More people are switching over to the gig economy and working as freelancers, contractors, or building their own businesses. This has led to an increased need for non-traditional work spaces and a proliferation of so-called coworking spaces.
I’ve seen this play out in Vancouver, Canada. The number of spaces has grown considerably over the last five years (from the HiVe and Launch Academy originally to now dozens more including Suite Genius, L’Atelier, the Tribe, …). The growth of WeWork on an international scale is another signal. They’ve raised $3.5 Billion and are active in 45 cities worldwide.
Even though I left my full-time job a while ago, I never joined a coworking space. I couldn’t rationalize the $300-$600 monthly price tag for a desk. I embraced the freedom of not having an office job to work out of different coffee shops, friend’s offices, and travel.
After months of working this way, I’ve come to appreciate the value provided by coworking spaces. I just joined one for the first time. The decision came down to two factors: routine, and community.
I take pride in living a spontaneous life. I strive to live each day individually and as it’s own adventure. The problem is that when you superimpose this philosophy onto a self-employed life without constraints, it becomes hard to maintain a stable level of productivity. So I’ve come to highly value discipline and routine, and actually see them as fundamental requirements for success.
There is wisdom in the 9–5 office schedule. You’ll have more of a chance to get deep into your work if you know exactly where you’re going each morning and don’t have to acclimatize to a new environment. Coworking spaces make this possible.
Founding or freelancing are both lonely pursuits. You’re mostly alone when dealing with things that go wrong or keeping finances on track. Under these immediate pressures and the need to execute every day, there doesn’t seem to be any time for water cooler banter or after-hour events. You’re more productive if you’re alone.
But the truth is that these demands never lessen, so if you extend this to it’s natural conclusion, you will go for months in a siloed environment. This is not healthy or a sustainable way of operating. As the saying goes: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Having a community to learn from, contribute to, and generally hang out with, is important. Coworking spaces fulfill this need.
For these reasons, I’ve just joined The Farm Soho. I had my first day yesterday and was both productive and met some interesting people. If you’re self-employed, you should consider doing something similar.