Understanding The Value Of Coworking Part 1: Be More Than A Seat Filler

Coworking Participation

The coworking community talks a lot about the value of coworking, and what makes it such a life-changing style of work. Each coworking space has unique characteristics that set it apart from others and define its community.

But there are some universal attributes that apply to coworking in any setting, whether it’s a massive space in New York City or a tiny community in rural Virginia.

The importance of community engagement and participation is one of these universal truths. Basically, the more you put in to your coworking experience, the more you’re going to get out of it. Period.

If someone shows up for the open desk and the free coffee, and leaves as soon as their work’s done, they’re not giving much to the community. Chances are their coworking experience will be shallow and forgettable. And when it comes time to renew their membership, these “desk fillers” probably won’t see a reason to return.

But when members make a conscious effort to be a resource and encouragement to other members, they often find that the community returns the favor ten-fold. Don’t believe me? Here’s what Cohere members had to say about “getting what you give.”

“The give/get thing is the essence of coworking. Without the exchange of energy, information and camaraderie you just have a bunch of people together in a room.”

“I absolutely believe that [you get what you give]. However, I feel like I was given so much before I was able to give back. I still feel like I have received more than I’ve given, and it’s that self-lessness from the community that encourages me to pay it forward in every way I possibly can.”

“What you get out of coworking is one part how you perceive your involvement in the community, and one part how the community perceives you. If you see the community simply as a place to network and toss your business card around, you may or may not get good connections — it depends on what the community expects. If members expect to be networking most of the time, you will be welcomed with your card, otherwise, you won’t be. Each coworking facility has its own rhythm, its own beat. And if you don’t move by it, you won’t get anything out of it, no matter how much you give.”

“I think if you come in to a collaborative workspace, put your head down and work away, than people won’t talk to you and you won’t be tapping into the “collaborative” part of what coworking offers.  However, if someone just wants a workspace in an environment with a bunch of cool people, but doesn’t really want to interact, that’s okay. It’s not bad, it’s just that they won’t get quite as much out of the experience as someone else might.”

“The main reason I joined [a coworking space] was for the community and quality memebers. It’s nice to have a different space to work outside of my home office, of course, but it’s my connections with the amazing, generous, open-minded community members at Cohere I value most as a solopreneur. I offer advice, assistance and resources to other members as well, without feeling obligated. It’s all very natural.”

In case you’re thinking that all of this collaboration and connection takes hours of effort, most of the members who responded to our little survey stated that all they had to “give” was a positive attitude, a friendly personality, honest feedback, an expert opinion, or news of a work opportunity.

Coworking folks tend to be an upbeat bunch, so for many of you, becoming more than a seat filler simply means being yourself!

Got an opinion about “getting what you give” in a coworking community? Share it in a comment! 

Also watch out for the next installment of this series!

Image Credit: Flickr – nateOne

Attention Freelancer: It’s Time To Raise Your Rates

Happy Monday! Ready to have your mind blown?

A recent study by Newsweek found that American freelancers were willing to work for far less than their counterparts in developing countries (y’ know, the ones we always complain about because they undercut our prices?)

To find out what pay U.S. workers will really accept for an hour’s work, and how that stacks up against other countries, NEWSWEEK turned to Mechanical Turk, an online marketplace for freelance work operated by Amazon.com. In a weeks-long experiment, we posted simple, hourlong jobs (listening to audio recordings and counting instances of a specific keyword) and continually lowered our offer until we found the absolute bottom price that multiple people would accept, and then complete the task.

The results: some Americans settled for a shockingly low 25 cents an hour—while counterparts in nations like India and the Philippines expected multiples more.

The moral of this story? It’s time to raise your rates.

Determining what to charge for their services is one of the most difficult tasks for someone just starting out as an independent professional. While employed by a company, we had no trouble demanding hundreds if not thousands of dollars for the products we sold, so why are we accepting slave-labor wages now that we have the ability to determine our own value?

As FreelanceFolder tells us, our fees are important for many reasons besides meeting our target income.

“For one thing, prospects judge us by our fees. It’s like shopping for shoes. When you see a pair that looks nice but is incredibly cheap, you wonder, ‘What’s wrong with it?’ On the other hand, when you see a pair that’s $200 or more, you think, ‘Wow, this designer shoe must be made of some hard-to-find leather to cost this much!'”

Your fees also affect how well you service your clients. If you charge low fees, you’ll need to have more clients to earn a given income. This means your time and attention will be divided among more clients. You’re going to be spread more thinly. You’ll also use up more resources to find and manage all these clients.”

Charging a price that reflects your true value will make you a better freelancer and allow you to do better work. If you’re worried about how to tell your clients that your rates are going up, try these tips:

1. Increase in small increments over time.

2. Increase your rate for each new client.

3. Increase your rate for each new project with an existing.

4. Formulate a platinum package.

Read more tips for raising your rates here.

Have you ever raised your rates? How/why did you do it? Share your experience in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – DaveFayram

Why Failure Is The Best Part Of Coworking

Kitty Fail

Everyone fails at something.

OK, that might not sound like the most uplifting opener for a Monday morning blog post, but that’s because you’re looking it at it wrong.

Everyone fails. Those people who look like they always have their shit together just learned how to hide it. Your failures don’t make you special or odd, they actually make you normal. You’re not the first independent professional to fail at something, and you won’t be the last.

The other reason to cheer up when you fail is that it puts you in a unique position to be a rock star in the coworking community.

I’ll explain.

No one learns anything of value from someone who’s perfect. Except maybe how to resent said perfectionist. Some of our best times together as a community occur when someone shares their really messy failure story, and we figure out how to clean it up. Or at least how to avoid that same mistake in the future.

We talk a lot about the collaboration and socialization that makes coworking so neat. But it’s really our ability to fail and then share what we learned (or are learning) from that unpleasant experience that helps us become better at what we do.

A community where everyone keeps their failures to themselves is shallow and uninteresting. It’s way more fun to be real. Life as an independent is messy and complex, and all we’ve got is each other! We want to see the roughest draft, hear the first/worst idea, and feel the pain of the client you knew you shouldn’t take.

So don’t hold back! Tell us when you feel like bailing and taking an office job. Tell us when you mailed a press release with a typo. Tell us when you gave the client too much info in the free consultation. Tell us when you take on a client without a contract…and then get screwed on an invoice. Tell us when you bite off more than you can chew.

When you allow us to experience your failures in all their glory, we not only grow as professionals, we grow together as a community. And that’s why failure is the best part of coworking.

Let’s talk about something that went wrong! Share a notable goof, failure or brain fart from your past, and let’s get to learnin’!

Image Credits: Flickr – styro

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