How to Attract Women to Coworking

Contributed by Angel Kwiatkowski of the Cohere Coworking Community in Fort Collins, CO.

Ladies of Cohere wear their Bike to Work tees designed by Suzanne (middle).

Since Cohere opened in 2010 we’ve maintained about a 1:1 female/male ratio. We didn’t think this was odd until people started asking us, “how can you possibly attract that many women?!” Our short answer is: women beget women via word of mouth. The long answer is below…

Men might fit into the popular ideal of what a freelance digital professional looks like. But in the coworking world, women are giving this stereotype a run for its money.

The Global Coworking Survey found that “most coworkers are in their mid twenties to late thirties, with an average age of 34. Two-thirds are men, one third are women.”

But some communities exist in complete opposition to these statistics. And those spaces that are predominantly male are very interested in reaching out to connect with what some consider the untapped freelancing audience: women.

Attracting talented, motivated women to coworking must be done delicately, however. Coworking space owners must not perpetuate damaging perceptions by thinking that a few women-only events and some girly decor will do the trick…read the full post on Cohere’s blog.


Five Reasons Lonely Freelancers Should Try Coworking

For every freelancer that sings the praises of coworking, there are five that are wondering whether they should give it a try. Here’s a short list you can use to convince them!

No Danger of Men Working

For every freelancer that sings the praises of coworking, there are five that are wondering whether they should give it a try. Here’s a short list you can use to convince them!

1. Pants are required. We know, we know, the greatest thing about working for yourself is that pants are optional. Your blog post or design project can’t tell whether you’re still wearing pajamas at 2 pm, so why bother? If it’s been a while since you’ve held yourself to a dress code stricter than stretchy pants and your favorite hoodie, you may have forgotten how motivating it can be to don a fresh pair of pants. There’s just something about getting dressed that says, “Ok, I’m ready; bring on the day!” Coworkers know that sometimes, putting on your pants and being in public is the biggest victory of the day. So toss those sweats, zip that fly, and come on down. We’ve got your victory coffee waiting.

2. You’re pretty interesting. There are some things about working from your home office or even the coffee shop that can’t be beat: it’s your home turf, you’re comfortable, and most importantly, it’s fairly free from distraction. Unfortunately, free from distraction often means free from interaction, which can be a slippery slope for freelancers that usually prefer a screen to a face anyway. One of the best parts of the coworking community is cameraderie. We think you’re pretty interesting. We want to know what you’re working on. We’ll talk about coding, or blogging, or marketing all day long. Try us.

3. The coffee is free. And tea. And sometimes snacks. ‘Nuff said?

4. It gives you an excuse to clean your laptop. Take a glance at your keyboard. If you can identify the remnants of more than one meal from the past three days…gross. Bust out your duster, your electronic-safe wipes, or hell, just turn the thing over and shake. You might be surprised at how much easier it is to work when you’re not typing around a crumb buffet.

5. It’s fun! I know, I know…you’re all about the productivity and working in a crowded room of freelancers doesn’t sound like the best way to break through your writer’s block or finally finish that proposal that’s been keeping you up at night. Or, does it? Who knows, maybe that problem that’s been bugging you is something another coworker solved last week. Or maybe there’s another freelancer here who’s got the perfect suggestion for your stalled project? Or, who knows, maybe just getting out of the house, and having a conversation with some like-minded people is just what you needed to breath new life into your career.

It can’t hurt to give it a try, right? If you’re ready search HERE for a space near you.

Image Credit: Flickr – ben sutherland

Reposted from the Cohere Community Blog

Coworking as a Business: Which Model Is Best?

Coworking is part of a collaborative reorganization of the global workforce, but does that mean a traditional business model is out of the question?

(The below is an excerpt from an article I wrote for I would encourage you to read the full version and let me know your thoughts! Like so many issues in the coworking community, it has to be decided on a space-by-space basis. I’d love to hear from space owners using these and other models to achieve a cohesive, sustainable community!)

…Most coworking advocates fall into one of two schools of thought on this topic: those that believe coworking is best when it exists as a non-profit, and those who believe coworking can (and should be) a profitable business. The coworking community demonstrates that both (and many hybrids in between) are possible.

