Enjoy the read.
- Reimagining Coworking for Writers, Women and Green Entrepreneurs
Successful coworking communities have always been diverse at their core; their ability to bring together tech professionals from various disciplines into a shared environment is part of the value of being a member of a coworking space.
As the first generation of coworking spaces begins to reach maturity, it’s gratifying to see this innovative model of working now permeating beyond the technology sector into other industries. Indeed, niche coworking communities are now emerging to serve particular disciplines outside tech.
Tech investor Fred Wilson recently highlighted In Good Company and Green Spaces – providing coworking services for female and green entrepreneurs, respectively — in a wide ranging post about coworking spacess in New York. Along with The Writers Junction in LA, which is tailored towards writers, it seems that these flexible work spaces are increasingly attractive to a broader demographic.
Green SpacesCurrently operating in New York and Denver, Green Spaces is seeking to provide local incubators for environmental and sustainability entrepreneurs. Monthly plans range from $50/month to $495/month, covering everything from a hotdesking to a permanent desk, with drop-in access available from $20/day. The residents are certainly a diverse bunch with everything from concierge service providers and magazine publishers to activist organizations and green realtors. Green Spaces seems to be much more eclectic than simply being “green”; it’s actually a hub for progressive people and projects.
In Good CompanyAlso based in New York, In Good Company is focused on supporting women entrepreneurs through a combination of events, office space and a program of training activities; coworking is just one of a number of its offerings.Pricing is at the high-end of the coworking market, but there’s a lot of additional value (parties, events, supplier discounts) thrown into the mix. Plans vary from a flat $400/year community membership package to a number of full-time and part-time “work packages” that run from $150/month to $1,600/month that are inclusive of a number of hours of desk space or dedicated private office space.
The Writers Junction
Based in Los Angeles, The Writers Junction, as the name suggests, is a haven for writers of all persuasions. The membership plans offer full- and part-time usage from as low as $89/month up to $140/month. Residents include journalists, screenwriters, directors, doctoral students and actors.
There’s a great two-minute video, with commentary from community members, that underlines the warmth of what appears to be a modern-day artists’ commune.
Bringing Together Communities
Each of these coworking spaces appears to be successfully nurturing and serving the needs of communities that may have lacked a focal point or hub prior to having a physical home. I’ve heard rumors of a nearby town here in the U.K. that’s toying with the notion of a coworking space for physical fitness professionals — bringing together gym coaches, dieticians, physiotherapists and “wellbeing” professionals, among other healthcare disciplines. Could we be seeing a reboot for many industries that had previously remained ensconced in disconnected silos?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req’d): By The Numbers: Running a Coworking Space
- Coworking By The Numbers
What’s it like running a coworking space? Can you make money doing it? Over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required), Imran’s written an interesting article that takes an in-depth look at the journey taken by two coworking spaces: Philadelphia’s Independents Hall (also known as IndyHall), and UK-based Fly The Coop, in Manchester.
In the article, Imran shares some key figures, such as the costs of running each space, and in the case of IndyHall, some fairly detailed revenue and profit/loss figures. One thing is clear from looking at the figures — coworking spaces run on very tight margins.
To help boost their bottom line, coworking spaces need to look for additional revenue streams, but in a way that doesn’t adversely impact impact on their members — because these spaces are, effectively, communities. This is something that Imran has written about here on WWD before, and previously suggested:
- Charging drop-ins a small “pay as you go” fee for daily use, rather than the member’s traditional “pay monthly” subscriptions.
- Reselling web hosting or magazine/service/software subscriptions.
- Providing externally-sourced legal and accounting expertise, where suppliers pay referrals for access to the community.
- Providing innovative nutrition services from companies such as Graze.
- Leasing and renting meeting space to non-members for modest fees.
- Hosting “master classes” and training courses for local businesses.
