The use of coworking spaces is becoming more and more mainstream. As remote working is increasingly common and more people than ever are trying out freelancing or self employment, the rise in the popularity of coworking spaces seems set to continue.
Coworking is particularly popular with freelancers, who might otherwise work from home or from a venue like a coffee shop. Why do so many freelancers love coworking? I can think of several reasons.
Coworking offers the company and camaraderie of an office, along with the understanding that everyone is ultimately there to work. They tend to be quieter and less distracting than cafes, not to mention less expensive, while providing the ambient noise that mimics a traditional workplace environment.
Coworking spaces can be a great way to escape from the distractions at home (talkative housemates, interruptions from kids and pets, laundry, a sudden urge to clean the kitchen…) and to maintain a separation between work and home life. Finally, they can be a great place to find clients, and that’s what I want to focus on today.
Let’s dive into some strategies to help you land clients through coworking.
Turn up regularly
You can’t go to a coworking space just once or twice and expect to leave with a roster full of new clients. You need to become a regular and take the time to get to know people (more on that in a minute).
The best way to get people to want to work with you is through familiarity and trust. Those things take time. Therefore, you need to show up regularly and consistently. Very few people will remember someone clearly after a single brief meeting. But if they see you every week or even more frequently, you’ll become fixed in your fellow coworkers’ minds.
Take the time to get to know people
You’re there to work, of course, just like everyone else. But if you keep your head in your laptop the whole time and don’t talk to anyone, you won’t build the kinds of connections that are necessary to land clients.
Instead, take the time to chat and get to know people. Greet those nearby when you arrive and cultivate your small talk skills. (Topics like the weather, weekend plans, and what you’re both working on are generally safe). Even something simple like offering to get your neighbor a cup of coffee from the kitchen when you fetch one for yourself can go a long way.
Remember: getting to know people isn’t about pitching your services. If you launch into a sales pitch, you’ll put them off straight away. Instead, be curious, be engaging, ask genuine questions, and focus on building a relationship. The topic of what you both do will naturally come up,
Just remember to take the other person’s cues and wrap up a conversation when they’re clearly ready to dive back into work. Speaking of which…
Make the most of those “watercooler moments”
One of the joys of working in an office that freelancers can miss out on are “watercooler moments” – those little moments of connection and conversation with your colleagues. Coworking gives you an opportunity to experience these again. So next time you’re getting a cup of coffee, warming up your lunch in the kitchen, or waiting in line for the photocopier, strike up a conversation with the person next to you.
You never know who you might be talking to. They could even be your next dream client (or they might know just the person who is).
Attend social and networking events
Many coworking organizations arrange social evenings and business networking events. Any freelancer should understand the importance of networking when it comes to finding clients. These events give you the opportunity to get to know people better when you’re not under time pressure or trying to work at the same time.
Whether it’s a speed networking morning, a happy hour, or a potluck lunch, make the time to go. It will be noticed!
Take business cards
Nothing is more frustrating than having a great chat with someone and then not having any easy way of giving them your details. (No, scribbling them on a napkin isn’t very professional!) Always keep a stash of business cards in your wallet or handbag when you go to your coworking space. They should include your contact information and the URL of your portfolio website.
That way, when you wrap up a conversation with a new person, you can say, “it was great to meet you, I’d love to connect on LinkedIn” and hand them your business card with all your contact information.
Offer help where you can
If you’re a copywriter, can you take ten minutes out of your day to help a fellow coworker with some proofreading? Or perhaps you’re a computer expert and you can rescue the person next to you from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death?
Helping people out when you have the opportunity will pay dividends many times over. Not only will the people you help think well of you and be more inclined to assist you in return if you ever need anything. They will also think of you if they (or anyone in their network) has need for the services you offer.
Pitch your services in a non-pushy way
When you see a natural way to do so, you can absolutely pitch your services. The way to do it? Focus on the other person’s needs. In other words, you’re not pitching because your services are amazing (though they are!), but because you’ve seen a need that you can help fulfil.
For example, let’s say that you’re a freelance social media marketer. In the course of a conversation, you learn that the person you’re talking to is struggling to promote their business effectively online. You might offer a few free tips, and then say something like, “If you’re interested in bringing in some external help with your marketing, we should talk. Here’s my card.”
Then it’s in the other person’s court. They may follow up and hire you, or they might check out your free content on your blog and then hire you in a year’s time. At the very least, you’ve expanded your network and made someone aware of the ways you can help them.
Coworking is fantastic for freelancers for a wide variety of reasons: company, community, and a place to focus and get away from the distractions of home. But one advantage that is often under-utilized is that coworking spaces can be great places to find clients.
Ultimately, the rules of landing clients through coworking are the same as in any other context. Be professional, build relationships, avoid the hard sell, and provide value.
Have you used coworking to find freelance clients? We’d love to hear about your experiences and tips if so.