Community Cultivators: Cohere Coworking

I want to take a moment to recognize the FIVE Cohere members who make Cohere run smoothly. Adding several cultivators has really taken our community to the next level. While I still do much of the broader organization for Cohere (see also: Amazon Prime Orders), having this capable crew on tap has made all the difference in my sanity and has distributed responsibility across many people rather than everything landing squarely on my plate.

Alaina Massa: Team Tidy

For those of you who are really paying attention to details, my Cohere Bandwidth staff person is Tim Massa. These two are married and having both on the team is infinitely better than just having only one. Alaina recently took over the big task of keeping Cohere’s space in tip-top shape. She comes under the cover of darkness each week and when we arrive the next morning, everything is sparkling. If you are in need of some clean, contact Choice City Cleaning.

Carrie Lamanna: Copy Editing Magic

Carrie is a writer/editor/professor by trade and I’ve recently had her start copy editing all of my coworking consulting resources. I *know* I’m an average writer and having Carrie as my secret weapon helps me deliver more consistent content that makes more sense. She did NOT edit this post so don’t blame her for my flaws.

Andy Brown: Tours & More

Andy is an expert in e-media analytics and pretty much the nicest human ever. He cares for the basic maintenance around Cohere: finding rare light bulbs for old fixtures, minding the recycling and alerting me when supplies get low. He also does the bulk of our tours and orientations for prospective and new members. Book a date with Andy here. 

Jenny Benton-Fischer: Tours, Sarcasm and Therapy for Angel

Jenny and I have been running into each other for something like 15 years and she’s been a remote member of Cohere for YEARS. Her recent move back to graphic design freelance finally freed her up to be here in person. I knew she was “The One” when we both said a swear in her interview. Book a tour with Jenny.

Kim Kimball: Rocket Ships, Math and Jokes

Kim wanted a way to spend more time in the coworking area vs. his neat little office downstairs so he came on board to help out too. Kim works remotely for the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena under the guise of IT but usually just does hard math a lot. He’s also super good at scrubbing the kitchen sink (which, honestly, is why I had my eye on him to Cultivate anyway). He’ll be giving tours and delighting the members with his quick wit and Roomba jokes.

I do sincerely hope you’ll come visit us and meet our amazing team of Cohere Cultivators. They are equipped to help you meet other coworking members, find a fork or recommend a lunch spot in Downtown Fort Collins.

Honorable Mention: Harvey Wallbanger

Named by member Julie Sutter, Harvey is the unsung hero of Cohere. Between the tree seed pods, the cottonwood fluff and spilled coffee grounds, Harvey fires up at midnight each night and keeps our floor spotless. He also often gets trapped or stuck and we have to rescue him. It’s a labor of love though.

 

Area man discovers freelancing not what he expected

Matt brushing his teeth–usually he does this at home, not at Cohere.

When I started “freelancing,” I had a lot of expectations as to what my life would be like setting my own schedule, picking my own projects, etc.  My life would be ultra-flexible and I would be spending my time doing something I loved, coding.  I wouldn’t have anyone to answer to but myself, and that would be the ideal work environment.

It turned out that while there are many benefits to freelancing, for me, the flexibility and lack of direct accountability were not so high on the list.
Working from home, I could pace for hours before starting a project.  Most of my days and nights consisted of over-planning, procrastinating, and then a 10-12 hour block of anxious, frenzied coding, and I was exhausted.  My work life had lost its boundaries.

I would pick up projects that required me to work on-site from time to time.  While working in an office, there was an expectation that I would spend my paid hours coding, so I would dive right in.  I would take things in smaller chunks.  The solutions to small problems would seem to roll right out of my fingers.  I wasted far less time by writing, adjusting, redirecting, tightening, than I would trying to pull everything together in my head and then drop it into code as one solid system.  So that seemed to be a solution.  Stop over-planning and getting excited, and just sit down and code.

A little social pressure helped reduce my coding anxiety, helped me be more efficient, and helped me to do something that I really loved to do, write nice code.  Coworking, working in a social setting, provided just enough social pressure.  So my expectations of coworking were simple: Social pressure would keep me efficient.

