Working as a creative freelance often means spending many hours alone – creating. While this can be productive and joyful or at least a necessary (if painful) part of freelancing, too much isolation can have a negative impact on our working and personal lives.

From my experience, it’s a good idea to have access to outside stimuli when we need it. Whether we want to bounce an idea off a colleague or just have a laugh to break up the day, company – especially with our peers – often boosts our creative juices and our confidence.

With this in mind, this month I’ll be looking some ways of informal group work that is advantageous to everyone involved.

Jelling with others

"Coworking" is nothing new. It has been in operation since the dawn of time. Without it hunter gathers would have gone hungry. More recently the idea of working together in an informal setting has proved popular with freelance Creatives across the globe.

It was only very recently that coworking first came to my attention, when I attended a Devoted & Disgruntled open space event at the Arc in Stockton. The supportive environment created by Phelim McDermott and his team provided an excellent forum for sharing ideas, interests, hopes and fears. It also enabled me to complete an important funding document for my play To Freedom’s Cause. By simply picking up on the energy in the room, I took some time out and completed a task that had worried me for weeks.

One of the other participants, Selina, a Yorkshire-based recent theatre graduate, said that she wanted to start a mutually supportive group who would meet regularly, bring their laptops and simply work in a shared space. This in a nutshell is what coworking is all about.

As a freelance actor/writer I have sometimes found it tough to stay motivated in order to complete a daunting or mundane task. The positive experience at the D&D road show made me want to find out more about coworking and to share this information with you.

The now global phenomenon first took off in the United States, where small groups of likeminded freelances began to meet up on a regular basis. If you ever struggle with staying creative or keeping on top of essential freelance office tasks, then coworking is something you should consider getting involved with.

There are regular events held all over the UK (including Colleagues on Tap in the North East and Jelly run by KindredHQ in London) or you could set one up yourself with friends.

The most successful coworking events share the following

  • A regular meeting place with free access to WiFi
  • A mutual respect within the group
  • An informal space, rather than an office

One thing that I’ve learned whilst researching coworking is that lots of work can get done, but these events are essentially sociable. It’s time well spent with other freelances from the same or a multitude of disciplines.

"It's very specifically about creating a community … It's like the difference between a coffee shop and a restaurant. At a restaurant, you're there in your own little space; you may have a friend with you, but you're not there to meet people. People at coffee shops are a little more social."

Brad Neuberg, an open-source programmer in San Francisco who is said to have first created the term “coworking”.

I will be attending the next Kindred HQ Jelly on August 15 and will let you know how it goes. 


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