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Starting a new freelance life in a coworking space

St. Oberholz, a coworking space in Berlin

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As is the case when starting anything new, it’s easy to assume that freelancing life is essentially laptop + idea = money. It looks straightforward, but of course it’s not. If you’re transitioning from any kind of team or company environment to freelance life, figuring out exactly how the “other side” works can be difficult. You could spend time searching for answers online or asking a friend of a friend of a friend for advice, or you could tap into a great resource that is likely to be around the corner or down the street from where you are now: coworking spaces. Here are a few tips to help you get off the ground a little faster.

In the age of digital nomads, the number of people starting out in the freelance industry is growing. I’m in this boat. I moved from a university-based position to start a new life as a freelancer. In my previous life I worked in an inspiring workplace, with resources – both people and money – at my fingertips. If I needed advice/guidance/mentorship, I knew who to ask. Twelve months ago, I started my new life as a full-time freelancer, which meant I had a whole host of questions that needed answering.

How to make the most of a coworking space and the people who use it

After stumbling upon the magical world of coworking spaces and having now spent 9 months in the one that's become my favourite, I’ve learnt these spaces are more about the people inhabiting them than the actual space. My membership has definitely bought me much more than a desk at which to work. The word “community” is thrown around a lot in the discussion of coworking spaces, and for good reason. Your coworking space should be a carefully considered choice, based on a number of criteria such as: your goals while working in the space, the feel of the space, the location, the financial cost of becoming a member, and the vibe of the coworkers. All this will impact the way you work and the additional work that may come your way.

As someone who’s new to a space, the best thing you can do is to connect with people. Go beyond asking what they do and where they are from – find out their best time-saving tip, whether they would recommend a good insurance broker, or whether they like cats or dogs. Understand that (almost) everyone has experienced being the new person and, more often than not, the members of your coworking space will want to help you, if only to make your experience easier than theirs! By the same token, offer others your skills or perhaps the name of the best lunch spots you’ve found. Appreciating the time others give you, and being generous with your own, will build goodwill and they’ll be more likely to think of you when a job pops up! 

Go beyond talking to other members – your coworking space manager/s and the beautiful beings who fuel your caffeine addiction in the café have a wealth of knowledge. These people spend a lot of time interacting with and learning about the needs, wants, and skills of their members so ask them if they can refer you if you’re looking for someone with a specific talent. The managers and staff also have their own stories and histories and many are freelancers too, so take the time to connect on a personal level. Let’s be honest, if you’re already trying to start a new life as a freelancer, you can never have too many friends to help you out.

►► Next page: Things worth spending at the beginning to save you time or money later

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