Coworking Space Photos Needed

Cohere coworking hot dog potluck

Every time I write a coworking book, I like to use photos of real coworking communities in action. Do you have an awesome photo of your community that you’d like me to include in my next book? I always give attribution and a link back to your website. You’ll also get a nice discount on the Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence when it publishes on September 1.

Instructions:

  1. Email me a high resolution photo that includes people in it. Photos of empty space will be rejected. I will also take photos of communities that are still forming and who do not have a physical space yet.

Include the following:

  1. Name of Space
  2. Website of Space
  3. If you have an existing space, answer the following:
    • How many members did you have when you opened your doors?
    • How long did it take you from deciding to start a space to grand opening?
    • What piece of advice would you give to new coworking founders?
    • Why is your community special?
  4. If you don’t have a space yet, answer the following:
    • Why are you starting a coworking community before you have a space?
    • What did you learn through the process of community building?
    • What are you most looking forward to when it comes to your community?

I will be leading small groups of coworking founders from the first steps of building a community to grand opening with the Ultimate Coworking Launch Sequence. Be sure to get on the list for first dibs on a spot in the first cohort!

I want to learn all the things!

* indicates required





Unsolicited Advice for Displaced Galvanize Coworkers

So your coworking space is closing. That super sucks. You’re all entrepreneurs and self starters: problem solvers of the quickest kind. I’m hear to say to you STOP. Do not take action on a lease right now.

I’ve been working on coworking and community in Fort Collins and around the world since 2009. That’s three years before Galvanize incorporated for its first space. At the time of Galvanize’s closing, Cohere was/is on a wait list for membership. I think I’m worth listening to…at least when it comes to coworking in Fort Collins.

Please Hold

I was on hold with Comcast but I use this photo every time I want to indicate that I am exasperated.

Do not make decisions right now.

You’ve had a big crushing blow to your heads when it comes to office space. The great news is, you can office from literally anywhere these days. You could invite your employees into your living room and probably get in a solid day of work. A small gap in well-equipped office space is not a crisis. Spaceships won’t fall out of orbit. DO. NOT. MAKE. DECISIONS. RIGHT. NOW.

All the displaced coworkers need to take a collective deep breath and process what the fuck happened in your spaces and communities. Because you didn’t own the space, you might not understand why your space is closing. On paper, your space closed due to lack of money. In my mind, your space closed due to lack of community and an overzealous interpretation of the market research about how many people wanted to pay $26,000 to learn how to code. The fact that you didn’t know your space was closing until you got the announcement is proof that your space lacked one of the key values of coworking: transparency.

Do not sign a lease and especially don’t try to keep the Galvanize lease.

That Galvanize building will be one of THE most expensive buildings in Old Town. You don’t spend a few million on a renovation and thousand dollar desks to cut a great deal to the poor displaced members. That space has NOTHING to do with Galvanize’s success or failure. Okay, I’ll admit it was absurdly expensive but the space didn’t do much to foster community. At all. Don’t even get me started on the caste system of placing people on higher levels based on how much they could afford. Ugh.

If you love your current startup or business, you will hate being a Community Manager.

I bet you want to start your own coworking space. I bet that feels easy since you’ve been a member of one for a little while. Being a member of a space and running a space are really different. It took me TWO full time years to get Cohere off the ground. Even now, I have a small army of part time people to help me attend to all the details of our relatively small community. If you don’t want to abandon your other job, do NOT start a coworking space. Also, there is far less money in coworking than you might think.

Explore your existing coworking options first.

There are at least three shared spaces in Fort Collins that are not at capacity. Please give those a chance before trying to start your own. The Articulate, Digital Workshop Center, and Office Evolution. The fact that you were all in the same world (startup and tech) is actually a disservice to your companies. You’ll grow more when surrounded by people in different stages of growth including those people who have dialed in their businesses and are NOT in startup mode as well as the freelancers that are keeping everyone’s small businesses afloat.

cohere-member-wallHire me so you can have ^^ this many friends in your coworking space.

You don’t have to do this alone. I will encourage and teach you how to engage your budding community before you sign a lease so we don’t have to read about your closure in 18 months. Email me right away to get my $500 one-on-one consulting package. It even includes math worksheets and realistic member growth rates! There’s also another compelling reason to email me right now but it’s a secret until January 1.