Coworking As A Non-Profit

The thing that sets coworking apart from all other styles of working is that it has the welfare, success, and ultimately happiness of the members as its most lofty goal. The community is the most important asset, and everything else–the space, location and amenities–are meaningless if the community is absent. One of the most attractive reasons to choose the non-profit model is the ability to let the community evolve naturally…

Coworking As A For-Profit

What troubles some in the coworking community is that creating a coworking space with the sole purpose of making profit can drive the focus away from the coworking values of collaboration, community, openness, accessibility, and sustainability. “Coworking spaces that fully embrace the value of community are not owned by anyone,” writes the founder of C4 Workspace in San Antonio, Texas. “They may be funded by individuals and other sources but they are “owned” by the community.” One can’t just offer desks and Wifi, call it coworking, and wait for the money to roll in…

Coworking As A Not-Just-For-Profit

While it might be easy to equate “profit” with the cut-throat individualism that typifies the corporate world, space owners shouldn’t be afraid to make money from a business that requires hard work. Instead, many look for ways to provide additional, valuable services to both the freelancers in their coworking community as well as the telecommuters, small business owners, and creatives of the community at large. Workshops, camps, classes, and mixers bring people together and make them better at what they do. Better yet, all of these things can exist within the community without defining it…

Read the full version on…

Is Your Coworking Space Sending Mixed Messages About The Community?

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Just like a laptop or lucky suit, coworking spaces have to be cared for or they won’t perform.

In their attempt to create “friendly atmospheres” and “comfortable workspaces”, some coworking facilities have strayed far from (what I hope was) their original goal of creating a professional space in which the mobile workforce can be at its most productive.

Catalysts/owners: when a potential member visits your space or a traveling coworker stops in via the Visa Program you’ve got to take it up a notch…you’re the face of coworking for the entire community as far as visitors are concerned!

Here are some unsavory practices that could affect their impression of coworking and cost you a member:

  • The door is locked: There is nothing more confusing and off-putting than not being allowed to enter the facility during hours of operation. I once showed up well past 9 am (on a day that I’d informed the community manager I was coming) only to find the doors securely locked, with no one in sight. The only reason I eventually entered was because a member heard me rattling and opened the door. This member didn’t know me, and it wasn’t his responsibility, so he promptly returned to his office with a door (which he closed) and resumed working. I was left standing in the lobby, wondering whether I had the wrong direction. Which leads us to item 2…
  • No host on duty: I’m tired of arguments that the community can thrive without a manager, curator, or host. I don’t care what you call this person, but they need to exist and be located near the door during business hours. This smiling face should be available to show new people where the coffee pot is located, and where to put their coat. It’s also helpful if this person can get a few of the members to also smile, wave, and say a sentence about what they do. This makes people laugh, feel comfortable, and understand why coworking is so great. So do it.
  • A dirty bathroom: I hear you snickering already…”Thanks ‘Mom’ we’re all aware of how to clean a bathroom.” ARE YOU? In my travels, I’ve encountered coworking spaces with empty toilet paper rolls, hand towels that looked like they’d assisted in the open heart surgery of a car engine, and soap dispensers that made me want to skip the hand-washing all together. Think to yourself: if I were a member bringing my most important client in for a meeting, is this the bathroom I’d want to offer?
  • A cruddy kitchen: If you’re going to entice new members with kitchens or breakrooms in which to enjoy their lunch, for god’s sake, keep it enjoyable. I’ve seen kitchens with signs that say “please be courteous and wash your own dishes” with what looked like a 90 year-old sponge lurking in the sink and nothing but a dingy towel on which to place your “clean” dish. Unacceptable. We’re all adults here, so let’s nix the signs and act like it. Space owners, I’m pretty sure if you provide your members with soap, a touchable cleaning implement, and a rack in which to place them, the clean dishes will follow.
  • Weak power outlets: Freelancers are designed to travel light. Give them an outlet and a Wifi connection, and they’re happy. That’s why it shocks me that I’ve been in spaces where outlets are inconveniently located or missing altogether. If you want people to pay for a membership, they shouldn’t be forced to cross their fingers and plug their beloved computers into a scary tangle of extension cords and power strips.

Let’s face it people, even the most resilient community will falter and die if you can’t master the basics. Let’s not become so concerned with using our 30,000 foot lofts and cool-looking furniture to attract new members that we forget to care for the ones we already have.

Image Credit:

Welcoming New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space

You can make new members feel welcome to your coworking space by doing the basic “host”-type duties. Are you doing these things?

If you’re a coworking space catalyst or a coworking space owner, you should probably have a welcome mat in front of your space.

Okay—not a literal welcome mat.
Welcome New Coworkers to Your Coworking Space
I’m talking about making new members feel welcome by doing the basic “host”-type duties in your space: greeting potential & new members, giving tours of the space, introducing them to other coworkers, etc.

While these my seem like no-brainer things to do, I’ve discovered that in some coworking spaces, these things are simply not happening. Although not every coworking space has a dedicated host, for those spaces that do have a host, the following to-dos are musts. I’d venture that it’s a real challenge to get a community to grow—and grow bountifully—if coworkers don’t feel like they belong. The good news is that it’s fairly easy for you to help new members feel welcome.

