I’ve worked as an freelancer since 1996. One of the things I love and hate about my working status is that I don’t have co-workers.
The perks of working on my own are obvious. There aren’t any lovelorn co-workers flopping down in my office chair and telling me how horrible their weekend date went. No one is going to ask me to buy something from their son’s school catalog of wrapping paper. No politics to worry about, my dog and cat are the only exceptions, they do argue from time to time.
The negative aspects are just as obvious. There isn’t anyone popping in, telling me they’re making a coffee run and asking me what I want. I don’t get asked out to lunch. If I have a problem, I’m on my own to figure out the solution. There isn’t a water cooler down the hallway, so there’s no one to discuss the latest Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. I concentrate and maintain my focus fairly well but I have a tendency to to forget to take breaks.
I’m not alone. I read an article that estimated by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce will constitute freelancers, entrepreneurs, independent contractors etc.
Coworking, a term coined to represent people that work together, independently, has been around since 1995. Surveys show that as many as 10,000 coworking spaces have cropped up all over the world, serving as an estimated 700,000 people. Sites like Coworking.com help people like me find offices to work in with other like minded people. There are companies like Bisner.com that are setting up software for coworking platform management. In a coworking space facility, I can book a room or work in an open environment. I can work in multiple places and not have to worry about leasing or renting office space.
I already have a weekly me day practice. I go to a bookstore and have lunch with myself. I take my planning material or my laptop and spend a couple of hours after lunch on a planning session. Sometimes I meet some people who are interested in a conversation. I met a young woman, Kayla, this week and we shared a conversation about journaling.
I could head to a local coffee shop. I can pick up some ambient noise, get a little atmosphere, have a break from my office, get a snack, maybe even meet some people. That means a disruption to my flow in my current project, two ways. First I need to stop what I’m doing, pack up my work in progress, hop in my car and find a free chair and table. I have to repeat the process on the way back.
One solution that works for me is virtual coworking. I can open up a youtube video and have a virtual coworker available anytime. Money Lab has a 25 minute video of himself in a coffee shop. Dave Seah, one of my favorite productivity experts, does Youtube live streams from his office. Burgess Taylor has coffee sessions, where she talks about journaling and writing. Rob Gordon made a virtual coworking sessions with a few of members of his coworking community.
If you’re a freelancer like me, do you cowork? If not, you might give a it a try.