“Legitimizing” Freelance Work

One of the great hazards of freelancing is the isolation of working alone, on your own.  Coworking spaces have become important and successful in no small part because they are a “respite from our isolation” (per Zachary Klass [1])

There are other mental challenges for freelancers.  It’s not quite as bad as “a worker who is his own boss has a fool for an employee”, but there certainly can be a lack of recognition and respect.  We all have experienced some form of imposter syndrome, or just plain self-doubt.  But a freelancer may have no one except themselves who even knows their successes and failures.  That’s rough. (And again, coworking communities can be very helpful.)

Jessica Thiefels writes for the Freelancers Union Blog about another aspect of this psychology, suggesting “5 ways to legitimize your freelance business”  [2].

First of all:  ouch!  Freelance work is legitimately work, but, without the trappings of formal employment it can seem like a hobby even if your livelihood depends on it.  So, yes, freelancers must “Take your freelance business seriously”—noone else will do that for you.

Thiefels’ steps are all pretty logical and probably obvious.  “Legitimate” means first and foremost, creating a formal business entity, along with a “rate sheet” and, of course a “brand”.  In short, act like a business, and you’ll feel like a business, and be taken seriously as a business.

Two other steps are less obvious, but equally reasonable:  insurance, both for you and for the business entity.  Nothing says “grown up” like having insurance, no?

These are two tips.  We can add two more:  join the Union, and join a coworking space. The former will help a lot with the formalities, and the latter will help with the psychology.


  1. Zachary R. Klaas, Coworking & Connectivity in Berlin. University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, 2014. https://www.academia.edu/11486279/Coworking_Connectivity
  2. Jessica Thiefels, 5 ways to legitimize your freelance business, in Freelancers Union blog. 2019. https://blog.freelancersunion.org/2019/08/05/5-ways-to-legitimize-your-freelance-business/

 

What is Coworking? It Can Be For Seniors

This summer Gemma Church discusses Coworking Spaces for Seniors.  What does this mean?

She notes surveys that show that older coworkers are more likely to be consultants and other professionals, while a large proportion of younger coworkers are in “tech” (which I assume means software and web design).

It also seems that younger workers are more likely to be employees of a large corporation, which older workers own their business.

Presumably, independent workers of all ages benefit from opportunities for networking and collaborations.

However, it also seems clear that not all coworking communities are congenial for older workers.

Anna Meyer reports on the Senior Planet chain, a non-profit that offers specialized training, etc [2].  It seems to be aimed to be compensatory, teaching digital tech and business techniques to geezers.

Their motto is “aging with attitude”, and the “attitude” appears to be about “people who were born long before the digital revolution” who want to “stay engaged and active” (including something called “senior style”, whatever that is.)

Senior Planet is also described “a safe place”, where rampant ageism and associated “microaggressions” do not prevail.  (Hey kids, we invented “inclusion”, and have fought for decades now, you think we don’t notice?)

This entire concept also seems that this is making the best of a bad lot, when more people are unable to retire and are forced to work longer.

Personally, I think this “seniors only” approach misses a huge opportunity for coworking:  multigenerational community.  There are many potential advantages for everyone to a coworking community that includes parents with kids, and also “grandparents”, as well as hotshot twenty somethings.

My favorite example might be Canoe Coworking, designed as an indigenous community.  As such, it includes a space for elders who are there both to advise and to be cared for.  Now you’re talking.


  1. Gemma Church, Coworking Spaces for Seniors, in CommercialCafe. 2019. https://www.commercialcafe.com/blog/coworking-spaces-seniors/
  2. Anna Meyer, See inside a coworking space for seniors, in Fast Company. 2019. https://www.fastcompany.com/90344172/see-inside-a-coworking-space-for-seniors

 

What is Coworking? It Can Be Out In The Country

Living out here in the flyover states, I have been watching how coworking might happen outside cities.

This month Sensei Cat Johnson interviewed Torill Bye Wilhelmsen about her coworking space Fjellflyt (“mountain flow”), in the Norwegian countryside [1].

In a small town (pop 3500), “there are not a lot of entrepreneurs to recruit”.  There actually was shared office space available, but Wilhelmsen wanted to create a community of coworkers, not just offices.

How did she do it?  She spent a year getting to know here neighbors.  The coworking space opened only after she created the community.

We invited people for dinner in our home, we’ve had wine and cheese evenings, we’ve gone on trips together, we’ve taken our families on outdoor adventures, we make dinner in the evenings, the adults have gone on mountain biking or kayaking trips, or other social activities.”

Now that’s what I call “community leadership”!

Her coworking space is also kind of “destination” coworking.  Located in a wonderful area of National Parks, many of her community have moved out from the city to find a nice life.  Obviously, not every rural area is as attractive to refugees from the smoke.

Her community is also focused on “creatives”, including actors, writers, designers, programmers, and, she says, one “ecological, small-scale” farmer.  With the exception of the farmer and mountain lodge business, this is not that different from many urban coworking communities, is it?

Wilhelmsen also says that her coworkers were remote working from home.  This is the classic use case for coworking:  a respite from the loneliness and isolation of working at home.  This, too, is pretty much the same as urban coworking.

Special challenges, aside from low population?  Connectivity cannot be taken for granted, and is actually an important asset for the workers.

Special advantages?  Well, most coworking communities are not recruited one by one over the dinner table, are they?

One open question is how this fits with the “native” residents and the long term health of the rural communities.

