London coworking spaces are popping up everywhere, as shown by this map from coworkinglondon.com.
But the nature of coworking itself is changing, as shown by rising prices, the “niche-ing” of spaces, the increase in established companies opting for coworking spaces, and the bigger office retail companies opening up coworking spaces – either under a sub-brand or under their own name.
“Coworking’s quick spike in popularity means a new coworking space will have less innovative impact than it might have 10 years ago. And it means coworking spaces have saturated the startup culture so completely that they’ve caught the attention of larger companies.”
This means that large coworking companies who operate spaces over several areas in London are starting to appear, such as We Work, who already have a large presence worldwide.
So when ‘A’ – a solo freelancer who’s just getting started – got in touch and asked for my advice for a suitable coworking space she could use, I thought how hard can it be to find an affordable coworking space in East London for a freelancer?
Here’s the original email from Anne-Marie:
“I’m in the process of becoming a consultant after ten years working client and agency side.
When I move into consulting, I’m hoping to work in the capital for one or two days a week. Here’s the thing. I don’t need office space. Just somewhere offering ‘pay as you go’ service with a desk, wi-fi and printing service.
However, I’m finding it difficult to source a hot desking / coworking / rentadesk space at reasonable rates in London. Prices are around £40+.
One can’t spend entire days in coffee houses! Can you recommend anything? Perhaps this is blog idea for other freelances and their experiences?”
Coworking spaces in London that are affordable for newly independent consultants. Easy, right?
Turns out, it’s actually pretty tough.
The first coworking space that sprang to mind was Google’s Campus London, which has a coworking space in the basement of its East London building, just a short walk from Liverpool Street Station.
Campus London is very busy as it is free and has very fast internet speeds, but it’s likely the most suitable for solo freelancers looking for a space to work.
Campus isn’t going to suit everyone, though. I once had a client meeting perched right on the edge of a sofa where everyone within 5 feet of us could overhear our relatively private conversation, all because there was literally nowhere else to sit. It was the client’s choice, not mine, but it didn’t set the most professional atmosphere for a meeting.
Other coworking spaces we looked into and how much they cost to rent a desk:
TechHub – £375 +VAT a year, for 2o hours use a week
So is there a gap in the market for a coworking space that suits solo freelancers that only need a desk occasionally, rather than smaller outfits and startups? Somewhere that bridges the void between a coffee shop and permanently renting a desk?
“Workers are now demanding the technology necessary to do their jobs whilst its impact on office design is twofold. Organisations need to identify and integrate the technology that enables their workforce to preform to their full superhero potential. It has also meant that workers have become far more autonomous with technology allowing them to work when and wherever they want, be that at their desk, in a relaxed open space or in a coffee shop.”
I recently met with Phil Marshall, co-founder of Lara Work Room. We had a great chat about the life of a freelancer, how and where we both work best, and the future of independent workers and coworking spaces in the UK.
Here’s what Phil had to say about coworking and the changing nature of the way we work:
“Many things have changed in the way we work in the last twenty years. If we are to get the best out of these changes, our approach to workplaces must change too. Work, for many people, is no longer a single place, it’s a fluid combination of short stay drop-in sessions in places like cafes, hotel lobbies and client offices.”
“We believe that, increasingly, people will choose to work independently and so, in the flexible (even unpredictable) flow of a working day, will have to secure their own work space, often at short notice and for a short stay. Lara Work Rooms will provide this, helping you stay focused and productive.”
So could Lara Work Room be the answer? Here’s their offering:
Lara Work Room is a pay-per-use co-working cafe.
Users will have a access to solo-work cubicles, group work benches and bookable private meeting rooms.
A cafe and events space will also be offered, along with printer-scanners, bike parking, lockers and super-fast, super-reliable wifi.
All spaces £6 per hour, opening late 2015
Sounds pretty good, but will people pay £6 an hour for a desk, even if they only use it for a few hours a day or even a few hours a week?
“In a competitive startup city like London no amount of free beer will make up for unreliable wifi, uncomfortable seats and high prices. Each coworking space has to focus on providing some basic services before being able to deliver the true value of coworking.”
If Huckletree, Lara Work Room or any of the other coworking spaces can meet these needs, then they’re sure to be one of the coworking spaces of the future.
Do you work in a London coworking space? Got a tip for the best coworking space in London? Have I missed any obvious London coworking spaces? Let me know in the comments!
How much experience do you need to go freelance? And if you want more or feel like you need more, how do you get more experience as a freelancer?
When I first went freelance, I had 4 years experience of working in the industry. That might not seem a lot, but I felt that in order to learn more and progress quickly I had to go it alone. And in the 4 years since I have been freelancing, I feel like I’ve learned the equivalent of 8 years of being in an agency – at least.
To start with, most people felt that you’d need several years of relevant experience while employed to make a go of it as a freelancer. The freelance marketplace getting increasingly competitive, as more people are choosing this way of working.
“I’ve been freelance since 2006 – I just do copywriting now but at the beginning I did web consultancy too. Before going freelance I had a year’s experience as a web editor at a health think tank, and three years’ at a PR/digital agency. So four years’ experience in all.” – Joanna Tidball
If your previous job had crossover with your freelance role, you can be more clever and show your previous work as demonstrating your expertise, which can make up for a lack of experience.
