There are as many ways to work as there are personalities. When it comes to productivity, some of us require absolute silence, while others can happily ignore ringing telephones and loud talkers. Some enjoy solving problems on their own, while others crave a partner to brainstorm. “Most humans have two contradictory impulses: we love and need one another, yet we crave privacy and autonomy,” says Susan Cain, in her article championing the creative benefits of solitude.
Finding that perfect balance of inspiring community and productive isolation can be tricky, especially for artists, freelancers and others who work on their own. Fortunately, a new crop of companies have sprung up to help you find the perfect environment to do your best work.
The Home Office
The reasons for working at home are numerous. Not only do you save yourself from the fatigues of a commute and the distractions of a large, impersonal workspace, you control the space and the time you spend. Without others to distract you, honing in and refining your ideas becomes an attainable goal. Still, defining a home workspace can be challenging. “When I started my online design business, I was creating designs from my dining room table,” said Annie Pauza in an interview with Design*Sponge. “I became frustrated by digging through bins and folders to find my fabric swatches, scale, templates and more.”
The key is to carve out a space that is totally devoted to you and your work. Don’t just plop a canvas on the kitchen table and assume you’ll be productive. Clear out the attic, garage or even a small corner where you can keep your supplies out and ready when inspiration strikes. For Pauza, the answer was to convert her guest bedroom. “My productivity increased and I began completing designs in half the time I did before. I found such joy in opening a drawer and easily grabbing a furniture template or pulling a basket of beautifully organized fabrics off a shelf.”
The cliche is that working from home means never having to get out of your pajamas. For some, this sounds like heaven, but for many, getting dressed and leaving the house is vital for productivity. “People that create want to be stimulated by different ideas. Changing your daily environment is one of the best ways to do that,” says Campbell McKellar, founder of Loosecubes, an international service that invites companies and studios to list open workspaces. From any city, you can search and book your ideal space online, be it a desk or even a photography studio, then show up ready to work.
The benefits aren’t limited to the visiting worker. “Companies embrace outsiders because they believe that new ideas walk in with every new person that comes into their office,” says McKellar, who has experienced the benefits firsthand when she signed up for a co-working space years ago. “The first day I was there, I learned how to use Twitter… I also met a woman who did PR for a music business, and she gave me some advice on how to best approach getting press for my business.” By working around a new group of people, you can make connections that lead to new job opportunities or commissions.
You want to get out of the house, but a co-working space sounds too distracting. What you need is a personally dedicated space that, while in a public setting, offers a comfortable amount of privacy. Companies like Green Desk are popping up all over the world, offering private workspaces to individuals and small groups of co-workers. “When you [work] at home, there’s a lot of distraction,” said Joy Parisi, co-founder of Paragraph, a New York City-based service that provides workspaces for writers. “You want to go clean out the fridge, or tweeze your eyebrows. But when you go to a space to write, that’s what you do.” Paragraph is library-like, filled with carrels of in-the-zone writers, who make no sound other than the soft click of laptop keys.
Like Green Desk, Paragraph offers space for the semi-social, with desks that encourage conscious isolation so you can get down to business. The added bonus is that it could be the key to taking your work to the next level. Some of these services offer personal phone lines, package receiving and other services that bring a sense of professionalism to your work.
The Group Experience
It may sound daunting, but any artist who wants to hone his or her craft must be open to constructive criticism and advice from peers. It’s not always easy to find a community where you feel safe and comfortable enough to share your work. “Making community is really what it’s all about, right? If you don’t have people connecting and stretching hands and minds toward each other, forming that glue, then everything else will eventually fall apart,” says Rena Tom, founder of Makeshift, a 1,000 square-foot clubhouse in San Francisco for independent workers who “make with their heads and think with their hands.” Unlike co-working where you share space with people from all sorts of professions, Makeshift is solely for artists seeking growth, camaraderie and time dedicated solely to craft.
Makeshift will also host workshops, artists-in-residence and provide support for small businesses and freelancers. Though they’re based in San Francisco, Makeshift hopes their model will spread to other cities, providing an oasis for artists and makers who need to get out of the house and become part of a bigger group movement. Ultimately, a space like Makeshift is for the artist who craves in-person experience and community involvement.
While working from home might seem like the most budget-friendly option, a group workspace can be surprisingly affordable. Paragraph, for instance, costs under $200 a month, while Makeshift memberships cost as little as $30 per month. Loosecubes is absolutely free.
Each workspace provides a different amount of social interaction, but the most important factor of any space is that it’s dedicated to you. Even if you live in a shoebox of an apartment or share your home with a spouse and three kids, finding your own space can be the key to letting those creative juices flow.
Do you create your best work on your own, or do you thrive on the energy found in a group setting?
Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.