Reading between the lines of the interview, it seems that most of the interest is from “immigrants” up from the city.  The locals are involved in their own businesses, such as tourism.  I suspect that young people who want to be “creatives” probably leave town to go to the bigger city.  So, with a local coworking community, will more local kids stay home, or maybe come back home?  If so, that would be a huge benefit to the rural area.


  1. Cat Johnson, Bringing Coworking To A Norwegian Mountain Town: A Q&A With Torill Bye Wilhelmsen, in AllWork. 2019. https://allwork.space/2019/07/bringing-coworking-to-a-norwegian-mountain-town-a-qa-with-torill-bye-wilhelmsen/

 

The “Coworking Code of Conduct”

Sensei Cat Johnson calls attention this month to the “Coworking Code of Conduct”, which is a template policy document intended to be used as a model for coworking spaces to use.

The document is undated and unsigned, but is promulgated by Cobot and other coworking operators (and CJ).  The document cites other similar templates that inspired this particular template.

The main thrust of the template is the kind of workplace code of conduct that many conventional organizations promulgate.  Anyone who has worked or gone to school anywhere should already be familiar with these policies.  (This document doesn’t consider kidful environments, which would have additional wrinkles involving interactions between adults with children, and the rights and needs of parents.)

The thing is, of course, that in a conventional office, the employer is in charge of both the space and the workers, so responsibility for the policy and its enforcement are clear. (In many cases, there are legal obligations for employers to enforce such policies.)  In a coworking space, the workers don’t work for the space, so it isn’t necessarily clear who sets and enforces the rules of the workplace.

This policy template essentially encourages the workspace operator to take up this aspect of running the space, even though there isn’t a clear legal requirement to do so.

Yet another important responsibility for community leaders….

What effect would such a policy have?

Obviously, a well-functioning community of coworkers probably doesn’t need any such a formal policy, because they’ll be treating each other with respect already.  But not all communities work smoothly all the time, and workers come and go all the time, so things can change at any moment. In addition, there will inevitably be differences of opinion, such as what is or isn’t “appropriate” talk or touching, so conflict resolution may be needed.  Notably, the code calls for the workspace operator to create mechanisms for mediation, which are probably a good idea anyway.

This document is intended as a template to be adapted for specific workplaces. It will be interesting to see how it might be used by coworking spaces serving specific communities, such as women or first peoples or whatever.  These spaces are balancing the goals of being congenial and/or safe for specific communities, with a desire to be open to everyone.  The generic template about incusion might be too little or totally off target for these communities, I dunno.

If nothing else, this document should make coworking operators and community leaders think about this issue in their own community.  Even if a community is functioning fine, there may be improvements to make.


Coworking Code of Conduct

What is Coworking? It might be at a Hotel

Many view a coworking space as a sector of the hospitality industry, and, indeed, hotels have provided temporary workspace for many years.   Now some hotels are opening “coworking spaces” [1].

Coworking is in demand, and hotels already have the space and service infrastructure to cater to the needs of flexible workers.

As Sensei Cat Johnson says, “Coworking in hotels is a thing, and it’s not going away.”

So what does coworking at a hotel mean?  And what does it have to do with coworking in general?

Jo Meunier describes a variety of business models [1].  Within a hotel, a coworking space is available as temporary workspace for guests and, potentially, for local workers.  Hotel guests are often working “alone, together”, and the coworking environment presumably makes this a bit nicer and, ideally, less isolated.  I have spent a lot of time feeling alone in hotels, so I can see the point.

For local workers, the hotel offers glitzy surroundings, if you like that kind of thing.  (Personally, I am just nauseated by the “luxury” décor of fancy hotels.)  In some cases, the coworkers may get access to the “amenities” of the hotel as part of the deal.  So, maybe you would like working at the Ritz, and getting access to the spa, room service, etc.

The space might be “branded” for the hotel.  Or, a local or global coworking operation might to operate a branded space within the hotel.  In the latter case, workers would presumably be able to connect with other workers in the area as part of a coworking community.

What about community?

Which brings us to the 64 million dollar question, “what about community?

“The big question for coworking operators is, what about community?”

If you think that coworking is all about community, community, community (as I do), you have to wonder just how the transient population of a hotel will foster a feeling of community.  After all, these workers may share nothing except that they don’t live here.  These are peers, perhaps, but not necessarily “like-minded”.  (One reason why I feel so isolated at hotels is that I really have nothing in common with most business travelers.)

Meunier notes this challenge, but notes that hotels have strong offers of customer oriented service and amenities [1].  Frankly, I don’t think these things make up for a lack of community.

It is clear to me, then, why contracting with a coworking operation might be a good way to go.  The hotel’s space can be an outcrop of a local community, which could be quite attractive especially compared to sitting along in your room.

Is This Really Coworking?

I suspect that some of these operations will be basically just short-term office rental.  Probably pretty expensive office rental, considering the venues.

Other operations might really be a corporate coworking space, with a bit of added glitz.  Not my cup of tea, but maybe good for some (well funded) workers.

I would be very surprised if much in the way of long term community develops in such a space.  In that sense, it isn’t going to be very successful coworking, however “nice” the amenities.

I guess we’ll see.


  1. Jo Meunier, Everything You Need To Know About Coworking In Hotels, in AllWork. 2019. https://allwork.space/2019/05/everything-you-need-to-know-about-coworking-in-hotels/