Every now and then, I’ll get questions via email, Twitter, or blog comments that I want to answer. The thing is, answer in and of itself would be longer than the original blog post itself so I try to keep it concise for the sake of not detracting too much from the initial post.
When that happens, I usually respond as much as I can without going over board, but I actually do keep a copy of the questions so that I can answer them later.
And that normally goes well on days like today.
Working With Others
A few months ago, I was asked:
“How do you have the human interaction when you are a freelancer?”
IM isn’t enough for me, but skype may work ok… I just crave human interactions and I am worried about not having that if I go 100% freelance.
Perhaps the question is better stated as: “How can I not be forever alone?”
Kidding, of course.
In all seriousness, I’ve sat on this question a while because the short answer to this, at least as far as what I think, is that this particular issue is largely personality driven.
For example, there are a group of people that I talk to throughout the day via Messages or on Twitter, but I don’t have much face-to-face interaction throughout my week, and I know that’s the core issue for a lot of people who are looking to jump to self-employment.
But I’ve done this long enough to have some suggestions (and hopefully some of you will offer up more in the comments) on things that work.
1. Coffee Shops
I know that this almost seems like a cliché, especially within our industry (especially with all the stock photography that includes a laptop, notebook, and coffee mug), but clichés are usually born out of things that actually happen and happen frequently.
As such, coffee shops are where a lot of people who are freelancers or even who are remote employees work throughout the day.
Sure, you’re likely to find some people hanging out at the local Starbucks working, but you’re also going to find a lot of other type of people (both young and old) because that’s what people think of when they think of coffee right now. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that: I love the place and usually stop by at least once a week.
But I’ve found that a lot of the people who are freelancers will work at niché, locally-owned coffee shops. The atmosphere is usually a bit different, and the place usually isn’t quite as loud or bustling as other larger shops are because people are generally heads down in whatever they’re doing.
2. Coworking Spaces
This one probably goes without saying especially given the fact that they’ve become so popular in the last few years, but there are a lot of people who spend time at coworking spaces to get work done – even those who have offices.
Some of the nicer coworking spaces have a place to order lunch so you can still work out of the place throughout the entire day, and others have places where you can rent private rooms that are great just for you, or that are good for you and a small team – rooms have televisions, tables, etc., all the stuff anyone with a laptop would need to collaborate with other people.
The thing is, this can actually get a bit expensive so if you end up going this route, it’s gotta be a line item in the company’s budget, or you’ve gotta be able to swing some free time at the place through friends in high places (or whatever they say :).
3. Kitchen Tables, Living Rooms, and Basements
Finally, if there are other people you know who are freelancers but who may not be working on the same project as you, there’s no reason you can’t get together during the day to work from each others place.
I’ve worked at kitchen tables, in living rooms, in friend’s basements, and I setup a small table in my office so, say, that whenever a friend of mine who lives out-of-state comes to down can work out of my home office.
When it comes to this stuff, it’s more about the who than the where.
There Are Other Options!
Of course, there are other options and hopefully some of you will share your experiences in the comments.
The other two things that I do think are worth mentioning are:
- Some people don’t crave human interaction as much as the next – it can harsh their productivity, so make sure that the people you’re working with are not only fine being social from time-to-time, but that you’re also okay if they opt to throw on their headphones for a few hours of focus.
- Even though chat works for some, it doesn’t work for others, either. I’m really talking more about myself here: there are some really great people in the WordPress space I’ve met over the years via Twitter, and have the option to join in various chat rooms and hang outs, but I don’t always do it because it ends up distracting me. It’s not that I don’t want to chat, it’s that it gets in the way of work. For me, that is.
Perhaps the best summary I can offer is this:
Don’t take it personally if other friends would rather work alone or in isolation or with headphones on for a large portion of the day. It’s how they get their work done :).
On the flip side, if you’re someone who can work and hang out with others and be productive, then go for it. If it helps your business thrive, then don’t be afraid to spend some cash for co-working space, or setup a place at your home to invite others to come work.
But that’s all I’ve got. And though I’ve mentioned it three other times in this post, I’d love to hear what advice others have to say about this, as well.