What other innovative ways could coworking spaces boost their revenues without impacting their members?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub req.): By The Numbers: Running a Coworking Space
- 7 Tips for Making the Most of Your Coworking Space
So, you’ve decided that you need to get out of the house and are looking for a coworking space. But how do you make the most of the experience? Here are some of my favorite coworking tips:
- Choose your space carefully. If you’re lucky enough to live in a large city with a choice of coworking spaces, it’s worth looking at more than just the facilities that the space offers. Obviously you want to work in a nice environment, but it’s worth checking out the current mix of members, and see what activities and social events the space offers. Some spaces also offer additional services, like mentorship or the Coworking Visa program (see tip #7 ), that are worth considering. One of the main reasons to join a coworking space is the community. Personally, I like spaces with a very diverse membership as it seems to spark my creativity — mixing with people from other industries gives me new perspectives. Try working at your chosen space for a day or two to see how you get on with the building, the facilities and the current members before taking out a full membership.
- Invest in a decent pair of headphones. If you’re used to working on your own, moving to a hybrid coffee shop / office environment can be quite distracting — it can be hard to concentrate on your work when there are a bunch of interesting conversations happening. It’s worth investing in a decent pair of headphones for those times you need to crank out some work. However, you shouldn’t wear them all the time — see the next tip!
- Get to know the other members. Part of the reason for joining a coworking space in the first place is the social aspect — so take the headphones off and talk to people when you can. Go out to lunch with the other members. It’s worth getting to know everyone, because you never know what business opportunities could arise out of your conversations — and it’s also great just to have a few people to bounce ideas off.
- Respect the space. Each space will have its own house rules that you should obviously stick to (here are Citizen Space’s, for example), but regardless of house rules, use your common sense and courtesy. You’re now in a shared environment, so don’t leave dirty coffee mugs or plates lying around for others to tidy up, don’t touch anyone else’s food, don’t leave your gear all over the place, don’t hog the best spots in the office and don’t make unnecessary noise when others are trying to work.
- Use the space to its fullest. If your space allows it, why not organize some events? You could bring in guest speakers on all kinds of interesting topics. It’ll help to bring the community together, will provide promotional opportunities for you and should be a lot of fun. Even if member-run events are not something that’s encouraged, it’s worth talking to the founder or manager — they’d probably view an event as an excellent opportunity to promote the space.
- Work in the cloud. It’s unlikely that you’ll be working solely from your coworking space. And while you’ll probably use a laptop while at your coworking space, it’s worth using cloud-based web apps (Google Docs and Zoho, for example) to provide seamless working between machines and locations.
- Take advantage of the Coworking Visa program. If your space belongs to the Coworking Visa program, it means that you can work for free in other participating locations all over the world. It’s an excellent way to find a cool place to work while you’re on the road, and also a great way to expand your network.
How do you make the most of your coworking space? Share your tips in the comments.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Making Coworking Corporate-Scale
- Get More Done With a Work Buddy
For the past month, I’ve been working with a “work buddy”. She helps me stay on track with my projects, keeps me focused when I’m not feeling motivated, and gives me professional advice. She has become my go-to person for almost every concern I have with work, and I try to pay it back by doing the same things for her.
I find that since we’ve started this new working relationship, my output has become more consistent, and I’ve also had the time to work on side projects that I was “too busy” to try before. On her end, she tells me that my encouragement helped her start work on a stagnant project. Apart from improving productivity, here are the other benefits we’ve experienced as “work buddies”:
- More creative problem-solving. When you’re too close to a problem, it’s hard to find outside-the-box solutions. This is no surprise since you need some amount of psychological distance to see the problem in a new light. Your work buddy might have the right amount of distance from the problem to help you find new solutions you wouldn’t have been able to think of yourself.
- Obstacles seem easier. Even the biggest project can seem easier to achieve with the right work buddy. According to one study, social support from a friend can make hills seem less steep. So don’t be surprised if your to-do list seems shorter with the right person supporting you.
- Collaboration. Apart from providing you with emotional support, your work buddy can also give you more opportunities to collaborate on exciting projects – no matter how informal they may be.
If you’re going through a rough time professionally, or if you simply need your own personal support group, finding a work buddy might be a good solution for you. It’s just a matter of finding the right person. Ideally, your work buddy should be:
- Someone you respect. For me, this is the most important criterion for choosing a work buddy. By choosing someone you respect, both professionally and personally, you are less likely to waste their time and more likely to make the most out of the relationship.
- Someone who understands your work. As Dawn pointed out in a previous post, explaining most web working jobs to the uninitiated can be difficult. Your work buddy should understand enough of your work to give you constructive feedback, make suggestions, listen to your complaints and recognize your accomplishments. Someone who knows your work well is more likely to engage you in more meaningful exchanges, rather than just blank stares or insincere one-liners.
