Coworking is an interesting environment and when done right, it can be a great solution for many freelancers and budding businesses. If you’re thinking of joining a coworking space or already signed up to one, keep reading to get some tips on how to make the most of your membership.

1 – Attend events

This is one of the biggest pros of belonging to a coworking space – free or heavily discounted events! These events will often range from networking to workshops or social events and they’re all great for building your network, learning new things and enjoying yourself. It’s a bonus if you can build up a record of attending events as more people will get familiar with your face and you’ll be more confident chatting to newcomers. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there either, people join a coworking space for the community and even if it feels awkward at the start, you’ll almost certainly get some personal or business benefit from it! In the lead up to an event, you should ask yourself

  1. Why am I going to this event?
  2. What do I want to get out of this event?

It’s important to set your answers to these questions and make sure you have a plan of attack before going in. At a networking session, the most obvious motivation is to make new contacts. With this in mind, remember to take plenty of business cards, introduce yourself in a friendly way and make sure to listen to others. If you’re going to the office Christmas party, you could be going to let your hair down or maybe you want to use it as another business opportunity. Either way, make sure you set yourself up for success and plan ahead!

2 – Make use of extra facilities

In all honesty, the facilities are really what makes a coworking membership worth it. You can take advantage of a long list of inclusions for the ease of one monthly fee and you absolutely should. Coworking spaces are built on being a one-stop shop for businesses which means free coffee, unlimited internet and onsite showers are things you are entitled to and shouldn’t be ashamed to make use of. Grab an extra coffee when you come in to work, use the free gym, relax in the lounge area – use the space! You deserve it after everything you’ve done to get your business to this point! As long as you’re not being disruptive to your co-workers, I say go for it.

3 – Ask the venue to help build your contacts

Another benefit of a coworking space is the massive variety of other co-workers. In most venues you won’t be hard-pressed to find people with a range of professions from accountants, photographers, bloggers, authors, students and other freelancers! Chances are that one of your co-worker’s will offer a service that could benefit your business or vice versa. It’s a free and easy way to drum up some new business, gain new referrals or get help with part of your company. If your venue has onsite staff, chat to them about what sort of services you offer or that you’re looking for and ask them to put you in touch with others in the building. Even better, if the office has an online or physical members board, make sure you sign up and put as much information on there as possible. The idea is that you want anyone in the building to see your name and be able to easily contact you if they need your service – its free marketing for you!

One way to start the conversation is to set dedicated ‘office hours’ where your co-workers can come to you for advice on your industry or to chat about any ideas they’ve had! Get your building manager to send out an email to everyone letting them know that they can come to you during certain hours on a certain day. This is a particularly great idea for people with high-demand professions like legal, accounting or graphic design. It will be a welcome break from the computer screen for you and could really help out your neighbours.

4 – Start initiatives

One mistake that a lot of co-workers are guilty of is not making the most of their membership. You’re paying a fair amount of money each month to access the venue and it is your workplace too which means you should have some input into how it is run. These days a lot of venues have some great initiatives running, but if you have a great idea – don’t be afraid to share it. You’re a worker in the space and you get to reap the benefits of any programs or facilities, so it only makes sense to share your vision with the office community. For example, if you have seen a great example of workplace recycling or you think that a chess board would be a great addition to the common room, let your venue manager know. They’re probably racking their brain trying to think of something great anyway and will be open to any suggestions. A bonus benefit of this is that successfully getting a program into your coworking space will build your good reputation and lead to even more contacts and a better workplace!

5 – Practice self-care

This is a big one, not just for co-workers, but anyone who works. Chances are that you chose coworking for its flexibility, and you’re right there with the rest of us who are frantically trying to manage a working and a personal life. On top of that we’ve got deadlines, hobbies, exercise, errands and family to tend to… it really can get a bit overwhelming. A coworking space is no different and sometimes it can feel like you need to stay in the office last or be the first one in to show everyone how dedicated you are. The one thing to remember is that all co-workers have chosen that style of workplace for their own reasons and your neighbour might be a full-time professional businessman or a mother of four frantically trying to make a living out of her hobby. Competing with others in the space will only tire you out more, and likely negatively impact your business. Try setting dedicated working hours and make sure you stick to them. When you’re in the space, take breaks from your desk to read a book or chat to one of the other members. Its important to give your brain a chance to recover and reset for the rest of the day so things like taking a walk at lunch or meeting with an old friend for lunch are great reprieves. All in all, use what’s there. If your venue has free yoga at lunch, a quiet room or a games room, take a second to enjoy them – it will save you a lot of stress in the future.

If there is one thing to take from these tips, its to use what’s available to you! The rise of coworking means that flexible workers have more opportunities than ever before and you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t make the most of them.