Oh, the glorious freedom of freelancing! Workout when you want, work when you want, spend time with your kids, all with no one watching you over your shoulder! It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Until, if you are like me, you start to notice that the cashier at the HEB gives you the TMI face, or, like a friend of mine, you notice your Facebook feed filling up with photos of your cats, all day long, because your cats are now your only co-workers. And, you also notice, sadly, that your cats have no great ideas for the project you’re currently working on.
Yes, the dark side of freelancing is the loneliness of it all. It can make you get, uh, weird. If you find yourself peeping out the window regularly and beginning to yell, “Get off my lawn!” from your home office, maybe it’s time to check out co-working.
I got an opportunity to do just that a few weeks ago when visiting one of my friends on the coast of California. She invited me to go work at NextSpace. I worked in there off and on for two weeks. While there were quite a few remarkable moments I experienced in NextSpace, I’ve settled on my three favorites to share with you:
Stand Up, Sit Down, or Shut Up
Laptops, so freeing, so much neck scrunching, so much back-slouching. At least, that’s how I earn a lot of my back and neck pain. I was happy to find that NextSpace had created lots of spaces where people can work standing up. I learned that having a stand-up-sit-down option makes my neck hurt less, and actually helps me focus longer on work, because I can type and move around at the same time.
NextSpace also designates a section where you can choose to sit and no one is allowed to talk to you. Socially sanctioned concentration time was great, because sometimes, I needed to get the work done.
All Party, No Politics
NextSpace regularly holds scheduled events created to build community, like weekly happy hours and holiday parties, too. NextSpace, like any office, has impromptu social gatherings in the kitchen, and chats in the halls, all those things you like about working with other people. But my favorite thing about the co-working environment: none of those morale-crushing behind-closed-doors-discussions that I had experienced in other work environments. People seemed more collaborative than competitive; I found that to be relaxing.
Referrals, Collaborations, Companies Creating
While I was there for about four hours one day, I got to observe a guy next to me working on his own project for a while, and then also meeting with other NextSpacers to discuss their projects. I realized he had found clients there. I asked my friend about it, and she said that it was quite common, that the people who co-worked together got to know each other’s work, and also referred their co-workers to those needing their services. Other people have met there and started companies together. It really is a great place to build community, gain referrals, and to perhaps, expand your career prospects.
While no one situation is perfect, I will certainly be looking at the different co-working options available in the Austin area. I have realized that no one does anything alone, and we aren’t really meant to. There was something to being able to “go to work,” but still be autonomous, that I loved. I love the freedom of freelancing, but working on your own really can make you feel isolated. Co-working just may be the nearer-to-perfect option for the remote worker and the freelancer.