Guest post by Fiona Murray – Fiona Murray is a MSc Digital Marketing graduate and writer based in Scotland. An enthusiast for all things digital and travel related, Fiona has experience living and working in the UK, USA and Asia: https://www.linkedin.com/in/fionapeggymurray/
In the age of digital nomads, the number of people starting out in the freelance industry is growing. Freelancing and entrepreneurial work is on the rise due to shifting economic conditions, corporate downsizing and overall employee dissatisfaction. However, perhaps the biggest push factors have resulted from the rise of personal technology that allows us to work remotely from devices and apps, and communicate with one another from almost anywhere in the world. Now, more freelancers and entrepreneurs are moving out of their homes and offices and moving into coworking spaces. Subsequently, the appealing nature of coworking spaces(1), which offer freelancers unprecedented support and resources to work with more flexibility, are on the rise. This article looks at why freelancers and entrepreneurs are moving into these spaces and the benefits to them of working in this type of environment.
What is a coworking space?
Coworking spaces are for those who wish to work together in a communal, collaborative setting, as opposed to the traditional office where office space is occupied by employees of a single organisation, or from home. Instead, they tend to be open-planned areas where people from different backgrounds have the flexibility to come and go as they please. It’s emerging that there are many different benefits to these spaces for a wide variety of workers. They have existed in some form or another for decades, challenging the typical workspace. More recently, drastic improvements in remote working technology and a corresponding shift in work culture has caused an explosion in popularity of these spaces over the last decade. An independent analysis(2) has found that co-working spaces have expanded from just 1,130 spaces available in 2011 to 13,800 available globally in 2017.
Why freelancers and entrepreneurs choose coworking spaces
These spaces are often more about the people inhabiting them than the actual space. Although there are many benefits, working at home can have an isolating effect over longer periods of time, and coworking can be an easy fix for freelancers and entrepreneurs experiencing these challenges.
Coworking is about bringing people together from different backgrounds, with similar mind-sets. These spaces provide opportunities to observe and learn from colleagues who value their autonomy and often share other values, too. From this perspective, it's natural that freelancers and entrepreneurs would appreciate the synergy of a place where numerous, talented people converge in a similar space. The rise of technology has also made it easier than ever for contractors to bring their tools with them and work with other like-minded individuals from virtually anywhere.
It’s also down to a generational aspect. Generation Y and Z are moving into the workforce, looking for more autonomy. The more modern worker is looking for better work-life balance and control of their time. They also want the ability to decide where they work, how they work, when they work, and the option to choose work they find fulfilling.
Making the most of these spaces
The word “community” is thrown around a lot in the discussion of coworking spaces, and for good reason. Your coworking space should be a carefully considered choice, based on a number of criteria such as: your goals while working in the space, the feel of the space, the location, the financial cost of becoming a member, and the vibe of the coworkers. All this will impact the way you work and the additional work that may come your way.
Often, the best thing you can do is to connect with the people around you. Go beyond asking what they do and where they are from. By networking and sharing skills, a community will likely form and more work will likely fall your way. If you’re already trying to start a new life as a freelancer or new entrepreneur, you can never have too many friends to help you out!
Future of freelancing and entrepreneurship
We are currently living through a fundamental transformation in the way we work. Demographic and social forces are resulting in a younger and more diverse workforce, while evolving technology is continuing to change the way people work. It’s important to understand these changes, to properly prepare for current and future workplace trends and the growing changes to workers’ needs and wants. Despite the coworking movement successes, we’ve not seen the end to the traditional office yet. Coworking spaces are often criticised for their open-planned layout – making them an environment ripe for distraction.
However, with the availability of technology, remote offices and coworking spaces, employers can now offer more flexibility to employees. It’s predicted that flexibility for employees is only set to increase, and thus working remotely will also increase. Communication technology now allows employees to access company data and tools from outside the office, and with more people wanting to live this remote employee lifestyle, it is predicted that there will be a continued rise of freelancers, and businesses will have more high-quality consultant options than ever before.