10 Must-Know Facts About Networking (And Why Coworking Does It Better)

networking and coworking

For freelancers and small business owners, networking is absolutely essential. Getting to know people–what they do and what they need–is the fastest way to build connections, and by extension your potential customer base.

The only problem traditional networking SUCKS. Business card exchanges, 5 second elevator speeches, feeling like you’re trapped at a used car salesman’s annual conference–all of this makes me want to gag.

Unfortunately, nothing is more effective at building your professional reputation and creating customers like face-to-face interaction. The good news is, thanks to a wealth of communication technologies, traditional networking events aren’t the only way to get to know someone.

The infographic below breaks down some interesting statistics about the impact of face-to-face networking, how the mobile workforce is changing the look of networking, and the types of situations that demand a handshake vs. those that can be accomplished over the phone or on a video chat.

But before you start scrolling through all that visual goodness, just remember: coworking is the ultimate networking event. Every time you come into Cohere, or visit another of the thousands of coworking spaces around the world, you’re expanding your collection of contacts, colleagues, and friends. Better yet, you’re not doing it in a contrived, forced, squint-at-their-nametag-and-pretend-to-be-interested kind of way. You’re doing it in a totally casual, genuine way.

Coworkers get to know each other as friends and office mates, with no hidden agendas. We ask about each other’s projects, clients, and experiences, and as we grow closer as community, there are often reasons to refer work or collaborate. It’s 21st century networking that’s effortless and efficient. And doesn’t make me want to gag. Wins all around.

Face to Face Networking
Source: GreatBusinessSchools.org

Did you like that? Here are more coworking resources that don’t suck.

Image via opensourceway

How To Keep Momentum After Startup Week Fort Collins

As Startup Week Fort Collins nears its epic end, let’s make a plan to keep the momentum into next week and beyond. Whether you got your first taste of coworking, got your mind blown by a musician or felt a much needed boost in motivation as a freelancer, it’s important to not let this enthusiasm dwindle.

Step 1: Outreach

Reach out to everyone in that pile of business cards you collected. Mention something that they said that really resonated with you. Invite them out for a coffee or beer just to talk and get to know one another better.  Ask to take a tour of their company. Mine through the Sched again and pull out company names or people you really enjoyed meeting. Follow them on twitter, like their Facebook pages and read their websites.

Step 2: Digest Your Notes

Did you take as many notes in your awesome FCSW17 notebook as I did? Now is the time to go back through all your notes. Check out the books, blogs or resources that you wrote down. Pull out action items and put them on your list to tackle next week. This post you’re reading right now was actually a footnote in my notebook. Look at me! Taking action!

Step 3: Participate OR Amplify

My key takeaway this week is a new awareness of how many people are doing AMAZING things in our community. Now is the time to participate in those activities by attending meetings or helping to push us forward as a group. If you can’t possibly take on another task, then please be an amplifier. Tell your friends and coworkers about the great progress that is being made. Awareness is the first step to Amazeness! Here are some things I learned about this week:

What are you going to take action on next week? Tell us in the comments below.

 

A Guide to Current and Alumni Coherians Speaking at Startup Week Fort Collins

cohere-member-wall

Members of coworking spaces love to support their fellow members in their endeavors. Here’s a cheat sheet to ALL the Cohere members, current and past, who are speaking at Fort Collins Startup Week. Don’t waste another day working from home. Fo(co)works has put together free coworking every day of Startup Week so you can try all of the Fort Collins Coworking Spaces.

