3 Reasons To Grow Your Small Business In A Coworking Space

coworking-small-business

Are you the next big thing? Has your fledgling company just taken on its first two employees because business is pouring in faster than you can handle it? Right now you’re working around the kitchen table (like those guys up there) but between kids, spouses, and a menagerie of pets, it’s becoming impossible to get anything done.

Or perhaps you’re a seasoned entrepreneur who knows the wisdom of taking it slow, but you lack a network of talented designers and marketers that can help ease your workload. You’ve got the capital for your own office space, but often find yourself meeting clients at coffee shops or working at the library, because you can’t stand the isolation.

You need coworking.

I know, I know. You’ve heard your freelance friends talking about how much they love coworking, but you don’t think it’s for you. You’re not just taking on contract work. You’re building a business. You’ve got proprietary information to protect, and need space for meetings with your 2, 3, or 6 member team.

Coworking is still for you.

According to the hundreds of international coworkers who responded to the 2010/11 Global Coworking Survey…

The following things are important to entrepreneurs and likely, your employees.
86% value flexible work times and the ability to interact with new people
82% value sharing knowledge with others
79% place high value on the random opportunities and discoveries made inside coworking spaces

What benefits can you expect your employees to experience?
85% saw an increase in daily motivation
88% have better interactions with other people
60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home
86% reported meeting at least 3 helpful acquaintances in the first two months of membership
91% of coworkers are either very satisfied or satisfied with their overall coworking experience
85% plan on staying in their coworking community for at least another year

(OK that’s way more than three reasons…)

Coworking with us at Cohere will unleash the true potential of your employees, and as a result, your company. Instead of limiting your pool of ideas or subcontractors in a tiny office (or kitchen), coworking incubates your business through instant connections to a city-wide network of motivated independent professionals.

In a coworking space, asking for advice, feedback, or parsing out contract work is as hard as turning around in your chair. (The people who can do these things are sitting right next to you, see?) Also, it will give your employees a change of scenery, and a chance to learn from the seasoned designers, marketers, writers, and programmers who work with us every day.

Learn more about the benefits of coworking for small business here, or send us an email about what you’re budget can handle. We’ll work something out.

Image via cyberhill/Flickr

5 Easy Ways To Be An Eco-Friendly Entrepreneur

Nature Chair

Earth Day is almost here! This holiday has brought out the green in people since the 1970’s, but one day isn’t enough. The environment is affected most by the little choices we make every day. Planting a tree or recycling more are nice initiatives, but incorporating sustainable practices into our daily and business operations has an even greater impact.

As entrepreneurs we’re very busy, and time is money. You may think that your business is too small to bother about being green, but earth-friendly choices are actually good for the pocket book as well. And getting involved with local green initiatives can be a great way to build a positive reputation and valuable contacts in the community.

5 Easy Ways To Be An Eco-Friendly Entrepreneur

1. Go Paperless – Printer paper and ink are an unnecessary expense in this digital world. Except when it’s absolutely essential, create all documents and marketing materials in a digital form, and store them in the cloud. Send and receive virtual faxes rather than paper ones. Send your invoices via email rather than mailing them. Send digital PDF proofs instead of print outs. When you must create a hard copy of something, always print double sided.

2. Go Virtual – It’s nice to have face to face meetings, but driving or flying is expensive and leaves a huge carbon footprint. Thanks to free technologies like Skype or Google+ Hangouts, it’s possible to see and be seen by out of town clients without the hassle of traveling.

3. Go Gasless – Since most of us have local clients, it’s not always smart to avoid face to face meetings. But there’s still no reason to get your car involved. Fort Collins is one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, so why use four wheels when two will do? Not only will you save on gas, but you’ll never have to worry about finding a parking spot when you’re running late.

