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

“Maximizing Synergy and Backward Revenue Streams”

The Cohere Coworking Community is a verbal group. We enjoy a good conversation about words. Let’s discuss one.

Synergy might be the most overused word right now behind the recently revived “D*****bag.”  I get annoyed with the word synergy because people use it for everything.  “I’m going to synergize my workout by adding weights.”  “Let’s get some synergy going at lunch today.”  “That D-bag totally ruined the synergy we talked about.”  None of these phrases makes any sense.

What is synergy?

Screw the dictionary.com and wikipedia definitions and let’s get back to an example that we can relate to.  The best use of synergy is when the ghostbusters cross the streams of their proton packs to destroy Gozer.  Initially, the ghostbusters thought that crossing streams would be detrimental.  Similarly, many business people shy away from joining networking groups where other people in their same profession are members.  This is lame and a totally unrealistic and unproductive way to approach business.  Don’t avoid crossing streams with people in the same field as you.  Who knows, if you cross streams with similar people, you’ll be able to destroy a demon from a parallel universe.  Don’t discount the magic that can happen through co-opetition.

The intersection of ideas and passion between like minded people is where the true synergy happens.  Synergy: working with others to achieve more together than you could alone.

Please give some critical thought to the word synergy and let’s clean it up a bit so that it can get its meaning back.

3 Coworking Benefits for the Entire Family

Guest post from a member’s husband. Cohere Coworking Community has far reaching benefits beyond what individual members gain from the experience of coworking.

Since my wife has started coworking at Cohere it has unexpectedly improved my life in a few ways, and it has nothing to do with additional income.  It has increased the quality of our life here at home, making me a huge fan.  Not that we want to get rid of her, but we are thrilled that she is coworking!  Here’s why:

1. Quality one-on-one time with the kids

I work all day and have few quality moments with my boys during the week.   I get home during the chaos of dinner and bedtime routines.  On coworking nights, my boys and I set up the living room like a movie theater, turn off all of the lights and wrap up with blankets and popcorn.  We watch fun movies and eat candy that my wife probably wouldn’t let them eat during the day.  We call this “Boy’s Party” and it’s the highlight of our week.

2. Decreases guilt/increases balance for personal activities

I am an avid fly fisherman and the river is my sanctuary.  Being able to get out with my flyrod is really important and recharges me.  With my wife having a dedicated night for coworking, I’ve been able to have a dedicated fishing night.  It’s a great balance and we don’t feel guilty for having our own personal interests.

3. Moments of peace and quiet

On the nights that my wife coworks, after the kids are in bed, the house is silent.  There’s nobody to talk to, there’s nothing to think about.  It’s a treasured moment of true peace and silence, which is much needed after a long day at work.  It’s quite relaxing and restful – everyone should have a few moments to themselves to decompress.

You’d think that with our busy life and day’s full of activities that my wife leaving for night coworking once a week would be taxing, but it’s not.  It actually helps us balance some important aspects of all of our lives.

Moms: Try out a Free Day Pass for night coworking every Wednesday night between 4pm-10pm. BYOWine/Beer if you need it!

Coworking: Solution for Moms to Grow Small Businesses

Enjoy this guest post from member Kristin Mastre on how Cohere Coworking Community gave her much needed balance between being a stay at home mom and a small business owner.

Having my cake and eating it too.

Member Kristin coworks every Wednesday night while her husband hangs out with the kids.

The other day, my kids and I were attending a birthday party for one of my older son’s preschool friends.  As the kids were running around jumping in bounce houses and sliding down slides, another mom and I had a chance to chat.

“Congrats on all of the progress you’ve made with work!  You deserve it.  You’ve worked really hard.  There are quite a few moms around town who are envious that you have it all.  You have a balance of staying at home, but still working in a career both at the same time.  A lot of people wish they could do the same.”

It was an incredibly flattering compliment, and it wouldn’t have gotten it without the help from my membership at Cohere, where I can live that double life while night coworking.  I do have a great balance with home and work.   I get to take my boys to everything they want to do – karate classes, attend school field trips and park days;  I also plan meetings, collaborate and grow my business and passion.

I get to have my cake and eat it too.

Being a work-at-home-mom is isolating and frustrating, often times feeling like you’re talking to yourself (or the walls).   When I was at my lowest point in motherhood, I joined a moms group and became an active member, essentially saving my sanity.  When becoming an entrepreneur, it seemed like a natural step to join Cohere to network with other Fort Collins professionals.

Fortunately, Cohere had the perfect membership for me where I could still keep my flexible work-at-home lifestyle and cowork with other local freelancers at the same time.  It’s great!  One night a week I leave the boys at home with their dad so they can have “boys party”, watching movies and eating popcorn.  They enjoy sharing their special bonding time together.  I get to pack up and head off to Cohere where I get an incredible amount of work done while forming business relationships that are taking my career to the next level.