MONDAY

How Coworking Can Save You From Destitution (Angel Kwiatkowski, Julie Sutter, Current Members of Cohere)

In a world where you can work from anywhere, why cowork? Hear from members of four Fort Collins coworking spaces about how being a part of a coworking community can supercharge your skills, connections and success as a solopreneur, freelancer or non-profit.
Moderator: Angel Kwiatkowski, Founder, fo(co)works (Fort Collins Coworking Alliance).
Julie Sutter (Cohere)
Aaron Todd (Cohere) Only he’ll be stuck in Canada waiting for his work visa to renew :(
Logan Hale (Articulate)
Sara Durnil (The Music District)

FREE Drop-In Coworking at Cohere

Enjoy FREE drop-in coworking each day of Fort Collins Startup Week courtesy of fo(co)works, the Fort Collins’ coworking alliance. If you’ve been coworking-curious, cooped up your your home office or fighting over power outlets at the coffee shop, this FREE event is for you to try out all the amazing coworking communities. To attend, simply show up at the space you would like to visit on their free day. You can cowork for a few minutes between sessions or up to the full day.
• Monday 9a-4p: Cohere at 418 South Howes Street

2015-06-26 17.05.52-1 (1)TUESDAY

Getting Started with Your Startup (Ariana Friedlander, Recent Graduate of Cohere)

Wish you felt smarter about starting your own startup? And had some quick start tips & tricks to get there? We’ll walk you through a business model canvas quick start… You’ll leave this session knowing just what you need to tackle, next —  to create or scale your own startup!

Endurance is the Price Tag of Achievement (Kristin Mastre, Alumnae of Cohere)

Startup life is all about tenacity. Sometimes your plans may become obsolete as society (or technology) evolves. Sometimes the community doesn’t hold as much value in your product as they once did before. And sometimes the toll of startup life almost kills you. I’ve been there. Most (sane) people throw in the towel and quit when the going gets tough, and I’ve found that “fail fast” doesn’t always work in Fort Collins. Entrepreneurs generally aren’t sane nor do they quit easily. I’ll share how our foray into market research got us ready for a pivot and how burnout led to new business perspective.

Sourcing and Valuing Local Marketing Creative (Julie Sutter, Current Member of Cohere)

How do you find the talent located in your own back yard? What is your true cost in sourcing your photos, video,written content, web design, logos locally? Hear from local creators and experts about the added benefits of using local firms and artists to fulfill your business marketing and strategic goals.

I’ve Looked at Clouds That Way (Brian Fromme, Alumus of Cohere)

This talk will help entrepreneurs to better understand their own need to learn about cloud technology. Most non-technical people think of the cloud as a place to store data. But, the cloud can be used to make your rapidly-changing business processes more lean. In this talk, you will learn about aspects of cloud technology and how you can utilize it in your startup to grow more quickly without adding headcount.

Startup Music Videos and VR Show and Tell (Shane Zweygardt, Current Member of Cohere)

Join us for an hour of locally produced and directed music videos in the OtterBox Digital Dome Theater.

From Soloprenuer to Multi-Person Business (Nick Armstrong, Mary Merritt, Alumni of Cohere)

Calling all Solopreneurs! This month’s Fort Collins Internet Pros meetup is a collaboration with Fort Collins Startup Week. Look forward to a 45-minute roundtable discussion with local business owners, followed by audience Q&A. Panelists will share their tips and experiences as Solopreneurs—growing their businesses from one-person shops to team-supported enterprises.

Integrating Social Media with WordPress (Jeremy Green, Current Member of Cohere)

Whether you blog, design, code, sell, or anything in between, if you use WordPress then you belong here. Even if your just interested in finding out more about this powerful piece of software, please feel free to join us!

We will be discussing all things WordPress, including themes, plugins, security, blogging, and business uses. There is so much you can do with WordPress. So whether you are just getting started, have mastered the basics, or are a WordPress core developer, we have a place for you!

https://www.meetup.com/Fort-Collins-WordPress-Meetup/events/237558045/

ianclapWEDNESDAY

Access to Capital: Show Me The Money (Ryan Stover, Alumnus of Cohere)

Are you seeking funding for your small business but are unsure of where to begin? With all the options available for small businesses today, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed! The Larimer SBDC and Innosphere are partnering to bring together several types of funding sources and respective experts for you to ask questions and get answers.

