I can remember the first time I heard about coworking. I was living in Northern Colorado and had been a full-time freelance writer for about six months. I was clueless. I had next to no idea how to find new work, how to set rates, or how to handle the business side of things.
Besides that, I suddenly found myself without a "workplace." I tried working at home, but balancing my laptop on a tiny TV tray in my living room wasn't cutting it. I tried the local University library (students). I tried coffee shops (better, but smelled like coffee all day and hated being that guy hogging the outlets). I assumed working alone and without a place to belong was just part of freelancing.
I began to notice a rumbling among my freelance friends on social media. There was this lady in Fort Collins, and she was trying to make friends with all the indy workers. She was talking about opening this space where freelancers could work during the day, on fast Wifi, with free coffee, and while sitting right next to each other.
"Cool," I thought. "But surely I can't afford it. Surely it's for people with more experience/clients/connections than me."
A few weeks later a friend invited me to go out for a First Friday gallery walk. First stop? The grand opening of the new coworking space in town, Cohere Community. While there, I put my name in a drawing for a free month of membership.
My first day at Cohere, the space owner, Angel, greeted me at the front door, possibly more excited than me. She already knew my name and had an idea of what I did for work. She explained the idea of coworking, which was already familiar because I'd been working in the clamor of coffee shops next to others like me for months.
As the place filled up for the day, the other members introduced themselves. There were web designers, coders, and, to my surprise, other freelance writers!
Like pretty much everyone I met at Cohere, these other writers were more than willing to share tips, experiences, and advice with a newb like me. By the time my free month was over, I realized I couldn't afford to not be coworking!
That was over three years ago. Since then, I've visited many other coworking spaces, attended the Global Coworking Unconference Conference with hundreds of coworking advocates, written a few ebooks about coworking with Angel (now a close friend), and served as a volunteer for the Coworking Wiki Project.
Through the support and guidance of my coworking community, I've gained tremendous confidence as a small business owner. I've learned how to say 'no' to work that isn't right, and how to deal with crappy clients. I've also gained a rich network of connections that help keep me moving forward in my career, and I didn't have to pass out a single business card or spout an elevator pitch.
So why am I sharing my coworking life's story? Tomorrow is August 9th, recognized around the world as Coworking Day. It was on this day back in 2005 that the term coworking was first used to describe a shared workspace open to all those who value independence, community, and collaboration.
Tomorrow especially, indy workers from coworking spaces around the world wil be talking to their friends about coworking, sharing blog posts about coworking, and in general, spreading the word about what's possible when work and sharing are combined into one serendipitous act. (Follow #CoworkingDay on your favorite social network to join in the ruckus!)
On this day of celebration and reflection, what I most want people to know is that coworking is about much more than renting a desk in a space full of other remote or freelance workers.
It's about community. It's about getting connected to others who care about supporting local business, building truly satisfying careers, and helping fellow independents reach their goals.
I've seen coworking communities mobilize to help a member whose house burned down, promote each other's crowdfunding projects, and branch out into cohousing so the party never has to end. I've seen coworkers participate in each others' focus groups, hire each other, and even start businesses together.
As coworking pioneer Jeremy Neuner pointed out in a recent interview with Shareable, "The Naked Economy allows us to connect to the rest of the world, but it also affords us the chance to become deeply invested in our local communities. By abandoning the 9-5 grind and working on our own terms, people have the opportunity to meet their neighbors, coach their kid’s soccer team, attend a city council meeting, or volunteer in their communities. We need to re-build the tight-knit social fabric that holds our society together and the Naked Economy will allow us to do that."
That social fabric is being created right now, in an open, sustainable way, at a coworking space near you.
Learn more about how coworking can help you grow as a person and thrive as a professional by visiting Coworking.com, The Coworking Wiki, or any of the informative articles about coworking published right here on Shareable.