 

 

Ridiculously Productive Meetings

FullSizeRender

I bet you never wonder how 3 people with full-time jobs manage to shoe-horn in the creation of a shared rehearsal space for Fort Collins in their “spare” time. If you’ve been following us, you might wonder why I would brag about our ridiculously productive meetings for Cohere Bandwidth when we’ve been at this for almost 2 years. If you must know, most of that 2 years was spent waiting on real estate with very few DONES getting checked off of our TO-DOS. Skip below to the COMPLETION step if you are skimming.

But now that the space is REAL and under construction we spend every Friday going from Oh Fuck! to Hell Yes! Here is our extremely effective meeting process:

  1. AGENDA: Anyone can create or add to the agenda. We do this in a shared google doc that everyone can edit. The doc contains ALL of the agendas with the most recent at the top. The agenda is usually created the night before or the morning of each meeting. We’re agile and quick so it wouldn’t make sense to create an agenda further in advance than that.
  2. SCHEDULE: Meetings are always at 10am on Fridays at Cohere and last 1.5 hours. The person who is late has to get coffee for everyone else.FullSizeRender (1)
  3. AIRING OF GRIEVANCES: At the start of each meeting we get our feelings out. Yep, you read that right. If anyone is frustrated or flabbergasted or just plain giddy, we talk it out BEFORE we task. This step is key. Due to the nature of our structure, we can’t be together or even talk every day so it’s important to make a real connection to one another before we start doling out chores.
  4. ORDER: We go through the agenda in order. Always. We rarely add anything to the agenda during the meeting.
  5. TIME: Never, ever, ever put an estimated time for discussion on an agenda item. This makes no sense.
  6. COMPLETION: We complete any tasks that come up IN THE MEETING. Example, if Julie needs to email someone about a radio interview then Shane and I talk about a graphic design task or similar. This allows everyone to be productive during the entire meeting, which is something I never got to experience in corporate life.
  7. DELEGATE: If any tasks remain, they are completed directly after the meeting ends or get shifted to me (Angel) if possible since I have the most spare time to complete things. Shane will often do heavy duty graphic design tasks outside of the meeting as it’s part of his creative process.

So there. Now you know how we make the most out of our 12 hours/month together.

Does your team have an unconventional meeting process? Tell us all about it so we can steal your tips for our next meeting.

5 Things All Freelancers Should Do In The New Year

happy new year freelancers 2014

It’s the last day of 2013, and what a year it’s been!!! We’ve experienced ups and downs, failures and successes, but through it all one thing has remained constant: an awesome group of motivated people have gathered at Cohere to work, laugh, and be productive.

As we cross the threshold into 2014, it’s a good time to set goals and intentions for the 365 opportunities that lie ahead. Whether you’re just starting out, or feeling rather content and wondering how to push yourself to new heights, here’s a list of goals every freelancer and entrepreneur should be thinking about.

5 Things All Freelancers Should Do In The New Year

1. Use protection – No not that (well, yes that TOO), but for now we’re talking about professional protection. Despite the fact that freelancers make up the fastest growing segment of the workforce, we’re virtually unprotected in the professional world. Without the proper precautions, clients can refuse to pay, vendors can refuse to deliver, or worse, disgruntled humans can accuse you of wrongdoing, and you’ll be SOL. A solid contract and a good friend in the legal business is the first line of defense against this ridiculousness. Joining an organization that will advise and represent you is the second. Think about joining The Freelancers Union, or a similar union/organization in your niche that offers legal protection. You won’t be sorry.

2. Fail more – If everything’s going perfectly well, you’re not progressing–you’ve plateaued. That kind of complacency might fly in an office environment where you’re in at 9 and gone at 5, but it can be fatal in the freelance world. Push yourself. Say yes more. Fake it till you make it. And when you don’t, tell us about it because failure is a sign of growth and it inspires us.

3. Branch out – This is kind of an extension of the ‘fail more’ suggestion. How long has it been since you learned a new skill? Hired a subcontractor? Added a new service to your company menu, or figured out a way to go after a new demographic? Make 2014 the year that you stop answering these questions with “never.” Take a class. Make yourself available for bigger projects (and paychecks) by hiring help. Figure out what’s next for your company and don’t be afraid to go where the competition won’t.

