A New Freelancer’s Guide to Shared Workspaces

Shared Workspace

Walk into any coffee shop and you’ll see freelancers and independent professionals working on their laptops. Some of them—and maybe you—spend hours every day working from cafes or from their house.

At some point, however, this strategy becomes counter-productive to growing a freelance business. At some point, you may need a professional space to meet clients, a meeting room for collaborators, a network of other independent professionals, and a workspace that enables you to be more productive and happier.

If your freelance career is starting to take off, it may be time to move into a shared workspace.

What is a shared workspace?

A shared workspace is a place where independent professionals and small teams work together. Coworking spaces are one type of shared workspace. From a bird’s eye view, these spaces offer wifi, desks and business amenities, such as printers and a business address.

The brilliance of shared workspaces, however, is not in the wifi and amenities—it’s in the people. The best shared workspaces are home to vibrant professional networks made up of engaged and mutually-supportive people. These spaces host events, facilitate introductions between people, and cultivate a culture of connection.

Who works in a shared workspace?

Shared workspaces are home to a wide variety of professionals, including designers, programmers, artists, attorneys, accountants, photographers, writers, developers, and academics.

Every shared workspace community is different, but a common thread running through these spaces is a diversity of professions, interests, ages and backgrounds.

How will a shared workspace benefit me?

People who work in shared workspace, such as coworking spaces and shared offices, report being more productive, more connected, more social outside of work, and happier.

There’s no work hierarchy in shared workspaces, so you get the benefits of working around peers and fellow professionals without the politics of a traditional office. Being a member of a shared workspace also lets freelancers more clearly separate work and home. You have a place to go do your work rather than working all the time from home because there’s not a clear distinction between work and home.

An added bonus of working in a shared workspace is that membership comes with unlimited coffee and tea. For caffeine-fueled freelancers, this is a major perk.

Where are shared workspace located?

There are now an estimated 14,000 coworking spaces around the world. Shared workspaces are in urban centers, in the suburbs and even in some small towns.

How do I find the right one for me?

Once you’ve located the shared workspaces near you, it’s important to find one that suits your preferences and work style. All shared offices are different. If possible, spend time—ideally working for a day—in several spaces before joining one.

Some things to consider when looking at shared workspaces:

  • What’s the noise level like? Does it suit your workstyle?
  • Are there a variety of seating (or standing) options to choose from?
  • Will you have access to meeting rooms?
  • Are there designated quiet areas for when you need to do heads-down work?
  • How engaged is the community?
  • What type of events does the space host?
  • Do you like the design and layout of the space?
  • Can you see yourself spending many hours there?
  • What’s the overall vibe of the space? Do you feel at home there?

I’ve found the right space. Now what?

Now that you’ve found your shared workspace, the fun begins. It’s time to get to work. It’s also time to become part of the workspace community. The best way to do this is to reach out and say hello to people in the space. You’ll quickly find that your fellow members are generally eager to connect and learn about you and your work.

Make sure to establish a connection with the community manager—they’re at the heart of the space. They know everyone, they can help connect you with people you should know, and they may be able to help you find potential collaborators and clients.

Attend events in the space. If you’re feeling courageous, offer to host an event. Popular shared workspace events include workshops, skillshares, presentations, networking events, happy hours, pitch sessions, accountability groups and work sprints.

How Can I Connect to the Community Online?

Shared workspaces generally have a way for members to connect online about things ranging from job offers and professional recommendations to the fact that someone just put brownies in the kitchen. Popular tools include Facebook groups, Slack and email groups. Participate in these online communities to get to know your fellow members and contribute to the community.

Joining a shared workspace can help a new freelancer grow and strengthen their professional network and business. If you think a shared workspace might be right for you, find a space near you and schedule a tour today.

Cat Johnson is a writer and content strategist focused on coworking and community. She publishes the Coworking Out Loud Newsletter and has written for dozens of publications, including Shareable, Yes! Magazine, Mother Jones and Lifehacker. Follow her on Twitter: @CatJohnson