Change your scenery, and you change your outlook. Networking requires you step outside your comfort zone.
Freelancers and contractor writers operate as independent entrepreneurs, but that arrangement doesn't have to mean creating entirely in a vacuum. Gathering with other freelancers in a coworking environment can benefit professionals as well as their products. Coworking provides opportunities to observe and learn from colleagues who value their autonomy and often share other values, too.
From this perspective, it's natural that freelancers would appreciate the synergy of a place where numerous, talented people converge in a similar space. The technology age has made it easier than ever for contractors to bring their tools with them. This enables them to work with other like-minded individuals from virtually anywhere.
If you're thinking about moving your one-person shop to a coworking atmosphere, consider how these perks could infuse you with new ideas and elevate your current projects.
1. Networking and collaborating.
Coworking allows you the opportunity to network and collaborate with a wide range of bright minds. You might even make new friends in the process. Proximity gives you the chance to “pick the brains” of professionals in your own line of work as well as those in related fields. Freelance writers might choose to office with graphic designers, website designers, programmers and other writers whose work and insights help shape new perspectives.
2. Using tools on the go.
Many phone and web apps, software programs and other tools were designed to be especially beneficial outside of the office. Pare down to the absolute necessities while you're on the go. Meebo can handle your chatting needs, Line2 is a helpful alternative for a land-line phone system and DropBox assures you'll always have the files you need at your fingertips. The right tools can make all the difference in your ability to cowork successfully.
If the need arises to organize tasks among coworkers on a big project, freelance writer Christopher Jan Benitez recommends Asana or Trello. These online project-management apps enable remote team members to delegate and assign deadlines. Here are a few others to consider.
- Cyfe. The business-management dashboard connects multiple apps to monitor stats and updates from a single dashboard. You can iframe Google spreadsheets, connect to email and integrate your social-media statistics.
- Zoom.Us. This phone and web conference app allows you to chat with anyone and host group meetings for up to 25 people via your smartphone.
- Evernote. Bloggers love this versatile tool in part for its “snip” feature. Save videos, web pages, social-media posts, articles and images — and then write your entire blog post within the app itself.
- MyBlogU. I founded this collaboration platform to connect writers and editors so they could create better content for business websites.
- Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms. This free product suite supports collaboration by allowing multiple users to create, revise and edit documents, spreadsheets, presentations and fillable forms online. Coworkers can track versions and collect feedback.
- Iflexion. This enhanced document-management platform is built for those who coordinate larger teams or manage several remote offices. The solution offers custom enterprise content-management solutions.
3. Breaking out of your comfort zone.
Working across the desk from someone with a completely different skill set can help you discover a new source of ideas. You might find your brain is starting to work in different ways, too. As online-marketing consultant Joyce Anderson puts it, taking the risk to invite others to work alongside you breathes new life into the creation process and shows in the finished product, as well.
Experienced writers who reread some of their early compositions are likely to notice mistakes or passages they would have rephrased. If that's ever happened to you, imagine how polished and clear your work could have been if only you'd had access to your current knowledge, finesse and expertise when you first started. When you break out of your comfort zone, you're giving yourself a chance to devise fresh solutions to existing problems. Interacting with coworkers facilities this kind of breakthrough.
Many writers are natural introverts. If you're nervous about joining a coworking group, challenge yourself to step into the unknown. Much of what you fear is fear itself. You needn't commit to attend every meet-up. Start small, with a gathering like Shut Up and Write. This coworking group's main focus is providing a forum to write. Participants spend two hours together, typing blog posts or working on novel chapters. At the start of the time block and again toward its end, writers have a brief while to socialize — not more than 10 or 15 minutes, total. It's the ideal opportunity for attendees to exercise their small-talk and networking skills.
4. Working at your own pace.
Coworking makes it possible for you to create some space between you and your clients — just enough to redirect energy to your own projects and move at your own pace. Stop devoting hours to the same interruptions and distractions that normally plague your days. Why not work in a new environment, surrounded by new people and new stimuli? Coworking can be a respite from day-to-day workplace worries about strict deadlines or clients trying to reach you at your primary location.
5. Making full use of your coworking space.
This is an ideal time to be a freelancer or solopreneur. Coworking spaces allow a startup to maintain an address for receiving packages and mail. You can rent small suites to meet with clients or find a calm room to call clients from a no-kid zone.
Sara Duggan, who coworks at HackerLab, notes her maker space supports startups by hosting an annual competition. Candidates pitch their business ideas in hopes of being selected to attend and eight-week entrepreneur boot camp.
The Sacramento Bloggers group brings in speakers to help members become at what they do. Recent topics include secrets to help separate personal and business Facebook accounts. Those who take part often get the opportunity to work with local businesses.
6. Avoiding loneliness.
Working at home can have an isolating effect after a period of time. Coworking is an easy fix. Working amidst others can lend a sense of camaraderie, even when you're creating alongside complete strangers.