4. Read a book – Freelancers spend plenty of time in front of a screen. If it’s not the laptop and work, it’s the television and brain-mush. This year, carve out time to read more. Read things that make you laugh, as well as cry. Read things that inspire you. Read things written by people you idolize. Read things that will teach you something. Just the simple act of reading will help you to be more creative, increase your life experience, exercise multiple complex cognitive functions, make you more empathetic and expand your attention span.

5. Work on you – Not taking care of yourself is the fastest way to sabotage your business, yet we almost always put ourselves last. Evaluate that mental list of “I wish I could…” and choose one item that you will do, and do often, in 2014. Maybe it’s spending time outdoors or taking cooking classes. Maybe it’s playing with your kids or volunteering for a cause you believe in. Maybe it’s working on your own website or sprucing up your resume. Whatever it is that you need to feel satisfied and excited about life, DO IT. It’s the only investment with a guaranteed return.

Image: librariesrock

Overwhelmed? 5 Services That Make It Easy To Delegate

now hiring

I’m sure this will come as a revelation to you, while staring down the barrel of yet another Monday, but YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL.

If you’re in the happy predicament of having too much work and not enough time in which to complete it, you’ve reached the big moment. To delegate or not to delegate?

Subcontracting work out to another person’s heart and brain can be scary the first couple of times. As entrepreneurs, we’re ultimately responsible for the deliverable. We coax it with tender loving care into existence, and deliver it like a precious baby to its new parent, the client.

Initially, allowing someone else to get their hands on it feels wrong wrong wrong. But like I said, you can’t do it all. If you have dreams of growing bigger than a one employee show, you’re going to have to get used to it at some point. 

By now you all know at least a little about the sharing economy, and (hopefully) realize that coworking is a major part of this collaborative consumption trend that everyone’s been yammering about. Well, collaborative consumption can do a lot more than just give you access to a neat place to stay in San Francisco, or a bike in NYC.

It can also give you access to people. People who are eager to complete those tasks that you can’t or don’t want to. Below are 5 services that specialize in micro-labor: small jobs that pay a small fee. The brilliance is, you can cram lots of them into one day. It’s a win for those who are looking for lots of experience doing diverse tasks and those who have lots of random stuff to be done. (And if you’ve got extra time and are looking to turn it into extra money, these could be excellent communities in which to market your services.)

1. TaskRabbit

An online and mobile marketplace that connects neighbors to get things done. “Fully vetted, entrepreneurial professionals contribute their time and skills to helping people out, and those busy people find a little extra time in their days. Neighbors helping neighbors — it’s an old school concept upgraded for today.”

2. Fancy Hands

A virtual team of assistants ready to work for you now. For a low monthly membership fee, you’ll finally get the help you need. You can place your requests through the website, iPhone app, email, or ye olde telephone.

3. Agent Anything

Agent Anything unlocks the time, talent, and ability of a city’s university students. AA provides a platform where people and companies can post small jobs, tasks, and errands to a skilled and affordable workforce. “Agents can be hired to accomplish any task, errand or job you can think of. For the last two years, we’ve provided errand-runners for working moms, beta testers for startups, temp workers for small businesses, and street teams for major corporations.”

4. Gig Walk

The world’s largest on-demand mobile workforce connecting businesses large and small to their very own on-demand smartphone army. Since its launch in May 2011, over 300,000 Gigwalkers have completed temporary field work such as store audits, mystery shopping, competitive tracking, customer interviews, field photography and much more.

5. Swappin

Create a profile including what you have to give and what you need to get. Include skills and services you have to offer, and ones you’d like to receive. These can include anything from professional services to casual tasks and everything in between. You can even swap with old-fashioned cash if that’s what you have or need. After you’ve created your profile, Swappin will suggest people to swap with in your area. You can also browse other members’ HAVEs and NEEDs on your own and suggest a swap.

BONUS – The Second You

I know we said five services, but a fan of our Facebook page just reminded us that we have a local company providing these services to FoCo as well! The Second You is a personal assistant service that can help you shrink your to-do list…fast! Check ’em out on Facebook.

