4 Creativity Resources for Freelancers

Sometimes we all need a kick in the pants. A kick in the creativity pants, that is.

From working on a client project, to rethinking your niche, or in thinking up new ways to seek out clients, at times we need a creativity boost to get our minds thinking in fresh ways. One of the key benefits of coworking is collaborating and ideating with others—or, in other words, being creative with others. Whether you’re a designer, a writer, web developer, or consultant, here are some fun resources to get your creative juices flowing.

  • TED
    “Ideas Worth Spreading”

    Chances are good that you’re already familiar with TED, so this is no shocker. Have you explored Tedx (local) events—perhaps even one that might be near where you live? Hunt through the TED site, and you’re bound to bump into an inspiring talk.
    Tip: Try searching a keyword related to a project you’re currently working on. Watch the video and take notes. You never know how watching a video might infuse a new idea into your project!
  • Ideas Project 
    “The home of big ideas about the future of communication and technology.”
    This well-designed site offers a place for people to share ideas about technology and communication. The site is a fascinating, creative way to map out ideas.
    Tip: Be sure to check out the Ideas Map – an incredible visualization of ideas.
  • Brainpicker
    “Curating eclectic interestingness from culture’s collective brain”
    Brainpicker is visually and mentally stimulating site that highlights innovative, fresh ideas. If you have a little bit of time to read, scout around this site or sign up for the weekly “best of” email.
    Tip: Surprisingly, even many of the ads along the sidebar link to interesting, worthwhile sites—so be sure to look at the ads, too. (When is THAT ever a tip?!)
  • The 99%
    “It’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen.”
    Developed by The Behance Network, The 99% is an information-rich source for ideas and articles about how to make ideas happen. It’s particularly focused on freelancers and small businesses.
    Tip: Click on “Tips” and browse articles by category. They’re also hosting a conference the first week in May in New York City–talk about a creativity brain melt!

This, of course, is a short list of sources for creative inspiration on the web. Do you have a go-to website when you need a creative kick in the pants? Share in the comments!

Image Credit: Flickr – creativedc

How Coworking and Community Translate into Dollars

Money - Jeff Belmonte

“Coworking” isn’t just a buzzword, although I may be preaching to the choir if you’re reading this blog. While the idea of sharing office space isn’t new, the idea of purposefully building a community of independent workers in a workspace–in other words, coworking–is growing like gangbusters. Many people recognize various benefits of coworking (such as the chance to get out of the house/cafe or to meet other creative professionals).

But a key aspect of coworking that is sometimes overlooked is the way coworking can boost income (for independents) and stimulate the economy (in a local area).

Coworking helps freelancers and independents make more money.

The first global coworking survey was recently completed, and more than 600 people from 24 countries participated. The results confirmed what many of us already experience in coworking: it’s a collaborative and community-oriented space that helps independents genuinely grow their business. As many coworking blogs have highlighted from the survey, 42% of survey respondents reported earning more money after joining a coworking space. And more than half said they work in teams more often since joining a coworking space.

Coworking helps the local economy.

The various ways that independents, freelancers and small business owners help boost and sustain a local economy can hardly be covered in a bullet point (I’ll save that discussion for another post, perhaps). But it’s true: a coworking space can help its local community’s economyA soon-to-be coworking space in Portlandoriginated from a developer’s need to creatively solve certain economic challenges in his industry. When Peter Bass, the developer, learned about coworking, he also saw the importance of community. “‘We’re trying to build a community,’ Bass said, ‘not just a place to go to work.’”

When it comes down to it, coworking isn’t about plopping together a bunch of laptop-toting freelancers under one roof. Coworking is about community. And “community” isn’t just a fuzzy, feel-good term: it’s critical to a thriving coworking space. For proof, see how often “community” is mentioned by coworkers, freelancers and entrepreneurs at coworking space New Work City in this video.

I’m curious… whether you’re a coworker or coworking space owner, have you witnessed other ways in which the coworking community has boosted income or the economy? Leave me a comment below!

Image Credit: Flickr – Jeff Belmonte

Top Coworking Resources

It’s time to get your bookmarks and RSS reader ready: here’s the shortlist of mega-helpful, super-fantastic online coworking links.