- Someone who knows how to deal with you. Your work buddy should also be someone who knows the right things to say or do that will motivate you to keep working. He or she should know how to push you when others are telling you to take it easy.
- Someone who also needs your help. For this to work, the two of you have to need each other, or else the relationship is going to feel one-sided. This could be someone who needs your skills, experience, network or even just your unique insight.
Other, more specific traits may depend on what you need. For example, you might need someone who works as a logo designer or has experience in leading a team. Be aware of these specifics so that you can come up with a clearer picture of who your ideal work buddy should be like.
Have you ever had a friend or colleague who helped you become more productive? What was your experience like with that kind of relationship?
- Open Thread: What Can Corporations Learn From Web Workers?
I believe there are valuable lessons that corporations can take from web workers to help their employees adapt in the future. After all, many of our struggles will be experienced by corporations and their employees over the next few years as more of them adopt flexible working practices.
My latest post over on GigaOM Pro, “Making Coworking Corporate-scale,” (subscription required) is an exploration of how the coworking model could be adapted by corporations for use down the road — though shared coworking campuses — and the benefits it could provide. I also identify some of the aspects of coworking that can be applied today.
For a lone freelancer, coworking provides many benefits: an office-like location away from the home, networking opportunities and more. For corporations, a coworking model could provide increased flexibility, an enhanced spirit of innovation and collaboration, and lower real estate costs and facilities management overhead.
And coworking’s not the only thing from the current web working world that could be adapted for corporations. I envisage common web worker time management and productivity tricks like Getting Things Done (GTD) and the Pomodoro Technique, for example, working just as well in larger organizations. There’s also the range of technology and web apps that we use — particularly for remote collaboration — that could prove useful if adapted to work on a corporate scale.
WWD readers are at the cutting edge of web working. What else can corporations learn from your experiences?
- Change of Address
A while back I wrote about the reasons that I didn’t hide that I work from home. However, something has gradually changed my mind the past few months: the desire for privacy.
As my business grew, so did the distribution of my business card, which contained my home phone number and address. I grew uncomfortable with the wide distribution of my personal contact information. I was surprised at how exposed this made me feel, especially my personal address being on the footer of my new newsletter that is now distributed to 1,000 people each week.
I decided to reclaim my personal privacy by moving my business’s location out of my home.
For my business, the perfect solution was the “business location service” offered by my coworking facility. Similar services are offered by many coworking operations. The service provides my company use of the facility’s mailing address, and also a dedicated toll-free number answered by the facility’s receptionist. Now callers will be greeted by the ever-cheerful Lateesha, instead of probably getting my personal answering machine.
Since I didn’t physically move locations, there were no boxes to pack. But as I have been discovering, even moving a business on paper is an involved process that has financial costs.
Just like when you move your home, there are many places to notify of your new address. Instead of their driver’s license, business owners have to change their business license. A business may have multiple licenses: state, county and city. You’ll need to check with each to find out how to change your address, and there may be fees involved. For instance, it cost me $25 to file my change with the State of Florida. To notify the U.S. Internal Revenue Service of your change of address, fill out form 8822 and mail it in.
Next up, you’ll need to change the address on your bank accounts, credit accounts, merchant accounts, and payment services such as Paypal or Square. Changing these addresses will cause some expense because you’ll need to re-order any supplies such as checks and deposit slips that have the address on them. Avoid using your bank to purchase these supplies, and use an outside printing service instead, such as Checks Unlimited, to save money. I saved 75 percent on my new banking supplies doing this. Make sure you change the addresses on the accounts before ordering the new supplies as the printer may verify the information with the bank.
After updating your financial accounts, you’ll need to change the billing address on any place where you are using that account (such as for auto-billing).
Two other groups will need to be notified of your “move”: vendors and clients. How you do this will depend on how many you have, and how you usually communicate with them. You can mail postcards (another expense), send emails, or attach notices to payments bills you send. (If you use accounting software, don’t forget to update it to print your new address on forms.) Since your old address will continue to work, this can be done gradually.
