I remember the moment I learned about the concept of coworking. We had just put our house up for sale and I was undertaking a massive cleaning marathon. To keep myself entertained I downloaded Dan Miller’s Wisdom Meets Passion and was listening as scrubbing grout. He mentioned the concept of coworking and I ran to the office to write down the word. Later that day I searched online to see if there were any such locations near by, and to my surprise there were 3 in town.
A few weeks later that same house that I was cleaning ended selling, a lot sooner than I had originally anticipated. I found myself moving out, and temporarily lodging with a relative that did not have WiFi. This created a problem for me since I worked from home, but no longer had a home. My workday depended on me being on conference calls and not just adding a word or two, but hosting these calls. So Starbucks was out. Plus, there is the difficult battle of setting up work at Starbucks and consuming consecutive coffees so that you feel like a paying customer but inevitably then having to go to the bathroom (which for me means packing up my entire work station since I am paranoid about leaving my items unattended).
I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to try out coworking. My only regret was not trying coworking sooner. I had been working from home for almost 3 years at that point and it was taking its toll. I felt so isolated from peers and I really missed those casual conversations at work that do occasionally waste time, but can also lead to learning opportunities. The place I landed at was called Convivium Coworking in Albuquerque NM. The set up was great, open space with lots of tables and a sound proof booth for making phone calls. There was a shared kitchen and a conference room that you could reserve in the event that you had a client visit.
Fast forward a year later and I am home visiting my parents in Tampa. It is a long explanation as to why, but they did not have internet at home. Again, Starbucks did not cut it and I really needed to focus to get things done. I found myself at CoCreativ in Tampa. When I arrived at 9:30 am, the place was empty. However, by lunch time the common area was filled with other professionals grinding out work. CoCreativ also offers individual offices for an extra fee. For some coworking professionals, they need clients to be able to visit on site and the overhead of a single-person office simply doesn’t make sense.
Both Convivium and CoCreativ had workspaces that were well designed: great lighting, a surplus of outlets, and comfortable office furniture. Your basic work needs are met. The icing on the cake is the connections you make. During my week at Convivium they were starting a swapping skills program amongst fellow coworkers. Example: one hour of my CSS experience for one hour of your social media consulting. One of the coworkers I spoke with who does coding said that she had made so many connections for freelancing that the additional income stream had exceeded her expense for the coworking space.
I would encourage any entrepreneur, freelancer, or telecommuter to try out coworking. Most places offer plans that you can do just a few days per week if you don’t want to get back in the habit of a daily commute. If you are anything like me, you could use an opportunity to dust off your professional attire (i.e. pants besides yoga pants) and make some new connections.