Why Coworking is Such a Beautiful Thing

by Janna Marlies Maron on November 1, 2010

Coworking is still a relatively new industry, and definitely a new concept here in Sacramento — so new that people might question my calling it an “industry.” But if you do any research on the term, you’ll discover the industry of which I speak (a quick google search will do).

I have found that, unless someone has personal experience working at home or nomadically rotating his workspot of choice between Temple Downtown, Naked Lounge, Weatherstone and Temple on S Street, most folks question why someone would PAY to work at a space — actually spend money — when he could just stay home or go to a coffee shop, which doesn’t cost money at all.

Well, a couple of things. First off, it does cost money work at a coffee shop: if you are there for 6 hours and you buy 2 mochas, or even just one mocha and a muffin or croissant, then you’ve spent at least $10. Let’s say you do that for 3 out of 5 days every week — that’s approximately 12 days a month, so you successfully spend a minimum of $120 a month for a workspace that “doesn’t cost anything.” And don’t get me started on the perils of working from home.

That rant aside, here are 5 reasons why coworking is such a beautiful thing:

1. Establish community. This is probably the number one benefit of coworking. And by community, I mean people who really, genuinely care about your success in business and in life. It’s almost like a built-in support group. When you work for a company, you are accountable to your coworkers because you each own part of a larger job or project, and you can’t complete the bigger task at hand without working together. If one person is sick, someone else on the team picks up the slack.

OK, so you might not get someone else picking up your slack, but you do get the support of fellow members who encourage you and a give you affirmation when you’re down. These are people who you end up building relationships with, and you come to trust each other. You end up with an embedded sense of motivation by working around others with whom you have a relationship and whom you trust. These are also people who, once they get to know you, observe your talent first hand and can speak to your strengths as a reference or — and probably more importantly — as a pep talk when you need it most.

The beautiful thing: Motivation and coworkers who lay the smack down on your negative self-talk.

2. Learn to share ideas. When I first came across the concept of coworking and decided that I wanted to start a space here in Sacramento, I was hesitant to tell people about it. And when I did, I had thought about whether or not to tell that person long and hard before doing so. Also, choosing to tell a particular person was like a strategic move on a chess board. Although, that’s a poor analogy because I am the world’s worst chess player. My check-mate skills aside, the point is that I didn’t want to tell people about the idea out of fear that someone would steal it and start up a space before I could, or with out me. It sounds silly even typing that out, but it was true.

The reality that I’ve discovered in the three years since is that not many people have the ambition and drive that I have, and those who do are excited to participate and contribute ideas. People in Sacramento are sharing and contributing to each others’ ideas all over the place: there’s the Capital Creative Collective; there’s the monthly UDA & AIA Design Dialogue; there’s the Community Conversations; there’s the monthly Sacramento Press Club Seminars; there are countless others that I’m probably not even aware of. Here at ThinkHouse, we aim to foster idea sharing on a daily basis, because we believe that if we weave it into our workstyle, it will infect our lifestyle.

The beautiful thing: A good idea can only be enhanced by adding more good ideas.

3. Solicit instant feedback. ThinkHouse has a listing on a new site for coworking and shared spaces called Loose Cubes. As part of the site, I filled out my personal profile and one of the fields asks you to finish the sentence, “The most important thing to me about my workspace is…” I wrote, “having someone around who I can read a sentence to whenever necessary.” Maybe you don’t work that way. If not, you should. It goes hand-in-hand with sharing ideas.

One of the most important things of being a writer is running your stuff past others who function as a test reader — your stuff hast to make sense to other people if it is going to reach them. I’m also an editor, which means that I get hired to be the test reader for my clients. And as far as I’m concerned, everyone needs an editor. It’s Q.A. for whatever you’re working on — someone who gives it a once-over for accuracy, or tests for glitches, or checks for clarity. If it only makes sense to you, in your crazy head, well, then good luck. And if you work at home, alone, where do you get feedback? If you’re lucky, you have one or two colleagues who mutually agree to review each other’s work via email or other online medium. But that could take a day or more — right? With coworking, there’s usually at least one or two ad hoc test readers floating around.

The beautiful thing: Tweak that sentence — or project — until it’s just right, finish it and move on to the next thing in your queue.

4. Expand your network. Collaborating opens hidden doors. It’s like entering Narnia through the Wardrobe: suddenly there’s this whole other world that you never knew existed. The only reason you’re now aware and able to access that world is that Lucy introduced you to it. Coworking puts you in touch with an almost infinite number of Lucys — “almost infinite” only because we all know how small Sacramento really is. But if we harness the power of coworking, expanding our individual networks along the way, Sacramento won’t stay a small town for very long. Know why? Because people will begin to pay attention to us; they will notice the cool stuff coming out of this so-called Cow Town and they won’t be able to ignore us any more. To start, though, you have to be willing to go through the hidden door once you discover it. Coworking and ThinkHouse just might be that door for you.

The beautiful thing: Kind of like Twitter, Facebook, et al, only live (in a good way).

5. Surround yourself with people who know more than you. If you are willing to share your knowledge and resources, others will share with you. And the great thing about coworking is that you can tap into the knowledge of some frickin’ amazing people. In my coworking experience, I have learned how to integrate my Twitter and Facebook feeds, how to set up a self-hosted wordpress site (which you are now on), how to add share buttons to my blogs (like the ones you see below — please use one!), how to add video content, and probably a host of other things that I’m not even thinking of right now.

Bottom line: if you want to surround yourself with people who know more than you do, coworking is where it’s at. Mostly because of the previous 4 reasons, but also because if you’re in business for yourself chances are you can always learn something new by hearing about the experiences of others. You just don’t get that at home. Or at a coffee shop, for that matter.

The beautiful thing: We realize that we can’t succeed without each other.

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