For many people, being self-employed or telecommuting is a dream come true.
There’s no boss hanging over your shoulder watching your every move.
You’re not stuck in some drab, windowless cubicle waiting for the clock to hit 5.
And you don’t have to spend hours of your life watching the brake lights of the car in front of you during unending commutes.
Of course, working from home isn’t all sun-drenched desks and pajamas. There are plenty of days when new episodes of “House Hunters” distract you from finishing up a story, when fresh ideas are few and far between, and when you find yourself asking the cat his opinion on your latest project.
That is where coworking comes in.
(Coworking at Hub Vilnius in Lithuania. Photo courtesy of mdanys on Flickr)
Coworking – sharing an office with freelancers and independent entreprenuers – is a growing practice across the country. It appeals to people who are self-employed or who telecommute and enjoy the benefits of working in an office setting.
But why would you want to pay for a desk in an office when you already have a perfectly functional kitchen table at home?
1. Structure: Anybody who works from home knows the opportunities for distraction are endless. The carpet is begging to be vacuumed, the dog wants a walk, the dishes need to be done. Focusing on a project can be almost impossible. Coworking provides a more traditional office atmosphere for those who have trouble being disciplined at home. It helps more clearly define your work day and means that your work and your home can be two separate places.
2. Amenities: With a laptop, you can work just about anywhere these days: from your living room couch to the coffee shop down the street. But neither of those places will make you feel particularly professional (not to mention your potential clients might wonder why Starbucks is your official meeting spot). By coworking, you’ll have access to desks, chairs, conference rooms, wi-fi, copiers, fax machines and a mailbox to use for all your business-related correspondence – all of which will help you look and feel more professional.
3. Community: When you ditched the 9-to-5 daily grind to work for yourself, you also ditched all of those obnoxious co-workers with all of their irritating habits. Of course, not all of them were annoying all the time. In fact, some of them were pretty helpful when it came to brainstorming new ideas or talking out a problem. While people who cowork in the same office space might not always be in the same line of business, that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to take a break from their work to help you troubleshoot. As a member of a coworking space, you’ll not only meet new, and potentially like-minded people to chat with, you’ll also have the opportunity to network and potentially grow your business. Coworking attracts journalists, web designers, graphic artists and students. Sorry Mr. Jingles, you’re fired as design consultant.
4. Social life: Outside of work-related conversations, some of these coworking communities have been known to socialize from time to time. They’ll hold movie nights or invite professionals to come and speak on a variety of topics.
5. Savings: Up until a few years ago, when self-employed people wanted to work outside of their homes, they’d have to lease space and furnish it (a high expense), or hang out at a coffee shop or a location with Wi-Fi (which we imagine meant pretty high latte tabs, not to mention being over-caffeinated). Coworkers can rent based on their space and time needs. Depending on the location, you can pay by the week or month and you can rent anything from a portion of a large table to an office.
6. Location: Coworking spaces are popping up in most major cities in the U.S. … and even some not-so-major cities. You’ll find them everywhere from New York to L.A. and plenty of places in between. Basically, they’re anywhere there’s a population of younger creative types interested in working in a high-energy but less-traditional office environment. Visit the Coworking Wiki to find more information about locations and to find out how you might be able to create a location if your town doesn’t have one.