4. Go Shareably – Think before you buy, especially if it’s something that you only need for a few hours or days. Cohere creates the perfect environment for recycling things you no longer need or scoring things that would have otherwise been thrown away. Before buying that new office chair, pedal crank, or bunt pan, throw up a request on the Cohere Facebook Group (if you’re a Cohere member and have not yet been added, tell us!). Chance are, we’ve got one lying around.

5. Go Local – Being an entrepreneur has lots of benefits, not the least of which is complete control of your supply chain and the clients with whom you work. This probably goes without saying, but choosing local businesses for office supplies, catering, web hosting, graphic design, copy writing, marketing, legal advice, or happy hour is the single most important way to go green (Hint: a lot of these business owners sit right next to you!). Keeping it in town enhances the local economy, reduces carbon emissions from shipping, allows you to choose sustainable materials, and builds good karma.

Image via opensourceway/Flickr

 

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

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_

Coworking Increases Profit: A Cohere Case Study

Piggy Bank We have lots of anecdotal proof and some quantitative evidence that coworking helps freelancers and small business owners become more profitable.

Coworking provides an instant referral network, motivation, cost-free feedback, and an overall magical environment in which people tend to come up with money-making ideas (ok maybe it’s not “magical” but it’s definitely more special than a coffee shop).

Lots of freelancers claim that they can’t afford to try coworking, but I would argue that you can’t afford not to. So while chatting with a fairly new Cohere member the other day, I decided to see if this legend of “profitability” holds true in our own community. Here’s how the conversation panned out. (Names have been removed to protect the now slightly more wealthy).

Angel: Do you have an estimate of how many $$ of work Cohere has brought your way since joining?

Member: Give me a sec…its pretty convoluted since connections lead to connections.

Angel: isn’t that how everything works?

Member: okay, this is kind of awesome. When I account for jobs for coherians, and jobs that came about as referrals from them and referrals from those referrals, its over $5000!

Angel: holy sh*t. pardon my french. how long have you been a member?

Member: 4 or 5 months.

Angel: damns. that’s freeaking awesome!

Member: It is…kinda shocking to me to actually figure that out!

Angel: I’m beaming right now. Cohere works. Period.

Member: I was thinking to myself that ALMOST every time I am in there I make a connection that leads to work.

Angel: This is like an early xmas present to me and my fledgling little business!

Member: talk about a strong ROI..

Angel: It also helps that you’re a gifted person  and super awesome to work with!

Member: looks like we need to give each other some testimonials for our respective sites!

Angel: Yes.

Member: you can tell prospective members that within about a week of joining I got a quick and simple job straight from you that effectively covered 3 months of membership. I met Nick thru an event at Cohere and that resulted in numerous jobs…and that is an arrangement that continues to be beneficial…Referrals from him got me additional clients that then referred me to other people (some in CA) who now use me as a referral for THEIR clients. It is an interconnected web of awesome. I now have had clients on both coasts…that can trace back to Cohere. Its like 6 degrees of Cohere Magic.

This conversation has been reproduced in its original entirety. This is really what it’s like to exist in the Cohere coworking community. All the exclamation points and reciprocity are genuine.

Now, I’m not guaranteeing that 4 months of membership will put $5k of pure profit in your pocket, but there’s a darn good chance that you WILL get new clients as a result of working here. All it takes is an open mind, a sharing personality, and the desire to build your business.

Oh yeah, and a free day pass to check it out in person doesn’t hurt either.

Image Credit: Flickr – Nina Matthews Photography

 

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

Want To Support The 99%? Occupy Your Local Coworking Space

Occupy Wall Street unicorn

The Occupy Wall Street protests have attracted lots of media and social media attention over the last five weeks. In cities and towns across the nation, people are gathering together to voice their opinion on systems they think are broken and share their vision for a better country.

Yes, many of the issues #OWS seeks to address are political and polarizing, and no, I’m not going to try to convince you to carry a sign or camp out in a park. Coworking is a way of life, and at the core of these issues are things near and dear to the heart of every coworker:

The importance of a community that shares its time and resources; the belief that small, independent businesses are essential to a strong local economy; and the vision of a world where independence and innovation are rewarded with the respect and salary they deserve.