Where else is your address hiding? It could be in your email signature, at your domain registrar, on your website, or in social media profiles. It’s likely on your business cards (and letterhead, if you use it), which is another expense. Inevitably, the address will pop up somewhere you’ve missed. It’s a big project, but I expect the result to be increased privacy and professionalism.
Do you use a business location service? Why?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution
- Coworking: Stop Sharing Your Office With Your Worst Critic
After experimenting with coworking for a short time, I wrote about how I had gone from being skeptical about it to a convert. The connections I made, and the lack of interruptions, were enough to overcome my resistance to its cost and the commute. Since then, though, I’ve realized there’s something else that makes coworking even more appealing.
One major benefit of coworking is escaping the things in our home offices that make it difficult to work and be productive. The home environment, of course, is full of distractions and interruptions. We’re pulled by unfinished personal projects, interrupted by personal phone calls and knocks on the door, and tempted by many enjoyable ways to procrastinate.
But more than anywhere else, our most vulnerable moments occur at home. It’s where we worry that we aren’t doing the right things for our kids, and where we stare in the mirror and call ourselves ugly. It is where we open ourselves up the most. Consequently, home isn’t just where we live. It’s where our insecurities live, too.
Working from home often means not having someone right there with us to validate decisions or keep us and our business pointed in the right direction. We have to keep going, doing things while being confident from within ourselves that we are on the right path. That confidence, I’m finding, can be difficult to maintain when you work in a home office surrounded by reminders of your personal insecurities.
Leaving my home office to work seems to have the effect of putting away those insecurities. I literally just leave them at home. Putting on decent clothes to go to my coworking space is like putting on armor that keeps the insecurities at bay and lets me be at my professional best. Being around other people who treat me like the professional that I am reminds me to focus on my accomplishments, not my inner critic. In an outside office, I’m not surrounded by reminders that I’m a terrible housekeeper or of all my unfinished projects. Decisions are made faster and with more confidence. I can be more productive, and what I produce feels like better quality to me.
As Celine wrote a few months ago, some home office workers put on business clothes to work in their home offices to get a similar effect on their productivity. While I do find that dressing better to work at home helps a little, nothing has been as effective for me as getting out of my home office and seeking a new environment entirely.
We are all our own worst critics. When your only office mate is that critic, it’s easy to listen to that criticism and let it get to you.
Have you found any unexpected benefits from coworking?
Photo by iClipart.
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution
- Remote Workers Should Lead the Charge for New Mobile Tech
Lately I’m all about taking chances on tech that may or may not improve how I work and what I get done. It can be expensive, but it’s fun and (most of the time) it’s deductible, too. I do it because one of my few hobbies includes being an early adopter of new tech, but recently I’ve been thinking that there’s probably more to it than that.
The fact is that companies aren’t willing to field test new mobile tech unless they receive a huge incentive to do so. Breaking ground with new tech often falls then to freelancers and contractors who have a greater degree of freedom regarding choice of tools they use. Not only is it just plain cool that field testing new toys often falls to us and then trickles up, it’s also a responsibility I think web workers and the places that support them should openly and actively embrace.
Sometimes this means taking a risk with your money and investing in something relatively untested, but that’s not necessarily what I mean to encourage. Some may not be so quick to drop hard-earned cash on things that might end up collecting dust on a closet shelf. You don’t always have to spend your own money to test things, though. There are ways to have your cake and eat it, too.
Firstly, if you think you can make a strong enough case, you can roll equipment and software purchase or rental costs into your contract price. This can work more often than you’d think, partly because companies like to spend money on software and equipment since it makes them feel like they’ll have a greater chance of getting a quality product back. I still can’t really get over how many times I’ve been asked to suggest a paid alternative to the free tools that I’ve written into contracts.
Secondly, you could ask for things you want to try out to be adopted at the places you frequent for work. That could mean the local coffee shop, or it could be your neighborhood coworking office, if you’re lucky enough to have one. For example, I’d like to get Qi-standard wireless induction charging pads to be made available at my own coworking haunt. It wouldn’t be hard, since there are even inexpensive Nintendo Wii charging accessories using that standard. You may face resistance and skepticism, but if a few others support your argument, you shouldn’t have too much trouble working something out.
