“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

 

Coworking Space for Medical Practices?

In the past, I have remarked that certain kinds of businesses and professions are poorly served by coworking spaces.  These include anything that needs special equipment or environmental controls or branded space.  I have also remarked that some services that require privacy, such as medical or behavioral clinics.

This summer, I read of a “coworking space for medical practice” [1].  Hmm.    Am I wrong about this?  How does this work?


First of all, the facility is aimed at “private practice”, i.e., a small clinic with one or a few practitioners.  Conventionally, the facility would be owned and managed by the doctors.  The “coworking” space basically takes over the administrative work and expense, and provides (presumably appropriate) shared resources for all the tenants.

The company calls it “a concierge collaborative care environment.”

So, one question is, is this a “coworking space”, in the sense that most people might mean?  Historically most coworking space is not “boutique”, it is very generic.  Also, coworking space is classically shared, open plan workspace, not private “offices and studio space”.

On the other hand, a coworking space certainly is about sharing infrastructure, and offloading administrative responsibility to the operator.  And the operator promises “a comprehensive, fully managed, operating system for medical professionals.” This apparently includes people expert in “high touch customer service and brand building experience.”  (That’s not what a computer operating system is about, so the borrowed term is confusing to me.  But, I  digress.)

In general, the operator of coworking space aims to replace important features of a conventional workplace that are missing for independent workers:  infrastructure, management, networking, a sense of community.  This medical operation is doing the same thing, for a specialized kind of workplace.

So, it looks like I was wrong about coworking for medical practicing: it makes sense, at least in some cases.

In particular, it is clear that this space is aimed at “start ups”, individual or perhaps small groups of newly minted practitioners.  It is also aimed at “office visits”, which require privacy but not a lot of specific facilities (labs, imaging, sterile environment, etc.)

I’ll also point out that these spaces will probably see “churn” like other coworking spaces.  Doctors will move on to other spaces as the practice grows or simply to get a better deal.  From the point of view of the workspace operator, this churn may or may not be any different from conventional leasing.

It appears to me that the business model is predicated on the perceived financial and administrative pain of running such an office, which I certainly am not an expert on.  I can’t judge how this coworking space compares to working at a conventional clinic or other alternative.

It is obvious, though, that a lot of medical practice doesn’t fit this model for various reasons.  This is also a very “boutique” operation—scarcely the coworking space down the street, filled with freelance web designers and whatnot.  So my overall point is not too unreasonable: a lot of medical practice is not suited to the general coworking model.

  1. Natalie Kais, Clinicube Helps More Doctors Open Practice With Coworking Facility Format in PFSK. 2019. https://www.psfk.com/2019/06/clinicube-medical-coworking-space.html

 

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/