Just today, the Cohere Community learned that former-member Suzanne Akin’s home had been destroyed in a fire. Without any prompting or pleading, the community mobilized itself to communicate needs and offer help. This is a perfect example of the myriad non-tangible benefits that come from belonging to a community like ours.

Just like our country, Cohere is going through tough, tumultuous times. Just like our economy, we’re not sure what the future holds or where the money will come from. But just like the Occupy Wall Street movement, I believe that the answers will come from you, the people.

That’s why I’m asking you to Occupy Cohere.

In the second issue of the Occupied Wall Street Journal (yes, it has its own newspaper–completely funded by a Kickstarter campaign), there’s a full page editorial that reads, “We are speaking to each other, and listening. This occupation is first about participation.”

None of the seemingly-impossible things that #OWS hopes to accomplish will happen if people refuse to leave their comfort zones and get out there on the street to talk about it.

None of the amazing feats of community that we’ve experienced at Cohere will continue unless EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US agrees to leave our warm houses and coffee-shop offices and come back to the wavy tables.

To entice you back and get you talking, we’ve planned an entire week of Occupy Cohere events starting November 7th. Tell your clients and your friends. Get excited about what you’ve been missing. Bring your talent, your sense of humor, and your lovely face back to Cohere. The future of our community depends on it!

Occupy Cohere Events

Monday 11/7: Free Coworking Day Kick Off, 9a-4p
Tuesday 11/8: New member coffee social: all members who have joined Cohere in the past 4 months are invited to get to know one another, 10am
Wednesday 11/9: Night Coworking ‘Free for All’, 4p-10p
Thursday 11/10: Pancake Breakfast at Snooze: guided discussion on a set topic, 7:30am-8:30a
Friday 11/11: Frank Friday: show and tell us about a project you are working on OR get feedback on a business problem, 12p-1p

Got an idea for a neat Occupy Cohere event (can be planned any time)? Share it in a comment, or with Angel directly.

Image Credit: Flickr – shankbone

August 9th is International Coworking Day 2011!

Coworking as a movement, a business solution, and a kick-ass global community is turning 6 years old on August 9th, 2o11.

On this day every year, coworkers and coworking spaces around the world take a moment to celebrate their independence as well as their discovery of all the dreams that can come true when you’ve got a solid community in which to create and collaborate.

Even though our attendance is somewhat unpredictable during the summer months, Cohere’s community is getting into the spirit of things as well! Here are a couple easy ways that you can participate in this worldwide celebration:

1. Come to Cohere’s Coworking Day 2011 Open House: Swing by between 9a-4p for snacks, coffee and high fives. Want to cowork a little to ring in your next year of independence? That’s okay too. Seats are first come first serve! RSVP here.

2. Invite someone to Cohere: What better day than a free open house? Whether you’re hanging out at a coffee shop over the weekend, or talking to a friend that owns a struggling small business, why not mention that there’s a community of independent, creative people hanging out at 215 Jefferson?

3. Show Your Coworking Spirit: It can be hard to strike up conversation with those you don’t know, so if inviting someone in person isn’t possible, think about using your multitude of social media networks. You could,

  • Use your Facebook status as a place to tell people you’re going to Coworking Day and include a link to your favorite Cohere blog post.
  • Tell your Google+ stream why you’re thankful that coworking exists and why they should try it too.
  • Tweet this: @CohereLLC is having a FREE open house on Aug. 9th. All #freelancers and #smallbusiness owners invited! http://ow.ly/5UdsU #coworking

Got other cool ideas about how we could share coworking with the Greater Fort Collins area and beyond? Share them in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – mdanys

Why Freelance Jobs Are More Secure Than Office Jobs

Lots of people think that freelancing is something you do when you can’t find a real job. Freelancers know, however, that there’s nothing more real than being the CEO, COO, and CFO of a small business all at once.