Helping to discover and spread the word about new mobile tech advances is rewarding in its own right, but it also benefits you as a web working professional. You’ll be occupying the cutting edge, and it’ll show in the products you deliver and in how knowledgeable you come across to employers and peers. That’s worth the price of a few duds, even if you are buying your own gear instead of folding it into contracts.
Does anyone else feel that part of their role as a web worker is to test out new things, or is it just my way of justifying an extreme gadget-buying process addiction?
- A Visit to CoLab Orlando
After spending the past few months getting the hang of coworking in my small town, I was intrigued to check out what coworking is like in a larger facility in a large city. What I discovered in visiting CoLab Orlando is that the important difference in size isn’t in the physical facility. It’s in the community created within it.
CoLab Orlando is located in the historic Angebilt building in downtown Orlando, Fla. Originally occupying part of the sixth floor when it opened, CoLab expanded last year to include half of the eighth floor as well by taking over space previously occupied by a local university business incubator that had lost its funding. CoLab is now in the process of expanding again, by adding space on the building’s ninth floor in the near future.
Two distinctly different types of membership are offered at CoLab Orlando. First there are more traditional coworking membership arrangements, where members pay to have access for a certain amount of time during the month to CoLab’s common work area, conference rooms and business equipment. These members also get the use of CoLab’s address for their business. Prices for these memberships start at $50 per month for four visits, and go up to $199 for a full-time membership.
The second type of membership at CoLab involves full-time dedicated suite rentals. Prices for these memberships depends on the size and type of suite included in them (corner suites with more windows cost extra, for instance). Dedicated suite prices start at $375 per month for a 10ft x 14ft suite and go to $1500 per month for a 500 sq. ft. suite.
All CoLab members get access to the facility’s high-speed Internet service, printer/fax/ copier/scanner, conference rooms and coffee facilities. CoLab also hosts one or two free events per month for its members, along with a “Free Friday” coworking event for non-members.
The coworking common area at CoLab is definitely underutilized. It was virtually deserted on the Monday afternoon that I visited, although I was told a few members use it on a regular basis. This is likely because CoLab’s suites are so affordable that they are packed to the rafters with small businesses. If you have someone to share a suite with you can have dedicated space for around the same cost as using the common area full-time.
Not unexpectedly, most of the companies occupying suite space at CoLab Orlando seem to be tech companies. I visited with developers at Envy Labs and with Internet advertising specialists Enjoy Taste. The suites I toured were all occupied by multiple people. Despite the full-time suite rentals, CoLab’s population shifts on a daily basis. Many suite occupants said they work from home some days and come to the office when they need to collaborate with others or meet with clients.
The prevalent decor aesthetic in the facility’s suites seems to be Ikea furniture and bright color. Unlike in many office rentals, personalizing suite spaces through the use of paint and decor is encouraged. The results are far-from-usual office spaces with lots of evident personality. For instance, when I visited the suite of Envy Labs, I was treated to their collection of handmade robots.
Overall, CoLab’s suites — and the people in them — give an impression of being bright, welcoming and fun. The feeling of positive energy in CoLab was palpable, and co-founder John Todero stressed, “Energy is what sells the place.” Doors of many of the occupied suites were open as I walked around, inviting contact with other residents. Many of the resident companies, I was told, work with each other on projects.
Because so many of the residents aren’t solo coworkers, but are instead small start-up companies, CoLab is almost more of a business incubator than a coworking space. Whatever you want to call it, the energy and enthusiasm within its walls is contagious.
Does the idea of an incubator-style suite appeal to you more than traditional office space might?
Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Enabling the Web Work Revolution
- Cutting Costs: Take the Office Out of the Home
Just like any other business, your freelancing practice will do much better overall if you regularly conduct an efficiency review and try to cut costs where possible. I’ll be looking at a number of ways to do so in a series of “Cutting Costs” posts, starting today with one cost-saving measure I’m in the process of working out myself.
My first cost-cutting measure is a big one, because I’m looking to free up a significant amount of cash in one fell swoop, and the timing is convenient. My lease is up in a few short weeks, and so I’m already on the lookout for cheaper accommodation. I live in downtown Toronto, and my place is bigger than one person needs because I wanted to have enough space for a home office. My rent is accordingly quite expensive.
