By Mandy Gresh (Consultant, Six Months Off) The freedom in your career to do what you want, when you want, has a lot of perks: No one to answer to, no set schedule, the ability to choose your projects, nap or take a last-minute day off… The list could go on and on.
One thing you don’t hear much about is the transition from working in an office surrounded by colleagues to working in your home surrounded by no one. While my initial months of “solopreneurship” brought a steady stream of work that kept me busy, I longed for the “water cooler” chatter and intermittent banter breaks my old office mates provided. The buzz generated from those conversations effected my motivation to keep going.
A month or so ago, while sitting on my couch in my “comfy pants” and still not showered at 1pm, I realized I was a few days away from becoming a certified hermit. Knowing I didn’t want to go back into an office environment but longing for “colleagues,” I came up with a few habits to beat the Solopreneur blues.
- Get out and work in coffee shops or communal working spaces. It may be a little cliché, but your local Starbucks will provide more than a coffee buzz. If you’re like me and feed off other’s energy, I find it in abundance anywhere that profits off serving caffeine. To successfully work from a coffee shop, here are few hints:
- Explore a few different places in your hood until you find one that’s just right. As a Brooklyn newbie, I’m finding a shop on nearly every corner – but only a few have a vibe that’s really me.
- Check for Wi-Fi: The other day I got the unpleasant surprise of no internet access after ordering my latte and setting up. Make sure to ask about internet before opening your wallet.
- Bring Headphones: While it’s great to have buzz, sometimes the noise can become a little distracting (especially in Starbucks). An appropriate playlist should help drown it out.
- No Calls Allowed: First, I always find that loud talker next to me annoying. But really, who can concentrate with so many distractions (thus the loud talking)?
- Set a goal to network/meet with at least “X” people per week (I shoot for 3-5). Meeting and networking with others serves an endless amount of purposes, some of which include freelancing opportunities, important introductions, brainstorming, learning something new, etc. In most of my meetings, I’ve been given referrals to others, which continuously builds my network of opportunity. More importantly, these meetings provide valuable learnings that I might be missing out on from having a full-time supervisor. What’s more, I get to gather a collection of experiences and lessons from those in a variety of industries. Paula Gregorowicz, a coach and the career and business editor at BlogHer, tweeted: “One of my favorite things about owning my biz is meeting 1 on 1 with another entrepreneur up to cool things for lunch & brainstorming!” Well said…. Now get out there!
- Join networking groups with like-minded folks. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but when I first jumped the corporate ship, I was surprised to learn how many freelancers there were. Everyone wants to feel like a part of something and a simple local Google search should help you find your people.
- Consider a co-working office. With a rise in entrepreneurs, comes a rise in co-working spaces. These communal offices offer dedicated or shared desks for those looking to get off their couches and into an office environment. The best news of all: For the most part, they’re affordable. Here are few examples (all are NYC based, as am I, but Google to find locations in your area):
Wix Lounge in Union Square offers free, first come, first served co-working and event space. Operating hours are Monday-Friday 10 am-8 pm, depending on events. Sunshine Suites offers co-working spaces in the Bronx starting at $195 per month or in Manhattan for $275 per month. Fees include copies, ”an open, collaborative, non-dedicated workspace” in their coworking area, 24/7 secure access, 9 am-6 pm receptionist service, high-speed copy/scan/print services, unlimited domestic and international faxing and a few hours meeting room rental a month. For a women only, there’s In Good Company on 23rd Street and 5th Avenue. IGC offers co-working spaces from $150 per month for 30 hours (with yearly membership). Other co-working options in New York City include New Work City, Projective Space, WeWork, as well as The Yard and Green Desk in Brooklyn, to name just a few.
- Get out and into “skill building” classes. In the same way networking can add the mentorship you might miss in the office, adult education classes can offer new skills and collaboration. Ladies Who Launch, In Good Company, New Work City, The Hired Guns, General Assemb.ly, Media Bistro, the Manhattan Business Library and many more all offer free or low-cost courses that focus on specific skills. Build your resume, your knowledge and your tax write-offs.
- Volunteer. With no one controlling your in-office hours and flexibility on your side (hopefully), you might consider giving back to the community in the middle of the day. It might not knock something off your “to do” list, but volunteering will keep you moving and provide the group interaction and camaraderie you left behind in your office. Plus, it’s yet another way to network AND builds good karma ;-)
Even as I drafted this post, quite a few of my coaching clients mentioned this exact topic in our sessions (coincidence?!). I’d love to hear any additional thoughts and suggestions to keep the list going.
This post was originally posted at My Six Months Off.
Photo by: Tom Starkweather.
About the guest blogger: Mandy Gresh is a consultant and coach at Six Months Off, working with a number of organizations on the strategy and execution of business development and marketing projects. Clients have included Devi Kroell, Maletzky Media, Sugarfly Marketing, Travelzoo and Wanderfly. Additionally, she provides guidance to women-owned startups as an Incubator Leader at Ladies Who Launch and as a private business coach. Waglee gets whatever time’s left. Follow her on Twitter at @mjgresh.