Some people say they could never live without the security of a traditional job. And I say, what’s so secure about it? What’s so great about living with the fear that an HR person you’ve never met will decide your job’s not necessary any more? Or knowing that an executive in Europe could decide that the U.S. branch isn’t as profitable as it should be, and close it down tomorrow?

Here are three reasons why a room-full of independent professionals bring more stability to the local economy than a moderately-sized corporation.

 

Freelancers Are Dynamic

Saying that small businesses are more nimble than traditional companies is an understatement. In the time it takes three corporate committees to decide to begin to investigate a creative opportunity, the freelancer will decide, bring in other freelancers to collaborate, and take action to make it a reality. Freelancers are used to rolling with the punches. When business as usual stops working, they can try something completely new tomorrow, not next year.

Freelancers Have Low Overhead

Running a brick and mortar business is expensive. There are utility bills to pay, equipment to buy, and insurance to keep current. If profit margins fall low enough, these costly necessities can drive a company out of business in a matter of weeks. Freelancers on the other hand, have almost no overhead (especially if they cowork). Also, they can eat ramen noodles when the going gets tough.

Freelancers Can Do More Than One Thing At Once

Which has a better chance of surviving a down economy: a large company that does or makes one thing, or a sole proprieter that knows how to do five things? Freelancers are in it for themselves, which means they stay educated, are constantly expanding their networks, and work hard to acquire more skills that will make them competitive in their field. The days of depending on one skill or product to attract revenue are over. Companies are struggling to diversify, while the freelancer depends on diversity to stay in business.

Because of the reasons above (and many more) freelancers are both happy and stable in their work. They can’t get fired, or downsized or restructured. They don’t depend on the wisdom of invisible executives for their livelihood. They don’t worry about losing a big client because they know how find another one.

While the rest of the world gets into the unemployment line, freelancers keep paying the mortgage, shopping in local stores, feeding their kids, and paying taxes. They continue to contribute through both the bad times and the good, unlike a big company, which will probably move its business to Oklahoma City when the money runs out.

Why Are You Glad To Be  A Freelancer? Give thanks in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Patrick Denker

5 Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

Five Must-Read Blogs For Freelancers

It’s the New Year. You’ve set your goals, and created your budgets. You’re ready to grow your business, but you’re a little low on inspiration. Or you still don’t know the answer to that nagging business/organizational/house-keeping question. Where can you turn?

Of course, the first place you should turn is the collection of creative minds sitting all around you as you cowork. But what about when your question stumps the coworkers as well? Ask the blogs.

We talk about, write, and link to blogs all the time, but how many of you are seeking out blogs that could actually make you a better freelancer? Here are 5  that should be added to your reader ASAP.

Freelance Switch This extremely popular blog–over 35,000 subscribers and multiple writers–includes advice, news and opinions for freelance workers, such as this insightful post on nurturing relationships with clients you’d like to keep. Also on Freelance Switch: forums and podcasts.

The Berkun Blog This Scott Berkun is a real hot shot hero to the technically inclined, but check out the archived blog entries–there’s stuff here for nearly every creatives freelancer, especially this lesson from a Dr. Seuss book.

Freelancers Union This union resource blog deals with the ethical and labor issues of contract work–including these thoughts on whether or not freelancers should lower their rates just because their clients are struggling.

Webworkerdaily: This blog tackles issues about productivity and other day-to-day issues in the freelance writing world.  It has advice on topics such as “Tackling Big Projects and Getting Things Done.”

Essentialkeystrokes: Check out this blog for general advice about freelancing, and about working on your computer.  It has useful posts such as “13 Ways to Move Big Files on the Web” as well as many others.

Thanks to oDesk (which runs a pretty snazzy blog for freelancers itself) and GuideToCareerEducation for these clips.

Image Credit: Flickr – filipe93

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