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How to Integrate Into Your Coworking Community

By Molly Lautamo
Contributor, Santa Cruz Tech Beat

March 14, 2015 — Santa Cruz, CA

I joined a coworking space with three goals in mind:

  1. To network
  2. To have a community of coworkers
  3. To have a designated place to work everyday with reliable wi-fi, comfortable chairs, and an endless supply of coffee

Networking and integrating into the coworking community were my top two goals but for awhile I seemed to only really be achieving the designated workspace part and I couldn’t figure out why. Now, after being a member of NextSpace for six months — a coworking space in downtown Santa Cruz that has multiple locations across the country — I finally feel like a part of my coworking community. Here’s how I changed my coworking status from outsider to insider in just a couple months.

Just Show Up

When I first started freelancing I would work out of NextSpace maybe once a week. I thought I could save money and would be more productive at home without all the ambient noise and hustle and bustle of other coworkers. (I was wrong on both accounts.) I thought I could just show up once a week for a few hours and magically become a part of this awesome community and meet my dream clients. Well, as the saying goes, “90% of success is just showing up,” and I wasn’t showing up nearly enough.

90% of success is
just showing up.

So, to begin easing myself into the coworking community I started working out of NextSpace two to three times a week. No matter what. It was a good start: I was meeting some people and getting more comfortable in the space but I still felt like a bit of an outsider. I was working mostly at the small private tables along the outer perimeter and I realized this positioning was making me feel isolated from the community. Fortunately, there was an easy solution.

Sit at the Community Table

When you always sit by yourself at a private table, especially with headphones on, it sends the signal to others that you’re too busy to chat. Sometimes this may be the case and then, by all means, find a private nook and get to work. But if you’re looking to meet new people, then move your laptop and coffee mug to the community table pronto. I work at the community table all the time and am able to be insanely productive and meet new folks. You never know what you might learn, who you might meet, and what opportunities might arise.

You never know what you might learn, who you might
meet, and what opportunities might arise.

Working out of NextSpace consistently and introducing myself to as many people as possible, has resulted in multiple introductions to potential clients and hot tips on open jobs in my field. Also, every once in awhile a friendly coworker will walk through the cafe space offering homemade baked goods, and if you’re sitting at the community table, you’re less likely to be overlooked.

Learn Your Coworkers’ Names and Use Them!

Simply sitting at the community table will help integrate you into the community but you have to put some effort into meeting people. When you sit down or when a new person sits down across from you, introduce yourself. Simple right? Here’s the really hard part: learn your coworker’s name and remember it. I am so bad at this but I’m getting better — it just takes concentrated effort. Keep a list of names if you have to. (I have a list in my phone with little notes about each person that I hope to god no one ever finds. Risky business — but it works!)

Remembering someone’s name the first time always impresses people. Think about how good you feel when someone you met only once greets you by name the next time you meet. You feel significant, right? You are worthy of another person’s limited memory space and that’s saying something. This small act makes you feel kindly towards that person and you automatically make a conscious effort to remember their name in turn. So, if you want your coworkers to like you and give you the time of day, at least make the effort to learn their names. Trust me, it goes a long way.

Ask Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and lots of them. Learn how others got on the entrepreneurial path:
What did they do before this? How did they get their first client? How did they decide what to charge? Do they have a website? Check it out!

Using others’ success stories as a model will help you
down the initially rocky road of being your own boss.

Learning from other’s mistakes and using their success story as a model will help you down the initially rocky road of being your own boss. By being inquisitive you will probably also discover someone willing to be your mentor. Finding a mentor — someone who truly wants to see you succeed, is willing to share their trade secrets with you, and connect you with potential clients to help you along — is priceless. If you find someone like this, don’t let them pass you by. Stay connected, treat them to coffee, and let them know how appreciative you are of their help.

My coworking space also has a community and business email list so you can ask questions of the entire community through email as well. You can offer your services through these lists, request services, or get a group brainstorm going about a tough work challenge you’re facing. This is another great way to introduce yourself to the community and add your voice to the mix.

Repeat

Don’t just follow this advice the first month — just like a friendship requires nurturing, so does a community. You want to stay active, stay at the forefront, and keep showing up. There may be days when you think you’d rather hide away at home but every time I give in to my hermit tendencies, I regret it. I feel isolated, I get antsy, and I miss my community.

Just like a friendship requires nurturing,
so does a community.

Just show up. You never know who you might meet and even if you have an unproductive day, you can still say you networked. Or conversely, if you meet no one new but are productive, then that’s a win too. No matter what, you’re still making yourself visible which is always good when trying to build a business.

Now that you’re a part of a community you have the support and encouragement of a whole group of talented people. Knowing that these people are there for you will give you the courage to succeed and probably make the journey a heck of a lot more fun. So get out there. Find a coworking community and become a part of it. You’ll be glad you did.

Read original blog post here: http://mollylautamo.com/blog/how-to-integrate-into-your-coworking-community

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Molly Lautamo is a content strategist and writer at mollylautamo.com

 

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