The economic crisis sees freelance Madrileños opting to “co-work” in a creative, social alternative to the home office.
Utopic_Us is a shared-usage space for rent behind Plaza Mayor, in the center of Madrid. It has an open floor plan, flexible for its office space, events, galleries and classes. Currently, 100 “autonomos,” working for themselves in creative fields, are sharing workspaces in two old wholesale storage facilities. Co-workers include bloggers, jewelry designers, architects, IT programmers, painters, sculptors, audio and visual engineers, and publicists.
When SmartPlanet was visiting, some members were hosting business meetings with clients in the shared workspace.
“Our space is generating new energies. It is a hybrid space that gathers characteristics of a lab, an education centre, a studio, a living room and kitchen, where a variety of ingredients are mixed and experienced in innumerable ways,” as it is described on their official marketing.
For a monthly fee from 75 euros for ten hours a week to 250 euros for unlimited access, Utopic_Us members are able to use the office space, equipped with WiFi and phones. Members also receive discounts for the Utopic_School.
“It’s a factory of transforming ideas,” said Raimond Garcia, in his native Spanish. Garcia is a Ruby Web developer who has spent the last year working at Utopic_Us, following five years working “in pajamas” from home. He is also going to teach a workshop on Ruby there next month. Garcia said, working at Utopic_Us “is much more social. There’s an equilibrium of men and women, a lot of synergy, and the networking is impressive.”
Compared with the cost of renting their own office space and paying for their utilities individually, members find great value in their investment.
Santiago Vallado is owner of DF Produciones, a one-man video production company he has been running out of Utopic_Us for the last six months. He does not think the 250 euros he pays each month is too steep. He said in Spanish that “It’s not a lot of money and it has so many more things,” than working from home or renting an external office space.
Before coming to Utopic_Us, Vallado spent two years managing his business from home, saying, “It’s basically annoying. A thousand distractions. You work longer hours, but less efficiently.” He uses Utopic_Us for networking, already having made videos for some of his co-workers’ marketing projects. He described Utopic_Us “like a multinational office space” filled with people sharing different experiences and ideas.
Vallado added that he likes to bounce ideas off his colleagues during 15-minute breaks spent playing ping-pong and soccer.
Utopic_School features workshops that cost anywhere from nothing up to 650 euros. Some topics covered have been motivation, sustainability, experimental methodologies, and digital technologies, to name a few. The communications manager Olivia Czetwertyrski described Utopic_Us’s business model as focused on learning, seeing, feeling, sharing, and getting to know people and new ideas.
Czetwertyrski is one of seven staff members. She started with Utopic_Us as a co-worker 18 months ago. Czetwertyrski is now employed by the company itself, in charge of internal and external communications, working with the different brands, events and accounts that use their office space. Some events included Reebok, Hendrix, Brugal and public relations for the Community of Andalusia, Spain.
The current facilities have space for about 150 co-workers. They hope to expand their business model to other cities inside and outside Spain. They are even looking into offering visa sponsorships for co-workers to travel to other future Utopic_Us locations to work.
“There´s a lot of things we can do better and a lot more we can do,” Czetwertyrski said, also in Spanish. This included creating storage space for the small business owners to use. “Poco a poco,” she said, which means little by little or step-by-step.
With small businesses looking to decrease costs and increase innovation, co-working is already popular in the United States and Great Britain. Utopic_Us is the biggest official space in Spain, but it certainly will not be the last.
Blankspaces offers flexible office plans to start-ups, freelancers, and entrepreneurs by the hour, day, and month. Blankspaces is located in two locations in California: Santa Monica and Los Angeles. The services they provide include; private offices, open work stations that are great for small companies, work bar for coworking, conference rooms, meeting rooms for quick meetings, virtual offices, and a lounge area to take a break from work.
The core reason to be a freelancer is that one does not have to commit to full working hours that will destroy the joy of working and possibly putting personal life at stake. As a freelancer you can decide your own working hours and show up to work in your pajamas. You don’t have to endure the colleague who yells into the phone or to be paranoid that your boss will catch you reading gossip blogs.
However freelancing can be a lonely existence. You might find yourself not leaving the house for days and stalking everyone in your chat list just to feel humane. This is when co-working comes into play.
What’s Co-working exactly?
Co-working is essentially the best of both worlds. This concept consists of you renting a work space for a period of time at an office where other people do the same. You and other co-workers are not employed by the same company, working on different projects yet you work side by side with the others creating an ideal working environment. You still get to punch in and out as you please and you are not under the watchful eye of your boss but in the very same time, you get a change of environment and engage in watercooler talk. You may spare your friends in your chat list now.
It’s a way to break up the isolation of working on your own. Here are three incentives that make co-working a whirl:
You don’t want to end up like Jack in “The Shining” – Jack Nicholson’s novelist character holed himself up in a remote haunted hotel to focus on writing, and he eventually went haywire, churning out “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” over and over.
Co-working allows you to get out of the house and soak in the world from perspective other than your four walls. You might discover different phenomenon just by stepping away from your familiar surroundings. And those co-workers of yours can make excellent guinea pigs to try out your ideas before turning them in to clients.
Co-workers come from all different fields. That person at the desk next to you could be a potential new client or to provide a lead. Always bring your business cards and chat up the co-workers who filtered in and out. Freelancers can benefits by having each other’s back.
3. Fewer distractions
Some people – no matter how good they are at their job – just weren’t cut out for working from home full time. Whether it’s a leaf blower outside, a demanding puppy or Oprah on the television, distractions can destroy your aim at meeting a deadline. Remember your 9-to-5 days? You tackled your tasks so you could get out of the office and head home. Therefore by going to a co-working space, it can provide the atmosphere you need to buckle down.
Co-working is not the same from space to space. In fact, co-working doesn’t solely take place in office spaces – sometimes people co-work at cafes providing a refreshing environment to work.
Want a Co-working space yes?
An excellent resource for learning more about this topic is the Coworking wiki. From there you can shop for co-working spaces in your area, read and contribute to a blog as well as learn how to start your own co-working space.
Some important questions you might want to consider before kicking off a co-working space:
1. Agreement on rules and regulations between co-workers
It is utmost important to have all the co-workers discuss and finalize what and where is the comfortable meeting point or a co-working space will not work out.
Can I make phone calls or is talking discourage?
Is the noise level too much or too little for my comfort?
Setup and facility.
Is the co working space open for 24 hours, or does it have fix operating hours?
2. Can I get a tax write-off for renting a co-working space?
It is possible as long as it is done right and fulfill all the criteria for a write-off tax requirement. Better if the one consult an accountant.
A co-working space were to take place at different location every time without a fix location, then it is impossible to have a tax write-off. Phone bills may be possible however it must be prove that phone were use for business. For a freelancer it might be a challenge.
A a co-working space were to take place on a fix location, in a building then it is considered as an office. Write-off is definitely possible for things like phone bills, office rental and numbers of computers expenditure.
3. Cost of participating in a co-working space
Needless to say this is the downside of fixed co-working space. Face it, you are not in your house and that cost money therefore freelancer must take the cost into account and decide which type of co-working space offered is affordable.
Co-working is a concept specifically constructed for freelancers and it is now an urban practice given more and more people prefer freelancer’s way of life. It sets a freedom for a labourer when and where to work but with limitation. This benefits employers because humans tends to deliver better quality of work when they are happy.