Best of Cohere: Why A Coworking Space Is Important To The Local Economy

Coworking Space 

There are some who still view coworking as a a quirky niche instead of the future of work. That might be hard for those of us who love coworking to believe, but important for us to remember as we try to grow our communities.

While it’s true that coworking isn’t for everyone, and certainly doesn’t work for every industry (we still need grocery stores and plumbers), coworking can serve as both a model and a hub for creating better communities at large.

Most people can imagine what shared office space looks like. It’s harder to understand the larger economic benefits of participating in such a space until you experience it first hand.

If you’re on the fence about joining a coworking space, here are some big picture positive impacts to think about.

Coworking Keeps Stellar Talent In Town

Coworking spaces are “office buildings” for those who had the talent (and balls) to create their own job in a crappy economy. Without coworking, many in mid-sized urban areas like Fort Collins would have to commute or move their families to bigger cities with more opportunities. Coworking helps them stay in town, preserving their money, talent, and enthusiasm for use in the local economy.

Coworking Supports Small Business

Don’t let the mega-corps fool you: they are not job creators. They employ people only because it’s necessary for the creation and dissemination of their products and services, not because they want to revitalize a town. Small to mid-sized businesses are the lifeblood of a local economy. They live and work and shop locally, and give a crap about the personal lives of their employees.

Shocking fact: 95% of coworking desks are occupied by a small business. (Ok I made that stat up, but you get the picture — most). It might be a freelance writer who just formed her LLC or couple of buddies who decided to create their own design company. Either way, these businesses are driving down unemployment rates at a time when multi-billion dollar companies are still laying people off. Joining a coworking space means these tiny businesses will have a safe place to grow and learn from more experienced members. When’s the last time you saw Wal-Mart swapping trade secrets with the new family-owned retailer?

Coworking Creates A Network For Collaborative Consumption

The quest for bigger, better, faster has crippled our economy. People are tired of keeping up with the Jones’ and just want to keep their families fed. Collaborative consumption means reusing, growing, renting, bartering and making instead of buying. But the sharing economy demands a network of friendly, trustworthy people to make it work. Like the people who work right next to you in a coworking space.

Yes, coworking allows you to share your professional expertise and network with other successful freelancers. But you could do that at a once a month meetup. What makes coworking unique is the sharing that takes place on a personal level–be it a potluck meal or vegetable seeds or a ride to a conference in Denver.

When a community is connected and open to sharing, people save money, learn new skills, and reduce their impact on the environment. New ideas emerge, problems are solved in creative ways, and the community at large reaps all the rewards of a happy independent workforce.

What other “trickle-down” benefits have you seen in the coworking community? Share your experience in a comment!

And if you’ve got friends who are still unsure that coworking is worth the monthly investment, share your experience (and this article) with them as well!

 Image Credit: Flickr – mdanys

4 Enlightening Events For Indy Professionals In 2012

Events For Independent Professionals

Happy New Year Coworking Community!

This is a wonderful time when the new year stretches out before us like an untouched canvas. The possibilities of what can be accomplished over the next 12 months seem endless at this moment.

As location-independent professionals, January is a great time to set goals, plan strategies, and identify the opportunities for connection and collaboration that will expand our own networks as well as enrich the larger community.

Even if you’re a regular at your local coworking space, it can be easy to become comfortable with your limited circle of friends and colleagues. But as a freelancer or business owner, it’s essential that you find new ways to challenge yourself, and new people who will expand your mind. Attending events, both inside and outside your chosen industry, is a great way to continue your education while also increasing your friends and followers.

If you’re looking for a few key events to attend this year, here’s a short list of favorites to get you started:

Worldwide #Jellyweek 2012

A “Jelly” is like coworking, only without a dedicated space, time or set of attendees. Often catalysts use the Jelly format to explore their community’s interest in coworking before opening a permanent space. International Jelly Week is a decentralized global event during which independent professionals will come together (in a person’s home, a coffee shop, a public space or an office) to work and network for the day. Topics of discussion include: What important needs can be fulfilled by coworking? How can coworking help solve local and global problems? How can coworkers use the global coworking infrastructure to foster their businesses and projects? Which people and networks aren’t yet connected to the idea of coworking, but should be involved? How can business-oriented networks and NGOs use the coworking infrastructure for their global community building and actions? Learm more at jellyweek.org and on Facebook.

