Note: I promised to write about the difference between coaching and consulting for this next post. But, after seeing the write-up in the Northern Nevada Business Weekly about the new coworking space I joined, this felt more timely. Plus, I don’t think the article did the topic nearly the justice it deserves, so I’m excited to add my own points about the benefits of coworking!
Ok, so I’m biased. And of course, there are caveats. But, I’m speaking from experience when I say that every solopreneur should check out coworking! I’ve been involved in coworking spaces in one way or another, since 2008. I’ve been a full-time member of three. I’ve dropped in to casually co-work in at least 10. I’ve been the co-founder of a coworking space … Suffice it to say I love coworking spaces.
If you are reading this and wondering what the heck a working space is, maybe this will help:
If you are a solopreneur, life can be pretty lonely. You’re probably eating, sleeping, breathing your business. By the very definition, you have no employees and if you are working from home, you are operating in a vacuum. Maybe you have a virtual team to support you, but they could work on different continents, in different time zones, and it’s not like you’re video chatting with them all day long. Sure, you’re plugged into all kinds of social media groups where you can share your frustrations, as well as your wins. By the magic of modern technology, you can Skype or Facetime or Gchat anyone you want, anytime you like to get a second opinion on something. But let’s be real, nothing … no really, NOTHING can take the place of a real face-to-face interaction with another human being. And those casual conversations that you used to have with people at work over the water cooler are 10x more valuable when it comes to being a solopreneur. Those conversations are now at the espresso machine, or at the shared work table, or over in that special corner filled with massage chairs, and they lead to solving problems (both large and small), creation of joint ventures, and a sense of belonging and camaraderie that you will never find in your home office!
So, here’s my Top Ten of Why Every Solopreneur Should Be Coworking (at least some of the time):
1. Human Connection
Working from home is isolating. Sometimes I go through an entire day without realizing that the only words I’ve spoken out loud have been to the dog. Then when I go out to get groceries or run errands, my interactions with the sales clerk get weird because they ask how my day was (not really wanting an answer), and I feel this sudden compulsion want to tell them everything! Live human interaction is invaluable. Need I say more?
When you are trying to build a business, the more connections you can make, the better. You never know how those connections might lead you to other connections. We’re talking new vendors, new customers, maybe a mentor or two, or perhaps even an investor! The more people you build relationships with, the wider your network and the more likely you are to find what you need within that network. Capiche?
3. Free Advice/Problem Solving
I heard someone refer to this once as “Assisted Serendipity.” I love the term! If you’re looking for referrals to great vendors or just general advice on the best way to get things done, you’ll inevitably find someone on the spot who’s tackled the same issue and has something to say about it. This saves unbelievable amounts of time!
When you have a great space to bring potential clients, vendors or partners for meetings (aka not your kitchen), you instantly look more legit, even if you are brand new!
5. Getting Out of Your Pajamas
Yes, after working for years in an office that required business attire every day, it felt incredibly luxurious to work from home in my pajamas. Sometimes, I even pull out my laptop and get to work in the morning right from the comfort of my bed (ok, yeah, that’s happening right now). But it’s also great to get yourself dressed and feel like you have someplace to go. When you dress the part, you take yourself more seriously and the difference shows in your work. Granted, most coworking spaces are very casual, but even a pair of jeans would be a step up for me compared to what I wear most days at home!
6. Not Using Home Duties as an Excuse
It’s wonderful to be able to multi-task and get some laundry done while you’re working from home, but I’ve never met anyone who didn’t have this problem: When I’m at home and I’m about to work on some project that I find particularly unpleasant, I will find ANY excuse to procrastinate. Here’s how that sounds in my brain:
- Oh, I didn’t do this morning’s dishes yet …
- Maybe I should scrub down the stovetop while I’m at it …
- You know, I haven’t wiped down the top of the refrigerator in awhile …
- I think I’ll just sweep up a little …
- While I have the broom out, maybe I’ll just do the bedroom, too …
- Maybe if I just rearranged that sock drawer konmari style, I’d be able to find matching socks a lot faster …
- Wow, look at that, I just wasted 45 minutes! Now I have to work longer today …
It’s one thing to give your brain a break and focus on some other productive task. It’s quite another to blow off your work to scrub the toilet because let’s face it: that’s really what you’d rather be doing! When you get out of your house, there are fewer excuses for procrastination.
7. Late Night/Weekend Access
Maybe you’re one of those people who wakes up in the middle of the night with brilliant ideas … depending on the membership structure, you might have 24-hour access to your coworking space. This allows you to work late while not bothering your significant other, especially if you live in cramped quarters! It’s also just nice to be able to drop by when you want. Even as a full-time member, I’ve never quite made coworking a 5-day a week habit. But I have spent quite a few weekends there when I was trying to finish a big project and didn’t want to be home. Weekends are great for getting stuff done in the quiet.
Many coworking spaces offer amazing networking events, free workshops, high-end speaker series and more. It’s yet another opportunity for networking, and a convenient option for picking up new skills. My current space, Fusion at Midtown is offering brown bag lunch series with topics ranging from finding your flow to basic SEO skills. I, myself, will be teaching a workshop in January on how to prepare your pitch for business plan competitions. (Link to that coming soon!)
Lots of coworking spaces offer perks like really high-end craft coffee, access to office equipment like high-end printers, even free beer! (Did I mention massage chairs?)
10. New Friends
Working from your home bubble makes it really difficult to keep up relationships. Coworking spaces, by definition, attract like-minded self-motivated people who make stuff happen in the world. You are likely to find yourself with new companions for adventures outside of work … I’ve found new hiking and ski buddies, and made lifelong friends to share meals, and even some in cities where I used to live that won’t mind me crashing over whenever I pass through town.
Now, to be honest, I don’t co-work all the time. Sometimes I love working from home and not having to get dressed. This is especially true when I have writing to do (like for this blog.) In that case, I need total silence as I don’t write well with talking or music in the background, or even when I can see a lot of activity happening around me. So, on those days that I don’t want to be interrupted, I just stay home.
Also, not all coworking spaces are created equal. I consider that a good thing! There’s something for everyone, at nearly every price point. And if you don’t have access to a space that suits your need or your personality or your willingness to commute, you can start one! Compared to a lot of other businesses I’ve launched, it’s relatively easy. But even if that’s not an option, just get yourself out of the house for a few hours a week and work at the local coffee shop. Even there, I nearly always find other entrepreneurs typing away who might welcome the distraction of a little side conversation and will make you feel more connected to the world outside your bubble.
If you didn't catch it earlier, my current space is a brand-new spot in Midtown Reno called Fusion at Midtown. Because I’m back and forth between Reno and Sacramento a lot these days, it’s the perfect landing spot. And even though I only spend a couple of days a month there, the community has already welcomed me in and made me feel right at home. Since it’s new (I was actually officially the first member), I’m excited to have a hand in contributing to shaping the culture there. If you live in the area, please come by and check it out!
Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you tried coworking? Have you had good or bad experiences in various coworking spaces?