For the past seven years I’ve been building my portfolio of content creation through blogging, writing books and developing recipes which has evolved into the start-up of two very distinct businesses:
The first, includes this very website Liz Creates, offering my professional content creation services and consultancy, and the second, named Ethical Eats, which I’ve devised to promote eating both ethically and for wellbeing.
For the majority of my time in self-employment I’ve worked from home. Initially it was the idyllic scenario most office workers imagine. My routine often involved working in my pyjamas, my favourite coffee cup in hand. I had no commute, no set hours and no restraints. The world was my oyster!
I kept to a fairly rigid regime with lists and calendars all doing their part to keep me on track, my workload steadily increasing. However over time my productivity dwindled. Household chores, family and social media became easy distractions and my working days got longer to accommodate my many breaks, which were used to complete non-work tasks.
I loved my work but I felt detached from the real business world and simply lacked motivation.
I had seen friends in similar situations go it alone, but they were happily growing their businesses and I felt like I was standing still.
So I asked myself, “What can I do to be more productive?”
I decided a change of location could be the solution and so late last year I took the plunge and started to look at alternative work locations suitable for freelancers such as renting offices, hot-desking and internet cafés.
Renting an office seemed like the perfect choice. It was a professional local space, plus offered the opportunity to get out of the house and to create a home/work divide. But as any self-starter will know, office overheads are extremely costly and the rates were way out of my league.
Also office working reminded me too much of working from home. Yes it would provide a potential space for meetings with clients and no distractions, but I’d still be sat in a room all day with barely any contact from the outside world. I needed to find a community!
Next up was working in a local coffee shop. I settled down with my notebooks, pens and a slice of cake and then, after realising I had no room to put my coffee down without elbowing something else fairly vital onto the floor, set to work.
All was going well and I was enjoying the background chatter but come mid-morning the shop became extremely busy. It was at this point I realised how self-conscious I became working in this environment.
Don’t get me wrong, on tap coffee and cake definitely has its perks (groan!) but:
a) All that coffee and cake becomes expensive and
b) I didn’t like the thought of strangers continually peering at me wondering what I was doing.
Additionally I didn’t feel like I was gaining anything from working in that environment. I still received no dialogue from others and felt as though I could work in the same way at home – for free!
I went back to working from home until one day I discovered co-working. A local business centre was offering hot desk opportunities within their co-working space – an open plan, modern space with free wi-fi and the opportunity to network with other freelancers.
I wanted to trial this co-working ‘thing’ before I committed to it and opted to working at a desk for a few days a week and then working at home the remaining days to see how I fared. This allowed me the most flexibility – I was able to have a separate workspace, creating an effective home/work divide but without the high costs of a permanent office space.
On my first day I was shown into a large open room full of pristine white desks (known as hot desks – where each workspace can be rented by the hour, day, week etc and can therefore be used by more than one person). Initially I was wary of open plan working incase there were lots of distractions and noise but I soon found that the space was populated with lots of like minded people and that the background chat involved invaluable insights and advice on all types of business activity.
I was also lucky enough to be offered the services of an in-house dedicated business advisor to discuss ideas, branding and my vision for the future which has helped to get my mind focused and my goals into perspective.
Being in a business centre specifically has given me access to all number of chances to meet business contacts and attend networking opportunities at events run within the centre and through affiliated companies – I started to feel like I was back in touch with the real business world!
The biggest positive for working in a co-working space, which continues to be my driving force, is that I have a designated place to go which I enjoy visiting enormously. The people who share the co-working room are charismatic, fun and full of entrepreneurial drive. I’ve found that having a space dedicated to my work and businesses with no ‘home’ distractions has infinitely increased my productivity and I’m now making real progress in a job that I love.