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How To Get The Benefits Of Coworking Spaces When You Can’t Afford One

by Lauren Hoffman
freelancing

coworking space benefits

Whether you’re a brand new freelancer or you struck out on your own years ago, chances are the idea of setting up shop in a coworking space has crossed your mind. But because rent for coworking spaces can be hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a month and hourly rates are steep, too, it’s not an investment every freelancer can afford to make. Fortunately, it’s possible to hack your work life a little bit to incorporate a few of the benefits of coworking spaces — without overtaxing your freelancers’ budget.

Collaboration
Every freelancer needs a “Can I run something by you?” pal, but it’s possible to leverage your existing network to scratch that collaborative itch, rather than seeking it out in new places. Don’t underestimate the power of a Google Chat window that you keep open all day with a few friends in your industry, with an open invitation for any of you to pop in to hash out an idea or polish a pitch. And while networking events are an essential component of many freelance careers, don’t just use them to make connections for future work — use them to build relationships with people who can support you in the work you’re doing now. (And vice versa, of course.)

Company
You may find yourself missing simply being around others, not necessarily collaborating with them. Loneliness is freelancing’s dirty little secret — even the most introverted self-employed person likely finds him or herself wishing for a little bit of water cooler small talk now and then. After all, how many times did you come back to your desk from coffee or lunch with others refreshed and ready to tackle a problem in a new way?

Remind yourself that freelancers need time with others, too, and find a way to build that into your days. You might do this simply by making sure to include plenty of interaction into your non-work life, or by hooking up with other freelancers to work alongside each other for a couple of hours each week.Hot tip: if you have friends who are stay-at-home parents, they’ll likely be up for a standing weekly date for a mid-day walk or cup of coffee.

Change of Scenery
If you’re suffering from cabin fever, chances are you’re not doing your best work. While a coworking space is a simple, go-to way to get yourself out of the house and working, other venues can be just as conducive to getting things done. Your public library offers plenty of space for individuals to work, and many offer free, private study and meeting rooms, too. Hotel lobbies, ride-on-ferries (no, seriously), common college spaces, and even bars are great options, too, if a bit more out-of-the-box.

Real talk: coffee shops are a go-to workspace for freelancers, but be sure to observe good etiquette by tipping fairly, reordering every couple of hours, taking up as little space as possible, keeping your voice down, and respecting the fact that other people are trying to use the WiFi, too. Support small, locally-owned spaces when you can — remember, their owners are likely self-employed just like you.

Dedicated Work Space
Let’s be honest — most of us don’t have a spare room in our homes that’s just waiting to be converted into a home office. And if you need a work space with associated amenities — lots of space to spread out, unlimited office supplies, telecommunications equipment — chances are, you’ll need to spring for coworking space. But if all you’re looking for is a work space that feels distinct and separate from your living space, there are many ways to make that happen.

A dedicated table or desk is ideal — if you’re in a small space, consider a small folding table that you bring out for work hours only — no matter how tempting working from your bed might seem. And while the freelance life doesn’t always mean you’re rolling in spare electronics, confining work tasks to a laptop and other tasks to an iPad or tablet can help, too. Smaller cues like playing soft classical or alpha/beta wave music might even be enough. The line between work and life is ultimately all in your head.

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Lauren Hoffman

Lauren Hoffman lives and writes in Seattle, Washington. By day, she’s a freelance writer and editor; by night, she’s at work completing a book-length non-fiction project, Up High Down Low.