Northern Colorado Small Business Development Events for Spring 2013

support small business

As entrepreneurs, we can’t afford to be stagnant. Like sharks, we must constantly be moving, bettering ourselves and our business practices so that we can retain our advantage over larger, less nimble companies. In order to do that, we have to try new things, meet new people and explore new strategies. Just coming in and working with your peers at Cohere can accomplish that, but exposure to other business development communities here in Colorado can also be helpful.

If you’re looking to attend some events that can answer your small business questions and give you new ideas for growth, here’s a round up of what’s going on in our region this Spring!

Makers & Doers Meetup
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM
Representing small businesses, creative industries and startups, this group is sure to introduce you to the people, resources and exposure that your small business needs to grow. Makers & Doers is produced by The Space Creators to give Denver’s creative and small business communities a place to converge and reinforce one another. The best part is….the food is on us and there’s no fee to get involved!
Location: Lucky Pie Pizza & Tap House on the 16th St. Mall
RSVP at: www.facebook.com/events/157970767696286/

I Need Financing, What Now? 
Wednesday, April 10, 2013 11:30 AM to 1:00 PM
This workshop will assist you in knowing what the banks are looking for in a borrower. You will learn what issues the banks are dealing with on their side of the table and how to approach those challenges. Find out what type of loans fit your situation and how they can be used with an emphasis on Small Business Administration (SBA) lending. Discover what to provide and what to expect when you approach a financial institution to meet your company’s capital needs. Money, you need it to get started, you need it to establish yourself, and you need it to grow, so learn what’s involved with borrowing it!
Speaker: Christina Kraft, Wells Fargo
Location: Larimer SBDC, Key Bank Tower Building, Fort Collins, Colorado
Fee: $ 15.00

So You Want to Start a Business  
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
This class is a prerequisite for start-ups to schedule a counseling session at the Larimer SBDC. Explore the basics of business ownership, including entrepreneurship, planning for a profitable business, pitfalls to avoid and how to reach your customers.
Speaker: John Murphy
Location: Larimer SBDC, Key Bank Tower Building, Fort Collins, Colorado
Fee: $ 15.00

Make it Official 
Thursday, April 25, 2013 8:00 AM to 10:00 AM
An early morning two-hour workshop that covers business registration and forms, business entity-type selection and other timely tips every prospective entrepreneur needs before starting a new business venture.
Speaker: Attorney Tom Selken and Teresa Kaufman, CPA
Location: Larimer SBDC, Key Bank Tower Building, Fort Collins, Colorado
Fee: $ 25.00

Boulder Startup Weekend
Friday, April 26, 2013 – Sunday, April 28, 2013 – All Day
Startup Weekends are 54-hour events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers, and startup enthusiasts come together to share ideas, form teams, build products, and launch startups! Teams will compete at the end of the weekend for fabulous cash and prizes (ok, no cash, but prizes, yes)
Location: Tech Stars, Boulder
Fee: $99

Basics of Bookkeeping: Know Thy Numbers  
Friday, April 26, 2013 8:30 AM to 12:00 PM
Learn the what, how and why of bookkeeping. Understand what bookkeeping can tell you about your business and how it can help you manage. Learn what data you need to keep track of, how to avoid common mistakes and when to call in a bookkeeper or accountant. Discover effective bookkeeping from chart of accounts to financial statements.
Speaker: Beth Dixon, CPA
Location: Larimer SBDC, Key Bank Tower Building, Fort Collins, Colorado
Fee: $ 40.00

TEDxFoCo
Our community and others very much like ours have been affected by profound violence. Knowledge, Love, and Freedom are essential to a peaceful society. To that end, we’ve gathered some of the best and brightest minds in our community to talk on the topic of Life Worth Living, each speaker taking on the topic in their own unique way.
Location: Avogadro’s Number, Fort Collins
Fee: $20

Image via icommstudios.com

Top 5 Spring Cleaning Tasks For Busy Entrepreneurs

messy desk

You wouldn’t know it with all that white stuff lying on the ground, but Spring has sprung in Colorado. Though most people are busy organizing closets or washing windows, Spring cleaning doesn’t only happen around the house.