THURSDAY

Work-life Balance for Entreprenuers: Staying Happy and Healthy While Building a Business (Chrysta Bairre, Current Cohere Member)

Learn how the 80/20 rule applies to your work and life as we discuss how to build a successful business without sacrificing your health and happiness, including top tips for creating healthy habits, improving productivity, and focusing your efforts on what will get results in your business without burning you out!

Crowdfunding for Today and Tomorrow  (Ryan Stover, Alumnus of Cohere)

Crowdfunding is an ever growing trend to get early stage ideas off the ground. Colorado leaders in the crowdfunding arena let us know where it is today and where its headed. Get the inside scoop on how startups and entrepreneurs are accessing billions of dollars of usable capital through this innovative financing method.

Startup a Music Business (Angel Kwiatkowski)

Starting a business is hard. Starting a music-focused business can be even harder when it comes to tight budgets.  Music businesses must learn to balance their affinity for helping musicians with the reality of the cost of doing business. Come by The Music District to hear from local professionals that have been able to create and sustain music related businesses over the long-term.  Bring your curiosities and questions to learn about music entrepreneurship.

Startup Music Software Stories (John Dawes, Cohere Alumnus, Rob Viola’s Company Vionza, Current Cohere Member)

This panel will feature stories and experiences of music software’s creative leaders.  This is an opportunity to both meet and learn from the folks that make great ideas great.

_MG_6937FRIDAY

How to Self-Publish a Book Without Losing Your Shirt or Soul (Ariana Friedlander, Recent Cohere Graduate)

Ariana will share the story of how she applied Lean Startup Principles to write and self-publish her first book, A Misfit Entrepreneur’s Guide to Building a Business Your Way so it was profitable within a few weeks of it’s release. She will then challenge attendees to begin re-imagining their idea with a Lean Startup lens and provide insight into how to maintain your soul while steadying yourself for success. This engaging and fun talk is relevant to anyone embarking on a creative endeavor that is entrepreneurial in nature.

Meet the Female Founders (Maria Gregori, Cohere Alumnae)

The Typo That Cost $620 Million (Molly McCowan, Current Cohere Member)
What do NASA, Lockheed Martin, and the U.S. government have in common? They’ve all paid the price of a missing hyphen, misplaced comma, or rogue letter.
Hear the true stories of companies that have lost millions of dollars, trashed their reputations, and even gone out of business because of one typo.
In today’s world of instant connection, Autocorrect, and the ubiquitous screenshot, one mistake can spread around the world and take on a life of its own—with just the click of a button.
Learn why it’s worth the time and money to hire a copyeditor or proofreader to look over your company’s written content (including proposals, whitepapers, contracts, blog posts, email newsletters, and marketing collateral) before you click “send.”

Happy Hour Networking for Musicians at Cohere Bandwidth (Angel Kwiatkowski, Tim Massa, Current Cohere Members)

(free beer/drinks)
2014-12-09 08.48.12

How to F^ck Up Your Second Coworking Location

angel gcuc speaker

I recently got invited to present FAILURE at the Global Coworking Unconference Conference in Toronto, Canada. I take spectacular pride in my ability to fail with flourish and since the GCUC crowd always likes a good train wreck among stories of 43 Billion Dollar valuations and epic expansion stories, I indulge them. Below is the narrative of the failure and here is a link to my slides.

 

falling down

https://www.flickr.com/photos/felixtsao/4909753834/

Near the end of 2013, 4 years after Cohere hit the coworking scene in Old Town Fort Collins, I had to start turning away would-be members. We were full, things were great. So naturally, I would make a series of unfortunate mistakes that would lead to the 2nd space’s death in early 2015.