Instead of making you dig through the library stacks for coworking resources, I’ve compiled a list for you. Whether you’re a would-be coworking space catalyst, a coworker or simply interested in the idea of coworking, the following resources will give you a good idea about coworking, the people involved and how to get started.

It’s time to get your bookmarks and RSS reader ready: here’s the shortlist of mega-helpful, super-fantastic online coworking links.

Instead of making you dig through the library stacks for coworking resources, I’ve compiled a list for you. Whether you’re a would-be coworking space catalyst, a coworker or simply interested in the idea of coworking, the following resources will give you a good idea about coworking, the people involved and how to get started.

Know other great blogs or resources? Leave a comment below!

Image Credit: Flicker – heather

Coworking Gifts For Your Smartphone (and You!)

The collective creativeness that is the coworking community has been hard at work creating a few apps that can enrich your experience!

Giant Smart Phone

‘Tis the season to indulge in gadgets, and for those of you that depend on a smartphone to get you through the day, that means treating yourself to an app or two.

How fortunate that the collective creativeness that is the coworking community has already been hard at work creating a few apps that can enrich your experience!

Coworking for iPhone – by @parisoma

Cost: FREE

Want to keep coworking while you’re away from home, but don’t have the time to research available spaces? Now, there’s an app for that.

The “Coworking” app- made for coworkers, by coworkers, in a coworking space- is now available in the iTunes store.

The app is designed to:
1. Be a mobile database of over 400 coworking spaces worldwide
2. Allow people to find coworking spaces in their city or in cities they visit
3. Help coworking spaces find new members

This app was designed by coworkers at pariSoma Innovation Loft in the San Francisco Bay area. If you download this app, the folks at pariSoma would love to hear your feedback! Send suggestions about how to improve the app or ideas about other potentials for it to coworkingapp [at] gmail.com.

Coworking Lite For AndroidCoworking for Android – by App Hoshies

Cost: $1.95 for full version, Lite version is FREE

“Coworking” is a social location-based app that is all about finding and sharing Coworking locations (download here).

This app is designed to:
1. Create new locations
2. Find other coworkers in your area
3. Follow where others are currently working.

The app comes with hundreds of worldwide locations. The Lite version comes with ads but has no limitations.

And if you really want to turn your smartphone into a powerful coworking machine, check out this long list of mobile apps for entrepreneurs!

Image Credit Top: Flickr – @boetter

Why Problem-Solving in Groups is Useful in Coworking

Taking a cue from an NPR story, here are some ways problem-solving in groups might be useful in coworking.

by Angel Kwiatkowski

Group of people working

A story on NPR’s program All Things Considered talks about coworking. Okay. Not quite. But it does discuss one of the key components of successful coworking: collaboration.

Key in NPR’s study was the point that equal participation in problem-solving fostered more innovative solutions. The research points to why and how getting a group of people together to solve a problem is not so much about getting the “smartest” people together, but instead is about equal participation and multiple perspectives from people in the group.

A group of people. Equal participation and multiple perspectives. Hm…that sounds a lot like coworking.

Taking a cue from the NPR story, here are some ways problem-solving in groups might be useful in coworking:

  • You—the coworker—have a challenge in your work.
    Can your coworkers help you overcome a client/work challenge? This is especially effective if you ask nicely.
  • You—the coworking space catalyst—have a challenge in your space.
    Can the coworking community help you brainstorm solutions to that challenge? Or can you hop on the Coworking Google Group to ask your online coworking community for ideas?
  • You—the coworker OR coworking space catalyst—have a challenge in your local community.
    Can coworkers go beyond their coworking space walls and contribute their smarts to a local challenge? This, of course, requires extra time and energy beyond work. But you never know what sorts of beneficial connections could be made in the local community (perhaps resulting in new clients, new work, new ideas!).
  • You—the interesting person.
    Sometimes, it’s simply about getting interesting people together to see what interesting things they come up with. (And if that sounds vague—it should! The possibilities are as limitless when it comes to grouping together independent, creative, community-oriented coworkers.)

Although coworkers tend to be highly independent individuals, problem-solving in groups is where the real magic happens in coworking. This type of problem-solving has so many advantages—seen, for example, in the rise of collaborative consumption. So try problem-solving in a group—and let us know how it goes.