The changing of the season also indicates the start of a new fiscal year, a good time to take stock of your last year of business, and set yourself up for success over the next 12 months. As freelancers and solopreneurs, we thrive on flying by the seat of our pants, but sometimes that makes for a disorganized style of business–and disorganization always costs time and money.

If you’ve been feeling a little chaotic and claustrophobic lately, here are five spring cleanup tasks that will bring order your desk, work flow, and professional life.

Sort and Delete

How many unused files still live on your hard drive? A final edit, software you tested, or CSS files from an old client? Yes, keeping them for a month after the project completes is normal. Keeping them a year after is not. It’s just digital clutter making it harder for you to access active files (and probably slowing down your machine, too). Take a couple of hours to open these archives and send what you don’t need to the recycling bin.

Pro tip! Store client work in the cloud or sign up for an organizational tool like Doo to keep things better organized in the future.

Update your Portfolio

Was 2012 a busy year? Proud of the work you’ve produced? Then it’s time to update your profile. Remember, portfolios are meant to be beautiful, exciting, and show your diversity as a professional. No matter what type of client you’re pitching, you want to be sure they’ll see the talent they’re looking for among examples of past work. Pro tip! Always make sure to ask client permission to include their project in a portfolio (or build that language into the contract).

Unsubscribe to Junk Mail

Throughout the year we sign up for lots of newsletters and email alerts that we don’t really need. Months later we find ourselves slogging through this same junk mail every morning. Reduce the clutter in your inbox by unsubscribing to any automatic emails that you don’t read or utilize on the regular.

Pro tip! Sometimes purchases or registrations for useful services come with unwanted email. Be sure to uncheck the newseltter/special offer box next time you’re signing up for something online.

Financial Facelift

For most entrepreneurs, tax time is a gut check. The IRS tells you in no uncertain terms whether you’re making and setting aside enough of your income. Take a few extra minute with your accountant or tax prep professional to ask questions about what you could do differently in the coming year. Maybe you need to up your savings. Or maybe you just need to up your rates. Thing about where you want to be financially next spring, and set the goals now that will help you get there.

Pro tip! Think about making quarterly tax payments this year if you haven’t been doing so already. Your tax professional can help you estimate how much these should be.

Reinvest in You

You spend thousands of hours doing what’s right for your clients, but when’s the last time you did something nice for your professional self? It’s very important for entrepreneurs to keep learning, experimenting, and discovering. Continually challenging yourself with new ideas and tools keeps your mind sharp, and that’s why clients keep coming back! Sign up for a class, attend a workshop, or get a change of scenery. New environments and people are the chisel’s that can help reveal new opportunities and talents hidden within your community.

Pro tip! Sign up for Cohere’s free day pass and come see what it’s like to work in a great space full of great people striving to be the best at what they do.

Image via MarketMeSuite/Flickr

I’m Sick and Tired of Sick and Tired Entrepreneurs

sick day, entrepreneurs, paid time off, coworking, freelance

Guest Post By Member Nick Armstrong

I took issue with last week’s blog post on How To Earn Paid Sick Days As a Self-Employed Entrepreneur.

Actually, it kinda made me want to take a sick day. Why? It’s just not that simple.

If you’re an entrepreneur focused in knowledge work like me, you probably have a reason that you work outside the 9-to-5 world. Two years after graduating from Colorado State University, 12 jobs and three firings later, I decided to escape the 9-to-5 for good and start my own business, WTF Marketing. If you want to know how I did it, here’s my origin story

Knowledge workers, creative product workers, or businesses with unpredictable client streams (seasonal, cyclical, coincidental), you’ll have a hard time trying to “accrue” sick or vacation days as this post (and others like it) suggests.

The suggestion that you can accrue sick or vacation days as a freelancer just by “dividing what you need to earn by the number of days you want to work in a year” is disingenuous.

Accruing sick or vacation days as a freelancer requires three components:
emotional systems (covered in depth here)
contractual systems (I’ll cover this here)
financial systems (half-way covered in the articles I took issue with – I’ll cover what’s missing)

First, there’s Emotional Systems

The emotional component is simple enough. You have to think you deserve a sick or a vacation day in order to take one. When you’re the primary earner for your household, and what you do is directly tied to how much you earn, and what you earn is directly tied to how much and how long you work, it can feel *really* painful to turn down clients or delay clients.

