The trailblazing adoption of co-working spaces in Melbourne has hit a chord with Sydney freelancers as they choose to ditch the home desk or local café in return for a chance to network with other like-minded creatives.
There’s no denying that the ‘free’ in freelance has its benefits but as any seasoned soloist will admit, it can lead to costly distractions. Whether working from home, the corner café or parking a seat at the local library, nothing beats the focus of a designated workspace. Paying the rent on an expensive office or returning to work in-house isn’t always an option for many freelance entrepreneurs, hence the rise of co-working spaces such as Creative Places and The Office Space.
The Loop have also jumped on board to make connecting with creatives and workspaces as easy as possible. The spaces listings has recently changed so that it’s now free to advertise available desks/warehouses/studios etc. Now you only pay-per-lead, i.e. whenever someone inquires about your space you’ll get sent all their contact details so that you can get in touch directly and find your perfect workmate. View current spaces here.
Defined as a collaborative experience allowing independent freelancers and start-ups to work alongside each other in a shared space, the demand for co-working has taken Melbourne, and now Sydney, by storm.
Lord Mayor of Sydney, Clover Moore, claims a big challenge for Sydney’s emerging entrepreneurs is the costly set up of a business address, making it too expensive for freelancers to risk failing. “To develop the creative businesses of Sydney’s future, we need them to take those risks, and affordable co-working spaces give them somewhere to do it,” says Moore. “That’s why we’re opening up city properties on Oxford and William streets and supporting spaces like Vibewire’s Enterprise Hub, Home/Work and Fishburners,” she adds.
Fishburners director, David Vandenberg, admits that although Sydney has a far bigger start-up community than Melbourne, central city locations are often double the price, meaning it can be difficult for co-working founders to get a space up and running. Yet this hasn’t stopped Vandenberg from extending the Fishburner experience from its origins in Ultimo to Darlinghurst, Sydney, where he has personally funded the opening of EngineRoom, with the support of City of Sydney.
Whilst Fishburners caters to 200 members (people who rent desks) EngineRoom houses a more modest 30 to 40 members and provides more directly to the digital creative market.
Apart from the issue of protecting intellectual property rights – which may occur when working amoungst competitor businesses, the advantages of working alongside other like-minded folk far outweigh the associated risks.
“Working alone tends to narrow your skill-set and puts you out of touch with the market,” says Vandenberg. “Being around peers with differing skills sets keeps your skills sharp, allowing you to constantly learn and to be exposed to what else is happening in the industry,” he adds.
Other drawcards include harbouring a professional environment to foster client confidence and to alleviate the stigma of a backyard operation, along with the ability to bring more talent onto jobs and to project the perception of a larger team. Working amoungst a huge pool of potential business partners (or clients) whilst having the flexibility to expand or contract on a monthly basis amounts to opportunities that freelancers may not have access to when working from home.
According to Vandenberg, the future of co-working spaces relies on the set up of more specialised spaces that cater to specific types of businesses with services and communities that are tailored to the needs of those companies.
He believes more spaces will pop up with varying levels of investment and financial involvement, encouraging co-working members to invest back into their community.
Empty Spaces, a project led by UTS Shopfronts and Arts NSW, is one such initiative that invests in co-working by facilitating local artists with access to unused spaces for next to nothing. Over 20 spaces have been set up around the country since 2010 and project manager Lisa Anderson says artists are not the only ones to benefit; with occupants turning looser agreements into commercial leases and helping to generate more foot fall to otherwise unoccupied buildings or main streets. “Co-working is a critical part of Empty Spaces,” explains Anderson. “When local businesses, government and artists collaborate together it can lead to a broader conversation about community improvement,” she adds.
Words by Larissa Meikle
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