To be clear, I did SOME of the things right. In fact, all early indicators would point to Cohere’s second location being a raving success.  Here’s what went right:

  • I had a wait-list of members who wanted to join Cohere.
  • Cohere was nearing auto-pilot. Systems helped manage the behind the scenes tasks, 3 members had a strong hold on the day to day in the space and I was getting bored.
  • I selected a location that was near to OG Cohere but further south in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Midtown where rents were still affordable and the housing market was blowing up in all the right ways.
  • I took many, many members through the building pre-lease and they steered me away from one suite into 3 other suites they were much more excited about.
  • The members lovingly name it Cothere. It sticks. It’s perfect.
  • Natural light, windows, trees and parking were in abundance.
  • After we got into the space, the Coherians partied to clean up the parking lot and build furniture. It was spectacular fun and had all the trapping us Veterans look for in budding communities.
  • I paint everything, repair broken door knobs and make our entrances more safe. I pour all my love into this physical thing that will allow Cothere to grow and flourish.
  • I met and offered up our space after hours to our brand new Girl Develop It chapter. We love each other so much.

Things start to take a turn for the worse:

The landlords fail to make improvements to Cothere that are in my lease: working windows, safe stairs for our private entrance (my mother-in-law almost falls 2 stories after the railing breaks away during move-in) and cleanliness issues in the common area start to clog my inbox

And A LOT worse:

  • Nearly every day, concerns about lack of health and safety in our parking lots and common area restrooms begin to flood in.
  • My repeated requests for help from the landlords are met with either silence or passive aggressive notes in the common-area bathroom saying, “PLEASE KEEP THIS RESTROOM CLEAN!!!”
  • I become mortified when new members ask where the restroom is. The members say, “this building is dicey but Cothere’s areas are NICE!”
  • I spend 3 hours cleaning bathrooms just to prove to myself that I’m right about how dirty the bathrooms are. I am right. I get pneumonia 5 days later.
  • The restrooms are dirty again. ALL. THE. TIME.  I have to explain WHY we need more toilet paper. Sarcasm floods through my veins. “We have explosive diarrhea!” “All the women are synced up this week!!” “We are STEALING it because we are terrible people!!”

Piper

The last straw:

  • The landlords tell me in an email that goes out to all the other tenants of their building, “you don’t pay enough to have the right to complain.”

I check out. I resent the space. I no longer care about it. I do the bare minimum that an office space rental agency does. Paper towels? Check. Vacuumed? Check. Coffee? Check.

I bring on a friend to help the Cothere community and she tries really hard but we are broken. Midtown is broken, the gross restrooms are broken, our parking lot is an ice skating rink in winter and a mixed-media nightmare of dead squirrels and fallen tree limbs in summer. I refuse to pay more for basic tenant rights.

I stop coworking at Cothere. I repeat. I STOPPED COWORKING AT COTHERE. <—-really important warning sign

I spend all my time at Old Town Cohere. I breathe a sigh of relief every time I cross the threshhold and see the man that takes care of our lawn. I run into the landlord and he inquires about my well-being and asks if everything is okay in the building. He compliments Cohere, the members and how proud they are to have us as tenants. They are always a text away. Quick to fix and utterly un-involved in our day-to-day ops.

I get out of my lease free and clear on their breach of contract. After an extremely polite email exchange requesting the termination of my lease and having them agree, I feel this:

57340204

 

Down from a high of 20 members, the 3 remaining Cothere members join Cohere and love it. Just. Love It. “It’s so happy here!” “Everyone talks to me!” “I thought I wouldn’t like Old Town but I DO!” Several private office members at Cothere REMAIN in Cothere’s space after we leave. <—-this blows my mind.

So Really. WHAT went wrong?

As a veteran of the coworking community, I was raised up to always put the people first and see the physical space as a useful container that merely facilitates connections between people. Sure, I always made sure that Cohere’s container was lovely, cared-for and well-tended but none of my spaces until Cothere had ever existed inside a larger shell of a bigger building that I had no control over.

I began to think like a member as I approached the larger shell of Cothere’s space. Unkempt parking lot, dead bugs and leaves in the lobby, outdated decor in all the wrong ways, a soul-less, colorless hallway and then finally, the mecca of entering Cothere’s suites.