Image Credit: Flickr – Peter Samis

Can Coworking Help Build A Healthy Business Ecosystem?

Being different from the common vision of an “office” or a “job” doesn’t mean that coworkers should abandon the 9 – 5ers all together. Sometimes the bridges built between coworking spaces and the larger community are the most important for a healthy business ecosystem, and coworkers should be willing to put the first stepping stones in place.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

coworking builds a healthy business ecosystem

Coworking spaces (and their members) often spend time building connections with other coworking spaces or groups of technically creative people, but it’s important to remember that a coworking facility is still part of the larger, conventional business community (which happens to be struggling right now).

Being different from the common vision of an “office” or a “job” doesn’t mean that coworkers should abandon the 9 – 5ers all together. Sometimes the bridges built between coworking spaces and the larger community are the most important for a healthy business ecosystem, and coworkers should be willing to put the first stepping stones in place.

Host Classes/Workshops/Seminars That Are Open To Non-Members

Whether it’s tips from an outside tax expert or a workshop about how to network effectively, chances are that small business owners or even cubicle-dwellers could benefit from the knowledge as well. Opening up some of your functions to outside individuals is also a great way to give people a peek into everything they’re missing, and an easy way to bring in a few extra dollars of revenue.

Support Other Local Businesses

A group of dedicated, well-connected coworkers is a powerful market segment for any new business. Take the time to introduce yourself to the owners and managers of storefronts that you frequent, and be sure to mention that you’re there because you cowork nearby and you like to support local business. Not only will they become aware about a new way of working, it might even spark a discount for coworkers or create an opportunity for collaboration.

Develop A Resource Reputation

A room full of healthy, motivated, independent professionals is a dream come true for a future business owner. Instead of thumbing through a Chamber of Commerce directory or (gasp!) venturing into the wilds of Elance or Freelancer.com, a coworking space provides the business ecosystem with a rich pool of pre-approved talent. All you have to do is find a way to let your community know that this talent exists and is ready to help.

What other ways does your coworking space contribute to the health of the larger business ecosystem?

Image Credit: Flickr – Intersection Consulting

Physical Density: When Innovation Happens in Coworking Spaces

So, what does a (physical) space of innovation really look like? It looks a lot like a coworking space…and here’s why.

By Angel Kwiatkowski

Steve Johnson image from Co-Loco blog

co-loco—an Australian organization that connects independent workers with shared desk space—shared a snippet of Steven Johnson’s book, Where Good Ideas Come From in a recent blog post. In his book, Johnson traces the ways innovation happens—and why some environments are particularly good for generating new, creative ideas. Not only does Johnson look at environments in which people are innovative—he also looks to nature for clues (such as the coral reef and rain forests). And he argues that one of the patterns in innovation is physical density.

So, then, what does physical density have to do with innovation? And what does a (physical) space of innovation really look like?

In fact, it looks a lot like a coworking space.

And here’s why:

co-loco’s blog post pulled out three points about physical density from Johnson’s book:

  • Physical density creates informal networks of influence.
  • Physical density allows companies to easily grow and contract and share employees.
  • Physical density fosters diversity.

“Physical density” simply means grouping people together in the same physical space. Coworking spaces are meant to create physical density—they are spaces for independents to work together.

Physical density in coworking spaces fosters innovation because:

  • it allows coworkers to network with each other.
  • it can ignite the spark for coworkers to collaborate on projects or refer work to each other—helping them to grow their businesses.
  • it encourages coworkers from diverse personal and professional backgrounds to meet, connect, work, brainstorm and collaborate.

Encouraging creativity may be as simple as gathering people together—whether you’re a coworker or a coworking space owner. And the added bonus in coworking communities is the opportunity for long-lasting relationships and collaboration. Putting creative minds together is when innovation can happen in coworking spaces.

Image Credit – co-loco

Working Alone and Together

By Rachel Botsman

In 2005, Brad Neuberg was a thirty-one-year-old freelance open source software programmer living in San Francisco. He had just left a tech start-up to work for himself. Neuberg enjoyed working from home, yet the experience was also isolating. He tried the de facto techie office, a coffee shop, but found it too noisy and distracting and devoid of meaningful interactions. Despite his complaints about the monotony and conformity of the nine-to-five cube-working culture, Neuberg discovered that he missed the social camaraderie of an office. To his surprise, water cooler conversations served a purpose. “It seemed I could either have a job that would give me structure and community,” he recalls, “or I could be freelance and have freedom and independence. Why couldn’t I have both?”

