Co-working is one of those new buzzwords, or phrases, that I’m sure anybody working in the gig economy is familiar with. But what is it, and is it something you should be considering?

The concept of co-working has been around for a long time to a greater or lesser extent. Pretty much since the advent of the Internet people have been gathering in cyber cafes, meeting rooms and hotel lobbies to work independently whilst simultaneously sharing ideas.

However for many years this was probably only ever the domain of hardcore professionals, and alien to the average worker deciding to go solo.

Don’t forget, back in the day the only way to access the Internet was dial up, and then sitting behind either a cumbersome desktop computer in a less than ideal cyber cafe or a clunky, less than ideal laptop.

For some self-employed professionals in Manhattem or East London I’m sure there was still a thriving underground scene of co-workers sharing secrets on stock trading, sales, design, marketing and allsorts of things.

For most of us though, this isn’t the way you made money. You make money by trawling through ads in the local paper, sending off a CV and gaining a paid position.

Technology has now blown this industry wide open, and pretty much anyone can theoretically use, and benefit from working in a co-working space.

Okay, so what is co-working?

A co-working space is a sort of rented office environment. A desk to let, if you will, where remote workers can gather together to get their work done but with the benefits of a office environment rather than trying to work from home.

Think about it. As anyone who has ever tried to work from home will understand, the home environment is often less than ideal.

I once took on a job based from my converted spare room. It sounded ideal at first, and it is a godsend to many. But you don’t factor in the number of distractions that there are at home.

Seemingly, every time you sit down to write an email the doorbell rings and it’s the Amazon delivery guy dropping off a parcel, or a neighbour bringing back that hedge trimmer he borrowed.

An that doesn’t even take into account family. If you’ve got fellow family members who are in the house at the same time things can quickly spiral downhill.

Remember that dude who was trying to give an interview on BBC new before his young daughter burst into the room and interrupted? That’s the test case for not working from home.

Joining a co-working space means yes, working for yourself, at your own pace, but with the benefits of an environment designed for workers. And not enthusiastic delivery drivers.

This is interesting. how else can co-working benefit me?

Another reason co-working is increasing in popularity is the social benefits it offers workers. If you hire a desk in a room full of eager fellow designers, the natural process is you’ll develop friendships and relationships with each other.

Bloggers will discuss different trends and events. Photographers will swap tips and discuss future opportunities. This is the essence of networking and it could be make or break for your business when you compare it to sitting alone, in your spare room never interacting with anyone.

In fact, who-working spaces are specifically designed to facilitate networking.

Most dedicated co-working spaces will have chill out areas, coffee machines, meeting rooms, side rooms and hang outs. The really try hard ones might even have a bean bag or two.

This isn’t done by accident. Co-working spaces specifically want to create an environment for their clients that encourages interaction.

Although it’s perfectly normal for people to use their space without interacting with anyone, the chance is there for anyone who does want to interact. And either way, all workers benefit from their own desk, drinks facilities, Internet access and a clean, modern environment to get their work done from.

I’m ot a psychologist, but I can imagine there are benefits from increased productivity from simply being around fellow workers, and not sat at home with all the temptations and distractions that come with that.

How do I find a co-working space?

If this sounds like something you want to do, or wish you’d have been doing for years by now, then there’s good news. They’re EVERYWHERE !

Seriously. Whilst Central and East London remain the co-working meccas, the industry has grown exponentially to accommodate all those hungry young marketers, designers and networkers looking for a desk of their own.

So head over to Google and have a look what’s available in your area. I bet you’ll be surprised. There are people working away remotely in the most far flung, unfashionable areas of Britain.

There is of course, like anything, great varyation in quality and value of these places. The London Market for example is so competitive, and property is so valuable that you can find yourself paying many hundreds of pounds per month to simply rent a tiny section of desk in an overcrowded, quite basic office.

On the other hand, I’ve come across some very interesting co-working spaces in the North of England that are a fraction of the costs and you’ll get WAY more space, and value for money.

Lots of these spaces also offer short term, or even day passes, so if you’re looking to try on out before you commit, contact the owner and ask for a trial. they seem like a friendly bunch.

It could certainly give your freelancing career the turbocharged it needs.

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