People coworking (not at Cohere but this is kind of what his screen looks like)

While coworking has done wonders to keep me efficient and reduce my coding anxiety, I’m starting to realize that “social pressure” is really one of the very smallest benefits of working in a more “social” environment.  I’m starting to realize that my work exists within an ecosystem of other projects, built by other people like me, and networking is an essential part of the freelancer’s life.

It’s becoming increasingly important as more people are becoming freelancers.
The best projects I’ve worked on, I’ve found word of mouth.  I’m getting more interested in sharing my ideas, in blogging, in building my projects open-source and contributing to other open-source projects.  I’m starting to think of my work as less of a “job” and more as a part of an ecosystem that will sustain me as I contribute to it.
I’m also starting to realize that “making money”, while it’s a necessary and much appreciated part of “what I do”, it’s no longer the end goal.  It’s just one of the outcomes of how I spend my time.  Taking a step back, I could say that capitalism is a useful tool for getting parts of the economy and people in general moving and productive, but it’s not always the best tool.  If you look at the thriving open source community, some of it is funded and paid, a lot of it is built and shared without the money changing hands directly.
Maybe these ideas will spread to other areas of the economy.
Maybe they have in ways I don’t know about.  This web of inter-connectedness can support our endeavors to ends that used to require rigid hierarchical managed workplaces.  If we can get rid of some of this bulky scaffolding and work together more organically, that would be great.
**Matt was the very first founding member of Cohere. He has since married, had two kids and is currently working remotely while traveling the United States with them in an Airstream.

How To: Accrue Vacation as a Freelancer

It’s nice to be a freelancing coworker in a coworking space.  We can avoid workplace politics, cubes, a set work schedule and any number of HR forms.  One thing I miss about working a 9-5 job is accruing vacation.  Now, I never thought that I had enough vacation but at least I could look at my paycheck and see those sweet vacation hours pile up.

As we find our schedules packed with more family than clients, it’s the perfect time to set vacation goals for the year. The joy of freelancing means we don’t have to pick the same 2 weeks each year and can take frequent short trips to renew ourselves.

So the question becomes, “Why aren’t we accruing vacation?”  If anything, we’re working more hours than most 9-5ers and taking less time off because we’ve lost our work/life balance somewhere along the way.  I say, let’s start accruing vacation and USING it.  Pick how many weeks of vacation you feel you need per year and do the math.

2 weeks off = 1.54 hours of vacation accrued per 40 hours worked

4 weeks off = 3.07 hours of vacation accrued per 40 hours worked

6 weeks off = 4.61 hours of vacation accrued per 40 hours worked

You can do the same for sick leave as well depending on how much you tend to need.

Are you a freelancer who rewards yourself with vacations?  Where do you like to go and what do you do on your vacations?

From Coffee Shops to Coworking in Old Town Fort Collins


Beth abandoned coffee shops and joined Cohere as a Wayfarer where she writes and writes, smiling all the while.

**enjoy this post by member Beth Buczynski from our archives**

Then…

Before I became a freelancer, I used to fantasize about what it would be like to be the master of my own professional domain. No unreasonable boss limiting my creativity, never being forced to support something I didn’t believe in, and no need to leave the house to work- ever.

When I finally made the leap to full time freelancing, I realized that while working right across the hall from my bed was oh-so-convenient, it didn’t always encourage me to be productive (or professional).

The Pain…

So I set out in search of alternative work environments, and like so many freelancers, soon found myself adrift in the coffee shop circuit in Old Town Fort Collins. Constantly searching for a dependable wireless connection, I bounced from one coffee shop to the next, feeling lost and frustrated, and hoping that my purchase of a bagel and bottomless coffee would be enough to buy me some uninterrupted time when I could finally get some work done.

Between tiny tables, screaming children, and constantly smelling like I’d used my own clothes to clean out the espresso machine, I managed to squeeze out just enough work to get by, but noticed myself becoming desperate for stimulating conversation throughout the day…and an internet connection that wouldn’t unexplainably kick me off right when I hit ‘submit’ on a really important assignment.