Another option is some freelancing alongside your work and or go part time and do freelance work alongside this too. This is the approach I took when I left my full time job, reducing my days to 3 a week, then 2 a week as I gradually made the transition to freelancing and built up my freelance client base. This gives you a chance to build up your client base whilst keeping regular income.
Once you do go freelance, you will likely find that most of the time people will never ask you how long you’ve done something though they’ll ask you what you’ve done and who you’ve worked with. You could always do a bit of pro bono work to improve your portfolio if that’s lacking.
“The experience thing is overplayed – I’ve never been asked or asked a freelancer about how many years experience they had. I just want evidence of their skills, that is, a website or PDF with examples of work. I just need to know they can do the thing, no matter how long they’ve done the thing for.” – Matt Collins, Charity Chap
If you don’t have what you feel is enough experience to start freelancing, then you may be better off doing a freelance course to gain new skills – although gaining a recognised qualification will give you more clout, even if you do already have experience.
“I had quite a lot of marketing communications / copywriting experience when I went freelance but studied for a Diploma in Copywriting before and whilst setting up business, which was extremely helpful both in terms of giving me credibility and helping me develop my skills.” – Faye Stenson, Black & Write
As well as having good experience, you’ll ideally need good contacts / leads to help you get started. You need to be highly motivated to start getting the work in and know where to find it – something that is much easier if you’ve had experience of finding new clients in your full time job.
When you’re freelance you need a good network of people who know you and your work and could hire you. You also need to be prepared to put in time to develop your freelance network and marketing. Try going to as many events as you can to build up your links with others within the sectors you want to work in. This kind of ground work is essential.
So how much experience do you need to go freelance? 3-4 years of industry experience seems to be the minimum, but there are plenty of ways of getting more experience or demonstrating your expertise if you want to go freelance earlier than that.
It can be scary making the leap from full-time job to being a freelancer.
I remember how daunting it was to leave my job and start out on my own. I was lucky enough to have jobs at great places to work, with decent pay, good colleagues, and interesting work. By going freelance, I was risking all of those benefits.
However, I was sure I’d be gaining a whole lot more – freedom to work where I want, when I want, the satisfaction of being my own boss and building a network of other freelancers to work with. But the prospect of finding clients and a steady stream of new business was quite scary.
If you’re thinking about going freelance, or have just started, here are a few tips that can help you find clients as a freelance. Hopefully, this will give you a good idea about the first few weeks of your new freelance life (but if you want more insight, take a look at my freelance book).
1. Make your previous employer your first client
You don’t need to break away from your employer as soon as you decide to go freelance. Most bosses are understanding of their employees wishing to move on and they appreciate you asking them to make a phased exit. They will appreciate you sticking around for a bit longer, giving them more time to hire the right person to replace you, more time for account handovers and ensuring that clients get the smoothest transition possible. You get the advantage of having guaranteed work for several days a week, while you stat to build a client portfolio. This will also help you set a decent day rate.
2. Update your online profiles
Before you start looking for work, take the time to get your CV in order, then update your LinkedIn, Twitter bio, etc. to reflect your new situation. Make sure you add details of your achievements at the role you just left and don’t just list your responsibilities – emphasise the results you achieved.
3. Network, network, network
Most freelancers get work from referrals and people they know, so ensure that everyone you are connected to knows you are available. Join a network that runs regular freelance events or check the likes of Eventbrite and Meetup for relevant events happening near you. This doesn’t always have to be face-to-face – LinkedIn, Twitter and simply emailing all of your contacts to let them know you are available for freelance work are all valuable activities.
4. Approach similar companies and agencies
Look up PR / digital / marketing / social agencies and send them your CV. Add a highly personalised cover note targeted at them. Say you’re freelance and can offer social media support and tell them how you can make a difference for their clients and company. They might have some opportunities for you there and then, but more likely they’ll keep in touch with you. Some of them may even have permanent roles going.
5. Contact specialist recruiters in your area
Recruiters will have jobs readily available for you, whether short-term or long-term contracts. I’ve had a great experience with the guys at VMA Group (tell them I sent you), but also check out Cloud Nine Recruitment. There are also plenty of freelance jobs going on sites like The Guardian and Indeed.
6. Reach out to freelancer communities
Try posting a message to the following Facebook groups, saying you’re looking for work:
Last week’s post on Tech For Good got a good reception, both from those already working in the area and those who hadn’t heard of it, but maybe only needed a small nudge to start to join the pieces together and see them as the start of a movement.
There’s been a few more happenings over the last week and some initiatives people sent me after reading my post, so thought I’d follow up last week’s post with an update on all things Tech For Good.
Cuba is very tourist friendly, but there is also plenty to do to get off the beaten track, but it can be hard to plan too much before you get there, as things change quickly, so thought I’d quickly jot down my thoughts in case I can help out and give tips if anyone you know is planning on going.
Here are some Havana tips and some more from our friend Laurie too. Leave any questions in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer, while the unbelievable experience of Cuba is still fresh in my mind!