2nd Annual Global Coworking Unconference – Austin, Texas – March 8, 2012

The premier event for coworkers and coworking space owners returns for its second year…bigger and better than ever! This year, the Global Coworking Unconference (GCUC or “juicy” for short) moves to a bigger location and will feature two tracks: an “unconference” track with exceptional peer-to-peer breakouts (great for seasoned coworking space owners) and a more structured conference track (perfect for newer owners and folks who just want to learn more about the movement.) Anyone can jump back and forth between the two tracks throughout the day. The larger keynotes and breaks will bring everyone back together in one large group, making it a cohesive experience for all. Learn more and register here.

International Freelancers Day 2012

International Freelancers Day is the largest FREE online conference exclusively for self-employed service professionals. You’ll learn from some of the world’s most respected professionals and thought leaders in the areas of freelancing, marketing, social media and personal development. They’ll reveal proven and actionable business-building ideas, insights, tactics and strategies that will help take your “business of one” to the next level. International Freelancer’s Day 2011 took place in September and was a huge success. Watch this website for an announcement of this year’s conference.

HOW Design Live 2012 – Boston, Mass., June 21 – 25

Registration is now open for HOW Design Live—not one but four high-energy creative conferences rolled into one. Individual tracks focus on Designers, Project Managers, Creative Freelancers, and Packaging Specialists. Choose one—or all—of the conferences detailed below and produce your most inspired and professionally rewarding creative work ever.

Check out the main web site, HOWDesignLive.com, now updated with full conference information on sessions, workshops, tours, speakers, and networking events. Sign up by March 30 and take advantage of Early-Bird Savings!

Do you know of a stellar event that independent professionals would be crazy to miss? Share it in a comment!

 

Image Credit: Flickr – opensourceway

Why You Need A Few Days Off (And Why That’s OK)

Out of office vacation

The average freelancer works almost twice as long as the average nine-to-five employee. So, why is it that we feel guilty taking some time off for the holidays?

No matter how you celebrate, the holidays are a time for sleeping ridiculously late, eating way too much, spiking the egg nog, and hugging everyone you know.

To that end, the holidays are one time of the year when traditional workers have an advantage over the freelancer: They get PTO, and we get guilt. The average 9 to 5-er waits for the clock to hit quitting time, and bolts out the door. The thought of the emails waiting to be answered or presentations to be assembled won’t cross their mind again until Monday morning.

Here’s the difference: most freelancers love what they do.

We are obsessed. We think about our business every waking moment. We’re always networking, worrying about clients, checking our published work to make sure our names are spelled correctly. While we are completely in charge of when we get work done, the thinking about it never stops. We ALWAYS feel like we should be getting work done.

Maybe it’s because we still don’t feel like our job is as legitimate as one that happens in an office. Or maybe the lack of a salary safety net makes us feel uneasy about earning a few hours less this month.

Whatever the reason, I’m here to tell you that the guilt you’re feeling is unfounded, and you totally deserve a day (or seven) to completely unplug from your business.

This is not the corporate grind. You’re not competing for the corner office. You’re building a business, a legacy. You’re in there for the long hall. The work will always be here, but your friends, family, and the opportunity to make memories with them may not.

So go ahead. Activate that “out of office” email response a few days early. I know you planned to work right up until Christmas Eve, but I’m challenging you to scrap that plan. Bake 1,500 gingerbread cookies with your kids. Craft some presents for your best friends. Stay in your pajamas and read a book all day.

I’m writing you a prescription for laziness and self-indulgence. Take daily and repeat as needed. You’ll be surprised how much better you’ll feel when it’s time to be brilliant. Next year.