The week I was forced to leave three different coffee shops after unsuccessful attempts to coax my computer and their router to be friends, I knew I had hit rock bottom, and decided it was time to find a better solution to my office-less-ness. That something turned out to be coworking.

Now…

After a little more than a month at Cohere (update: Beth has been a member for over a year now), I’m happy to report that the urges to hurl my laptop out the window have completely subsided now that I have access to a rock solid internet connection, ample electrical outlets, and an amazing selection of desk space that allows me to spread out and get comfortable before a day of work.

Unlike a coffee shop, we encourage you to talk with your neighbors.

When I get up in the morning, I know that instead of fighting soccer moms, business lunches, and college kids for room to work, I have a specific place to come every day where the only other people within earshot are those also interested in being productive (and occasionally ignoring work altogether to laugh, debate the proper punctuation of a bulleted list, and devour a cupcake).

The members that make up Cohere have become a source of inspiration, motivation, innovation, and levity in my life, not only making me a better writer, but also a better, more connected member of the community at large.

If you’re tired of dragging your laptop from one tattered coffee shop couch to another, I encourage you to give coworking a try. You might come for the internet and the cushy chair, but you’ll stay for the conversation, collaboration, and support.

 

 

Prospective Intern Cheat Sheet

Cohere’s hiring process for interns can be a bit unconventional. I’ve asked the most recent 2 applicants to attend our first annual chili cook-off as their introduction to the community. No interview questions allowed, no khaki slacks required. In fact, if you hand me a resume, I’ll show you the door. I sure hope you’re reading this.

You might be nervous to come to a social event for your first “interview.” That’s normal and I guarantee that your parents and career counselors are probably googling “Cohere Fort Collins” with confusion. They’re probably scratching their heads wondering how to prepare you for such an innovative interview process. Okay, they probably aren’t using the word innovative.

Here are FOUR tidbits of advice to help you at a social event-interview:

  1. You’ve already received an email from me so you know what to bring. Bringing anything more than that will just weigh you down. Especially when we pit you against one another in a foot race to take down the company flag on the roof.
  2. Ditch the business cards. We’re far enough in to this relationship that I’ve googled you, checked your Facebook pages (before you changed your privacy settings) and seen if you’re on twitter. I know how to find you. I don’t need your tiny paper bio.
  3. Treat this social event like any social event you’ve attended in your life. We’re not so much about leveraging business contacts as we are getting to know each other. Leave your credentials behind and talk about your hobbies instead.
  4. If you’re hired, you’ll have many bosses. Any member can become your boss at any moment. There’s no use in sucking up to one person and ignoring the rest. It won’t get you anywhere.

Stay tuned for more crib notes on how to land this internship. If you’ve just come across this and WANT to be a Cohere intern, let me know why.

Image credit: maveric2003

Coworking is Not a Frat House (and the Evidence to Prove It)

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house,” “romper room,” or “social hour” for freelancers and independents.

Yikes. How totally inaccurate that stereotype is.

Not only is the success and level of productivity at Cohere anecdotal evidence of why this myth is untrue, but there’s also hard data to make the case.

Deskmag.com coworking survey

The Evidence

You may have already seen the recent global coworking survey—the first of its kind, seeking to gather data about coworkers and coworking space owners. Deskmag is digging into the survey data and sharing insights about many aspects of coworking. (See the end of the post for links to the Deskmag articles.)

Here are some relevant stats from the survey that dispel the “frat house” myth that often informs stereotypes people have about coworking spaces:

  • Connections: 43% of respondents reported meeting one to three helpful acquaintances within a two-month period, while another 43% have found four or more such connections
  • Income: 25% of all coworkers indicated that they earned more than the national average income
  • Motivation: 85% of respondents are more motivated and have better interaction with other people since moving into a coworking space
  • Teamwork: 57% now work in teams more often
  • Work/life balance: 60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home

These stats don’t show unmotivated nor unsuccessful freelancers. Coworking isn’t a rowdy frat house.

