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Virtual Coworking options for freelancers

More and more options for virtual get-togethers when you're working exist for freelancers. We've covered some of the options here.

No matter whether you're employed or self-employed, where we work from has changed forever, and whilst we're huge supporters of mixing up where you work from, there's no denying that for freelancers and the self-employed, a lot of our time will be spent working alone.

Sometimes, however, we might just want a few more people around us, and whilst our options traditionally have been fairly broad, from coffee shops to coworking spaces, and all sorts of different places and spaces to work from, they've mostly been physical spaces.

In recent months, there's a new type of coworking space, a temporary virtual space which is designed to give you a place to work in for a period of time - either to help with accountability, focus, or connection.

Why would I want to virtually cowork?

Three reasons you might want to use a virtual coworking space

1/ Focus

It’s all too easy to task switch, so blocking out a period of your time when you’ll be focused on a specific task or challenge helps you get through your todo list. Whilst you can do this for yourself, showing up with others at the same time really helps. There’s an agreed start time, duration, and rules for the focus time. Many use the pomodoro technique of 25 minutes and then five minutes rest, or perhaps a 90 minute sprint for larger tasks. But scheduling in and committing to getting a thing done can really help with your focus.


2/ Accountability

Many coworking sessions start with sharing what you’re going to get done, and end with sharing what you’ve achieved. That open sharing is proven to help people get things done, and even the act of clearly articulating what you’re aiming to do can help too. Whilst perhaps the ideal is that we can hold ourselves accountable to finishing a task, in reality, having others check in on how we’re getting on can often give us that extra push to the finish line.


3/ Connection

Isolation can be a challenge for many who are self-employed, so being part of a small intimate group who are discussing their work, meeting on a regular basis or even just a once-off with strangers you’ll never speak to again, can really go a long way in combatting those feelings of disconnection, or having not spoken to anyone else all day. Based upon the Pods we run at Leapers, we know that those serendipitous connections you make can often lead to collaborations, new work, even friendships.

Where can I virtually cowork?

There are lots of options emerging, we highlight some of the new platforms

Leapers member Mirav V., a freelance strategy and product consultant, posted a roundup of the platforms and virtual spaces he's used recently. Here are his thoughts.

Groove

https://grooveapp.io/

Good for a power hour. 

The format is simple: you can either join or initiate a “Groove” which is you + up to 3 more people all keen to focus. Then it’s a 5min video intro with your team, 50min focussed work and 5min wrap up. While “Grooving” you can create a task list to satisfyingly check-off during the hour. Although I felt unsure how micro to go with my list. There’s a wide mix of people from Freelancers to full time employees. I had a Corporate Lawyer and a PhD student join my grooves. Overall a pleasant experience but the only drawback was it's all in their mobile app which requires me to keep checking my phone… and end up on Twitter.

Flow

https://www.flow.club/

Similar format to groove except you can join both 60 and 120 minute sessions and “flows” can have up to 8 people. A key difference is Flow Club has hosts (someone who has participated in several before) who facilitate each flow and initially break the ice. I’m not sure how much this is needed vs just assigning a lead from the participants. The host decides on a playlist for the hour to set the "vibe" which sometimes helped (shoutout Julie and her synth playlist). Fun fact: I’m writing these reviews while participating in a flow… so I guess that’s validation? Sometimes the music was a distraction. Unlike Groove’s app Flow Club is browser based, making things more seamless in my workflow.

Scope

https://www.joinscope.xyz/

An interesting twist… you opt in to a "pod" which is you and 3 others in a private Slack channel for a full working day. The pilot community was mainly UK Founders and Freelancers. In general, I found having people with similar professional experience more engaging. Pods kick off with a 10am, 15min Zoom intro / daily goal setting then it's free chat assisted by a quirky chatbot called "Scope", who facilitates check-ins and more. This felt less about short, sharp bursts of productivity - though the daily kick-off call and chatbot check-ins did create a fluid tempo. Instead, the purpose seemed more geared to building meaningful connections and having a sounding board to learn from and support. The fact it’s all in Slack made everything convenient too. Looking forward to seeing how this develops. 

Community Run Coworking

Work alongside members of your existing communities

There are lots of community led coworking sessions too - which might be better if you’re looking for people in similar lines of work or you want to work with people you already know via those communities, for example:

freelancer magazine runs weekly wednesday coworking sessions, which are bookable and drop-in for free.
https://lu.ma/virtualcowork

Leapers runs a monthly accountability group, which include coworking sessions as part of the process to help you get things done, as well as structured check-ins and a cohort of people you’ll be working alongside each week.
https://leapers.co/products/pods

Running your own coworking session

There’s also no reason not to spin up your own virtual coworking session with your own network and coworkers.

Using platforms like Butter or Zoom, you can schedule and create a virtual coworking space, and invite your collaborators. Use our #coworking channel to announce when you’ll be working, set the rules for the session, and crack on!

When you’re running your own session, you might want to consider the following things:

1/ Hosting

Sometimes it’s enough to just invite others to come to the session, but sometimes you might want to play a more active role in asking people to introduce themselves, set their intentions for the session, and play timekeeper. 

2/ Rules

What are the goals and rules of your coworking group? Do you want people to chat, are you all sitting in silence, what duration and breaks are you planning for? Will there be music, cameras on or off? Consider how you want the session to run, and be clear from the outset

3/ Regularity

If you’re hoping to build up some relationships with new people, consider running the session at the same time each week, so the same people can come along each time. 

4/ Technology

Don’t overthink it - it could be a skype call you all join, a whatsapp group, a zoom call, a google hangout, you don’t need to worry too much about the platform, it’s the intention which matters most. But if you’re looking for useful tools to help you guide the group, like time management, chat rooms and breakout groups, consider one of the platforms which is better designed for coworking like butter.us

5/ Tell folk

There’s nothing worse than sitting on a zoom call all on your own, let your community peers know you’re running a session. Use your community channels like twitter or slack, and give people warning, in case they want to book in the time. Use our #coworking channel on Leapers to let people know when you’ll be hosting.



Summary 

There are lots of great options to virtually cowork, experiment with different platforms and find the spaces and places that work for you.

Working for yourself doesn't have to mean working by yourself, and even if a coworking space or office is outside of your possibilities, you can still work alongside others. 

Make time to find ways of connecting with fellow freelancers, and build up supportive and sustainable ways of working as a freelancer.

Which platforms and community groups do you cowork with?
Let us know in the comments below.

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