In my mind, the following actions are musts:

  • Greet potential & new coworkers. When someone new walks into the space, is it clear where they should go or who they should talk to?
  • Provide a tour of the space. No matter how small the space may be, provide a tour to help new members feel comfortable and oriented. Heck, introduce them to the coffee-maker!
  • Connect them online. Provide the wireless name and password…and remind them of the website and any other communication tools available. For example, we use IRC at Cohere…old school geekdom!
  • Introduce new members to current members. With respect to people’s work and time, it’s amazingly helpful to introduce new members to current members—especially between members you think might have skills, profession or hobbies in common. This, too, helps foster community!
  • Orient them to the neighborhood. Do the current coworkers have a favorite lunch spot? Let the new member know what amenities, restaurants and other resources are near the coworking space.
  • Other community connections. Is there a calendar of events for the coworking space? Or a list of local meetup groups & events? Or simply a list of all the members? Show the new member! They can then explore these resources on their own time and get more comfortable with the community they’ve just joined.

The idea is to make new members feel comfortable. Imagine how intimidating it is to be the n00b in a group of people who already know each other and are established in their work and social patterns. This can be challenging, even for the most extroverted of people. Fortunately, it takes only a few simple actions to help welcome new members.

If you’re a catalyst or owner, do you have other or different ideas about how to welcome your new members? What has worked and what hasn’t?

Why Bigger Coworking Spaces Aren’t Always Better

Should coworking spaces strive to become the Wal-marts of the mobile workforce, or should they resist growing for the sake of growth? Some surprising results from the Global Coworking Study.

Is a bigger coworking environment always better for members?

Humans are hard-wired to want the biggest and the best, whether you’re talking about burgers or boats. Independents are no different, and we often push for growth without really thinking about what’s best for our business or clients.

As interest in coworking increases all over the world, many space owners will be tempted to move the community out of its loft or small storefront, and into larger warehouses or standalone buildings. While expansion might allow space for more members, it could actually have a negative affect on the level of comfort and collaboration.

Seat capacity of Coworking Spaces in Europe (Source: Entreprise Globale & Tech4i2)

The recent Global Coworking Study found that over 50 percent of coworkers prefer to share a workspace with less than 20 people, and at least 21 percent say they work well in a space with fewer than 50 other coworkers. Less than 4 percent of respondents said they’d be willing to work in a workspace with more than 50 users.

There are a few reasons why these findings make sense, both for coworkers and space owners:

A More Intimate Community

When a coworking space maintains a small to moderate size, the members are more likely to get to know each other on a personal level. This facilitates more comfortable conversations and productive collaboration. A massive space with hundreds of members might be lucrative, but it’s likely to lose the intimacy and spontaneity that makes the coworking community so special. Members become ships passing in the night–with no knowledge of the struggles or successes of their fellow independents.

Higher Desk Utilization

It might seem counter-intuitive for a coworking space owner to limit the growth of the community, but as the Global Coworking Study points out, there are some interesting reasons for doing so. In addition to a less connected community, bigger coworking spaces usually see a lower the desk utilization load factor, and fewer full-time members. Members of smaller coworking spaces know that desks are limited, and they’re more likely to sign up for permanent desk space so they’ll be assured a space no matter when they decide to work.

What do you think?

Do you prefer a coworking space to have fewer than 50 members? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in a comment!

Coworking is Not a Frat House (and the Evidence to Prove It)

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house.” How totally inaccurate that stereotype is. I’ll prove to you why.

There is one particular stereotype about coworking that bothers me. It’s the hackneyed idea that a coworking space is simply a “frat house,” “romper room,” or “social hour” for freelancers and independents.

Yikes. How totally inaccurate that stereotype is.

Not only is the success and level of productivity at most coworking spaces anecdotal evidence of why this myth is untrue, but there’s also hard data to make the case. coworking survey

The Evidence

You may have already seen the recent global coworking survey—the first of its kind, seeking to gather data about coworkers and coworking space owners. Deskmag is digging into the survey data and sharing insights about many aspects of coworking. (See the end of the post for links to the Deskmag articles.)

Here are some relevant stats from the survey that dispel the “frat house” myth that often informs stereotypes people have about coworking spaces:

  • Connections: 43% of respondents reported meeting one to three helpful acquaintances within a two-month period, while another 43% have found four or more such connections
  • Income: 25% of all coworkers indicated that they earned more than the national average income
  • Motivation: 85% of respondents are more motivated and have better interaction with other people since moving into a coworking space
  • Teamwork: 57% now work in teams more often
  • Work/life balance: 60% organize their working day better so they can relax more at home

These stats don’t show unmotivated nor unsuccessful freelancers. Coworking isn’t a rowdy frat house.

