FSB Interview: Dee on Coworking

I recently had the opportunity to contribute to an article on coworking in the Federation of Small Business’s newsletter, First Voice. Jo Faragher, a journalist and editor with FSB, sent me a few questions, and she gave me permission to publish them — and my answers — on this blog. These are great questions that are quite relevant to the role of coworking in the future of work, and to how coworking can solve some of the nagging issues freelancers, consultants and solopreneurs have when working from home full time.

Jo:  Tell me some more about your business – why were you inspired to offer a co-working space?

Dee: I’ve been excited about coworking ever since I first heard about it in 2008, when I was invited to join a coworking space in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I wasn’t able to join up at the time – I’d moved to Toronto – but I became a member of Glasgow’s Collabor8te in 2014, and it benefitted both my business and frankly, my mental health.

Coworking is a whole new paradigm; coworking spaces exist solely for the benefit of their members. Coworking is about creating communities independent workers are proud and happy to be part of, and spaces they want to work in. I really believe coworking spaces are part of the future of work: a resource for a new breed of flexible, mobile professionals who choose their projects, their hours and their venues.

Jo: Why does co-working help small business with networking and collaboration?

Dee: In a coworking space that’s based on hot-desking, like MinorOak, most members aren’t in full time. When you come in for a day of work, you’ll probably see some people you know, but you’ll see others who you may not know. You’re not always sitting in the same group. So, there’s a constant stream of new coworkers to meet. Some are other members, others are daypass holders who might only be in the space for a short time.

Most of the members and daypass holders are solopreneurs, freelancers and consultants. Given the mix of people and their movement in the space and over time, it’s no surprise that people often end up doing projects together, hiring each other, and even starting up joint ventures in coworking spaces.

Jo: What else can it help with?

Dee: I love that you asked this, because I’ve been giving it a lot of thought lately.

  • Industry inclusive coworking, as we have at MinorOak, brings together people with different ways of thinking and fields of expertise. That means when members help each other with creative problem solving, the insights and solutions they come up with can be really amazing. It’s different than in a standard workplace, where people tend to share the same type of background and similar perspectives.
  • On the other hand, most people in coworking spaces do have something in common: they are running micro-businesses. That gives them a shared frame of reference.
  • When you’re running a micro-business and you’re around a group of other people who are doing the same thing, it’s much easier to stay up to date on the newest tools, rules and techniques: invaluable tips on software, phone apps, even changes in tax laws.
  • Coworkers can refer each other and reinforce each other’s social media presence. The coworking space can participate in this, as well. This marketing and referral network helps members to lengthen their reach, bring in more business, and become more successful in their work.
  •  Working in isolation everyday is problematic for most people. People who work from home often find themselves struggling with loneliness and lack of focus, and they may have trouble staying motivated. Getting out of the house and working with others, even for a day or two a week, can have an amazingly positive effect.
  • For many people, working from home means almost complete physical inactivity. Coworking spaces in city centres are fantastic, because they give home workers not just a change in venue, but a chance to be more active: public transport often means plenty of walking, and some people can even walk or ride a bike to their coworking space.
  • Coworkers can leave the space at lunch to go window shopping or eat out. They can go out afterwards, too. It’s social, it’s active and it puts people who are usually cooped up at home in the middle of the action again. As someone who spent most of her working life in city centre offices, this has always been an important part of coworking to me.
  • Home workers often find that time seems to slip away from them. Coworking can help structure work time, providing solid starts and ends to the work day and a rhythm to the work week. That increases productivity.
  • When you leave for your coworking space, you take the tools and materials you need for a day’s work. You are away from your (possibly cluttered) home office. This leads to better focus – and getting things done!

Jo: Any advice for small business owners looking to join a co-working space?

Dee: I’d say, look for a community-oriented space. Look for a space in a location you want to go to regularly. Don’t sign a long term contract unless/until you’re really sure about the space. And I’d also say that if you’re interested in networking and collaboration, look for a hotdesking-based coworking space and also give some consideration to the differences between industry-exclusive coworking spaces (focused on, for example, writers, photographers or developers) vs. industry-inclusive coworking space like MinorOak.

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