Coworking in a better space

Guest post by Marc van Sittert, Better member

With the phenomenon of coworking prompting a consistent doubling of available, geared coworking spaces across the globe each year over the last decade, there is nowadays lots of valid commentary and information around the issue. Facts and figures, however, can only do so much justice to what is always a rather loose association of users of coworking facilities. While the obvious parallel can be drawn between the rise of freelancing as a career path (freelancing grew 38% in the UK in 2016, and not due to a shrinking economy either, as over 80% of respondents had chosen to exit formal employment), coworking as a concept has far deeper roots and greater value than current freelancing trends indicate.

It was Steven R. Covey who said that the synergy of interdependence is an unknown and potentially huge benefit of right living. Taken down to the minutiae, every time you step into a coworking space, you’re faced with an unknown potential that is a wonderful, mysterious gift to the gregarious. It’s as though coworking spaces have arisen as the logical answer to humanity’s inevitable disillusionment with the rote factory production that sparked the Industrial Revolution all those years ago and changed the world as we know it. Not only do coworking spaces adopt a point of departure that both assumes and fosters professional integrity, competence, enjoyment and trust, they also enable something synergistic, something wonderful.

Interestingly, it was Covey who pointed to how the most important things seem never to get done, what he called Quadrant 2 activities. Coworking is precisely such a framework, just the space, to enable this life balance we all deserve and make us all, in his words, highly effective people. It reaches deeper than any other employment format – whether one “coworks” alongside a thousand colleagues a day or not in a formal employment setting – as it evokes the massively empowering and soul-warming human need to choose our environment, to choose our association, especially in the name of work. Far from the inevitable allegiance (read: ownership) that Company X demands of its employees as they file into that giant temple to its success every day, coworking is almost delirious in its meeting of the human need for unfettered, autonomous choice. Far from a melodramatic, pop-psychological observation, returning to the facts and figures, the last point is demonstrably true as cowork is, wonderfully, on the rise. And, since coworking spaces need to make money too, they are rising on the field where capital plays. They just play nicer! Free of the politics, status and tinselly considerations of a formal employment space, coworking portals shine bright into the cosmos.

Coworking does away with all of the negatives and enables all of the positives. When you put it that way – put it like that, look at it and realize it’s true – it can surely only be the slow, fearful wind-down of traditional models that inhibits the entire world rushing into their nearest coworking venue.

A glimpse of the ill-defined wonder and latent, huge productivity of coworking is probably best intimated by looking at two divergent outlets’ comments on the issue. Very much like religion and science are often saying the same thing and pointing to the same reality, but with different words, in these two snippets a similar theme is apparent.

In an article for Entrepreneur¹, author Ann Smarty lists six benefits to the business world of coworking spaces. On another site, the Coworking Handbook² lists 26 reasons why coworking is legitimately great, with the 27th being happiness. While one is a nod from formal employment and the other an unashamed “how-to” manual for the liberated mind, both point to the same growing, enjoyable and productive reality. Coworking is starting to be valued even by formal business, though business isn’t geared for the far looser, standalone freelancer’s space a typical coworking environment is.

It is interesting to note that the term “coworking” is credited as the invention of San Francisco resident Brad Neuberg, circa 2005, and in that city coworking spaces have proliferated ever that since. Looking for a model that encompassed both the outright freelance insistence on freedom of choice as well as the communality and equipped space of formal employment, recognizing as he did that in that marriage a sinless child would be born, Neuberg first brought the concept into sight of official recognition. If coworking was a dotcom, considering it’s explosive growth over just more than a decade, it would be a Silicon Valley blue chip by now, worth billions.

What will you find when entering a coworking space? Nothing! Everything! Who knows? And that’s the magic of it, the variable, the unknown, and the ultimate value. You may sit alone some days, pondering in the quiet of the place. You may need earmuffs on other days as it’s so busy. You may find yourself holding the floor at times, regaling dozens of strange faces. And you will very surely glean snippets from others in both suits and dungarees that could change your world forever. Simply because no one can cap the potential of the synergistic choice in you, coworking becomes another, different, amazing planet. That, is the thing. To try to overly define the magical essence inherent in sharing a diversified, voluntary workspace it is to have it elude you. To experience it, is to open yourself to the possibility of the greatest “work” of your human life.

Coworking holds a promise that’s hard to define yet, once known, mighty hard to live without.

¹ https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/287882

² https://www.coworkinghandbook.com/advantages-benefits-coworking-list/

 

 

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From first draft to finished product

So you plan to self-publish your book? How much do you know about publishing, when your craft is writing?

When you dream of holding your book in your hand you envisage something well-made, with a cover that will draw people to it on the bookshelf, with text that you can be proud of: a book that bookstores and readers will want to have on their shelves.

The problem with self-publishing is that this dream is often not realised. You have probably seen some of the scrappy, amateurish results of self-publishing. Don’t let it happen to your book.

Here is your chance to understand all the steps in getting a book from first draft to a really polished product. Once you understand the process, you’ll have a better understanding of what you can do yourself and where you need help, as well as how to go about getting your book from a file on your computer to a physical artefact that you can exchange for money.

Join us at Better for a talk by Dane Bowman, Project Manager at Staging Post, a self-publishing service bureau at Jacana Media. Dane has guided many authors through the self-publishing process and has in-depth knowledge of all the steps involved. He will also be able to answer your questions about self-publishing.

When: Tuesday the 29th August, 5:30pm

Where: The Studio at Better, 91 Oxford Road, Saxonwold

Cost: R100 (free to members of Better) including drinks and snacks

Book by e-mail to create@better.joburg or call 011 327 6098. Find our EFT details here.

