Coworking Spaces: For Getting Out of Your Apartment and Working on the Move

coworkingSince I first heard of it, I’ve been really interested in the idea of coworking spaces. Until about a year ago, I’d never even heard of it (and maybe you still haven’t either). The basic idea behind coworking is that it’s an office with desks and other spaces for working, except other people, running their own businesses, share the space with you. It’s ideal if you want to spend less money on office space, try working someplace else other than your apartment or home, or want to meet, talk, and collaborate with other entrepreneurs.

I was excited to learn that there’s not one, but TWO (The Grove and The Bourse) coworking spaces in New Haven (it’s a small city, so having 2 of anything is pretty amazing). The Grove is only one year old, and they’re already expanding.

Better than the local cafe

“Why not just work at a coffee shop?” you might ask. First off, coworking offers a much more comfortable space. After all, these spaces are geared towards getting work done rather than selling coffee and pastries. Typically, you get a real desk (and not some funky setup at a cafe) plus the internet is more reliable because so many people are really depending on to do work. I’m not sure about internet speeds, but I would bet that you’re better off in the coworking space than the coffee shop in most cases. You also won’t have to keep buying coffees to stay at coworking spaces. In fact, most provide complimentary coffee and sometimes food, too. Plus, you can actually talk to others that are working in the same space. This is the area that I’m least sure about in terms of how it would benefit me, but it has great upside potential and would probably help me more than I think it would. The local spaces offer different events for members to learn different skills (like social media). Most coworking spaces are open 24 hours, which makes them accessible at any time, too.

What’s it cost?

Coworking spaces are far from free, but can still be a good value. For 24/7 access, the two spaces in New Haven cost $197 and $250. There are also part-time options for about $75 for 50 hours a month, which is probably what I would consider for myself right now. I think if I was going to consider coffee shopping it, the coworking space would still be a good deal at about $1.50 an hour instead of spending money on coffees and drinks for 50 hours of cafe time!

Workspace for the traveler

Another aspect of coworking that gets me excited: there’s an international network of coworking spaces! It’s called Coworking Visa, and there are 30 U.S. states and about 90 countries listed with spaces. Basically the deal is that if you belong to a coworking space in your hometown, you can use any other coworking space on the Visa list for 3 days (and sometimes longer) at no charge. This is really cool if you’re traveling somewhere for a short period and need a space to work in temporarily. There are many awesome coworking spaces around the U.S., and I could definitely see myself using this when I visit Boston and want to stay past a weekend. Of course, if you plan to stay longer than 3 days, you’ll need to work something else out. Most coworking spaces have a variety of plans, so you can simply buy a cheaper hourly membership in your destination of choice to make it worth your while.

I’m thinking of testing out a coworking space very soon. I think it will definitely help my productivity with my freelance work, plus give me the opportunity to meet others that are doing awesome things. The only reason I haven’t tried it yet is that I still have the 9-5, and the coworking spaces here have some restrictions on dropping in outside of regular business hours. Since I really want to report back to you and let you know if it’s any good, I’ll make it my goal to go in and check one of them out by year’s end!

Have you ever tried (or thought of trying) coworking?

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photo by: achimh

9 Money Making Myths To Forget

Money mythsIt’s great to be back after a fantastic trip to Spain! (more on that later this week) I’ve had a lot on my mind the past couple of weeks, but I’d like to start today with myths that I’d like to forget.

I’ve posted a bit already about entrepreneurship mindset and ambitions.  While I’ll be the first to tell you that my aspirations are much larger than my accomplishments to this point, I think I’ve come a long way in overcoming some of the mental hurdles and myths standing in the way of earning more money.  Still, I’m not perfect by any means, and I let some common misconceptions (that are really myths) about making money get me down from time to time.  Here are several myths of that I’ve thought deeply about:

Money Myth 1: The money will roll in quickly. I had to go with the low-hanging fruit first.  I never actually thought that I would earn money on day 1, week 1, or even month 1 of whatever venture I undertook.  Blogging is certainly no exception to this rule.  It takes time to build an audience and simultaneously create a way to earn money from it, too.  While I enjoy writing this blog and am not worried about a lack of income from it in the interim, I don’t think it’s sustainable for me to write here forever without at least some financial motivation to do so.

Money Myth 2: If you build it, they will come. Again: false and applicable for blogs and other businesses, too.  I didn’t have the expectation of having 1,000 readers two months in to this endeavor, and I can certainly do more to promote Money Spruce, too.  Guest posting, search engine optimization, and contacting other bloggers are all tasks that I need to to improve on.  Spreading the word through one means or another is a must to get the ball rolling with your business (and, no, creating a Facebook page and Twitter account is not an adequate strategy on its own).

Money Myth 3:  All competition is bad. This was a common perception that I had before I began to read the advice of other bloggers and entrepreneurs.  In a lot of cases, if there is no competition that’s at least somewhat related to your field or business, there may not be a market for what you’re trying to create.  If I wrote a blog only about Surly Steamroller bikes, there would be a tiny audience. There are plenty of other reasons when competition is good, too.

On the flip side, it’s not great to be an exact copy of competition, either. The real key is to find a niche, which most likely falls under a larger category.  For example, Money Spruce is a personal finance blog, of which there are many, many others.  However, I mostly cater to a younger audience and deal with simple tips related to time, saving money, and cutting down on stuff.  I don’t talk much about stocks and bonds, retirement, or choosing the right credit card.

