house/cafe or to meet other creative professionals).

But a key aspect of coworking that is sometimes overlooked is the way coworking can boost income (for independents) and stimulate the economy (in a local area).

Coworking helps freelancers and independents make more money.

The first global coworking survey was recently completed, and more than 600 people from 24 countries participated. The results confirmed what many of us already experience in coworking: it’s a collaborative and community-oriented space that helps independents genuinely grow their business. As many coworking blogs have highlighted from the survey, 42% of survey respondents reported earning more money after joining a coworking space. And more than half said they work in teams more often since joining a coworking space.

Coworking helps the local economy.

The various ways that independents, freelancers and small business owners help boost and sustain a local economy can hardly be covered in a bullet point (I’ll save that discussion for another post, perhaps). But it’s true: a coworking space can help its local community’s economy. A soon-to-be coworking space in Portland originated from a developer’s need to creatively solve certain economic challenges in his industry. When Peter Bass, the developer, learned about coworking, he also saw the importance of community. “‘We’re trying to build a community,’ Bass said, ‘not just a place to go to work.’”

When it comes down to it, coworking isn’t about plopping together a bunch of laptop-toting freelancers under one roof. Coworking is about community. And “community” isn’t just a fuzzy, feel-good term: it’s critical to a thriving coworking space. For proof, see how often “community” is mentioned by coworkers, freelancers and entrepreneurs at coworking space New Work City in this video.

I’m curious… whether you’re a coworker or coworking space owner, have you witnessed other ways in which the coworking community has boosted income or the economy? Leave me a comment below!

Image Credit: Flickr – Jeff Belmonte

The Coworking Host – A Freelancer’s Resource

If the help desk thinks... | Flickr

Don't worry. Your Cohere Madame won't light you on fire.

One of the keys to a successful coworking environment is conversation, collaboration and interaction with other coworkers. Hopefully you’ve tapped into the amazing resources and brains that surround you and have discovered ways that coworking helps your small business. But have you also asked the host at your coworking community for their help and expertise?

Whatever it’s called at your coworking space—community manager, community animator, host/hostess, or in the case of Cohere, Madame—there are more resources in your coworking space than you might imagine. Whether you have recently joined a coworking space or have been coworking since the dawn of time, don’t neglect the fantastic resource that is your host.

So, what might you ask your coworking space host? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Can you recommend a good (accountant/lawyer/executive coach/etc.)?
  • May I run this (demo/logo design/ad slogan/etc.) by you for honest feedback?
  • Could we brainstorm for 10 minutes about my new project?
  • Do you know any local meet-up groups or events related to my field?
  • How would you respond to a client in this situation?
  • Do you know any other coworkers or people in the community that I could collaborate with on this project?
  • Would you be willing to host a seminar/workshop about (contracting/managing tough clients/easy small business accounting/etc.)?

Your coworking host will bring their own experiences and skills to the table (and likely the feedback & war stories they’ve heard from other independents and freelancers as well!). Although they may not be able to answer all of your questions, chances are good that he or she can point you in a helpful direction. So go ahead—ask your coworking host to help you grow YOUR business!

Share with us: Do you have a good story about how Madame, aka Angel, has helped you in your business? Tell us in the comments!

Image Credit: Flicker – Jameskm03

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