 

Seven ways to bring more structure into your freelance life

Freelancing is about freedom – the freedom to choose what you do when, to sleep in one morning and get up early the next, to refuse one job and accept the next. But once you have experienced it, you will know that too much freedom can be an obstacle to productive and successful freelancing. It’s too easy for freedom to deteriorate into long sleep-ins, series-watching, eating, or just excessively tidy cupboards. It doesn’t take long to work out that some structure is useful.

Without the need to clock in at 8am, without a boss hanging over you telling you what to do next, how do you add structure to your life? And how do you do it in a way that feels better than the strictures of corporate life? Here are some ideas.

Start with a schedule. Get hold of a diary (electronic or paper), or a whiteboard, or even a blank notebook, and get in the habit of scheduling your time. Put appointments in it. Refer to it regularly. Work out a system that works for you. I keep an electronic diary (in Google calendar) because I can see it on my phone and add appointments wherever I am. But I also draw and decorate a schedule for each week on Sunday evening and use the time to plan my week. I like a visual reference and I use colour for different kinds of tasks. This shows me when my week is out of balance. Work out a system that works for you.

Take regular exercise. As a freelancer your health and state of mind are really important to your business. Exercise is good for both. Starting the day with a run or some yoga is a great way to establish a routine. If you need some encouragement, arrange to walk with a friend each evening. If self-motivation is lacking, sign up for a regular class. Having shelled out the money you may be more likely to go. The nice thing about being a freelancer is that you can attend a 10 am class, and not fight the traffic at 5 pm. Exercise will make you feel good about yourself and that is an important starting point for succeeding in freelance work.

Set aside your best time for production activities. Work out when you function best. Are you an early-bird, churning out copy at 4 am, or do you work better after a good breakfast? Block out three or four hours during that time to do your productive work – that is the stuff you get paid to do. During that time close down your email and social network tabs. Put your phone on silent, in another room. Create space to focus so that you can do your best work; after all your business depends on the quality of what you produce. Being fully focussed on a task also brings a sense of mastery, making work a pleasure.

Vary your surroundings. Working in one place can become monotonous, especially if that place is also where you live. You can try moving between the study and the garden, but actually leaving your home means having to shower and get dressed. Just picking out an outfit to wear can wake your brain up and get different neurons firing. You might be able to work at a client’s site one day a week or find a co-work space that you feel comfortable in. Having to go to work on a Monday demarcates the start of the week and helps to shake the lethargy of the weekend. Experiment with what works for you. You may find some work is easier to do in a different location, while some work is best done at home. I like to paint in my home studio but doing admin is more cheerful at Better.

Meet people regularly. Freelancing works for people who enjoy their own company, but if you are spending all your time inside your own head you are missing out on ideas and perspectives that could enrich your work. You need to have regular contact with other people. Think about the kinds of people who will support your freelance business. If you can find a group of people doing similar work to yours, try to meet at least once a month. These kinds of networks are great for sharing ideas about how you price your work, how to deal with client issues and to swap work when you get a deluge or a drought. You also need to keep contact with clients and prospective clients, so think about events where your best clients gather regularly and how you can get involved. Come along to the freelancer’s social at Better on the first Friday of every month.

Stick to regular admin time. When you create your weekly schedule build in a few hours for administrative tasks. Keeping financial records or completing your tax return is not the most fun part of freelancing, so you are likely to put it off and end up disorganised. Set aside time at the end of the week, or first thing on Monday morning to clear your work-related emails, invoice clients, follow up on outstanding payments, pay your bills and update your financial records. If you do this regularly the work will stay manageable. Keeping an admin to do list and clearing it weekly will also free you from that distracting little voice in your head reminding you of the outstanding tasks.

Take a day of rest. It’s hard to shut down, especially if you are trying to build your client base and the money is tight. You may find yourself working through weekends (what day is it?) just to get the next job done. While the attitude is positive, it’s not a good strategy. Freelancing is a marathon, not a sprint and your freelance business depends on you: your health and your state of mind. So taking a break is really important for your long-term success. Schedule one day a week to do something far removed from work: sleep, read a book, visit family, do pottery, bake, watch sport; just make sure that it is downtime.

As a freelancer you get to craft the life that works for you. What do you do? What works? Share your comments below.

Hire a Better venue

Better is a warm and quirky creative co-working space along Oxford Road in Saxonwold, Johannesburg

We have three rooms for hire, as well as a large garden

The Meeting Room,
upstairs, accommodates small meetings, up to 6 people,
from R150 per hour / R1000 per day

The Writing Room,
upstairs, accommodates small workshops and meetings, up to 10 people, from R225 per hour / R1600 per day

The Studio,
downstairs, accommodates social gatherings and workshops, with space for creative activities, up to 30 people,
from R375 per hour / R2800 per day

Enjoy our large garden with sun and shade, accessed from the Studio, great for lunches, teas and evening events

Convenient, affordable, welcoming and fun

Features of the venue

  • Secure parking (off street and in street with guard)
  • On bus routes (Gautrain and Metro)
  • Kitchenette with tea, coffee and snacks near the Studio
  • Fast, fibre-based Wi-Fi
  • Projection facilities
  • Whiteboards

Value-added services

  • Various levels of catering can be arranged
  • We can take bookings and process payments for you
  • Social media advertising
  • Facilitated creative activities

View the property, get a quote and book your event

Call Candy on 011 327 6098 or mail create@better.joburg

“I recently hosted a 2 day workshop at Better with young artist/activists, developing a piece of street theatre, building props and conceptualising a campaign – Judy, Patience and Andrew were perfect hosts leaving us alone to do our thing, yet being completely available when we required assistance. A wonderful tranquil space in which to work – thank you Better!” Molly Smit