Community…and Work-Life Balance

The coworking survey reveals that one of the big draws to coworking is the community and collaboration that happens in a coworking space. And “community” doesn’t translate into “frat house” or “social hour.” On the contrary, one of the most powerful aspects of coworking community is to connect with other people while giving—and receiving—value and benefits.

While there are moments or afternoons that feel more “social” at Cohere—for example, when coworkers share funny stories, start a room-wide conversation, or head out to grab a mid-afternoon snack—it’s those moments that make the Cohere community what it is: a place for work AND social productivity—a place for a balanced work life.

If you want to read more insights from the survey, check out:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Deskmag

How Coworking and Community Translate into Dollars

Money - Jeff Belmonte

“Coworking” isn’t just a buzzword, although I may be preaching to the choir if you’re reading this blog. While the idea of sharing office space isn’t new, the idea of purposefully building a community of independent workers in a workspace—in other words, coworking—is growing like gangbusters. Many people recognize various benefits of coworking (such as the chance to get out of the house/cafe or to meet other creative professionals).

But a key aspect of coworking that is sometimes overlooked is the way coworking can boost income (for independents) and stimulate the economy (in a local area).

Coworking helps freelancers and independents make more money.

The first global coworking survey was recently completed, and more than 600 people from 24 countries participated. The results confirmed what many of us already experience in coworking: it’s a collaborative and community-oriented space that helps independents genuinely grow their business. As many coworking blogs have highlighted from the survey, 42% of survey respondents reported earning more money after joining a coworking space. And more than half said they work in teams more often since joining a coworking space.

Coworking helps the local economy.

The various ways that independents, freelancers and small business owners help boost and sustain a local economy can hardly be covered in a bullet point (I’ll save that discussion for another post, perhaps). But it’s true: a coworking space can help its local community’s economy. A soon-to-be coworking space in Portland originated from a developer’s need to creatively solve certain economic challenges in his industry. When Peter Bass, the developer, learned about coworking, he also saw the importance of community. “‘We’re trying to build a community,’ Bass said, ‘not just a place to go to work.’”

When it comes down to it, coworking isn’t about plopping together a bunch of laptop-toting freelancers under one roof. Coworking is about community. And “community” isn’t just a fuzzy, feel-good term: it’s critical to a thriving coworking space. For proof, see how often “community” is mentioned by coworkers, freelancers and entrepreneurs at coworking space New Work City in this video.

I’m curious… whether you’re a coworker or coworking space owner, have you witnessed other ways in which the coworking community has boosted income or the economy? Leave me a comment below!

Image Credit: Flickr – Jeff Belmonte

Why Problem-Solving in Groups is Useful in Coworking

Group of people working

A story on NPR’s program All Things Considered talks about coworking. Okay. Not quite. But it does discuss one of the key components of successful coworking: collaboration.

Key in NPR’s study was the point that equal participation in problem-solving fostered more innovative solutions. The research points to why and how getting a group of people together to solve a problem is not so much about getting the “smartest” people together, but instead is about equal participation and multiple perspectives from people in the group.

A group of people. Equal participation and multiple perspectives. Hm…that sounds a lot like coworking.

Taking a cue from the NPR story, here are some ways problem-solving in groups might be useful in coworking:

  • You—the coworker—have a challenge in your work.
    Can your coworkers help you overcome a client/work challenge? This is especially effective if you ask nicely.
  • You—the coworking space catalyst—have a challenge in your space.
    Can the coworking community help you brainstorm solutions to that challenge? Or can you hop on the Coworking Google Group to ask your online coworking community for ideas?
  • You—the coworker OR coworking space catalyst—have a challenge in your local community.
    Can coworkers go beyond their coworking space walls and contribute their smarts to a local challenge? This, of course, requires extra time and energy beyond work. But you never know what sorts of beneficial connections could be made in the local community (perhaps resulting in new clients, new work, new ideas!).
  • You—the interesting person.
    Sometimes, it’s simply about getting interesting people together to see what interesting things they come up with. (And if that sounds vague—it should! The possibilities are as limitless when it comes to grouping together independent, creative, community-oriented coworkers.)