Neuberg had been inventing collaborative software systems since 1998, including a Web software named Open Portal and a distributed Web browser named Paper Airplane. He started thinking about the key ingredients that made these platforms work so well—community,creativity, and structure—and how he could apply these elements to his current working dilemma. He wondered, “How could I have the kind of community and the cool people around me that I would have at a place like Google without having to join a big company?”

whats_mine_is_yours_coverHe rallied three fellow techies who had also been talking about the solitary tensions of working independently. They rented a space called the Spiral Muse for two days a week in the Mission and set up a few folding tables, wireless Internet, and a printer and created a basic meeting space. Neuberg had no idea he was starting what would become a global movement he coined “coworking.” After the friends hosted a coworking Meetup, word spread of the concept. Soon other free-agent techies, researchers, writers, filmmakers, and entrepreneurs began dropping in wanting pay-as-you go usage of the space for a few hours or a few days. All these people were working for themselves and had sworn never to return to a traditional office and the politics that go with it, but they also yearned for some form of working community where they could cross-pollinate ideas face-to-face. As Stephen Humphrey, a professor of management at Florida State University’s business school, who spent more than forty years researching social interaction at work and telecommuting, says, “We suddenly start to realize, we miss socializing—and we need it.” Eventually Neuberg left the Spiral Muse group and, ironically, took a job at Google, but with some of the original participants, including Chris Messina and Tara Hunt, he went on to start another successful coworking space called the Hat Factory. Today, coworking “offices” are being set up across America (Sandbox Suites, Citizen Space), and the phenomenon is rapidly spreading around the world “I urged people to steal the idea,” Neuberg says.

The growth of this movement is not surprising, given that it’s estimated that one-fifth of the workforce, or 30 million people, are working on their own in some form or another in the United States alone. And many of these people, including Stan Stalnaker (who as part of Hub Culture runs a collection of coworking pavilions around the world), are, as Stalnaker puts it, “global, heavily wired, eco-conscious and cost-cutting workers who were looking for a hip yet conscientious temporary coworking environment in their home cities as well as on the road.”

Coworkers describe what their shared workspaces mean to them not in pragmatic terms but with emotional expressions such as “hubs of interactions” or “fraternities of mutual interests.” The spaces themselves vary in terms of perks and culture, but they are all based on combining the best elements of a coffee shop (social, energetic, creative) and the best elements of a workspace (productive, functional). As Dominique Cardon and Christoph Aguiton, French social science researchers on communications and cooperation, say, coworking creates a “third place.” “Something which is neither a desk in a company nor the domicile of the person; it is a kind of public place you can join when you want, with the guarantee of finding some social life and the chance of a useful exchange.”

Co-working is one of hundreds of innovative examples that are part of a new culture and economy called Collaborative Consumption transforming business, consumerism, and the way we live. It is explored for the first time in the must read book What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption.

Rachel Botsman (@rachelbotsman//twitter) is a social innovator who consults, writes, and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing. Roo Rogers is a serial entrepreneur and is currently the director of Redscout Ventures.

Coworking: Road Trip to Ikea

By Angel Kwiatkowski

I recently saw a picasa album of coworking spaces and about 80% of us furnished our spaces with Ikea wares. I dug up this post for you about our epic trip to Ikea and thought you would enjoy reading about (or commiserating) with our experience.

Road Trip To Ikea: #rt2i

Day 1: In order to save money and have an excuse to take an epic road trip we decided to travel the 527 miles to Draper, UT to the nearest Ikea store.  Accompanying me on the journey is my best, good friend Chris.  We are a match made in heaven: I brought snacks and she brought a loaded ipod. We departed Colorado at 4pm on Thursday and made it to Rawlins, Wyo.  Last hour in terrible conditions-foggy, slick roads and could only go 45 mph.

Day 2: Awoke early, had trucker breakfast at Penny’s Diner.  Screaming deal since we got free vouchers to eat there from the hotel which we totally deserved b/c they are the only hotel that cleans the rooms in the middle of the effing night.  Didn’t get to sleep until 3am after I went out and pleaded with the housekeeper to please stop vacuuming the room next to ours and to please stop slamming a door every 23 seconds b/c it literally rattled the bed frame every time.  Anyway, it was an awesome breakfast.

