I’ve mentioned it in passing, but I thought it was about time I talked about it properly; at the end of 2016 I became a member at a co-working space. Located in Zone 1, just down the road from both central London (Tottenham Court Road) and Camden, the former hospital turned co working space is a hub of exciting business ventures and entrepreneurial spirit.
Meet Camden Collective; resourceful, creative and one of a kind. We all know that first impressions count and Camden Collective, affectionately nicknamed CC, doesn’t disappoint – just look at this for an entrance:
I can actually remember walking past the building before I was freelance or knew about CC – I imagine a lot of people will be intrigued by the light up sign and chevron wood cladding. I was introduced to CC by fellow blogger Kristabel (you might recognise the space from #TheBloggers Market?) and swiftly submitted my application to become a member. After 2 months of silence I gathered I just hadn’t met the specifications until an invitation to view the space popped into my inbox. WAHOO.
It’s just as cool inside btw;
Day to night, the space transforms & adapts to the member’s needs!
Now, before you get too attached I need to share some sad news. At the end of July the CC members gathered in the main space to toast and say goodbye – our building is currently being demolished to make way for the construction of the HS2 train line. It’s obviously very sad, but actually this was always the plan; Camden Collective repurpose vacant and underused properties so everyone knew that our time inside the Temperance Hospital was limited.
BUT it’s not the end of the CC story, don’t worry! My fingers are tightly crossed as I’m hoping that I’ll be able to join them in the next location (to be revealed), but with the loss of this opportunity fresh in my mind I wanted to chat a bit about how having a co-working space has benefitted my life/business; the pros and the cons.
Co-working: The Pros
Renting a desk space can be expensive and is sometimes seen as an unnecessary luxury for freelance creatives or new business owners without a steady income. But at CC that’s not an issue because hot desking is free – no, that’s not a typo! (Other studio/office spaces can be rented for a pretty decent price too btw) As part of their funding agreement with Camden Council, CC are able to offer free hot desking to support and celebrate creative businesses within the borough. It’s amazing and I feel very lucky to benefit from a free co-working space, but with the funding comes rules and an application process because otherwise EVERYONE would be a member, right?
London is a big place with a lot of nooks and crannys and although I’d say that transport is pretty good (compared to my country bumpkin option of a bus to the nearest town every 30mins) it’s not always easy to get around. Sometimes I find it a challenge to get out of my pyjamas (bad habit, I know) so I knew that it would be pointless joining a space which was an effort to get to. Luckily for me CC was in zone 1 and on the same line as my local station so I could roll out of my flat and be at ‘work’ several stops later – I should mention that having a commute was also really good for my productivity too. Which leads me on to…
With distractions a plenty at home (you’d be surprised how keen I am about doing the washing up or hoovering when I’m putting off writing an email) it’s great to have a space where you know you can go to just get things done. A lot of people like to work in coffee shops but depending on my mood the constant flow of coffee lovers isn’t great for my productivity, PLUS there’s that whole thing about how long you can stay in a coffee shop/ how many coffees you should buy etc. With the ability to plonk myself down and plug in for an unlimited amount of time, I can focus and get my head in the game.
Sitting at my desk in my flat on my own all day was a shock to the system at first – I love being part of a team with the ability to bounce ideas and just have a bit of a chat really. When I’m the only member of my team, the conversation doesn’t flow that well and I’d find myself acting like a puppy when my boyfriend came home from work everyday; ‘Hi! Hi! What’s it like outside?’. Well there’s no risk of being lonely at a co-working space with people constantly coming and going. Admittedly I didn’t make the most of meeting others at the space – getting that balance of productive working/ making friends via chit chat in the kitchen / annoying busy people that need to work is harder than it sounds. BUT I did feel a sense of community amongst the other members and made a few friends.
Something that definitely made this easier was volunteering hours to help with the upkeep of the space. Being a collective of creative members means that there are lots of people with all kinds of talents which is pretty handy when there are lots of tasks to keep the space looking it’s best. Each month members are asked to donated 2 hours to helping CC run smoothly and I was pleased when the opportunity to paint a wall came up! Along with fellow Collective member, Megan – founder of We Are Now Festival, I painted my first mural to brighten the old lift space opposite the 1st floor kitchen. To make it as easy as possible we opted for a spontaneous geometric design and used left over paint from existing projects around the space. 3 hours later ET VOILA…
Co-working: The Cons
Because I guess everything can’t be rainbows and unicorns… (and I’m a super critical Graphic Designer – it’s ingrained in me to critique!)
If you’re someone that likes having your own space then hot desking is
probablydefinitely not for you. You have to be flexible and able to adapt to the changing atmosphere and environment. One minute it’s be super quiet and the next super busy. Maybe you won’t even be able to get a desk space and instead will work in a different area of the building – it’s a gamble every morning. I’ve even had the experience of going to lunch and on my return discovering that my desk had disappeared – someone had taken the table and chairs and left my stuff on the end of another desk. I tried to work elbow to elbow on a table with 6 guys but couldn’t concentrate so gave up and headed home. Which leads me on to…
Sharing is Caring.
If you don’t like people then co working is
probablydefinitely not for you because there’s going to be a lot of them. Being part of a collective hopefully means that everyone will be mindful of others, happy to pitch in and look after their own mess BUT it’s not always the case. You’ll be sharing everything (chairs, mugs, microwaves, toilet cleaning duty) and everyone has their own way of living, which you might not agree with. With so many people coming and going, sometimes the standard of responsibility does slip – I guess it just depends how easily agitated you are.
I’m lucky to own a MacBook Pro – it’s my baby and my life, but basically classed as a vintage model now (2010) and is very fragile. Without my baby I can’t do design work and taking it on the tube is way too much of a risk – I feel like 1 bad knock could kill it. (I tried to transport it once with the aid of 3 jumpers and it was fine TOUCH WOOD.) But this means that when I’m visiting the co working space I’m not doing design work and so I need to plan this into my schedule. It’s mainly sketchbooking, thinking time and admin (aka emails). This problem is quite personal to my circumstances, but I guess applies to everyone in the limitations of how you can use the space.
That work/social balance.
I definitely don’t have this down yet – I’ve been a super unsociable member, too worried about bothering busy people trying to work. Fingers crossed moving to the new space will help me work on this but I’m open to any icebreaking tips.
But it’s not healthy to be too much of a Negative Nancy anyway…
I’ve enjoyed being part of CC for 8 months and although I’m sad to see the building go, I’m excited for the next chapter in the Camden Collective story. RIP Temperance Hospital; thanks for the memories. If only walls could talk, hey!?
P.S. Also RIP my iPhone which I dropped in the downstairs toilet here, sob.