This is a self-defeatist attitude; if you burn out, you can’t do your best work and you can’t land new clients because the old ones aren’t happy with your burnt-out level of quality.

Take the time you need, right? Easier said than done, but whatever – I’m not a shrink and can’t help you with the guilt aspect. What I can help you with is this: create an OMFG I’ve Got The Plague strategy. Here’s how:

Create a client notification plan. Inventory what you’re currently working on, notify every client that you’ve caught the plague, and ask for an extension on anything due within the next two weeks. Push any deadlines back and stagger your due dates so you have time to complete the work (don’t just put everything on the Monday two weeks out).

Create a “microscopic task list”. That is – one thing for each project you can complete in 5 minutes or less that will move the deliverable forward. Install WordPress? 5 minutes. Install theme? 5 minutes. Copy and paste content? 5 minutes. 5 minutes. Update your microscopic task list each time you finish a task.

Use Fancy Hands to get some research done, get soup delivered, get your groceries delivered (King Soopers delivers if you get the order in before 11 – there is a minimum). Use local coworkers, Fancy Hands, eLance, or oDesk to delegate anything to an hourly person that you’d feel comfortable isn’t the “core” of your work.

Create the expectation with your clients that when you’re sick, it’s time to heal by managing your responses correctly. When you’re resting, you need to rest. Do not take calls, do not respond to “urgent” emails, do not respond to texts. Turn the ringer off on your phone.

Know what your “sick time” budget is (we’ll talk about this in a bit). You won’t be able to do anything about it once you’re sick, but you’ll feel better for knowing the number.

Then there’s Contractual Systems

I have it built into my contract that if I get sick, if I get hit by a car, if someone dies, if anything that I didn’t directly cause does something to delay the project, I’m off the hook. The contract can’t be cancelled, I get the time I need, and I can come back when I’m able to do good work.

This has been utilized a whopping total of one time since I included it. Even so, the stress savings alone is worth including it in your next contract.

I make sure that the client is also protected the same way if something happens to them – it’s only fair. Beyond being fair, it also sets an expectation of humanity – I’m not just a cursor and a keyboard magically producing marketing plans. I’m a living, breathing, hard-working business owner who sometimes gets sick, has to go to a funeral, or gets his car totaled. A little bit of contractual wordsmithing can generate quite a bit of client consideration when things go wrong.

In that same vein, I also state my best working hours and my offline time – when clients shouldn’t expect a response. Because everybody has their email in their pocket 24/7, folks think they can get a hold of you 24/7 – and sometimes expect a response as soon as they send you something. Stating your “office hours” and contact policy makes it really clear when the client can expect a response – but it’s up to you to stick to it. If you waiver, the client will be “trained” to expect a response when you might not want to give one.

Finally, there’s Financial Systems

Financial systems take a while to put into place in your business. You have to make enough money to even think about having a financial system. Once you’re out of “bills only” mode, you should add a few systems to cover yourself:

An HSA or Insurance
A “Hidden” Savings Account
Income Balancing System

It took me three and a half years, but I finally snagged a Health Savings Account insurance plan for myself. HSAs allow you to sock money away for health care related expenses. An HSA gives you an automatic method of paying for the more expensive things related to being sick (doctor visit, hospitals, prescriptions, etc). I haven’t used mine yet (the benefit of an HSA is that it can also behave like an IRA retirement account).

In addition to that, I also take 10% of what I earn each time I get paid and put it into a “hidden” savings account. This account isn’t listed anywhere in my balance sheets, I don’t look at the totals more than once a month, I don’t withdraw money unless I get sick, I just know it’s there somewhere – prepped in case I need it. Think of it as a rainy day fund – this is my “sick time” budget.

Last – and this is something totally dependent on the type and style of your business – an income balancing system. Which is what those earlier articles were alluding to. “I need X per year and I only want to work Y days.”

The only trick here is knowing your business. Figuring out which are the fast months and slow months, knowing when you need to market and push for new clients, which networking events are crucial to your pipeline, and how to deal with variable income (if it applies to you).

Fine, so – how do I take a sick day?