Drove solidly through the 5 hours to Salt Lake City.  Turns out that Salt Lake, Provo, Draper and 14 others towns are really just one town.  Did you also know that this conglomeration is completely surrounded by mountains on all sides?  Very cool scenery and totally worth the 5 hours of butt numbing driving.

Went straight to a hotel and caught a quick nap.  Drove 1 mile to Ikea <squeeee>.  Luckily, I had printed out the instructions on how to shop at Ikea.  Turns out the assembly directions for their furniture are no easier to understand than how to properly “shop” at Ikea.  You really do have to follow the directions or the ultra chic staff people in yellow polos (circa 1991) look at you like you are *so* dumb (think bubble gum chewing, skinny jeans wearing-looking teenager who wishes they didn’t live in Salt Lake).

Spun around the showroom for almost 3 hours.  Yes, that’s just about how long it takes to get around the whole store and that was with a minimal amount of oooing and awing.  Headed down to the “self serve warehouse,”  which isn’t as much fun as you would think.  Turns out that a lot of Ikea’s furniture is quite heavy and I have genetically weak arms.

Purchased a few of our lighter/accessory type items and started panicking about what size uhaul to rent.  Renting a uhaul on a whim at the end of the month is a terrible idea.  I guess a bunch of landlords kick people out at the end of the month b/c we had to drive 25 minutes to find a dealer that had a trailer that was smaller than a semi truck.  Stopped off at a delightful Thai place and decompressed over Pad Thai and Spring Rolls that were absolutely awesome.  Discovered that Iced Thai Tea is really not MY cup of tea.

Returned to hotel.  While Chris got into her stretchy pants and snuggled down, there was no rest for @CohereLLC.   Here’s what my night looked like:

1.       Phoned husband for last minute instructions on how to use a uhaul.

2.       Bucked up and decided to throw down an extra $700 on furniture that the coworkers would actually like, not some cheap-o crappy looking stuff.

3.       Re-re checked my online shopping cart at www.target.com to re-re make sure that I definitely want/need that furniture (I do).

4.       Texted 12 times with interior designer to okay a few last minute, on the fly choices

5.       Mopped brow

6.       Made a new Ikea shopping list

7.       Tweeted some stuff

8.      Ate a girl scout cookie

9.       Thought about how great it is to be in a hotel that cleans the rooms in the morning

10.   Collapsed

Day 3: Rose early to let Chris sleep in, had not so great, but again, free continental breakfast.  Drove to uhaul place and waited in line for 30 minutes behind all the people who got kicked out of their apartments.  Got trailer hooked up and drove away.  Arrived at Ikea just in time for opening.

This is where we kicked Ikea’s ass. We loaded 7 flat beds with stuff and trucked to the checkout.  We were definitely the “don’t get in line behind those yay-whos” people.  Do you have any idea how long it takes a 16 year old who really doesn’t like his job to scan 7 flatbeds worth of stuff?  About 20 minutes, no exaggerating.  Blew a hole in my Cohere Debit Card to the tune of $2223.74!  *EFF*  See photo of Hans, I mean Jared, holding my 2.5 foot receipt.

After you throw down that kind of cash, Ikea provides you with 2 boy slaves to load your uhaul.  As I was going out to retrieve said uhaul, discovered another Jeep with Colorado plates towing the same size uhaul was parked right next to us!  Perhaps we should have been more efficient with our resources.

We u-hauled ass back to CO in 9 hours.   Very proud of my little diesel Jeep that got 26mpg on the way back pulling one ton of Ikea + trailer.

Lessons learned on the #rt2i:

·         Choose a copilot who likes to chat, it will really help keep you awake in the middle of Wyoming and one who really only needs a cup of hot tea in return for hours and hours of circling the same store.

·         Really, really happy we had the instructions for how to shop at Ikea.

·         Call ahead to reserve your u-haul.

·         Ask to take your cashier’s photo for your blog.  It perks him/her right up.

·         Eat more fruits and vegetables.

·         Pick a hotel with a hot tub for aching ikea muscles (note to self for future).