creative co-working

ben thompson & heather parlato co-working at fetch! creative
[image: stuart silverstein]

a few weeks ago, at the end of my 4th of july wrap-up i mentioned that i was starting a new work schedule involving co-working with a group of designers. from the minute we all got on board, we were excited about coming into a social workspace where we could maintain our independence as self-employed designers, but still get the support of working with other creatives. it’s been 3 weeks since my first day and it’s been a very welcome shake-up to my routine.

the backstory
thanks to our awesome friend, spencer cross, who started the kernspiracy listserv for designers to connect, share advice & referrals, review software & hardware, and generally discuss our industry, i met all these great designers through ongoing comments on this list and was familiar with them for years before we decided to work together. 2 designers from this group, stuart silverstein of fetch! creative and ben thompson of studiofluid have taken on a partnership to combine and multiply the efficacy of their services in e-commerce design and branding. they got an office space that had plenty more room than they needed, so they decided to ask a few design colleagues if we’d like to set up a co-working arrangement, whereby we rent desks and access to office services, bring our own workstations, and work together. at first i thought i don’t really need to do this, i have an office at home, but the more beth goldfarb and i talked about it, the more we thought it could be a great thing to help us get on track with everything we wanted to implement from the creative freelancer conference, help each other, network more regularly, and add a social aspect to our work we hadn’t had before. so, we decided to do it on a part time schedule. stuart & ben filled the other part time slots with melanie orndorff and dave waite for a really well balanced set of expertise in the room.

beth goldfarb, melanie orndorff & dave waite, co-working at fetch! creative

what’s it like?
we all have a basic schedule, but on any given day you could be working alone [though stuart and ben are usually in the office] or with 2 other people. when someone has a technical question, just shout it out and you’ll probably get it solved in a few minutes. if someone wants feedback on an upcoming project, there are usually a few people to ask about composition, usability & first impressions. we started out having lunch as a group on fridays, but we’re already talking about doing much more.

at least once a week, in the middle of a conversation, someone will say “that gives me a great idea!” and run off to write it down. someone else will need to partner with a compliment to their skill set and pair off to work together. or sometimes, one person is busy and checks with the group to see if anyone can take on extra work. i’m also surprised with how self-directed we are. we take breaks to talk, but we also have hours of headphone-fueled clicking & typing where we’re all cranking out work. it’s a really great environment of creative support with fantastic people.

also, there are dogs. dog-friendly office!

beth goldfarb, melanie orndorff & dave waite, co-working at fetch! creative

there are ways to make this happen in your own group as well. while i think it would be really cool if design firms or often-partnered vendors made room for a few extra desks and offered them up to independent designers, if an arrangement like that is hard to come by, there are ways to do it yourself. you can always put out feelers in your network for like-minded designers and sign on with a co-working space like blankspaces and arrange to meet there on the same days and work together. if you’re more into a collaborative startup environment, idyllic nerd commune might be more your thing. and hey, if you don’t need office equipment and are happy in a coffee shop with wifi, maybe see about one with a bigger table in the back and take a group mobile day.

however you might want to work it, with freelancing and small businesses on the rise in the current economy, i think picking your co-workers for a more supportive & collaborative environment is a great way to work. for me, the perk is that this is on a part-time schedule, where i still get the refuge of the home office for the more quiet, more intense, more cats & pajamas days i still need.

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