To recap: be OK with taking it, plan to take it, and have a sick-time budget ready to go so you don’t have to sacrifice your financial wellbeing for your physical and emotional wellbeing.

Sounds super simple. In reality – achievable, if not more complicated than we’ve been led to believe.
Have your own system to take a sick day? Let me know in the comments below!

Photo Credit: RL Hyde

Nick Armstrong is unapologetically awesome at explaining difficult-to-grasp marketing and technology concepts regarding the web. In his day-to-day work, he helps small business owners swear less and profit more through kick-ass marketing.

For the last 3.5 years, Nick’s business WTF Marketing has amassed a large number of happy clients, among them Fortune 100s, solopreneurs, and everything in between, including three distinct $2M+/year businesses. Leveraging over a decade of web design experience and eight years of hands-on, knee-deep community building and marketing. He founded the Digital Gunslingers in 2009, teaching $5 classes on social media and marketing concepts and donating all the proceeds to charities in Fort Collins, Colorado. Connect with him on Google+, Twitter, and Facebook.

Got something to say? The Cohere blog is always open to member contributions. Contact Angel or Kristin to pitch your idea.

 

Leap Into Action With Smart Business Planning

Leap Day Business Planning

Unless it happens to be your birthday—in which case, we raise our coffee mugs to you—Leap Day is usually an uneventful happening.  But it is an extra day, and anytime the universe gives us more time in which to be productive, it’s a good policy to take advantage of it.

We say, with an inspiring action word like “LEAP” in the title, why not make it an every-four-year prompt to take action?  As freelancers and entrepreneurs, we’re all challenged to stick to our business growth plans—or even to make them in the first place.  Here are some ideas on how to make Leap Day a day of forward momentum in your business planning initiatives.

1. Be A Business

When you’re first testing the waters of freelancing or running a side business, it’s fine to simply count the profits as an extra blessing. But if you’re interested in taking the next step, to full time freelancing or entrepreneurship, it’s important to indicate to the universe (and yourself) that you mean business. Whether this is creating your LLC or INC., or finally opening a separate business bank account, it’s time to do what’s necessary to make it official.

2. Create A Brand

Once you business is official, it’s time to introduce yourself to the world. They need to get to know your personality, your strengths, your expertise. They need to trust that you can get the job done, on time, for the right price. In order to properly convey these characteristics to your audience, you need a brand. Maybe it’s finally creating a logo, or switching your site URL from “iamanexpert.blogspot.com” to a bonafide web address. Maybe it’s finally making a list of your ideal project, client, and pay rate, and then finding out a way to get there. Yes, maybe it’s finally setting up professional profiles on the most popular social media sites. Growing a business means marketing yourself, and unless you have a brand, your message will be muddled.

3. Have A Contract

This could probably have been lumped under point #1, but it’s so important, it needed to be stated all by itself. The comprehensive contract is the freelancers’ first (and sometimes only) line of defense against crappy clients or slacker sub-contractors. Use one, every time. If you’re not sure how to make one that covers all the bases, ask around to some of the more experienced freelancers at Cohere. You can also take advantage of this handy contract creator tool over at Freelancers Union.

4. Track Your Time (Accurately)

It took you days (maybe weeks) to settle on an hourly rate that would keep you away from Ramen noodles while accurately reflecting your experience and portfolio. But all that agony does you know good if you’re always guesstimating hours when it comes time to draw up the invoice. Talk to member Matt Rose about the time tracking software he created for himself, or check out these six cool tools for tracking your time (some are free!).

5. Delegate/Collaborate

If this isn’t your first time around the calendar as a business owner, you’ve managed to stay in the black most of the time. That means soon (if not already) you’ll find yourself with more work on your plate than you can handle. Don’t fret–just look around you. Cohere is a honey pot of other independent professionals looking to pick up work or collaborate on projects. If a client is demanding work that you just don’t have time for right now, ask around to see if anyone’s interested in subcontracting for you. If this high demand is an every day occurrence, you might talk to some of the other members about how to go about hiring an intern to whom you could delegate some less-than-essential tasks.

These are only a few ideas of how to use Leap Day as a chance to get more organized for the year ahead. Got some more? Share them in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – dnorman

Top 6 Gift Ideas For Freelancers & Small Business Owners

Christmas Gifts for Freelancers
Wondering what to get the independent professional on your list? Stumped about the best present for the small business owner in your life? 

