For the first few years of running my business, I worked in a home office. I was lucky enough to have the space, and I relished the opportunity to switch to a 10-step daily commute. As co-working spaces have popped up around town, I’ve visited them for their social and networking events, but was skeptical about how much I’d like working in one. After all, I like quiet, uninterrupted block time and the freedom of running the laundry while I work, or taking gardening breaks.
As time and experience has shaped my approach to work from employee to business owner, I’ve also noticed a shift from more social networking to relationship building, spending quality time with like-minded business owners, sharing advice and support. I still wouldn’t have considered co-working on my own, but when I was approached by a respected colleague about sharing space in an office with a few other designers, the idea really started to sink in.
The plan was simple: A couple designers decided to partner and combine services. They got an office together, and set up the extra space with desks, a shared server and printer, and invited a list of peers in varied creative disciplines who have all known each other awhile to rent desk space.
The more I thought about it, the more excited I got, and a few rounds of email proved I wasn’t alone. We were all excited to share space, expertise, partner on projects and have lunch together. It’s been two months, and we’ve all had a chance to talk about what a benefit it brings to our work lives. It’s kind of like a mastermind group combined with a pretend job in a hand-picked design firm—but it’s not a job, it’s a choice. We love it!
While I think it’s a really great idea for firms with extra space to do this in their own offices with well-chosen vendors, there are all kinds of ways you can get creative with co-working spaces and make something like this happen.
- If you have a mastermind or networking group, you can set up a couple days per week to meet up and work together at the co-working space or wifi-enabled coffee shop of your choice.
- If you belong to a space and want to get to know other members better, set up an official work day with a networking lunch and optional socializing after work [Luke Mysse does this using meetup.com to organize].
- If you like a smaller environment, try working one-on-one with a friend [my patio has wifi and is a nice place to change perspective and cool off, friends welcome].
Have you considered co-working alternatives for your business? I’d love to hear ideas from people who have tried variations of networking on the job.
Listen to BTW: [audio:http://iliseb.audioacrobat.com/download/b77e29ab-3f5d-cf3f-e070-10582fdcca25.mp3] Check out Heather’s co-working space here. And there’s another co-working space in New Jersey, Converge NJ, located on the campus of Kean University – and it’s really beautiful! They have a monthly Open House to try it out so if you’re nearby, go see.