With Boulder Coworking Week coming up, I’ve been speaking with refugees of the jam-packed, laptop-jacked coffee shops in town. The gist: java is good; noise level, not so much.
For home-based entrepreneurs like me, a good day of quietude is heavenly – until a bad day comes along and unmasks peace as isolation. And when the need to meet with a stranger comes up, well, it’s time to search for neutral space and that’s how we end up in crowded cafes and hotel lobbies. These and other trade-offs have given rise to the phenomenon of Coworking. As a flexible, professional-quality work-space (daily, weekly, monthly), Coworking is quickly becoming the choice of freelancers, solo entrepreneurs and corporate mobile workers.
So, how do our peers describe their experiences on a day to day basis? Here is a more personal view from people who host and vitalize local Coworking communities.
“You can have the fastest wifi, you can have the best bagels, you can have the most conference rooms. But those tangible things are not what make a good coworking space great. It’s all about community. As co-founder of Boulder’s first coworking space (Boulder Digital Arts; now 8+ years old!), I’ve toured coworking around the country, including Boston, New York, Seattle, Portland, Tampa, San Francisco, San Diego, and Los Angeles and have often been called upon to consult on coworking start-ups in other locales. The main thing I’ve learned – the one thing all those spaces have in common – is that the people using them, our coworkers, have a sense of pride in where they work; they have a sense “home” if you will.” ~Bruce Borowsky, BDA Co-Founder
“My filmmaking partner has lived in Telluride since 1998 and we work together much of the time via Skype and email. We love the personal freedom that a decentralized business gives us but the Internet is a lonely place, especially for a creative person. After trying to work at home (wow, that was unproductive) and then renting an office in a commercial building (not only was it expensive, I frequently felt like an alien in that buttoned-down environment), I found the co-working space at BDA. Now I have a dedicated place for work that’s affordable, organized, and filled with people from the same planet of geeks and artists as the one I inhabit. If I need to be alone, that’s OK. If I need company, there’s usually a friendly soul nearby with a donut to share. The day goes by, I get stuff done, I have a few laughs. What could be better?” ~Abigail Wright, Miranda Productions
“Coworking is first about productivity — getting more work done without the hassles that freelancers face, such as, distractions at home, or in public places like coffee shops. The proverbial “clean, well-lit place,” our coworking facility lets you focus on what’s important. The other benefit, which is less tangible but critical, is fellowship. Working alongside cool, interesting and creative people provides the vibes and synergy that’s missing when you’re solo, even with IM, Twitter, Skype and Facebook. There’s nothing that can replace in-real-life experiences. They make us happier and better human beings, and this is where Coworking shines. ” ~Lou Ordorica, BDA Community Manager
“I grew up professionally at the headquarters office of a massive corporate mothership. When I jumped off the corporate ladder and joined up with a small design shop, it was a huge transition for me. My new employer is based in North Carolina and I’m the only one in my company that lives and works in Boulder. While it was fun to work from home for the first couple of months, I started to go stir crazy. Co-working at BDA has been the perfect answer for me. I need the collegiality of going to an office every day, talking to people at the coffee pot, and learning from others during our Thursday co-working chats. It’s also been incredibly helpful to tap into the amazing wealth of creative experience that my co-workers share. I know if I ever get stuck on an application or struggle for a fresh idea, I can reach out and get support. ~Lisa Van Damme, Performance Impact
“As freelancers ourselves, we realized that we enjoy our work much more when we are not working alone at home. Coworking provides a way to extend your network, make new friends, and be part of a community. We hope to provide an environment where everyone there gets some energy from others, even if their professions are unrelated. Boulder is full of people working out of their house. We think the timing is right to draw them out into the community. ~ Dale Traxler, Co-Founder, CoMotionBoulder (Boulder’s newest coworking space)
“As two staff members working remotely for a non-profit headquartered in San Francisco, co-working at BDA has been a gift and a privilege! We’ve met a fantastic crew of diverse and talented professionals, which invites all kinds of collaborative possibilities to further our work. We also garner energy from being surrounded by other people, and love having an “office community” – as well as the perks that come along: coffee, fresh fruit, infrastructural/technical support and sponsored happy hours! ~Corin Blanchard & Rachel Rubenstein, FeelGoodWorld.org.
“In this modern world, there is a growing disconnect between people. We try to deepen our community connections through social media, and in many ways it has caused more isolation. As someone who is deeply immersed in the Boulder coworking scene, and who has talked with a lot of coworkers, again and again the reason sited for joining a coworking space is community. The same is certainly true for me. I love working out of a coworking space. I spend my work day hanging out with my friends, and being inspired by the creativity and passion they bring with them. Coworking is the real life version of social media, and infinitely more satisfying. ~Shaw Lathrop, Coordinator of CoWorkingBoulder.org; director of SCRIB; Community Director for FUSE.
Are you a coworker? Please share your experience in comments below.
Alyson Miller, is Co-Founder of PivotGuild, the Boulder-based community of entrepreneurs who support each other through growth challenges in strategy, skills and relationships. PivotGuild is partnered with Boulder Digital Arts.