I work for myself. Or in other words I am an independent consultant, a solo entrepreneur, a freelancer. Whatever you call it, I am part of the growing trend of people who work on their own. According to a report by the Business Insider, by 2020, more than 40 percent of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be freelancers, contractors, or temp workers.
Whether this is because of a lack of good, old fashioned, full-time jobs or a sign of American independence and entrepreneurship, this means a lot of people working at home.
For many, working at home seems like a dream come true. You can set your own hours and work in your pajamas if you want to, free from the distractions of chatty colleagues and impromptu business meetings. After working in a traditional office for many years and I set out on my own and worked at home, I loved it. It was so much easier to focus. It was a good environment for my creative work as well (print and web design), which requires both an uninterrupted stretch of time and the freedom to explore options without your boss hanging over you, glancing at their watch.
To make it work, though, I found I needed to draw a clear line between work and home. Even if what I was doing was engaging and enjoyable, it takes discipline to sit down at a desk and and commit to stay there, especially if the day is sunny, there are kids playing outdoors, and the garden needs weeding. Though working in an office is distracting, distractions follow us everywhere. I don’t know how many times I found my self in front of an open refrigerator looking for I don’t know what exactly.
When my wife and I moved to Frederick and into a new house, my plan was to continue to work at home. But the house was smaller and there was no place that was really suited for a home office. I ended up working at the kitchen table which got tiresome really quick. Keeping that distinction between work and home was impossible when your leftover dinner plates are stacked next to you client’s folders.
I looked around town for some office space I could rent. Maybe a local business has a spare room they wanted to rent? So I was excited when I heard about a place called Cowork Frederick. Coworking if you haven’t heard about it is a relatively new but simple concept. It is basically a shared space that has a few common amenities, wifi, a kitchen, conference rooms. I pay a monthly membership fee and set my laptop and get to work.
After a few weeks of working there and getting to know my fellow coworkers—writers, SEO experts, photographers, and social media mavens—I began to realize that all those years working at home I had become out of touch and did not even know it! I didn’t know half of what these people did. So started a crash course on trying to catch up. I signed up for a course on social media that was taught weekly in the conference room. I began to attend the monthly lunch-and-learn seminars. And took the SEO guy out to lunch to get an idea of what that was all about. Even though there isn’t a lot to structured time to meet each other,working in the same space things begin to rub off.
And what does it mean to my clients? Well it means that my ability to provide quality work and effective solutions to their web needs had practically doubled.
I suppose it is possible to find this type of symbiotic exchange of ideas and information in a typical office situation—if there were enough colleagues who shared common interests and a noncompetitive, nonjudgmental atmosphere where you felt free to share—but I sort of doubt that happens very often. Coworking is possibly the most effective environment for creative work to happen. The reason for this? I think it is because…
You are not in competition with anyone one else, unless you want to be.
No one cares what time you come in to work or if you come in at all. No one is comparing their work to yours, and there is no reason to; you don’t share the same clients and or the same standards for excellence. But if it helps you to get out of bed to know that there are people already at the office hard at work and if it motivates you to pit your skills against someone else’s, then by all means do so. When you cowork, you choose the level of anxiety that works for you.