Luckily, working from home doesn’t necessarily mean working from home all of the time, so this time around I’m willing to make concessions regarding space (and location) in the interest of saving significantly in terms of my monthly rent. Instead of a one-bedroom-plus-den, which I have now, I’ll be looking for a one-bedroom place, which in this market might amount to as much as $700 in savings, depending on where I end up relocating.
To make up for the lost space, I plan on spending much more time working away from home. I have a three-part approach to accomplishing this, which should ensure that my routine stays varied enough to remain interesting, and has some built-in redundancy to ensure I always have somewhere to go to work that isn’t my own apartment.
Coworking/External Office Space
The first and primary part of my plan is to use a largish portion of the money I save in rent to pay for a membership at a newly opened coworking venture here in the city. It’s called Camaraderie, and it’s conveniently located relatively close to the area I’m looking to move to. Membership fees are $300 per month, which guarantees you a spot during working hours, including free Wi-Fi and hot beverages.
It’s a deal that can’t be matched by renting office space alone in the downtown area, but if you live somewhere that isn’t a major metropolitan area and that doesn’t have a local coworking space, try looking around for office space rentals, and see if they might not be cheaper than maintaining the larger place you’re using now as your living/work space. You might be surprised at how much money you can save this way. Even the savings represented by being able to choose a lower-cost Internet plan for home and savings on tea and coffee spend are significant.
The second part of my office/house separation plan involves simply maintaining the library, museum and other public space memberships I already have. Library cards are free in most cases (or at least they are here in Canada) as long as you can prove residence, and museum and gallery annual memberships generally aren’t that expensive.
It’s like having coworking space, except you’ll often be the only one working and it’s an interesting environment. There might not be coffee immediately available, though, which is why step three is a great old stand-by.
Never underestimate this old time-tested web working buddy. The coffee shop will save your sanity time and time again. If you’re in a dense urban area or have access to a car, this one should be the easiest of the three steps to get a handle on. My advice is to find an independent place with low turnover, because you’ll get the familiarity benefits of an office setting without all the downside of an actual office.
All told, it looks like I might be able to shave between $300 and $400 a month off of my budget, all by accepting a move to a slightly smaller space and adding some coworking to my routine, something I’ve been hoping to do more of anyway; not a bad cost-cutting measure by any means.
Have to tried downsizing your home office to cut costs? How did it work out?
- Coworking Stories: Manchester’s MadLab
A little over a year ago, I wrote about coworking taking root across the North of England, with five coworking communities either side of the Pennine mountains, strung along the M62 corridor. More recently, “hackspaces“ have also begun to spring up around the UK, drawing in people involved in “ make“ groups and a wider community of technologists.
Last month, Manchester saw its first coworking community — FlyThe.Coop — move to a new location shared with the recently-launched MadLab hackspace. MadLab, also known as the Manchester Digital Laboratory, describes itself as:
“a community space for people who want to do and make interesting stuff — a place for geeks, artists, designers, illustrators, hackers, tinkerers, innovators and idle dreamers; an autonomous R&D laboratory and a release valve for Manchester’s creative communities”
Last week, I got the chance to talk to one of MadLab’s four founders, Dave Mee, about the vision for MadLab, its history, its residents, the challenges it has faced, and his advice for other coworking space founders.
Imran Ali: Tell us a little about the background of MadLab. What were the motivations of the founders?
Dave Mee: We spent a lot of time around hacker user groups and communities, and often found ourselves in pubs for the events they held. Pubs aren’t great locations for these events: Projectors wouldn’t work, DJs would show up halfway through presentations, and generally they’re not geared up for reliable Wi-Fi and soldering, particularly with alcohol around. At the same time, we saw there were no real alternatives; other presentation spaces were either too expensive, lacked facilities, or were too far out for people to get to.
At the same time, we missed some of the events we were used to from London: DorkBot, Flash user groups, MiniBar, the Takeaway festival. The was the talent, passion and eagerness for these things to start in Manchester, but without the infrastructure to support bottom-up cultural activity, they never could get off the ground and move beyond being meet-and-drink events.
We spoke with people around the city; there’s a vibrant Social Media Cafe in Machester, and this provided a great way to get involved with many of the people and institutions that supported us as we set the project up. The Manchester Digital Development Agency (MDDA) were a great ally early on, and und