But sometimes the journey to mecca is just too far.

Post-hoc, I realize that Cohere has a really important value as a company and as a community that I had never said out loud, never consciously thought about and never wrote about. And this value includes the entirety of our physical container from the grounds around the building, to the entryways and all the way to the inner sanctum of our coworking areas.

To BElong to Cohere you must BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it.

Because Old Town Cohere has always had a loving landlord (we actually call him the Innkeeper) who tended to our grounds and common areas we had never truly felt the pain of a building owner who literally could not hold our container with positive regard. That, in turn, caused me to spend all of my Cothere energy trying to help the landlord learn how to hold the container that held US! He made it clear that he couldn’t hold the container. Won’t. Wouldn’t even pick it up and try.

As the community manager, I had nothing left to give the people of Cothere. My usual zest for connection and energy to give and listen was tapped out. My arms, my heart, my brain, were overwhelmed by TRYING to figure out how hold a container that didn’t actually belong to me. To us.

After asking the members what I should do about Cothere, all but one say a version of this, “we’ll follow you where ever you take Cohere (as long as it’s not in THAT building). Do what is best for you.” So I laid down the container. Permanently. After 14 months I gleefully get out of my lease and bring everyone back together at Cohere. The community is overjoyed that the saga is concluded.

As if the universe was bulging with abundance while it waited for me to sort out my shit, its fabric rips open and pours forth a rush of people who want to join Cohere. Tours are joyous again, filled with people and introductions and I don’t have to make excuses for the common areas. Each day we border on being full. Full of members, full of laughter and connectedness, donuts and lunches out together.

Cohere Social Event Hotdogs

A hot dog potluck marks the closure of Cothere and the revitalization of Frank Friday

2014-11-07 13.16.58

I immediately refine and add our values to our membership page:

BE yearning for interaction

BE willing to introduce yourself, make friends and help

BE ready to participate in impromptu and planned events

BE eager to help everyone feel proud of our space and the people in it

BE prepared for abundance (work, laughter, goodwill, and more)

Key Learnings

When considering expansion, don’t look for a building. Look for people.

  • Look for a community helper who is invested, excited and willing to put in the hours needed to bring people together.
  • Look to your existing members for feedback and talk about what expansion means for both communities.
  • Find a commercial Realtor who can add very specific language into your lease about maintenance and responsibilities.
  • Look for a landlord who is capable and willing to hold a container for you. MEET your landlord(s) in person before you sign.

Brave enough to share your epic failure? Post it in the comments or email it to me!

Coworking Is My Compass: A Long, Strange Trip Through Freelancing And Back

Hi Cohereians! It’s Beth. If you’ve been a member of Cohere for a long time, you may have a very foggy memory of me. Possibly driving away in an RV? Yeah, that was me. I’ve been on a lot of crazy, meandering adventures in my life–both literally and figuratively.

It was waay back in 2009 when Angel rescued me from the coffee shop circuit. My first day of coworking at Cohere, I was totally intimidated. Y’all were so cool and creative and confident in your chosen fields. As a chronic sufferer of imposter syndrome, I was none of those things. Yet.

beth treehouse

Me in the ole Treehouse.

Every day I hiked up the stairs of the Jefferson Street space and planted myself at one of those curvy desks (or, more often than not, the Treehouse) I learned so much from my fellow coworkers: not in workshops or classes, but in the chatter, the laughter, the frustrations that touched us all in turn. I discovered, then became addicted to, the warm-and-fuzzy feeling it gave me to be around you. How your success motivated me to reach for my own.

When Eric and I had the crazy idea to put location-independence to the test, and travel around in an RV with nothing but a WiFi hot-spot connecting us to the real world, the larger coworking community opened its arms. We saw new spaces and felt the kindness of strangers with whom we had nothing in common but a desire to do what we loved wherever the hell we wanted.

coworking books

Angel and I with the first coworking book.