Although coworkers tend to be highly independent individuals, problem-solving in groups is where the real magic happens in coworking. This type of problem-solving has so many advantages—seen, for example, in the rise of collaborative consumption. So try problem-solving in a group—and let us know how it goes.

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Image Credit: Flickr – Peter Samis

Collaborative Consumption and the Coworking Community

“Collaborative consumption” is a new phrase that has entered our business and social lexicon. It signals the way some people are changing their consumption habits away from individual consumption and toward a focus on trading, sharing, bartering and lending within a community. And it’s happening in coworking.

What's Mine Is Yours on CollaborativeConsumption.com

Infographic on CollaborativeConsumption.com

In thinking about how coworking relates to collaborative consumption, it’s no question that coworking fosters the kind of atmosphere that allows for—and encourages—sharing and trading. As described on the about page of the Global Coworking Blog:

Beyond just creating better places to work, coworking spaces are built around the idea of community-building and sustainability. Coworking spaces agree to uphold the values set forth by those who developed the concept in the first place: collaboration, community, sustainability, openness, and accessibility.

Collaborative consumption is all about community and sustainability. Coworking is also about community and sustainability.

To make this idea of collaborative consumption a bit more tangible, following are some examples you may have heard of or used:

  • Superfluid – allows people to collaborate by trading favors using “virtual currency”—in essence, bartering
  • Zopa and CommunityLend – social lending
  • Airbnb – a “community marketplace for unique spaces”
  • Freecycle – a place to give and find stuff for free
  • ZipCar – carsharing
  • CouchSurfing – allows travelers to make connections with people, and rooms/couches, in the area they’re visiting
  • Swap – swap books, CDs, movies and video games
  • B-Cycle – bike sharing system
  • Hyperlocavore – a yardsharing community

So, how might collaborative consumption happen in a coworking community?

  • Trading skills/expertise with another member for mutual benefit (for example, a graphic designer creates a logo in exchange for a fellow copywriter creating newsletter content)
  • Sharing resources (for example, several coworkers may pool their collective buying power to get lower rates at a local gym)
  • Exchanging ideas (though collaborative consumption focuses mostly on products and services, brainstorming and ideating are still valuable “commodities”)

A recent post on the Global Coworking Blog highlights some of the ways that sharing and trading happens amongst coworkers.  And another post discusses several of the ways that coworking can save a small business—including bartering and brainstorming.

Of course, this is not to say that sharing and trading are the be-all, end-all to community and economy; we all still have bills to pay and cold hard cash to tender. But this shift in thinking seems like it’s here to stay.

If this topic piques your interest, check out these insightful reads about collaborative consumption:
Infographic – GOOD.is: Sharing is Contagious
Article – Inc.com: Understanding the Consumer of the Future
Book – What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption
Book – The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Sharing

Have you shared your resources or skills with others at Cohere? What about this “collaborative consumption” worked? What didn’t work?

“Maximizing Synergy and Backward Revenue Streams”

The Cohere Coworking Community is a verbal group. We enjoy a good conversation about words. Let’s discuss one.

Synergy might be the most overused word right now behind the recently revived “D*****bag.”  I get annoyed with the word synergy because people use it for everything.  “I’m going to synergize my workout by adding weights.”  “Let’s get some synergy going at lunch today.”  “That D-bag totally ruined the synergy we talked about.”  None of these phrases makes any sense.

What is synergy?

Screw the dictionary.com and wikipedia definitions and let’s get back to an example that we can relate to.  The best use of synergy is when the ghostbusters cross the streams of their proton packs to destroy Gozer.  Initially, the ghostbusters thought that crossing streams would be detrimental.  Similarly, many business people shy away from joining networking groups where other people in their same profession are members.  This is lame and a totally unrealistic and unproductive way to approach business.  Don’t avoid crossing streams with people in the same field as you.  Who knows, if you cross streams with similar people, you’ll be able to destroy a demon from a parallel universe.  Don’t discount the magic that can happen through co-opetition.

The intersection of ideas and passion between like minded people is where the true synergy happens.  Synergy: working with others to achieve more together than you could alone.

Please give some critical thought to the word synergy and let’s clean it up a bit so that it can get its meaning back.

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