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SELF-EMPLOYED? LONELY? Perhaps a Coworking Site is For You!


They're springing up all over!  Here in Chicago.  In New York City.  In San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Small, spartan office suites, some with little more than floating desks, a small conference room, power outlets, and an Internet connection, geared to self-employed individuals or entrepreneurs who used to always work out of the home.  Many have grown frustrated when business conference calls are interrupted by their children, or the buzz of the espresso machine at the neighborhood Starbucks. 

For many, at-home offices are often the 21st Century version of Solitary Confinement!  Said Jeff Park, who runs an independent pharmaceutical exporting business on the North Side of Chicago, "In the winter time, I'd go for a week and not speak to anyone other than another voice on the telephone line.  It was miserable. I had zero interaction with other people."

Park made the decision to rent a 1,600 square foot workspace - far more than he needed for his own business - and rent most of it out to other like-minded self-employed individuals as coworking space.  His shared workspace in the Ravenswood Neighborhood of Chicago offers non-dedicated desk space, use of a small conference room, electrical outlets, and high-speed Internet - all for a cost of $150 per month.  Those needing a dedicated desk pay Park $285/month.

Individuals using the Ravenswood workspace include computer programmers, web site developers, manufacturer's reps and business-to-business salespeople looking for a quiet place to make phone calls, doctoral students writing their dissertation, and a lady running a dog-walking business.

Author Daniel Pink calls these folks the "Free Agent Nation."  They can work anywhere, as long as they can plug in their notebook computer, connect to the Internet, and get good cell phone reception.  The U.S. Census Bureau estimates the number of one-person businesses jumped from 16.5 Million in 2000, to 20.4 Million five years later, in 2005.

Coworking sites have sprung up in Stamford CT, which uses the Concierge Suite of a local hotel after guests finish their morning continental breakfast.  A number of coworking sites have been established in San Francisco and neighboring communities for several years.  The Bay Area is the apparent birthplace coworking.  According to the Coworking Community Blog, there are at least 38 coworking workplaces open or preparing to open across the U.S. and in several other countries.

Although some still prefer the privacy of home to a shared coworking environment, many coworkers enjoy the interaction with other like-minded entrepreneurs that the shared work sites provide.  At Cubes & Crayons, Menlo Park CA, office workspace is combined with child day care.  "We're finding that our members have really connected," said founder M. F. Chapman, a mother of two young daughters who has seen membership grow to 60 people since she opened the space in January. "Some are coming specifically at the same time so they can take coffee breaks together."

For more information, read Stevenson Swanson's article in last Monday's Chicago Tribune.


Posted: Saturday, September 13, 2008 12:43 PM by Dean's Team


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