And when we came back, MUCH sooner than expected, you didn’t skip a beat. You welcomed me back and Angel and I set about combining her knowledge of coworking and my wordsmithing skills together into two of the most popular e-books about coworking the world has ever seen (no, seriously). Being asked to assist with that project was an honor, and helped to nestle my foundation in the coworking community just a little bit deeper. And there is going to be a third some day, damnit.

Then, it was off for another adventure in Wyoming. Cheyenne was 45 minutes and A WORLD away from the things and people we loved in Colorado. I missed coworking so much during those days, I wrote it a letter. During that time, occasional visits to Cohere and contributing to its blog kept me grounded. Yeah, many of the posts you’ve read here over the years were written by me channeling Angel. We’re really good at that.

As luck would have it, it was when I was in the wilds of Wyoming that my freelancing really started to become something. Gone were the penny-a-word copy writing gigs. (Yeah I did that. New writers, don’t ever do that). Now came the steady blogging for the earth-friendly sites I loved. Even though I was a state away, my connection at Cohere helped me land some legitimate copy writing work for a firm in Fort Collins. It was also during this time that a publishing house approached me about writing THE BOOK.

That’s right. See all this time of coworking and collaborating and being part of a community was actually part of something bigger: collaborative consumption and the rise of the sharing economy. Thanks to coworking (which was directly responsible for me landing a freelance gig with Shareable magazine) I was right in the thick of it at exactly the right time. And when opportunity came knocking, carrying my unabashed dream of creating a real book with a real publisher, I had the confidence to open the door.

sharing is good box cover pic

The book!

In the interim I moved to Denver and joined the Creative Density coworking community. They didn’t even know me like you guys do, and STILL everyone was encouraging and supportive of the new project. A year later, Sharing is Good: How to Save Money, Time and Resources through Collaborative Consumption was born, and my heart overflowed. Now I was really cooking with gas. Doing radio interviews (what?!), being quoted in the New York Times and yes, even selling a few copies.

I collected even more work and suddenly found myself in the mind-boggling position of needing to raise my rates and actually (gasp!) turn down gigs that weren’t exactly right for my passion and skills. And guess what taught me how to do both of those things? Coworking.

Now, I’m setting off for yet another adventure. NOT literal this time (thank goodness). We’re staying right here in Colorado where we belong. No, this adventure is strictly the professional kind. A full-time job for a media startup out of  NYC recently landed in my lap.

That is not a metaphor.

I was sitting (WHERE ELSE?!) at a desk in the Old Town Cohere, chatting about life and work with Kristin and Angel when an unsolicited email from their CEO appeared in my inbox. Three weeks later, I was hired on full-time to help them launch, and eventually lead, a sustainability vertical. It was a chance to bring my tree-hugging ways to an entirely new audience in a different way, and thanks to everything I’d learned over the past 5 years, I knew how to seize it. And thank god, it’s a remote position so I can continue coworking, currently at The Armory in Loveland.

So, I’ve journeyed all the way through freelancing and back again. And all the while, coworking has been my constant, my compass. No matter how far away from the actual space I ventured, the collective power of your brains and hearts was never more than an email or Facebook post away.

Never mistake coworking as just a desk in a place where you can go to get away from that sink full of dishes or noisy coffee shops. The people of coworking are a treasure. They have made every difference in my success. The support and love and motivation you’ll find in a coworking community can’t be duplicated. It can’t be manufactured just because you put a bunch of desks in a cool looking space. It is built, one smile, one cupcake, one computer crash at a time. It is changing you, making you better, even if you can’t see it or feel it right now.

This freelancing or business owning thing is a journey, with LOTS of twists and turns. Many of them unexpected. Don’t go it alone. Take the community with you. It makes all the difference in the world.

