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Starting a coworking group

Posted on by Clive Walker in Freelancing Personal

This year, I’ve started a local co-working group in Horsham. It’s always a good idea to regularly review an initiative like this. How is it going? The pros and cons. How do I develop it further? I’ve been thinking about these recently so this post is a good opportunity to summarise and assess progress.

Firstly, a little back story. Over the last couple of years, I have been using a few coworking spaces in Sussex. For example, The Skiff and Lewes Werks are excellent coworking spaces in Brighton and Lewes that I have enjoyed working at. After a few coworking days at both places, I wrote an article about Five Advantages of Coworking for Freelancers but never really pursued it any further until earlier this year. Then, after travelling to some of the friendly Worthing Digital coworking days and talking to people that I knew in Horsham, I belatedly realised that coworking in Horsham would also be a great idea – and a lot closer for me to travel to!

Getting organised

Let’s have a coworking day and see who turns up! Well, not quite like that but an initial coworking jelly was an important first step to gauge interest. If you are thinking similarly for your home town, a one-off jelly is a great idea! It’s casual, usually free, relatively easy to organise and a great way to meet other potential coworkers.

Before that though, a venue that has WiFi and is free, or cheap, to hire is a prerequisite. In Horsham, the choice is limited and it was a struggle to find somewhere at first. Most places I looked at said they would charge for room hire and public spaces with free WiFi were not as abundant as they might have been. Luckily, the local Starbucks has a reasonably spacious upstairs room with WiFi available. We get the room for free and Starbucks sell more coffee. Everybody benefits.

Even better, the first coworking meet-up in Horsham attracted 12 people during the day which was a great start! It seemed like quite a few people enjoyed it and the Horsham coworking days became monthly and are now every other Wednesday.

A challenge

I’m sure there are more people in Horsham that would find coworking useful and fun

Since the first one, the Horsham coworking days have attracted between 4 and 12 people each time. I’d like to grow that number and I have been publicising the days on Twitter, the Horsham Facebook page, Wired Sussex event calendar, in a local newspaper, and mentioning it to anyone else who might be interested. It’s been slow (but steady) progress and that’s possibly because Horsham is a small-medium town and also because my marketing skills may not be that great! Neverthless, Horsham coworking is a regular thing now so I hope that means more and more people will hear about it and come along. I’m sure there are more people in Horsham that would find coworking useful and fun, I just need to find them! And inspire them to come along.

Meeting more people

The best bits about Horsham coworking have been meeting more people in the Horsham area, finding out what they do, and seeing people help others over a coffee. And using the day to “break out” of my normal home office routine. There aren’t any downsides from my perspective.

What’s next?

I realise that Horsham coworking may continue as a fortnightly event – and that’s fine. However, if there is demand for a permanent coworking space, I’d like to develop that idea. However, at the moment, I’m not sure there are enough people who would pay – and it would be a lot more work for me and anyone who wanted to help with that. So, let’s grow things ‘organically’ if possible and see where that leads.

Finally

If you are thinking about organising a coworking group in your area – do it! I’m sure you will enjoy it like I have. If you have already done this and can offer advice, let me know in the comments. It’s always great to hear ideas and suggestions!

And, of course, if you are interested in coming along to a coworking day in Horsham, let me know!

Not Networking: It’s important to say that coworking is not networking. There are plenty of networking groups but coworking is more about meeting others, having a casual chat and a coffee, and doing some work in a shared space, rather than promoting your business in a networking sense.

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© 2016 Clive Walker