Coworking with Friends: Worthwhile? Or a Waste of Time?

Freelancing is lonely. That’s a common reason why people don’t go out on their own; it’s also often cited by ex-freelancers as the reason why they threw in the towel.

There are countless technological “solutions” to this problem, but in my books, nothing beats good old face-to-face interaction. A few of my freelance friends agree, and we’ve talked about working in a shared space many times.

But it hadn’t ever happened until this week.

By coincidence, I crossed paths with a friend of mine who’s just been retrenched and is starting his own business as I was on my way to one of my usual remote-work haunts: a cafe I like with free wifi.

We spent a fun, social and productive morning together — a morning that exploded a lot of the expectations I had about meeting up to “work” alongside a freelancing friend.

1. It’s not distracting

Since my freelance friends and I work in different fields, I always thought a coworking arrangement would entail more distraction than action. Instead, the reverse was true: instead of straying from my work after periods of intense concentration, we’d talk for a few minutes, then get back to work.

Where online distractions can blur into work time, it seemed like the act of looking up from the computer and actually talking to someone made my brain realise it had had a break. Perhaps it actually gave me more of a break, too. Whatever the case, I got more work done than usual.

2. It’s useful

Although we work in different areas, I have much in common with my freelance friends: we have clients, we have to chase invoices, we’re constantly coming up with ideas to try to land jobs and earn our livings. So working on our own stuff side by side gave us the chance to bounce ideas off one another — and give each other ideas in the process.

After months going solo, it was good to have an on-the-spot sounding board for immediate idea generation.

3. We didn’t need an office

I always thought of coworking as being a planned affair in a dedicated coworking space. Okay, so if you want to actually put these suggestions into action, you might need to call a freelance friend and make a time to meet up and work together, so planning isn’t completely off the agenda. But you don’t need a dedicated coworking space — we worked in a cafe.

If you follow our lead, you’ll need a relaxed cafe, which you won’t be hurried out of as soon as you finish your coffee. You’ll need a decent web connection, of course, and depending on how long you’re there, you may need access to powerpoints as well. The cafes I work from all have these benefits — as well as lovely staff, which is a huge bonus.

Other places you could cowork from include:

  • study rooms in your local library
  • your home office
  • your freelance friend’s kitchen table
  • the park (provided you don’t get too much screen glare)

4. It’s worthwhile

If you haven’t coworked with a fellow freelancer, give it a try. Any time you start to feel a little isolated is an ideal opportunity to meet up with an empathetic buddy and reconnect with the real world. You’ll have fun, get stuff done and spark some new ideas while you’re at it.

Do you ever cowork with other freelancers?

Image by stock.xchng user sqback.

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