I’m living proof of that :)

Image: calsidyrose

What That New Best Buy Commercial Tells Us About The Freelance Life

Over the weekend I kept seeing this new Best Buy commercial. Normally I do my best to ignore commercials, but this one had some dialogue that forced me to pay attention. Have you seen it? If not, watch it and you’ll see what I’m talking about:


Mini transcript in case you can’t watch/hear it: “This is Ann. She just graduated…and got a freelance gig. It’s not going very well. Time for a technology makeover.”

For most people this is nothing more than another vapid attempt to sell technology, but for me it was a telling commentary on the future of work.

What This Best Buy Commercial Tells Us About The Freelance Life

1. Instead of falling back on freelancing when a “real job” disappears, college graduates are becoming freelancers right out of the gate.

News flash: no one wants to spend 40 years in a cubicle anymore, and even if you do, those conventional 9 – 5 jobs are increasingly hard to find. Today’s college graduates have grown up in the Internet Age. For them, silicon valley startups founded by college drop outs have always existed. They want jobs that are cool, fun, and flexible. They want to be independent, and choose the projects that interest them and the companies that can enhance their own skill set. Freelancing has become the norm, an expected element of career building, not just a polite way of saying you’re between jobs.

2. Although freelancing has become “normal”, it still lacks a supportive infrastructure and the laws/policies needed to make it fair, safe, and profitable.

In their new book, The Rise of the Naked Economy, the co-founders of NextSpace coworking estimate that 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelancing by the end of the decade. That’s 60 million people. But unless things change, they’ll all be in the same boat as poor Ann: paying out of pocket for functional equipment, software, and workspace; bearing double the tax burden of W2 employees, and operating without affordable health insurance or legal recourse if a client decides not to pay. The workforce is changing, and we need these old institutions to change with it. We need new laws that support, rather than marginalize the independent worker.

What does this commercial tell YOU about the future of work? Share your thoughts in a comment.

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.

 

How To Earn Paid Sick Days As A Self-Employed Entrepreneur

paid sick days, PTO, self-employed, freelancer

When compared to the typical corporate office job, there aren’t too many downsides to being freelancer or business owner. You decide who you will work for and with, where you’ll work, and best of all, what kind of work you’ll do. For the self-employed, work is almost always a personal passion, which brings both challenges and satisfaction to an entirely new level.

But it’s not all a bed of roses. As Heidi Kerr-Schlaefer (former member of Cohere and current member of the Armory Workspace in Loveland) recently wrote on her company blog, there are “no sick days for the self-employed.” When the flu attacks the typical office worker, all they have to do is cash in a few paid sick days, and they can wallow in tissues and tea without worrying about how to pay the bills. When a freelancer gets sick, there are only two choices: work through the pain, or lose the money.

Well, we think that’s crap. The self-employed work just as hard, no, harder than the average cubicle dweller. Why should we suffer, financially and physically, just because there’s no HR department to dole out PTO? We deserve a day off now and then. We looked into it, and there is a way for freelancers to earn paid sick days. It takes some pre-planning and long-term goal-setting, as well as the ability to set a work schedule and stick to it, but the payoff is guilt-free rest and relaxation.

Four Simple steps to earning paid sick days via Andrea Ruiz/Yahoo!

1. Decide how much money you need to earn. This amount should be factored yearly. Use last year’s earnings as a guide.

2. Divide this amount by how many weeks out of the year that you want to work. Don’t get sick that often? Set aside a week. Got kids that love to bring home nasty viruses and spread them around the family? Two weeks. So, if you’re the family example, that would mean your goal annual earnings divided by 50 weeks of work.

3. Deduct any weekly unearned income you receive from this amount, such as child support, alimony or disability insurance, that you are counting toward your annual income goals.

4. Divide this amount by how many days per week you want to work. This is the amount of money you need to make every day in order to earn your target annual income and still afford yourself paid time off.

