By Cat Johnson
The word “freelancer” tends to elicit an image of someone working from home, in pajamas, never talking to anyone but their pet. But a growing number of independent professionals have discovered the brilliance of coworking and shaken off the image of the isolated freelancer.
Coworking is a powerful way to grow your freelance business, connect with other professionals, and build your skillset. Aside from free coffee, wi-fi and a desk, coworking spaces offer numerous other benefits that you just won’t find in a coffeehouse or working from home. Here are 13 of my favorites.
1. Join the Local Movers and Shakers
There’s only so much you can say to your dog or cat before you start feeling somewhat, slightly mad. Get out of the house and down to your local coworking space where you can have high-level conversations with resident movers and shakers about things that matter to your work and life. Yes, the occasional work-from-home day is great, but coworking enables you to get off of your couch and out into the world.
2. In-house Networking
Coworking spaces house a wide variety of independent professionals, from designers, developers and writers to CPAs, videographers, attorneys, project managers, PR professionals, entrepreneurs, and much more. Many times you can find a service or skill you need just a few desks away.
Or, you can get a solid referral from your coworking community. This in-house networking is incredibly valuable in making connections, creating collaborations, partnering on projects and growing your own trusted circle of providers.
3. Focused Work Time
When you work from home, the line between work time and free time is blurred at best, and non-existent at worst. Going to a coworking space allows you to better clarify boundaries around when you’re working and when you’re not. After all, if one of the great perks of freelancing is scheduling flexibility and personal freedom, what sense does it make to be always on the clock?
4. Group Productivity a.k.a. the Collective Hustle
There’s something that happens in coworking spaces when everyone is working diligently on their own projects—you get swept up in the energy and your own productivity and focus is enhanced. I call it the collective hustle: everyone is working hard to make their own thing happen, and together, we’re keeping each other motivated and on-point.
There’s nothing like working elbow-to-elbow with innovators in your community to inspire you to step up your own game. Coworking is equalizing—we’re all working on different projects, with no hierarchy in place—and yet you can constantly glean inspiration from those around you who are doing their work and their life on their terms.
6. Learning by Proximity
Coworking provides an incredible opportunity to watch and learn how people who are further along the freelance or entrepreneurial road than you get things done. Seeing how they handle their calls, how they carry themselves in meetings, how they introduce themselves and how they network with other people can be very helpful to those just starting out.
7. Opportunities to Practice Public Speaking
Coworking spaces tend to host events both for members and the wider community. At these events, you may have a chance to introduce yourself to the group, share something about your work and offer input. These are great opportunities to practice networking and public speaking. And, once you’re ready to host your own workshop, presentation or skillshare, your coworking space likely has a conference room you can use.
8. Career-boosting Events and Workshops
Many of the above-mentioned workshops and presentation are on topics that will help you build and grow your own freelance business. In the past year, I’ve been to in-house workshops on public speaking, growing your email list, hosting events, branding your business, the legal aspects of freelancing, and more. Take advantage of events your coworking space and fellow coworkers offer—there’s generally a lot of collective brainpower gathered.
9. Article and Project Ideas
I’ve had dozens of article ideas stem from conversations or meetings at my coworking space. Spaces tend to be hubs of information and ideas that range from small local issues to international happenings. Pay attention, talk to people, ask questions, and you’ll find that there is no shortage of interesting topics to pursue for your own freelance business.
10. Job Leads
As with the article ideas, coworking spaces offer an unending stream of job opportunities. Someone is always looking for a copywriter or a photographer, or an accountant, or a crowdfunding expert, etc. Pay attention to in-house needs, make sure fellow coworkers know about your services, and put the word out that you’re available.
11. Opportunities to Collaborate
For collaboratively-minded freelancers, coworking spaces provide opportunities to-boot as networking seamlessly morphs into business partnerships and project collaboration. Maybe it’s a photographer connecting with a copywriter, or an app developer partnering with a wellness expert, or any number of other coworking-enabled collaborations. Keep your ears to the ground for opportunities and you’ll find them.
12. Professional Space to Meet Clients
Still meeting clients in coffee shops? How’s that working for you? If great, then carry on. But, if you struggle to maintain a sense of professionalism over milk steamer noises and the clink of dishes, try coworking. Spaces generally have meeting rooms if you need privacy, but I’ve found that the general coworking culture is open to casual meetings in common areas. So step up your meeting game and hit your local coworking space.
13. Meet Fellow Freelancers, Entrepreneurs and Independent Professionals
One of the profound lessons I’ve picked up as a freelancer is that your fellow freelancers are your community, not your competition. Embrace this and get to know your community through coworking. You’ll find amazing people who are willing to give and receive help, build the extended community of independent professionals, and support each other in finding great-fitting gigs.
Ready to take your freelance career to the next level? Coworking may be just the thing for you. Most spaces offer your first day free or at a reduced rate, so there’s no reason not to try it out.