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Co-working for Dummies

Happy New Year Dummies! This month marks a a year of leaving big law (HHSC has only been officially open since November), one of the things I get asked about most is the experience of starting a business in a co-working space. 

The excitement was palpable my first week as a full-time entrepreneur. I scheduled out my first few days and arranged my home office (read: a corner desk in my bedroom). 

Everybody has a plan until they get sleepy after lunch and take a nap. - Me

Realized after day 2, nap 2 that a home office wasn’t for me. I had heard of co-working but I had absolutely no experience with it. My previous job had offices in two of my most traveled to cities and hotel rooms and $15 Wi-Fi did the trick elsewhere. I searched high and low before settling on Level Office in Downtown Houston. If you’re considering starting out in co-working, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

  1. Operate like you're broke; you probably are (or will be soon). If you’re not yet operational, it’s tough to estimate when you will be and you’re probably wrong anyway. Put your ego to the side. If you’re eyeing that sweet corner private office, go instead with the desk where you’ll have to bring and take everything with you each day (what I call true co-working). Keep this in mind when selecting a place. Some places skimp on services for co-workers (e.g., reduced access, reduced services, increased disdain).
  1. Run from commitment like me in college. No contracts beyond month to month. Your commitment should be to your business, not your co-working landlord.
  1. Cancel out the noise (with headphones). Most co-workers are nice. Most of them also talk to damn loud when on the phone. Spaces can be so tight (especially in NYC) that it’s impossible to not hear the conversations of the people next to you. Sometimes the music the staff plays is shitty (you know who you are!). A pair of noise-cancelling headphones guarantees the ability to focus in an environment you have little control over.
  1. Co-working is all about speed...hot, nasty bad-ass (internet connection) speed. Kudos to Eleanor Roosevelt and Ricky Bobby for the quote inspiration. In a world where the internet is ubiquitous, connection speeds are not. Use an app like Speedtest (available for iOS & Android) to make sure a slow connection won’t be an issue.
  1. Specialization matters (kind of). I’m not in tech and there’s not too many co-working spaces/incubators for grooming products (business opportunity, anyone?) but if “office hours” style mentoring is on your list of priorities, there are some spaces that have focuses and such opportunities. However, don't think that because someone isn't in your space, that they can't provide great advice. 
  1. One for me, one more for me. Whether you go with no frills co-working (i.e., a desk and internet) or a private office, I highly recommend a second monitor. I love this one because it doesn’t require it’s own power source (feeds off the USB on your laptop).

  2. I got my people with me. Co-working provides a sense of community that a home office simply can't replicate. You alone are ultimately responsible for the successes (keep your head down, they're coming) and failures (there will be many) but sharing that experience with people in the same fox hole makes it a lot easier.
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