Is Co-working Worth it for freelancers?

One of the main features to working in the freelance world is working at home or working alone. Whilst this can be great for the most part, it can also be lonely and very isolating. All freelancers will know this feeling at some point in their career and writing this during the Coronavirus Pandemic, it is an especially pertinent time since most will have been working from home since the very first lockdown.

Over the past few years there has been a definite movement in the professional world with regard to the way office space is thought about and the way companies and individuals work. Just look at the meteoric rise of shared office space organisations such as WeWork or WORKSPACE. It wasn’t long ago (2005) that this was a fringe concept and now it is definitely mainstream.

The benefits of working from home are huge: less distractions and more space to focus on your work, no wasted travel time in trains, buses, subways and undergrounds, unlimited amounts of coffee without judgement from co-workers! But the downsides can be loneliness and although this affects all our mental health in different ways, it’s important enough to consider trying to do something about it. When you find you have reached the unacceptable limit of how much a person can talk to themselves before it’s a sign of madness, it may be time to look to the outside world!

What is co-working?

Co-working is a concept that Brad Neuberg, a software engineer from San Francisco, is credited with inventing back in 2005. The idea was to create a space where people could come together in a shared space and create a community feeling, whilst at the same time maintaining their own freedom and independence to work for themselves. You could come to one of these places and find yourself amongst writers, IT contractors, researchers, designers and so much more. As a freelancer you can have the freedom to work from home some of the time, and then use this coworking space when you need a break from it occasionally. The benefits you would gain from using the co-working space is interacting with fellow professionals and this could be great for networking.

If you’re considering diving into the co-working environments where should you go? At the time of writing this during the COVID pandemic, it is very unlikely that you would be able to use a co-working space during lockdown due to regulations, but you can certainly research into them and plan ahead, possibly even sign up for when the restrictions are lifted. Depending on where you are based in the UK there are many different options available. IndyCube has around 30 locations dotted all around Wales and one in London also. You can join up there and get a desk a day for very cheap. In the north of England there are the larger capacity places like WeWork in Manchester and Basecamp in Liverpool. In London, there is a huge presence in Shoreditch of coworking spaces with such places as THECUBE and The Brew. In Scotland, The Melting Pot is one of the first co-working spaces in the UK and home to organisations of all sizes.

Another great resource to check out is DesksNear.Me which has a search engine you can type in any address, or even just a postcode works, and this will throw up any number of locations that provide even hotdesking solutions. There are literally thousands of spaces out there and when the world starts to open up again hopefully in the middle of 2021 it’s a great time to consider using them.

So should freelancers consider co-working?

Since all freelancers have slightly different working conditions then there is no one answer for all. However to break it down, if you are mainly a contract working engaging in long contracts, you will already know that most likely you will be required to work on site at the clients location so it would not be worth it in this case to pay for a space you wouldn’t use. If you work short-term ad-hoc jobs and contracts and spend more than 50% of your time working from home, then co-working could be worth considering. You will have to balance up the different prices of the different places and find one that fits into your budget making sure that it doesn’t impact your turnover in a detrimental way.

As a working, successful freelancer since 2012 I have yet to venture into the shared office space. I was fortunate up to this point to be offered many contracts working on site in fantastic agencies all over London which kept my time working from home limited. But since last year with the pandemic after a year of working in a solitary environment I have decided that co-working is the future for me. Times are changing and even in the post-pandemic world, there is a train of thought that companies will embrace employees working from other locations. This might sound like a reversal of the self-employed looking to use office space more with the employee looking to work from home more. In reality it is actually an extension of the fact that technology nowadays is opening up the possibilities more for remote working from any location. The future it would seem is going to consist of a combination of all these factors.

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