Happy Holidays Cohere!!!

Image Credit: Flickr – Victor Bezrukov

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_

3 Reasons You Can’t Afford To Live Without Coworking

Coworking For Your Dreams

The first time a freelancer hears about coworking, their initial response is something to the effect of, “that sounds great but I just can’t afford it right now.”

There’s no denying that the economy sucks right now, and as independent professionals, we live without the illusion of security that our jobs will always be there. At the same time, we can’t be fired. And when life makes it necessary to increase income, it’s far easier for a freelancer to find a new client than for a traditional employee to get a raise.

But I digress.

The truth is, if you’re a mobile worker with a dream, you can’t afford to NOT be coworking. Consider this: the lightest level of membership at Cohere is $38/month. That’s 10 lattes. And I doubt the coffee shop is doing much for your professional image. Here are 3 more reasons you need to be coworking.

1. Pain-free Networking

Let’s be real: networking events are the worst. People standing stiffly against the wall, juggling a tiny plate of appetizers and a stack of business cards. Name tags. Elevator pitches. It’s not pretty, and most people get nothing from it.

Coworking allows you to network without the pain and humiliation. Your fellow coworking members are some of the most talented, successful professionals in town. And you get to sit next to them every day! Instead of 5 minutes of small talk, you’ll have real, meaningful conversations with people who can and will refer you work.

2. An Elevated Reputation

Joining a coworking space might seem like a big jump for your career. Maybe you’re just starting out, and profits are still tight. That’s fine, we’ve all been there. Even though you may starting a business out of your garage, that’s not the best place to meet potential clients. Coworking provides the professional image you can’t yet afford. A conference room with presentation equipment, quiet areas to take important phone calls, work space for brain storming sessions, etc. You’ll also get a business mailing address and someone to sign for your packages while you’re at lunch. For no extra charge! (P.O. boxes alone can cost more than $20 a month).

3. A Tribe 

Are you looking to grow your business? Want to avoid those first-time freelancer mistakes? Need constructive feedback on a project from someone other than your mother? These are the intangibles provided by your coworking tribe. For about a dollar a day, you’ll have access to some of the brightest minds in the business. People who have been there and lived to tell the tale. Professionals who can give you advice, sympathize with your failures, and rejoice in your victories. Coworkers share their knowledge freely, knowing that strong small businesses are the backbone of our larger community. We participate to help each other become better.

Where else are you gonna get that for $38?

Want to give coworking a try? Claim your obligation-free day pass to Cohere Community right now!

Image Credit: Flickr – mdanys/Hub Vilnius

What The 2nd Global Coworking Survey Says About You

You are more awesome than Helvetica

In 2010, about 600 people responded to the first global coworking survey by Deskmag.com. Without knowing it, those respondents helped to form the very first baseline study on the international coworking movement. A year later, the folks over at Deskmag were at it again, issuing a second survey to help gauge growth and explore the true motivations behind this new collaborative style of work.

The 2011 survey enjoyed 1,500 respondents from 52 countries around the world. Whether you’re a hardcore coworker or participating for the first time, the results are revealing. Even if you didn’t take the survey, you should be proud to be counted among such a productive, independent, compassionate community.

You Are Not Isolated And Lonely

The survey confirmed the key findings from last year’s study, which showed that individuals increase their productivity and networks by joining a coworking space. In the latest survey, 93% said their social circle had increased a lot, 86% said their business network had grown, and 76% reported an increase in productivity. 88% said their isolation had decreased.

You Value And Trust Your Community

96% of respondents said community is an important value among members in their coworking space. To confirm this, the survey also checked how many people knew the first names of their fellow coworkers and vice versa; after all, a community can’t be too cohesive if people don’t know each others’ names. The responses showed that 74% of people know all or many of their fellow coworkers’ names.