Money Myth 4: It’s too late to start/all the good ideas are taken. I think this is, by far, the most damning perception to anyone’s business idea.  Sadly, a lot of people think this way, especially with blogging.  Yet there are a lot of great blogs that just started in 2010, like Think Traffic.  I think there’s a lot of lost opportunity believing that something like blogging has already run its course, and instead think waiting around for the next big thing is a better idea.  As one of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin goes: “The best time to start was last year. The second best time to start is right now.”

Money Myth 5: Having a real job is easier and safer.  In this economy, I think it’s easy to see there is no guarantee of job security after witnessing thousands of lay-offs.  While being self-employed is no sure bet either, I think it’s worth something when you’re in control of your business rather than corporate executives that don’t even know your name.

Money Myth 6: It’s expensive and risky to start a business.  Simply not true in the age of the computer.  Basically any website, like this one, can be launched for less than $200.  While investing more money certainly helps, it’s not a requirement to get started.  This is really great for innovation and testing the waters before investing a lot of time and money.  One no longer has to put their life savings on the line to give entrepreneurship a go.

Money Myth 7: It’s always good to have lots of ideas.  I’ve learned the having lots of ideas isn’t always helpful, and can actually be detrimental.  I’ve already gone through several ideas in the past 6 months, and I’ve moved on from some of them.  Undertaking too many projects at once will undoubtedly dilute your efforts.  Instead, having one or possibly two ideas of great quality is much more valuable.

Money Myth 8: You can get by without selling.  Nope, it just isn’t possible.  Virtually every business requires selling to some degree.  Now I’m not selling you some crappy life insurance policy on here, but I at least have to convince you to keep coming back to read more.  Even if you aren’t selling a physical product, there’s still selling involved whenever money changes hands.  It’s important to be aware of that and will make your life much easier than simply denying that you’re not a salesperson.

Money Myth 9: Hard work guarantees success.  This myth is the hardest for me to get over.  I get really caught up in the fact that I could just be wasting my time with nothing to show for after months (or years) of effort.  While hard work is definitely essential to success, there are no guarantees that your work will be profitable.

I feel good about having moved past some of these myths, but I know there are many more that can bring me down, too.  To me, the main motivator is moving past all the negativity and simply moving forward with maximum force.

Do you have any mental roadblocks and myths you’ve struggled to overcome?

Four Ways My 9 to 5 Increases My Entrepreneurial Ambition

I’m currently working the first 9 to 5 job of my life (not counting 4 or 5 summer internships I’ve had).  Surprise, surprise: I’m not really loving it, at least not in a “I want to do this for the rest of my life” kind of way.  But I have noticed one thing about my time outside of work: I’m a lot more ambitious and a lot more productive. For now, I’m convinced it’s not such a bad thing for me, other than the fact that I do earn a (small) paycheck and I find my job somewhat rewarding.  Here are the upsides:

1. I’m excited for personal productivity when I leave work.  After doing mundane tasks at my job all day, I find a great sense of accomplishment in doing things for myself.  Lately, writing is something that I’ve found to be fun and rewarding after a long day of busywork.  While I see many of the things I do at work as unimportant, a lot of the things that I do at home are productive and a more beneficial use of my time.

(note: Money Spruce does not endorse bottled water)

2.  I have less time to waste.  Devoting 8 or more hours a day to a job creates a much greater sense of urgency to get what I need to done.  For now, my job creates a great structure for doing that.  I come home, briefly think about what I have to do, and I do it. I rarely feel the sense that if I put something off, I can get it done later, which might be the case if my time was more open-ended.  I even find that I’m more productive on nights after a day of work than I am on weekend days when I don’t go into the office at all.

3. I’m motivated to get out of this cycle of “work.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a lazy person, and my goal isn’t to “never work again.”  I consider myself a hard worker and plan to continue to put in hard work for the rest of my life.  But I don’t want to work (and live) with a traditional job in a 9 to 5 cycle for the rest of my life.  This is probably my biggest motivator for starting my own business and working for myself.

My main problem with the 9 to 5 is that I don’t like the schedule that I’m forced to sit in an office and work.  I dislike the limited days off (one of my biggest phobias is running out of vacation days), and I have a nearly impossible time of taking any sort of spontaneous adventures.

I’m nearly 100% convinced that I could never enjoy working a full time job.  It’s hard for me to imagine having to show up to something for 8+ hours on 5 days a week and enjoying it.  I know this isn’t the case for everyone, it’s just a personal belief of mine.

I’m too stubborn of a person to simply accept that having a job is a part of life.  From my even limited experience so far, I’m convinced there has to be a better way to live.

4. I get to be creative outside of my job.  My job doesn’t allow for a whole lot of creativity where I can really put my skills to use and let my personality and talent show.  A lot of the work at my job involves formal communication, following rules, and avoiding stepping on anyone’s toes. I feel like there’s a lot there that confines me.  Being able to write in this blog gives me a voice and allows me to express myself in a way that my job never can.  I can say just about anything I want, and I like challenging myself to think in lots of different ways.  I make the rules here.

I should note that an important part to making all of this work is that I limit my time in the office to 40 hours a week.  If it were more, the whole system would quickly fall apart.  I’d be more tired at the end of the day and have even less time to myself.

While my main goal is to run my own business and not rely on any sort of job, I’m not sure I’m ready to take that leap yet.  After my full time position ends in August 2011, I’m thinking I’ll take on part-time work.  This will still constrain my time enough so that principles #1 and #2 will stick, and I’m sure #3 will still be there, too.  With enough time (and enough detestation for whatever job I end up with) I’ll eventually be organized and motivation enough to work solely on my own business ventures.

Photo by Yos Wiranata