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Alex Hillman

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Why do people join coworking spaces?

6 minute read
by Alex Hillman

Hint: they probably already have a desk somewhere.

The vast majority of people aren’t walking around thinking about where they work.

You might be obsessed with the idea of coworking, but most people are too busy going about their days to care.

Most people don’t know that coworking is even an option. Most people who do know about coworking don’t think it’s an option for them – because it’s just for young people, or because they “hate open floorplans” they’ve experienced at previous jobs, or because they think it’s just for tech people and startups.

But most commonly…people aren’t thinking about coworking because they already have a place to get their work done. The #1 competition for a coworking space isn’t another office – it’s the dining room table, the spare room, or even the couch.

So why do so many people present coworking as an alternative to the office?

My hunch is that it’s because people don’t get enough exposure to the other reasons that people join coworking spaces. We see what journalists who have never spent a day working from a coworking space write. We listen to other people who run coworking spaces talk about how valuable they are.

But we almost never hear directly from the members about why they join coworking spaces, and what they hope to get out of them.

So today I want to share a personal email that I got from one of our new members, Eric.

When new members join Indy Hall, I like to ask them a few questions to get a sense of why they chose Indy Hall and what they hope to get out of the experience. The stuff people write is just amazing – and is one of our best indicators that we’re doing a good job communicating our value to them too.

Here’s what Eric wrote when I asked him what brought him to Indy Hall:

“So why did I join Indy Hall?

Well, I’ve told the story a couple of times now; at least logistically. I live in the neighborhood. I walked past Indy Hall daily for a couple of years on my way to a job that I didn’t like. I told myself that I would eventually go independent and, when I did, I’d become a member of this place that I had read so much about.

I lived vicariously through the social feeds of Indy Hall and some of its members for a long while and always thought that it seemed very cool and very special. I really wanted to be a part of it.

Now that I’ve been independent for a little under a year and things seem to be going pretty ok, reason one for joining was simply fulfilling a promise to myself – to stop looking through the window every so often and actually meet the people inside. I was going to make that happen soon anyway but when Alex presented at Creative Mornings last week it was a little bit of a kick in the ass to actually execute on making this happen – I hadn’t learned the concept of JFDI yet! 🙂

But the other big reason I wanted to join: my a hope/desire/need/whatever to find a tribe.

Philly was supposed to be a temporary stop for my wife and I – we came here so she could go to nursing school and the plan was to leave after that was finished. But, a job opportunity was presented that, if offered, you do not refuse. So she accepted and is now also in a masters program. Future employment after she finishes is pretty much assumed, so Philly has become less and less temporary with every passing year.

I was ok going solo for the first stretch of this endeavor. No reason to lay down roots if you’re just going to head out shortly after anyway, right?

But it’s time for me to find some people and become a part of this city that people seem to have so much love for and faith in. That’s another part I suppose…surrounding myself with people who love this city, because finding that love for this place has been difficult for me (just being honest). I’m working on it but it’s a slow road.

All of that boils down to one thing: it’s kinda hard to make new friends when you get a little older. Some people make friends at work. But at my last job, I was the only technical person on staff. Then, after going independent, my opportunity for “work friends” pretty much dropped to zero.

So, yeah, I hope to find some friends at Indy Hall. If professional relationships develop – business partnerships, referrals, etc…then that’s great. But I see Indy Hall first as a collection of people who are more like me than any other group of people that I’ve met so far in the 4 or 5 years I’ve been in this city. And, that’s a pretty good shot at making a friend or two.

Beyond that, it would be nice to learn how to run my business better, to become a better writer, to find more local clients, and all that other stuff that goes into actually making a name for yourself in your industry. I’ve done everything that I’ve done business-wise to this point on my own. So, I’m totally down with and ready to see some other perspectives on making this whole thing happen. I don’t want my business to survive – I want it to thrive and to be at least as valuable to my household as my previous job was. My wife took a big gamble on this whole thing and I want to be sure that I’ve given it my all.

I’m sure the responses to these emails are fun to get. But if you’re going to ask a writer for one of these, I suppose it’s expected that the fingers are just going to start moving on their own. 🙂

Was fun to write though – hope it’s a good read.”

It’s worth noting that I met Eric about a week before he joined at an event that was outside of Indy Hall. He wasn’t walking around thinking about where he was going to work, and I wasn’t at that event pitching Indy Hall memberships either.

And yet – just 24 hours after – Eric had signed up for a tour, did a day on a guest pass, and signed up for a membership.

Not because he needed a place to work, but because he needed other people.

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Hey, thanks for reading!

Alex Hillman I am always thinking about the intersection of people, relationships, trust and business. I founded Indy Hall in 2006, making us one of oldest fully independent coworking communities in the world. This site is packed with the lessons and examples I’ve learned along the way. You can find me on Twitter, too! 🐦 Say hi.