Coworking spaces: a good option for the consultant

One of the atttractions of being a consultant or a freelancer is that you can work from your home office. As Ivan Walsh discussed in a guest post, working from the home office can have its joys and its pains.

Aaron and I usually work at clients sites, although we do some work from our homes. I’ll be honest: when the weather’s warmer, I take a laptop or a netbook out on to my enclosed porch and work for hours.

That said, sometimes you need to get out of the house — if only for a change of pace or to avoid the inevitable distractions. TO get that change of pace or a change of scene, many consultants and freelancers decamp to a public library or a favourite coffee shop.

Another option is a coworking space. And it can be a great way to straddle maintaining working from home and renting a more traditional office.

Coworking space?

Earlier this year, I wrote a post about this for Workshifting.com. Instead of repeating what I wrote, I’ll point you to that post. There are also a couple of other posts on this topic there as well. They’re definitely work reading.

Suffice it to say that a co-working space not only gives you a vibrant place in which to work, but can offer you a number of networking opportunities and give you a more professional setting in which to meet with clients.

Aaron and I rent space at The Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto, and use it for meetings or just to get some work done. We’re also investigating another space in downtown Toronto just to know our options.

What to look for

I discussed that in some detail in my post for Workshifting.com. In addition to the points I mentioned in the post, also consider how convenient the space is. Is it close to home? Does it have set hours? Will you be using it during those hours?

Using the space

For me, this has two aspects:

  1. Mentally preparing
  2. Physically using the space

Don’t just head out the door thinking I’m going to get some work done today! You won’t. At least, not as much as you want to. You’ll bounce around various projects or tasks and only get bits and pieces done. That’s hardly productive.

Map out what you want to do. Focus on one or two tasks. These should be the ones that you have to get out of the way as soon as possible. It could be the detailed outline for a manual or online help system. It could be some copy that a client wants in the next day or two. Or it could be several thorny sections or chapters of a manual that you’re working on.

No matter what you need to get done, make a list. Put the top or top two items on it. If they’re small tasks, then put three or four on the list. A list is good, but also have an outline. The outline is a detailed breakdown of everything that makes up a task. Put only the bits of work that you want to tackle in the outline. That way, you won’t get too overwhelmed.

As for using the space, treat it (and the other people there) with respect. If you take calls, don’t talk too loudly on your mobile phone. Try to keep other noise — like music (even if you’re using headphones) — down to a minimum. And keep the space clean. Simple courtesies, to be sure, but ones that far too many people seem to forget these days.

Is renting a coworking space worth the money?

That really depends on you and your needs. Aaron and I think so. Using a coworking space gives us a little more flexibility and allows us to do a little more work without the usual distractions. And the space we use is in a central location, which makes it easier for us to have company meetings and to meet with clients.

If you’re thinking of taking the coworking plunge, consider finding one that lets you try the place out for a few hours or a day. That way, you’ll get a taste of coworking.

Are you a consultant or a freelancer who uses a coworking space? If so, share your experiences by leaving a comment.

Photo credit: Andrey Kiselev from Photoxpress

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