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In recent years I had been introduced to the concept of coworking
I’ve attended many professional and networking events hosted in coworking spaces, but it wasn’t until about a year ago that my eyes were truly opened through full immersion.
Now, as an entrepreneur and small business owner, I realize how important this discovery was and will be for my own future, but also for the future of others like me. This web site (that you’re reading now) is actually a prime example of the power of the coworking dynamic in action. More on that later.
In a business climate where collaboration is becoming one of the keys to long-term success and technology is changing by the minute, coworking spaces serve not only as an incubator to new partnerships, but also as a main line to the pulse of ever changing technology, allowing those that take part in the spaces to benefit from all angles.
As a more traditional designer, specializing primarily print, identity, and architectural signage and wayfinding, my strengths were definitely not forged in the digital world. I was slowly becoming something of a dinosaur by allowing myself to get too comfortable in the “old ways” of business. After months of merely being in a coworking space, I had a renewed understanding of the “new” way of doing business, and my digital chops were steadily sharpening.
Here are just a few of the reasons you need to get plugged in to coworking if you haven’t yet.
Coworking offers “Non-Traditional” Networking
Ahhh that word: networking. I can’t say it doesn’t make my skin crawl. I’m actually quite introverted, so the idea of the traditional “attend a stand up event and hand out business cards” idea of networking ranks pretty much at the bottom of my list of things I prefer to inflict upon myself. The interesting thing about coworking spaces is that the good ones have figured out how to do networking right.
Now, simply showing up and working in a coworking space on the regular will have you meeting new people in plenty of different areas of business, but the spaces that get it right have implemented robust [highlight]calendars of events turning traditional networking on it’s head. Mostly by utilizing Meetup and similar services, they’re creating opportunities for members (and soon-to-be members…) to learn about business by showcasing the breadth of knowledge within their members.
You can find coworking spaces hosting meetups on topics like building a web site, balancing your books, understanding new software, or protecting yourself from hackers.
Simply attending these events to learn all of a sudden puts you in an environment where you’re experiencing a new kind of networking.
Technology is off the hook in most coworking spaces
So by introducing yourself to this new form of networking through learning inside a coworking space, you will have already taken huge steps in learning new technologies. In the first few months of my immersion I was introduced changes in collaboration through software like Slack and Quip, learned about new project management tools like Active Collab and Trello, strengthened my understanding of new web site building software, and played around with some of the early examples of virtual reality.
Many of these things are all key to stay on top of not only for a small business owner, but also as an employee of any company that plans to stay on the forefront of the changing business environment.
So at this point in your introduction to coworking you will have created new alliances through nontraditional networking and technology education, so the next passive step that happens by default is collaboration. Now, this will eventually take the form of actual partnerships on projects or frying fish much larger than you may have been able to take on yourself, and that’s great, but let’s think smaller.
I mentioned that this web site was essentially a product of my immersion into cowork. So again, digital was never my strong suite. But after attending a few meetups on Drupal and WordPress (both prominent open source web site building platforms), asking a few questions here and there to the people I had become friends with while coworking, and simply bring privy to other people openly talking about the platforms and how to work in them or solve problems, I was stronger armed to embark upon building this site.
The majority of work was done personally, but when I ran into a road block, it was merely a matter of picking someone’s brain for a few minutes on the fix. Why or why not to use certain plugins or what security to use? Just do the research, narrow the choices, then pick a brain to confirm the right direction to go in and implement.
Now, understand that this isn’t selfish, it’s actually reciprocal. During all of this time others had been picking my brain about my areas of specialty like identity development, branding, signage, etc., and I was happy to afford them the same benefits of collaboration. Win win for everyone.
A Lot of Coworking Spaces offer Business Services
Beyond merely collaborating, there are also obvious opportunities for acquire new business as well as patronize other businesses. Some examples that are very prominent in coworking spaces are bookkeeping, investment, law, insurance, creative services. Nobody wants to be “sold” on why they should work with someone or their company, but by being around someone on a regular basis and learning about their offerings or way of doing business based on observing their day-to-day, trust is built. This trust naturally turns into conversations about how each could work for the other in a true business, pay for service relationship.
If you’re in the creative industry, you know this is worth the cost of admission!
So if you haven’t seen the light yet, this one should do it. Most coworking spaces run about $100-150/mo for unlimited access to the facilities, which include wifi, community desk or office space, essential power hookups, etc. Most spaces also have premium offerings like devoted office space, meeting rooms, podcast studios, and so on.
But most importantly, the best coworking spaces include all of the free caffeine you can ingest.
So there you go. If you’ve been on the fence about looking into this beast called cowork, it’s time you do yourself a favor and hit up Mr. Google and find some in your area. They’ll be more than happy to show you around the space and likely give you a day pass, either cheap or free, just so you can get your toes wet.
Check out Meetup to see if they have free events to attend, and start your way down the road of a new component to the way business is getting done in our changing business landscape. Happy Coworking!