“Co-working? That sounds way too people-y.”
Where my introverts at? Can I get a heck yes?!
But – maybe there are some real benefits to co-working for introverts. Before visions of totally *extra* co-workers and never-ending first-day awkwardness and office ping-pong make you vomit into your mouth a little, it’s worth looking a little deeper into how co-working spaces can support your business – with some surprising benefits.
I’m an introvert from way back. My childhood was a beautiful mess filled with libraries, lapidary clubs and luscious alone time in my room. No team sports, no public speaking and certainly no cool kids club for me. Now, in my 40th year, I’m in a self-made paradise, running a solo copywriting business where I work hard from my quiet home office and never have to answer phone calls.
Taking care of almost all my business activities from behind the safety of my screen suits me perfectly. I don’t have to brush my hair, talk to anyone or deal with bullshit office politics. I talk to my dog Max… a lot.
Sometimes too much.
Sometimes it would be nice to actually have a conversation. To not feel quite so alone and adrift as I navigate how to grow my business and support my lifestyle (basically: spending too much in the garden section at Bunnings) without getting lost in my own head.
Naturally deep thinkers, introverts like us tend to spiral when left to our own devices. Working alone is amazing, but after many months adrift in my own thoughts, untethered and unconnected to the flow of creative businesses around me, I just needed to get out of the echo chamber of my own head.
Enter: co-working at the Creative Fringe.
Full disclosure: I’ve known about the Fringe for many years, having worked with White River Design back in my corporate puppet days. So, when I started feeling those feels: what am I doing with my life? Do I even want to grow my business? Should I fire this asshole client? Where do I go from here? MAX, WHY WON’T YOU TALK BACK TO ME? I knew it was time to get out of the house and give co-working at the Fringe a go.
The Creative Fringe is a colourful, comfortable, creative space in the heart of Penrith, designed to offer flexible workspace hire for local business owners. The space itself is excellent, even for someone like myself who has a great home office. Not only is there the perfect mix of non-intimidating communal spaces, there are plenty of cosy nooks to set yourself up in so you can be in that ‘together but apart’ headspace that is so conducive to creativity.
Personally, I take advantage of the hot desk section regularly. There’s no pressure to chat with anyone who might be sharing the area, and there is ample room to position yourself for maximum personal space. You can wander out into the kitchen or the lounge area whenever you need a break from your work, or you can put your headphones on and blast some Bach when you need to get into a flow state.
However, if you’ve got this far – out into the world, wearing pants like an adult, sharing a space with other humans – you’ll get so much more out of the experience by making a proper effort to interact with the other guys and girls. Even just a little!
Both the permanent creatives and casual co-workers I’ve met at the Fringe have been incredibly warm, friendly and approachable. And – crucially – they’re all sharing a similar journey as you, navigating business as solopreneurs, startups, microbusinesses and anything else that doesn’t fit the regular 9 to 5 structure.
This is where the true value lies. Realising that everyone is facing the same challenges and being able to learn from those that have gone before you is worth its weight in gold.
Plus, even though the word ‘networking’ strikes fear into the heart of every introvert, conjuring visions of get-to-know-you games and desperate business card exchanges, I believe that co-working is The New Networking.
Subtle, natural and organic, it allows you to connect with people whose businesses and skills share some overlap with your own. I write words, the Katberg girls build websites, Debbie and her team make amazing brands, Ben shoots photos, Stacey crunches numbers. As a solo operator, knowing there is a network of people I can reach out to is incredibly important. Even when our activities overlap quite a bit, there’s no competition, only a genuine desire to lift each other up and support each other’s goals.
And, if that sounds too fluffy, consider this: in 5 visits to the Fringe I have made two connections that have resulted in cold hard cash in the bank: a referral which is bringing in ongoing work with web design maestro Liam, and an extensive writing project that I am proud to show off on my portfolio. Neither of these opportunities would have eventuated if I wasn’t there taking tentative steps outside my comfort zone.
So, go on – stop talking to your dog and give co-working a try.
You’ll gain a little army of friends that want to see you succeed, you’ll open up opportunities for new work and joint projects, and with the extremely flexible desk & office hire options you can retreat to the safety of your cave whenever you need to recharge.
Leonie Waldron | Chameleon Copywriting – Frequent Hot Desker @ The Creative Fringe