Open and close, open and close. The concept of coworks on Whidbey continues to sputter to life like an outboard motor that is just about ready to catch. Each time is different. This time it comes with a bookstore and coffeeshop downstairs. The South Whidbey Commons has opened a coworks and I’m the first customer, again.
The South Whidbey Commons is an idea that makes a lot of sense. Provide a place for students to learn about work life, provide a place for people to meet, furnish it like a living room, and ring the walls with books for sale. (Many of which are used, but they sell new copies of the works of local authors, too, like me and mine.) It becomes a natural place to sit and relax. It also becomes a natural place for the nomads of the Gig Economy and the 1099 Economy to buy a cup of something to effectively rent a table for a temporary office.
Several months ago they asked me about the various coworks that I’ve used, including the one I proposed as a kickstarter campaign. They had an attic classroom that wasn’t being fully utilized. Could it be a coworks? The answer is always yes, followed by “but” or “as long as” or “especially if”.
A little more than a month ago we closed one of our discussions with me handing them a check for the rest of the month’s rent. A new coworks was created.
Putting a coworks in a commons must make sense. They use the same prefix, ‘co-‘; well, at least the same first two letters.
A coworks works best when there is a co-. For several days, it was a solo-works because I was the only one signed up and paid up. Non-profits, like the South Whidbey Commons, have certain processes and procedures to address, so the word didn’t get out until last week. Sorry I missed it. I would’ve blogged about it then. No matter, here’s the announcement that I missed.
South Whidbey Commons Co-Works is starting up.
Open during business hours 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM daily.
Monthly membership $60 Day Rate $10
Which was followed by;
Co-working is a style of work that involves a shared working environment, often an office, and independent activity. Unlike in a typical office environment, those co-working are usually not employed by the same organization. Typically it is attractive to work-at-home professionals, independent contractors, or people who travel frequently who end up working in relative isolation. Co-working is also the social gathering of a group of people who are still working independently, but who share values, and who are interested in the synergy that can happen from working with people who value working in the same place alongside each other.
Co-working offers a solution to the problem of isolation that many freelancers experience while working at home, while at the same time letting them escape the distractions of home.
SWCommons is offering free WIFI, electrical outlets and a quiet work space in our upstairs classroom space, along with easy access to food, coffee and restroom facilities!
Evidently, there was one bit of confusion. Some saw “free” before “WIFI” and thought it might apply to everything else on the list. Nice deal if you can get it. The first notice is shorter but contains the data coworkers need most, the cost: $60/month or $10/day.
Every coworks is different, and non-profits have to be careful with expenses. For now, they’re starting small: a few tables and chairs, use of the space, freedom to bring in our own food and drink (as long as the main room customers don’t see us do it and get confused.) The main benefits are distance from the noise of the espresso machine (but drinks are just downstairs), more room than a cafe table (at least until the crowds show up), and a mutual expectation of at least some professionalism because there will be online meetings, necessary discretion, and also sharing of information and support. Two of my three biggest gigs were arranged while sitting in a coworks. In this economy, that’s farm more valuable than the monthly rental.
Each coworks had a different inspiration. Despite the phenomenal success in urban areas, each coworks has yet to firmly establish a self-sustaining community. Finding the right mix of services and fees for a coworks to succeed in a small town takes trial and error, and a bit of luck.
One idea, each initiative, inspires others. Now that the Commons has announced their opening, other entrepreneurs are asking me about what business services they could provide to the people working in the Gig and 1099 economies. Small towns go through generational shifts, which seems to be happening on South Whidbey. Younger people who can’t afford to live in Seattle are looking for solutions that allow them to both live and work on the island. The right set of services attracts other services. Langley, which is a tourist town known around the world, is also appealing to year-round residents. It may be that two or three businesses that serve business can establish a mutually supportive core that helps the locals who work via the Internet, while also providing an additional and therefore stabilizing revenue stream for the local economy. Ironically, some of the tourists who come here to relax will probably appreciate those same services when some urgent task arises back at their home office. Having something more than a mobile phone can be worth a lot.
Maybe the South Whidbey Commons coworks provides all of those services, or simply manages to plant that critical seed. It will take time to find out. That motor, that engine for an economy, may finally catch, do more than make a bit of noise, and help move things along. Pardon me as I keep pulling on that starter cord.