When the first lockdown took hold over the UK, many freelancers had their financial and social lifelines severed. To say these freelancers need a change of scenery after a year in isolation is an understatement.
The Freelance Informer speaks to some of the crew over at Othership, a membership-based workspace and online events startup that is helping freelancers and flexible workers build communities, expertise and even friendships.
We first get acquainted with Ece Kurtaraner, a fellow freelancer and the events coordinator of Othership, before getting to know more about the future of the business from co-founders, Arnaud Mardegan and Benjamin Carew.
Originally from Turkey, Ece moved to the UK two years ago and established her own limited company, Fora Events. 👏👏👏 She graduated as an industrial engineer and after a stint in corporate business development she gravitated to the services sector and over time became an events coordinator.
What do you love most about being self-employed?
“For me personally, what I love most about self-employment is the flexibility,” says Ece. “Even though I’m working for a client, I’m always actually working on my business because I’m gaining experience. I then will work to do an even better job next time with another client, or for another project with the same client. Being a freelancer means that I always have the opportunity to improve myself and work on projects that I am passionate about.”
What’s driving freelancer communities?
Ece helps freelancers through her work with Othership, a membership-based flexible workspaces startup that over the pandemic has built up its weekly online events and communities. It also has big plans to expand its freelancer and flexible “flo-working” workspaces, events and communities to more parts of the UK and overseas.
“I joined Othership as a member first. I then started to help them out as a freelancer on their networking events,” Ece tells The Freelance Informer.
“Right from the beginning, I saw how collaborations and even friendships were evolving at our events and workspaces. Then when the lockdown hit, we all had to work from home. We noticed we weren’t talking to anyone. So it was that [void] that created an even greater community. Many of our members were London-based but as everyone moved online we started to get a lot of members outside of London and even outside the UK.”
Are sites still open in lockdown?
Some of Othership’s workspaces are still open and available to use. COVID-19 health and safety provisions are set up at partner locations that are open for work purposes.
These sites are ideal for those that need a more suitable work environment, for example, if they share a flat with several people and things can get a bit noisy or on a more serious note, are experiencing verbal abuse at home.
The ability to work in a calm environment or to just have the opportunity to speak to other freelancers and startup founders on-site or in a video meeting has been invaluable for so many people, according to Ece.
Ece says she is always asking members for feedback on their site experiences and understands from personal experience just how important that friendly “Good morning!” from a receptionist can make to a person’s day.
When restaurants and pubs reopen, they too can benefit by signing up as an Othership host site, which could give the hospitality sector a much-needed boost. She even suggests that members recommend sites in their local areas as potential spots for Othership members to work, hold meetings or events. Again, it’s all about supporting communities.
Othership: what’s it all about and where is it going?
Othership co-founders, Arnaud Mardegan and Benjamin Carew see a future in community-based ‘flo-working’ (having the flexibility to work in different locations) and networking with fellow freelancers and flexible workers. Even now, with most people working from home, there is still a need for some work colleagues to meet in person, for example, when preparing for a project or protoype. They can do that by finding a conveniently located Othership partner site that provides the type of facilities they need.
Arnaud and Benjamin tell us what it’s been like running a hospitality service startup in the pandemic.
Q: The hot desk and flexible workspace business must have taken a hit over the past year due to the pandemic. Can you tell us about that and how you are coming out on the other side?
A: What we realised was prior to the lockdowns was the value in what we did was not just providing access to a huge number of flexible workspaces but the connections we could make across our members.
We realised this thanks to the networking events we had been putting on every week that had creatives and founders travelling across London to co-work, share a croissant and have a laugh together. This meant we were already moving in a direction to being a membership first and the lockdowns just accelerated this allowing Othership to enhance its ability to connect members both online and in real life.
Q How are freelancers accessing your services while still in lockdown?
A: As I mentioned we are really a membership first, this provides access to both free and unique flexible workspaces, some of which are still open for those who need them, as well as weekly events, an online environment to chat and connect and member perks. We even have a mentorship service about to launch.
Q: What if I wanted to lead/run my own networking event, could Othership coordinate that for me in terms of promoting the event; getting sign-ups from Othership members and providing any necessary technology? And if so, could I still lead it from the comfort of my own home? Would that be part of any of your packages?
A: This is something we have thought about a lot. We currently partner with some members to do just this and even bring in our partner networks such as Angel Investment Network and General Assembly, however, we do curate this heavily. What I will say is we are a very dynamic team running a number of tests and exploring initiatives so watch this space.
Q: There has been a mass exodus of city folk moving to the countryside to get away from the lockdown blues. However, there still lacks flexible workspace/hot desking services outside large cities for freelancers to meet, hold meetings, and hold networking events, so do you think we will start to see services for more rurally-based entrepreneurs?
A: This is hard to say exactly but our data would suggest it is highly unlikely to happen anytime soon from a major real estate player or traditional office provider however that’s where Othership and its flexible model to partner with locations are far more suitable. We have the ambition to get 90% of the world in 5 mins walk of a free workspace in the next 10 years.
Need a fellow freelancer to turn to for advice or as a sounding board?
❓ Did you know that R&D tax credits do not have to be highly technical in order to qualify for tax relief? Costs that can be claimed include: gross salary, employers NI and pension contributions, subcontractors, materials consumed, prototypes and more.
When? Every 1st Friday of the month09:30 – 10:30 GMT
- From £15 for guests and Othership Essential members
- Free for Othership Premium members
- An overview of what the R&D Tax Credit Scheme is
- A review overview of the steps to comeplete a submission
- On-screen sharing of example submission documents and emails with downloads where possible