Without my membership at Cohere, my business growth would take a lot longer, not having those vital professional connections.  Also, my kids would be missing out on some important one-on-one time with their dad.  We really do have the perfect balance that way and it wasn’t difficult to obtain, thanks to night coworking at Cohere!

Try out a free night of coworking any Wednesday on us!

5 Things To Look For In A Coworking Space

If you’ve been thinking about coworking but want to learn more about this phenomenon before you jump in with both feet, there’s a good chance you started with a Google search.

Depending on where you live, the results might have surprised you. Most major cities now have at least one coworking space, if not already established, it’s in the works or there are people talking about starting one.

If you have more than one coworking option to choose from, or you need help comparing the features of a coworking facility  to those of an executive suite or dedicated office space, here are 5 things to look for.

1. Comfort and Ambiance

Ok that’s two, but they go hand in hand. The worst thing about working in a traditional office space or (gasp!) cubicle jungle is that they aren’t comfortable. Fluorescent lights, worn out desk chairs and stark white walls belong in hospitals, not your everyday workspace. Check out the space’s website and look for pictures of the interior. If you don’t find any, it might be because they’ve got something to hide.

2. Multiple Workspaces

Does everyone have to crowd around the same table? Do you have to fight off other early risers for the “good desk”? A prime coworking space will provide different places for you to work, so that you can choose the environment that is most conducive to your productivity on any particular day. Couches, tables, open and enclosed desks, nooks and comfy chairs all within ten feet of a white board? Yes please!

3.  Conference Space

Freelancers and small business owners are constantly having meetings. Lots of them. Being a member of a coworking community means that you no longer have to take these meetings in crowded coffee shops. Make sure you find out whether there is a classy looking room with a closeable door for you to use. If you take a lot of meetings and there’s no meeting space, it might not be the right facility for you.

4. Multiple Membership Plans

The whole reason people are attracted to the idea of freelancing or owning their own business is because they feel trapped in the traditional 9 – 5. What’s the use of coworking if it isn’t flexible enough to fit into your life with ease? Look for coworking facilities that offer multiple stages/styles/levels of membership. This will ensure you get the most out of the experience and your investment.

5. Good People!

It’s called coworking. That means more than one. Every space has to start somewhere, and there are always those days that everyone stays home, but the people are the most important part of coworking. Find out how large the membership is, what kind of work the other members do,  and ask the space owner/host/curator which days tend to be busy or empty. This can help you plan which days you want to come for quality interaction.

If you want to see a stellar coworking facility in action, print free day pass to Cohere Community!

Image Credit: thechangeyouwanttosee.com

5 Ways Coworking Could Save Your Small Business

A lot of people are talking about coworking. But does it really make that much of a difference?

Starting a business isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Most entrepreneurs are so interested in keeping the bills paid, they forget how vital things like fresh air and conversation can be to their business’ success.

If you’re debating whether or not to give coworking a try, here are some compelling reasons to experience work outside the home office:

1. Motivation

Joining a coworking community is like getting a double shot of motivation right in the ticker. It might surprise you to know that there are people that will find your ideas/talents/products impressive and constantly encourage you to reach for more. They are called coworkers, and they are waiting to assure you that there is a reason to keep going.

2. Networking

Aside from those special souls that were born for cold calling, have you ever met someone that really enjoys networking events? There’s all that awkward glancing between face and name tag, painful small talk about the catered food, and the inevitable fumbling for the business card.

When you’re a coworker, networking ceases to be a traumatizing monthly event and instead becomes a natural part of your daily conversation. Each day, you’ll be sitting next to someone new, with a whole set of talents, ambitions, and business contacts waiting to be discovered.

3. Bartering

Money tight? Working in a community of small business owners and freelancers means that everyone can relate to clients who ignore invoices and struggling bank accounts. But instead of breaking down, coworkers barter. Chances are, within 20 feet of your laptop you’ll find someone that’s willing to trade you graphic design work for some help with marketing, or new head shots in exchange for a snappy press release.

4. Outsourcing

(No, not like that terrible show that replaced Parks and Rec). If you’ve got more work than you know what to do with, there’s no need to give up sleep or force your family into indentured servitude. As a coworker, you have a built in pool of talented, motivated people all around you that will probably be interested in picking up your slack for pay or barter. Not only will your clients think you’ve developed super human powers because of how fast things will get done, you’ll gain major karma points in the freelancing community.

5. Creativity

Traditional businesspeople swear by “location, location, location.” For coworkers, the mantra is “ideas, ideas, ideas.” Writer’s block, brain farts, and design paralysis are no match for a community of creatively endowed people. If a problem project has you stymied, try shouting it out to the built in focus group seated all around you (check to make sure they don’t have their headphones in first).  You might be surprised at how quickly you’ll have more ideas than than ever.

Wanna give coworking a try? Claim your free day pass to Cohere Community and prepare to be wowed!

Flickr Image Credits: KHawkins04 | ShashiBellamkonda

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