New Productivity Tool: Virtual Coworking

Virtual Coworking was one definitely of the highlights of my 2020.

What is virtual coworking? It’s a way to connect with people around the world to work and motivate each other through the power of the Internet, your computer, and a chat service like Zoom.

It is a little surreal, to be connected to people across continents and oceans and time zones, but it is also an extraordinarily special experience.

Before 2020, when I needed a change of scenery I’d grab my laptop and go to a book store, coffee shop, or library for some quiet and motivation. Restrictions and shut downs because of Covid-19 put a damper on all of that.

Thankfully, I had the good fortune to stumble into a virtual coworking group. I tried a number of different coworking groups before finding one that was a really good fit for me.

WHY DO VIRTUAL COWORKING?

Virtual coworking can help a solo entrepreneur by providing a sense of accountability, connection, and commitment. It’s suitable for almost all solo entrepreneurs, as most of us wear many hats to run our business.

For example, as a professional photographer I do much more than simply take photographs for my clients! I also do all of my marketing, maintaining and updating my websites and blogs and social media channels, bookkeeping, and so on.

Those are all activities that are well-suited for virtual coworking.

Coworking is also ideally suited for would-be entrepreneurs who are trying to create or launch new products. For example, now that my kids are older, I’ve had time to self published a few books. In addition, I’m creating an online photography class that will launch in early 2021.

HOW DOES VIRTUAL COWORKING WORK?

Every coworking group is different. The host or leader of the group decides on the structure, but almost all virtual coworking groups begin with a round of brief introductions and goal setting for the session. If the group is large, this may happen in the chat.

Then people get to work! Most people leave their cameras on. This feels a little odd at first, but eventually you get used to it and it is surprisingly motivating to look up and see others hard at work when you are tempted to go off on a rabbit trail.

Some coworking sessions may be one long session of 2-3 hours. I prefer coworking sessions that use the Pomodoro Method to break up the time. The host sets a timer for a certain amount of time to work, say 25 minutes, then there is a 5 minute break and check-in. We repeat that 3 or 4 times (depending on how chatty we are) and then conclude the session.

At the end of the coworking session, there’s usually a debriefing, where participants share how successful they were or what they struggled with.

HOW BIG SHOULD A VIRTUAL COWORKING GROUP BE?

This is absolutely a matter of preference.

The first coworking group I tried was over 60 people, and that was just too big for me. I didn’t really feel connected to the others, and it just felt awkward and strange.

The group I’m in now is about 8 people, and 4-6 show up at any given time. This is just perfect for me! We’ve been working together since October, and I’ve grown incredibly fond of the members.

BOTTOM LINE

Virtual Coworking is great for accountability and as well as getting stuff done. It’s also fantastic for connection, which is especially important to mental health while the world is still dealing with the fallout from Covid-19.

I am currently trying to build two more weekly virtual coworking groups for solo entrepreneurs. If you are interested in joining one, email me here!

Photos by Aleksander Vlad and Domenico Loia

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