Coworking for freelance writers

The Network Hub in Vancouver

Freelance writing can be lonely. Just you and your laptop adrift upon a sea of words all day long… It’s easy to lose focus. And it can get depressing, too. That lonesome freelance feeling is what led to the rise of coworking. A trend that started in San Francisco in 2005, coworking offers freelancers a community-minded place to work that’s outside of the house but free of the distractions of a coffee shop. Requiring little-to-no commitment, desks in coworking spaces are usually available by the hour, by the day or by the month at rates that are comparable to the cost of shelling out for lattes all day in a cafe. Coworking is the hit of the modern working world — there are now coworking spaces in almost every major city in Canada, and the number of spaces worldwide has nearly doubled in the last year.

But does it work for writers? I called a couple of coworking spaces this week to get some details.


More than just desk space

Rachel Young, co-founder of the Toronto coworking space Camaraderie, says coworking can motivate freelancers to get more done.

“Hearing people clicking away on their keyboards encourages us to be just as productive,” she says. “Hearing somebody laugh in another part of the space reminds us that there are other happy humans around us, too. We certainly address the human need of working with others.”

Young says the increased productivity pays off.

“We see members talking about how beneficial it is for them in all aspects of their business, including looking at their profit and loss statements,” she says.

Vancouver space The Network Hub got in on the coworking trend early, opening their first location in 2006. The Hub’s Jay Catalan says that while the majority of their members are tech-based freelancers, up to 30% are writers, consultants and marketers. He agrees that coworking offers more than just desk space.

“It’s more like organic networking, getting to know people in different fields that end up being able to help you,” he says, “they can provide you with information regarding a certain field, like design or accounting or business plans.”

The communities that thrive in coworking spaces can even lead to more work opportunities.

“A lot of people get packed with work and they end up routing it to someone else who is also in the space,” says Catalan. “A lot of referrals happen just naturally.”


What do writers say?

Coworking doesn’t work for every freelancer. Writer Melanie Epp initially joined a coworking space in Guelph because she was struggling with her work-life separation.

“I thought that working in a co-working space would give me a more balanced work week where I had actual start and stop times,” she says.

Although the space initially helped her increase her productivity, the social aspect of the space ultimately became too distracting.

“In the end, I realized that I was only going to work on the days that I didn’t have a lot to do. When I needed to really concentrate, I still had to stay home.”

Vancouver writer Jen Arbo had the opposite experience. With a young child at home, she says she uses her part-time coworking pass when she’s working on a project that requires longer periods of concentration.

“I can do some of my smaller projects at home with ease,” she says, “but being able to focus on a task for a few hours at home, where I have a preschooler, is harder.”

Both Epp and Arbo say that they’ve found it awkward to to take phone calls in coworking spaces, where quiet is generally encouraged. Although many spaces (including Camaraderie and the Network Hub) have boardrooms that can be booked for phone or in-person interviews, any freelancer who needs to spend long periods on the phone or needs extreme privacy may not find coworking a good fit for their business.

But for Arbo, the benefits of coworking make it well worth the expense.

“I like being able to collaborate with other freelancers, specifically ones that live in the same community as me,” she says. “Co-working has allowed me to find others to work with.”


Have you tried coworking? Leave us a comment and let us know how the set-up worked for you. 

Posted on September 19, 2012 at 8:30 am by Rachel · · Tagged with: ,

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