"I'm not paying someone so I can work!"

That was what I was thinking and saying for a long time whenever someone asked me if I – as a freelancer in Asia – go to any coworking spaces to get my work done. And I really believed that: Why would I pay money – in some cases (yes Dojo in Bali, talking about you!) A LOT of money, just so I’d have a place to work? I’d much rather go to a cafe, I used to say, I’ll order coffee after coffee and I have the “I’m not working from an office, I’m working from a cafe” feeling too – for free. 

If you work two days a week, a cafe is the perfect workspace!

And that thing, the working from a cafe thing, it was decent for me. For a couple of months, it was absolutely sufficient. I worked two or three days a week. I was living in South East Asia, was as far away from a “normal schedule” as one can get. I didn’t need quiet, I didn’t need a routine, I didn’t need a proper work desk with office chairs. My freelance gigs were more hobby than actual job. 

Sydney changed it all

And then I came to Sydney. Sydney, where the coffee is (mostly) awesome, but where the cafes close between 3 and 3.30. And if you are used to not start working before 11, your “office times” end up being pretty short. And once you’re done with your work? When you have your four days off? Sydney is great, but it also is very expensive, and what I as a freelancer made in three days was perfectly enough in Asia, but doesn’t get me very far in Sydney. So, you don’t work much, but you also don’t really do much in your leisure time, because a) everything comes with a hefty price tag, as mentioned, and b) everyone else is working to afford that price tag and doesn’t have time to “just hang out”. I tried very hard to apply my Asian Freelance lifestyle to Sydney, but I failed. Miserably.

more work equals no work from cafes

Coworking Sydney

So, I upped my workload to four or five days a week, but I still tried to avoid those coworking spaces. Cafes didn’t do it anymore, so instead I hung out in the State Library, where the Wifi is free and the chairs are comfortable. But: Only 2 out of 5 power plugs work, and if you’re not there early enough, someone will snag the last space with a working plug right in front of you. I tried working from home, which resulted in rarely changing out of sweat pants, and something that can be called the first stage of absolute isolation – and it did not do me any good. It didn’t help either that I was doing all my work from a couch table while sitting on the floor…

I give in: Coworking it is!

And then I finally caved: I made it an experiment to try out different coworking spaces around Sydney, and I realized what it actually is that I’d be paying for:

  • No worrying about unstable Wifi
  • No need to order something new every hour, even if you really don’t want anything
  • No need to scout for that one spot with a power plug (there are surprisingly many cafes in Sydney that do not have power plugs AND Wifi, it’s more either the one or the other)
  • No getting kicked out at 3.30
  • A microwave to heat up your lunch and a coffee maker (everything to get around those Sydney food prices, and also: SCORE – Free Coffee!!!)
  • A space where you feel obliged to work, which is more than ideal if you want to, say, set up your own business but never got around to it
And every single one of these things is SO worth paying for if you enjoy those factors five out of seven days a week, from morning to late afternoon. And yes, you also meet other cool people, which is not the major “coworking perk” for me – but might be for others.

Bottom Line: Coworking yes, but only under certain circumstances

So I did end up signing up for one of the coworking spaces I tried out, and so far it is worth every last cent of the membership fee. But: It is only worth it because I am actually working 5 days a week again, and because I am trying to get somewhere as opposed to just make enough to have a really good time. Should I go back to working just as much as absolutely necessary in some remote country, I would definitely not do the whole office-thing and drift right back to my cafe-lifestyle.

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