Another indication of community is trust. The survey asked whether respondents would feel comfortable leaving their laptop in their coworking space when they left the room; 54% said “yes, always”, 29% said “yes, for several hours”, and only 2% said “no”. Similar results were received in a second group with the same question about mobile phones.

You Think People Are More Important Than Price

The importance of community was repeated in the answers to the question, “What do you like most about your coworking space?” 81% said they liked the people, 61% said the location was the most likeable factor; only 46% said the price was the most important element.

Now, these are only preliminary results, but I’d say coworking is looking pretty good just based on these early observations. Be proud! What other community can boast these attractive characteristics? Help spread the word to other freelancers and business owners by sharing this post on Facebook or Twitter!

Download graphs of the 2nd Coworking Survey results without commentary on Prezi.

Image Credit: Flickr – rafagarces

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

Coworking Break up

by Cohere Member-at-large Beth Buczynski

Coworking and I are going through a rough patch.

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

It’s not the same.

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

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

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

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

Yours from afar,

Beth

Why Every Freelancer Should Use A Client Survey

How do you gauge client satisfaction with your work?

A) They tell me how great it is. B) They refer a friend. C) They post a link to it on Facebook. D) I assume that if they pay, they were satisfied.

Although you might be able to imply satisfaction from some of these actions, the insight is more speculation than fact. As a freelancer, it’s important to utilize all available avenues for improving your business and that means making sure your customers are truly satisfied.

And that means you have to ask.

Big companies know the value of a good customer satisfaction survey. They’ll beg and plead and tempt you with gifts just to get you to fill it out. They know that honest feedback straight from the customer’s mouth is a priceless asset. It provides direction and helps fine-tune services so that first-time customers become loyal clients.

Here are some reasons why you should think about implementing a client satisfaction survey, even if you’ve only got a handful of clients (and even if you think they’re relatively happy).

  • While you may think that you have a pretty good idea of what your strengths and weaknesses are, do you have the client’s perspective? Without it, you can’t really be sure that you are providing good service.
  • Conducting a survey also shows that you care about you clients and their opinions.
  • Not only can they help you identify those clients who are happy, they can also make you aware of problems and potential problems, as well as give you an idea of what new products or services would be well received.

How To Conduct A Client Survey

You don’t need a fancy direct mail campaign to conduct a good client survey. How do you usually communicate with your clients; email? Phone? Face to face? The answer will tell you how to issue the survey.

When developing questions, first think about how long your clients will be willing to spend answering them. Five to ten minutes is usually a good guideline. Remember that short answer questions take longer than choosing between ‘very satisfied, neutral and very dissatisfied.’ And be sure to TELL THEM how long it should take when you introduce the survey.

If no one responds within a day or two, send a reminder that explains why their opinion is important to you. People are busy, and things get forgotten. Don’t nag- or the answers might not be so rosy.

3 Essential Questions

Making a client satisfaction survey gives you the power to ask anything you want to know! But these three questions should be at the root of everything you ask. And if you use only these three, you’ll still have a pretty good survey.

  1. Why do you enjoy being my client?
  2. What else do you wish my business did?
  3. Who should you tell about my business?
For ideas about other questions to ask on your survey, check out this FreelanceFolder post.

Have you ever used a client satisfaction survey? Tell us about it in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – roland

Coworking Tips: How To Collaborate With Other Freelancers

Coworking and collaboration

Last week I wrote about mentoring new freelancers as a way to become more involved in the coworking community. This week, I’d like to take a look at another way to help create a vibrant, more connected community: hiring your friends and fellow members.

For many business owners, the words “hiring your friends” set off multiple alarms and warning whistles. Working with friends and family members can be a recipe for disaster…unless you know how to do it right.

With the proper preparation and foresight, collaborating with fellow coworking members can reduce stress, improve the quality of your product, and enrich your life as a community member.

Here are some things to keep in mind when looking for a collaborator:

Don’t assume that because you know them, they’re the right freelancer for the job. Whether it’s with your best friend or the newest member of your coworking space, a collaboration will only be successful if you choose the right person for the job. Look at integrity as well as ability. Think about the way they conduct themselves with fellow members and their clients. They might be good for a laugh, but will they buckle down when the deadline’s looming?