If you’re flexible about how much you want to earn, or don’t mind working six days a week, simply work this into the formula. And hey, there’s even a way to accrue vacation days as well! And if you’re having trouble with the sticking to a schedule part of this equation, that’s what we’re here for! Coworking instead of fighting off distractions at home or in a coffee shop will ensure that you meet your earning goals so when there’s a sickness or an urge to take off to Mexico, you’ve got the days set aside.

Image via mikecharliealpha/Flickr

The Online Portfolio: A Freelancer’s Virtual Handshake

A handshake says a lot about someone. I find it especially annoying when people have sucky handshakes. Too limp-fish or too break-your-hand-off-at-the-wrist, and it’s all I can think about for the first five minutes of our conversation. Handshakes are an important element of the first impression, and first impressions affect my decision to be your friend/client/vendor.

We work in a mobile, virtual world. Often the first impression a client or collaborator forms about you comes from your online presence. Let’s say someone does a Google search for you or your services. The results are your very first virtual handshake. If you’re a creative professional and don’t have an online portfolio, your handshake sucks.

Maybe you’ve got a website but it’s just a landing page and a contact form (that’s like the limp fish handshake). Maybe your online portfolio has pages of text detailing your entire professional experience, from college graduation to present day (this is the “I’m gonna break your arm” handshake). The trick is to present just enough of yourself and your past work to leave the viewer wanting more. And wanting to pay for it.

If you’ve been putting off your online portfolio because you think it’s too time consuming or costly, the jig is up. Here are 4 different tools and sites that will help you build a kick ass representation of yourself online.

1. About.me

This site is all about the essentials: a bio, links to your work, and your beautiful face. This is a one page site that can be set up in a matter of minutes. Font, background, and ways to contact/collaborate with you are all customizable. If you’d rather not have your direct email and Facebook profile out there on the interwebs for all to see, this is very convenient. Also includes analytics! Only downside: it’s not a personal URL. Your page will be about.me/yournamehere.

2. Weebly

This popular free service  makes web design as simple as a few clicks of the mouse, while still giving users the ability to customize HTML. You can upload 5MB files, including documents such as resumes and writing samples, or purchase a pro account and get unlimited uploads of up to 100MB. There are ample free templates that can be used to customize the look and feel of your portfolio, and even free accounts allow users to optimize web pages for easy online searchability.

3. Dribble

Dribble is a portfolio networking platform where designers share “shots,” small screenshots of the designs and applications they are working on. All types of creatives are welcome here – Dribbble is designed for show and tell – to promote, discover, and explore design. Bonus! Dribble also features a “Find Designers” section, where prospective employers can search for designers by skill and location. Members of Dribbble who can post are called “Players,” and new members are called “Rookies.” New members sign up as “Prospects,” who have to be recruited by Players to become Rookies. Dribbble offers a jobs board for designers to find work.

4. Carbonmade

Carbonmade Portfolio

Carbonmade is a personalized online portfolio building tool. It features ingenious, quirky graphics and copy throughout their entire site which really makes you feel at home as a creative. Carbonmade offers both a free and a paid ($12 mo) offering; the free option is great for getting a feel for the site, but the paid option has all the features that you need to make a robust portfolio, like the ability to add up to 50 projects, 500 images, 10 videos, custom domain binding, and access to technical support.

Have other tips about how to make or use an online portfolio? Share them in a comment!

Top image via buddawiggi/Flickr

Top 25 Freelancer Apps for Work-Life Balance

The emergence of the mobile workforce has placed unique demands on industries that exist to serve working professionals. From office furniture to mobile apps, America’s 42 million freelancers need different tools than those who spend their day in a cubicle. We need apps that will help us stay on top of our work load, issue invoices on the go, and connect with clients in person even when we’re hundreds of miles away.

Software and app company BestVendor recently polled 100 freelancers and put together an infographic of some of the most favored apps used by location independent professionals. Which of these do you depend on daily and which have you never heard of before? What miracle app is missing from the list? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Freelancer Tools

Infographic courtesy of Best Vendor

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.