Community…and Work-Life Balance

The coworking survey reveals that one of the big draws to coworking is the community and collaboration that happens in a coworking space. And “community” doesn’t translate into “frat house” or “social hour.” On the contrary, one of the most powerful aspects of coworking community is to connect with other people while giving—and receiving—value and benefits.

While there are moments or afternoons that feel more “social” at some coworking spaces—for example, when coworkers share funny stories, start a room-wide conversation, or head out to grab a mid-afternoon snack—it’s those moments that make a coworking community what it is: a place for work AND social productivity—a place for a balanced work life.

If you want to read more insights from the survey, check out:
Part 1 – 1st Global Coworking Study: What Coworkers Want
Part 2 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworker’s Profile
Part 3 – 1st Global Coworking Study: The Coworking Spaces
Part 4 – 1st Global Coworking Study: Female Coworker vs. Male Coworker

Image Credit: Deskmag

The first European Jelly week is ready to start

Hub Vilnius joined over 30 other coworking centers from across Europe for the first coworking Jelly week. Come to Hub Vilnius on the 21st of January for Jelly there.

Jellies are occasional meetings at which a small group of people come together to collaborate in an informal atmosphere. Unlike coworking spaces, no membership is required, they cost nothing and take place in a variety of locations. They offer the opportunity to exchange ideas, with no commitments or costs. And at the same time, they allow a community to build that can eventually lead to the development of an institution like a coworking space. With these two benefits in mind, Anni Roolf, a communication designer from Wuppertal, has organized the first European Jelly Week. It will take place from January 17 to 23 in many cities across Europe.

First Jelly in Hub Vilnius, November 2010

Jelly coworking by Mokolabs
Jelly coworking in San Diego by Mokolabs

The name “jelly” was chosen by a group in New York in 2006, taking inspiration from jelly beans. In the end it is simply a fun name, one which is yet to surface in Wikipedia. “These meetings are probably too unstructured and not organized enough for it. Many meetings in spontaneous locations could qualify as a jelly. But even so, somebody could have written an article about it on Wikipedia. The concept has existed now for five years, after all,” Anni said.

Jelly at PAX Coworking Japan

“The coworking movement also existed before it had a name. Many people discovered the concept for themselves, without having to describe it in one word. However using a known label can allow people to better grasp the concept and help it to achieve greater awareness.”

As well as the first Jelly Week, Anni has also initiated the development of the first coworking space in her home town. Jelly meetings can act as a temporary coworking meeting, even if no fixed premises have yet been found. It also helps spread the coworking movement to new places.

The idea grew out of the Coworking Europe conference in Brussels at the end of 2010. Anni wanted to find a way to carry on the productive spirit of the conference, and to demonstrate “how fast things can be created, with few resources but many legs.”

Another reason is to help spread the word about the coworking movment and foster a pan-European dimension to encourage international exchanges and attract more media attention.

How each Jelly looks and functions is entirely up to the creativity and knowledge of each individual organiser. “We only create the basis, and it is up to the people to visualize what they can make from it.” For herself, Anni hopes to develop the initiative for a coworking space in Wuppertal, and to network with people in other locations.

So far, 30 organizations from 14 countries have signed up to host meetings, many of them coworking spaces. A central site will help all participating jelly meetings communicate with each other, as well as a Twitter wall using the hashtag #jellyweek. Jelly Week offers a good opportunity for the strengthening of the European coworking community. To participate, simply contact Anni.

Here is the map of coworking Jelly week:

Japanese coworkers has joined it as well:


Growing Your Business By Keepin’ It Real

Coworking Out of Bounds

The new year is here and that means many freelancers and small business owners are setting challenging goals for themselves, both personally and professionally. When challenging yourself to earn, create, or accomplish more, remember that although you may not answer to anyone else, it doesn’t mean you should take advantage of yourself by creating situations in which your time and talent will be overextended.

We talk a lot about engaging and making ourselves available for the coworking community and community at large, but agreeing to projects beyond your limit is an easy way to breed frustration and apathy–two traits that are deadly for the independent professional.

This year, pledge to remember that you’re only human. Stop saying yes when in your head you’re scrambling to think of a way that you’ll get it done in time. Refrain from agreeing to that aggressive deadline or early morning meeting when you know that your other work will suffer because of it. Be honest with clients and coworkers about how much you can handle, and know that the most beneficial growth, both as a person and a business owner, is that which occurs at a sustainable pace.

You’ll feel more pride about the high quality work accomplished when you operate within your limits, and the anxiety about income goals and number of clients fades naturally as people are attracted to the calm, organized, professional manner in which you do business.

Have you ever said yes to a project or deadline when you should have said no? Share your experience in a comment!

Image Credit: Flickr – Phillip

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]

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