Although there’s more to the holidays than giving and getting, here are some useful gift ideas that will help your favorite freelancer be even more productive and successful in the New Year. Feel free to add your own gift suggestions in a comment below!

1. Membership at a local coworking space.

(You know I had to…) There’s nothing better than the gifts of friendship and community, and you’ll be giving both when you buy a coworking membership for your favorite mobile worker. Most coworking spaces offer different levels and lengths of membership, so it’s much more flexible than a gym membership or fruit of the month club. Do some light research before you buy to make sure the coworking space is conveniently located and has all the amenities your small business owner will need. Cohere has a wicked discount on 3 day pass packs right now. 3 days for just $25!

2. Cloud storage for precious data.

Freelancers live on, for, and through their laptop and other mobile devices. In the blink of an eye these precious machines can be destroyed by a poorly placed coffee cup or dragged to the floor by a dangling power cord (just ask Julie). Give peace of mind by purchasing a storage unit in the cloud. Online data storage backs up your files automatically, and allows you to access them from any internet-connected computer. Check out these top five affordable online storage services.

3. A stand-up desk.

While freelance work can be done from almost any location, it’s almost always done in a sitting position. According to a study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise journal, people who sat most of the day had a 54% increased risk to have a heart attack. Therefore, a stand-up desk can literally save a freelance writer’s life. Check out GeekDesk.com for some of the best stand up desk designs.

4. A mobile hot-spot.

While this might be at the pricier end of the holiday gift-giving spectrum, it is absolutely worth the cost. A mobile hot-spot has the power to change a freelancer’s life by creating a little bubble of secure wi-fi that will travel with them wherever they go. Slow, costly airport wi-fi, and unsecured coffee shop wi-fi will be a thing of the past, and your beloved freelancer will never have disconnect anxiety again. Read reviews of the fastest, most reliable hot spots.

5. Portable solar charger.

The only thing worse than having no internet access is dead devices with no power outlet in sight. Ease the fear of running out of juice by giving a portable charger that only needs the sun to work! There are now solar chargers that can power everything from your laptop to your smartphone as long as you’ve got an hour and access to sunlight. Check out the best portable solar charging devices here.

6. Industry-relevant e-books.

As a small business owner, it’s easy to feel like you’re just making stuff up as you go along. Reading books by successful entrepreneurs can restore inspiration as well as confidence. Instead of giving a bulky book that will only end up gathering dust, give a sleek (and more affordable) e-book that can be accessed anywhere. Here are some of our favorite titles:

Guide to Guerilla Freelancing – In this compact eBook (22 pages), Mike Smith packs in information on how to start your freelancing business for a minimum amount of money, red flags to look out for, benefits and drawbacks to freelancing, and more.

What Matters Now   – This free 82-page eBook from Seth Godin is a collection of thoughts and quotes from well-known bloggers and thinkers on important topics. Each topic is about a page long. Use this book for inspiration.

Coworking: How Freelancers Escape the Coffee Shop Office – The only book written specifically for coworkers by coworkers, this is your guide to the who, what, where, why, and how of coworking. Featuring tips for finding and participating in a local coworking community, and personal stories from coworkers around the world.

Time Management for Creative People  by Mark McGuinness from Wishful Thinking – Do you struggle to find enough time to get everything done? This book is here to help. Over 30 pages on how to manage your time better.

How to be a Rockstar Freelancer  – Written by the creators of Freelance Switch, this ebook goes far beyond the creative aspects of the business, giving practical advice on the difficult situations a new freelancer can face: from managing your budget on a freelancer’s changing income to balancing work from multiple clients.

Seek and Destroy  by Peter Shallard – This 61-page eBook discusses some of the common obstacles entrepreneurs face and explains how to overcome them. If your business is stuck and you can’t figure out why, Peter may have the answer

What do you want Santa to bring you?

Image Credit: Flickr – _Fidelio_

Our blog is pretty awesome.
What are you looking for?

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Stay in touch with news and events from the Cohere community with a monthly subscription to our newsletter.

The only spam we like is fried. We assume you feel the same.