By actor-writer Kate Willoughby

Coworking: from little acorns...

From what I've seen, coworking is well suited to creative freelances. It gets you out of the house, enables you to meet like minded freelances and encourages you to be productive. No wonder it’s going from strength to strength across the globe.

However, there's plenty of room for more, so if you can't find a group in your area and you like the idea, why not set one up yourself?

Over the last few weeks I have been in touch with several exponents of coworking. Here's some of their practical advice about how to get a coworking event up and running and links to further information.

Alex Butler from @KindredHQ shares her tips in this clip. These include:

  • All you need to do is to persuade an organisation, a coffee shop or a venue that you may already use to give you enough space for 10 to 15 people on a regular basis.
  • Make sure that the venue has reliable access to free WiFi.
  • People generally look after themselves. If you are hosting it helps to encourage people to be as collaborative as possible.

Rob McDonald from @NewcastleJelly gives more helpful advice including:

  • Find a decent venue, preferably one which is relaxed, quiet, and spacious. We use Bar Loco which is a bar/restaurant/gallery and far more welcoming than a regular office, serves great food too.
  • Get yourself a Twitter account and Facebook page, you'll need a dedicated twitterer to spread the word.
  • Persevere. It took us a good couple of months to get regulars. Don't be disheartened if co-workers don't return — it's better to have a small friendly group than a stream of one-timers.
  • Jelly coworking days are meant to be relaxed and come-along type events, but it really helps if one of the group (or as a team effort) can keep things ticking over, I've been to a few meetup type events that eventually folded due to lack of organisation. It can be tough though, as all freelancers are busy doing their own thing.
  • Being a free event you're always going to get lots of interest, but it's converting that interest into reliable regulars that's the hard part — without that, it's tough to keep the momentum going. Hence the need to keep plugging away and promoting it.
  • On a side note, we've found most creative freelance types tend to be late starters (like me!) so it generally doesn't fill out until after 12pm. Business types are earlier starters, so it depends who you're aiming the days to.

Judy Heminsley, one of the UK's coworking champions, has a website that is full of start up advice including:

  • Find a room with table space, either several small tables or a large one everyone can sit round, and chairs at a comfortable height.
  • Ensure there’s a constant supply of drinks and possibly food, although Jellyers can always bring their own snacks and sandwiches or pop out for them.
  • You can consider coffee shops (bear in mind they can be noisy and may get very busy at peak times), established coworking spaces, serviced offices, business centres or community halls.
  • One of the best ways to find out about coworking is to attend an established group, such as a Jelly, where you can ask the organiser in situ about it.

If there isn't a coworking group near you have a look at the UK Jelly website as well as Judy's for invaluable ideas on how to start up your own group.

The past few weeks have strengthened my positive impression of this collaborative way of work:

"It’s about the people and the place … essentially it’s an exercise in bringing people together.”

Yiannis Pelekanos, KindredHQ

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