Walk softly, and carry a comprehensive contract. It’s one thing to offer your coworker $20 to edit an article you wrote. It’s another to invite them to be part of a three-month project. Contracts define who is responsible for what, and when it needs to be delivered. Oh yeah, and how much everyone gets paid. If there’s money involved, using a contract shows that you respect your collaborator, and want to make sure they are protected as well. DO IT.

Don’t be a dick. Just because you’re entering into a business relationship doesn’t mean you have to forget that you are friends. Or at least friendly acquaintances. Be flexible. Understand (within reason) life happens. Try to divide and conquer work in a way that’s comfortable for everyone involved. The best collaborations will feel like they were meant to be, and quality work will flow naturally from their formation.

Don’t be a pushover. In your zeal to be accommodating, don’t forget that you’re a businessperson with a job to do. If someone’s slacking, don’t be afraid to say something. It will only cause you stress and cost you money if you don’t.

Collaboration Checklist via Freelance Folder:

  • Does that person have any special skills?
  • Will it be beneficial for both of you?
  • How well do you know this person?
  • Is the person financially stable? (will you get paid?)
  • Is this person reliable? Punctual, honest, hard-working?
  • Can you delegate tasks to this person? (vice-versa)
  • What would happen if you ever disagree on something business related? Something personal?
  • Who is responsible for what?
  • Who gets the credit?
  • How will the pay is to be divided?

Have you ever collaborated with a fellow freelancer? Would you do it again? Share your experience in a comment!

Get Involved: 3 Reasons To Become A Freelancing Mentor

Coworking Mentoring

Lately, there’s been some talk among coworking space owners about how to build a community of coworkers, not just a community of desk renters.

Coworking has the ability to transform individual careers and invigorate local economies, but only when members use their talent and personality to take it to a level above desk-sharing.

Space owners and community managers can do their best to provide intentional avenues to get people talking, but at the end of the day when there’s no event scheduled the community will only thrive if members aren’t afraid to step outside their comfort zones and talk to each other without needing a staff person to help them do it.

The freelance industry is exploding. Everyday, fresh new faces join the trend, excited but completely unprepared for the challenges ahead. (Remember, that was you once!)

If you’re the slightly introverted type, and would rather plug-in and crank out work than conversate, consider this:

1. Sharing Is Caring: We all know how hard it is to be the new kid. In fact, that’s why lots of us got off the corporate merry-go-round in the first place. Coworking is supposed to be different, but once a community is established, it’s easy to fall into the same routines, slogging to our usual spot, plugging-in and checking out. Mentoring doesn’t need to be a formal process, it’s as easy as taking an interest in a new member’s profession, or asking them out to lunch. Asking about how a project’s progressing, offering to give feedback, or making a professional introduction are all easy ways to make a big impact in a fellow-coworker’s day.

2. Teaching Makes You An Expert: Have you hit a professional plateau? Feel like you’re at the top of your game, and the challenge has suddenly disappeared? Taking a less-experienced freelancer under your wing is a great way to put your treasure-trove of knowledge and experience to work. If you’ve always wanted to try consulting or public speaking, one on one mentoring is a great way to test the waters and build your reputation as an expert.

3. Help A Noob Avoid Mistakes: While there are some trials of business ownership that must be experienced, lots of mistakes could be avoided if only there was someone to tell you what to look out for. Baby freelancers are full of questions, and just dying for someone to answer them. Make yourself available. Chime in when someone’s struggling with an issue you’ve already conquered. Not only will you be helping to cultivate a more vibrant coworking community, you’ll be building major karma points as well.

Would you be willing to help a new freelancer learn the ropes? Or, if you’re new to freelancing, would you like to find a mentor? Share your thoughts in a comment!

 

Image Credit: Flickr – IK’s World Trip

 

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