What do I need to do my job?
The physical things are obvious: I need a desk, laptop and internet connection.
A set up that looks like this.
While these are all essential, I need a lot more than what you photo in order to do my job properly. Things that are harder to capture in a photo.
To turn out cracking copy for my clients, I need inspiration and to have the time and space to be creative.
For me, being out and about, and around people is where I find a lot of my creativity. I’m definitely on the extrovert end of the scale, so a lot of my energy comes from being with other people too. I only really need complete quiet, headphones-in alone time when in the thick of writing or editing.
Otherwise, give me a bustling office environment any day. A place where I’m around other people for chats, laughs, inspiring idea sessions and yeah, OK, sometimes the odd chance to catch up on gossipy life news.
Spoiler alert: freelancing rarely gives you any of that
Having my home office set up just the way I like and none of the distractions of an office is lovely in many ways. But I crave that human interaction real bad. After about a year of being freelance, I was starting to go stir crazy from too many work days on my lonesome.
That’s bad for me (and my mental health) and bad for my business. Feeling so “meh” meant my creativity and motivation suffered. I even contemplated going in-house if something didn’t change.
Online communities helped — and continue to be a great support — but it still has me staring at a screen for several hours and typing conversations rather than talking.
It wasn’t enough. I needed a colleague IRL. Someone I could get out of the house with and work with. Someone I felt comfortable with and enjoy a wine with after work.
Because un-wine-ding with colleagues is a big part of any job, #amiright?
So where should one look for a co-working buddy?
Leaving my home office helped
If I wanted to meet someone IRL, then I had to get out of my home office bubble.
Every week I headed to the city library to work. I wasn’t completely convinced I’d meet my ideal co-working chum here, but one thing I will say about Queensland folk is they’re very friendly. I enjoyed many chats with people I sat with in the shared work-spaces. Sadly, not many of them were in my industry, so it wasn’t going to work in terms of chatting about copywriting and content marketing.
Brisbane is pretty small. And the creative freelance community is smaller still. There aren’t a huge number of opportunities to get out and network with likeminded people. Fortunately, there is the Freelance Jungle Coffee Mornings. These were my chance to meet likeminded folk and just so happened to be where I bumped into Kelly Stone from Craft My Content.
Turns out she was looking to escape her home office a little more often too, and liked the idea of working in the library. So, come January 2019 after the silliness of Christmas was out of the way, we started getting together once, sometimes twice a week.
Nearly a year into our co-working partnership (and more importantly, friendship) for me I can hand-on-heart see that finding a co-working buddy has been such an important part of my freelance career. Without Kelly to lean on and provide human interaction, I probably would have packed up shop.
OK, so enough of the soppy, slightly scary-to-think about stuff. Let’s get practical about how co-working has helped me and benefitted my business. (And hopefully Kelly’s too!)
Three ways co-working days improve my business
1. Keeps us sane
A change of scenery is really important when you’re a creative. How can you expect to write about the world and what’s going on in it if you don’t get out there and experience it?
Experiences don’t have to be revolutionary or life changing. After a few days of working indoors getting to people watch during my bus ride into town, the chance to walk around the city, sit in a new café for lunch are all fuel for the creative fire.
It also keeps me sane because co-working days are my chance to talk to a colleague about work and business. If you’re freelance, you may have seen the meme that says, “If you see me talking to myself, please don’t interrupt. I’m in the middle of a staff meeting.”
I find this funny, but also super depressing. Getting the opinion of someone else you trust on work and business ideas is so important. You can’t always rely on your own point of view that something is the right idea or a good idea. I’m forever thankful on co-working days that I can run the thoughts I’ve had on my own past Kelly for a yay or nay.
Speaking of ideas, when a good one comes along it’s important to do something with it. Like I said in my original post for #Write52 a good idea remains useless if it sits on a Trello card or within the pages of your notebook and that’s where it stays.
Sometimes finding the time and motivation to bring the ideas to life is difficult. Being able to call on my co-working buddy to keep me accountable is great. And vice versa.
Accountability is the reason (and only way) I managed to get my Tasting Paddle service up and running. It probably would have continued to sit idle if I hadn’t vocalised to Kelly that I wanted to put this service together and she kept gently nudging me until it got done.
I say “gently nudging” because we’re both mindful of the fact that client work comes first and deadlines have to be reshuffled. Having the opportunity to catch up face to face certainly helps us keep track of what each of us have going on in our businesses, so know what level of support and encouragement is needed when.
3. Stay productive
I deliberately line up any work I’m struggling with for co-working days. Having a colleague nearby gives me the motivation to get it done, or the opportunity to shoot the breeze with Kelly if I need to untangle my ideas.
Staying productive also ties back in with the second point of holding each other accountable. Usually we let each other know what each of us wants to tackle that day, that way we avoid interrupting the other if they’ve got a pressing deadline or they’re trying to edit. (We’re similar and need unbroken focus.) At the end of the day though it’s nice to check in, acknowledge what we’ve achieved say “yup I got this done.”
Who do you lean on?
I’ve shared this to give you a little insight into my freelance life and how I work. Every freelance business owner has their own way of staying motivated and finding the support the need to lean on, when they need it.
So what have you got in place? Do you escape the house or have someone you regularly work with?
Perhaps you’ve got a desk in a co-work space? If so, I’d love to hear how this has changed your business.
Or if you’ve read this and thought, “I’d love to get a IRL co-working buddy,” maybe chuck your hat in the ring with a comment here or on social to try and find someone nearby.