Last week, I started writing about the loneliness of freelancing and my quest for the ultimate solitude-busting solution.
The coworking space.
On paper, these shared office spaces seem ideal. They bring together freelancers to share their skills, rants about difficult clients and lunchtimes.
I did a little research and decided to do a trial day at NUMA, an association dedicated to helping anyone working on the web, especially start-ups. Downstairs is free and very crowded. Upstairs there are desk spaces to borrow by the day or month (for a modest fee, of course). My day started off badly as a client suddenly wanted to see me urgently on the other side of Paris. I settled down to some unsettled work knowing that I’d soon be off again.
The atmosphere seemed outwardly friendly, but it was clear that the office space was dominated by start-up members who knew each other well and were working on the same project. I felt a little lost amid the noisy bustle. I just wanted to get back to my own desk in the peace and quiet of my own flat where at least I was very comfortable and could make cups of tea when I wanted.
My next destination?
La Mutinerie in the 19th arrondissement.
Already, the area appealed to me – not too far from my flat in the 20th and near the Canal St Martin/Buttes Chaumont. The first day went well, I was met and taken on a tour. I then set down to work. It felt a little strange as I hadn’t been an office environment (even if it is a very informal one) for nearly 2 years. People seemed friendly, but I was apprehensive and felt unusually shy. Everyone was busy working, so it wasn’t the time or the place to just strike up a conversation. That’s what lunchtime was for. At the end of the day, I felt a little bit lonelier. Once again, I was sitting quietly among people who seemed to have known each other for years, but I was also optimistic that I could fit in and make the most of this opportunity.
Since then, I’ve signed up for 5-days-a-month membership. I didn’t want to go full-time, aside from being expensive, I still like working at home, in cafes and have plenty of client meetings spread throughout my week. I wasn’t about to give up the flexibility that attracted me to freelancing in the first place.
Here is what I have learnt about coworking so far:
– I work very productively to “get my money’s worth” and the atmosphere is studious
– There are some “core” full-time members who know each other very well, but there are plenty of people like me who are newer and less involved
– It’s well worth taking part in all the workshops and events organised – it’s a great way to get to know people, network indirectly and make the experience more “sociable”
Have you had positive or negative coworking experiences? Let me know!