Alternative Workplaces for the Freelancer/Entrepreneur

Working from home is tougher than one might realize. For one thing, there’s a bevy of distractions and temptations (I’m looking at you, Netflix) that makes it difficult to be productive. For those of us who need a work environment geared toward discipline and efficiency, working out of the home lacks structure that is critical to productivity.

I learned this the hard way when I worked for two years without an office, when I was writing for hyperlocal websites. I had to get creative about where I worked, especially in light of having a toddler in the house (try explaining the concept of “telecommuting” to a 3-year-old — can’t be done).

With that in mind, here’s a list of alternative to working from home for freelancers/entrepreneurs:

Coworking space

The coworking concept is a shared space where one can rent a desk, usually by the day, the week or the month. Coworking, it turns out, is more than a trend. It’s a movement that is actually growing.

The drawback is that it’s not free — there’s the cost of rent. The pluses, however, to having an actual, professional workspace without the cost of leasing a full-blown office are innumerable.

If you’re in Mount Desert Island area, I actually recommend checking out BEC’s sister company, Anchorspace. Make a reservation, rent a desk for a day or longer. If you need to meet with clients, there’s a conference room. Arguably most important: There are a number of good places to eat nearby in downtown Bar Harbor (Hello, Jalapenos).

Public libraries

Libraries are a wonderful community resource. Most offer free internet and a quiet environment.

The disadvantages are limited hours and a lack of privacy. Unless your library has a cafe, it’s difficult to hold conversations with clients or interview subjects, and even then, the environment may not be ideal. Libraries often have limited bandwidth or place a limit on the amount of time you are allowed online.

I’m actually writing the first draft of this post at a public library now, where, I just overheard someone explaining how they got fired from KFC for hiding dirty cookware under the kitchen sink. That’s a little distracting.


McDonald’s, Starbucks Panera and other quick-serve joints usually have free wifi and will do in a pinch, that is if you can avoid spilling ketchup on your laptop. I’ve worked at coffee shops, but those get noisy real quick, especially when the blender is activated to whip up someone’s frozen soy macchiato latte whatever.

Seating is often at a premium, especially during lunch. Your wifi access will often be limited, especially during peak hours. And, because you’re not a jerk, you’ll have to buy something to justify using their wifi.

Your car

Probably the least comfortable office I ever worked at was in the passenger seat of my old Mustang. (Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful car that I miss dearly, but I promised myself that once I hit 40 I wouldn’t be one of “those guys” with a gut tooling around in a young man’s car.) I invested in a hotspot for my phone and wrote wherever I had signal. The advantage is that there’s privacy for making phone calls and you are completely mobile. The disadvantages are numerous. Cars, when they’re not running, get cold or hot pretty quick. Besides, explaining to a client that you live out of your car for 8 cramped hours a day makes you sound like Gil Gunderson.

Recommendation: Coworking Space

Having experienced all the above, I say make the investment and rent a desk. The payback is in more productivity. Do more, make more.

Coworking spaces are also more secure than the alternatives. You can go to the bathroom without having to pack up your laptop and mouse and charger, and your seat will still be there when you get back. You have a dedicated spot where you can work for eight hours. In other words, you’ll look like a professional.

Anchorspace: Business 2.0

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I wasn’t going to write anything on here, until my mom ran into one of our clients.

“Hey, tell Nicole congratulations on her new business… but who’s going to take care of my website now?”

So this is a blog post to say:

1) We are opening another business called Anchorspace (a Bar Harbor based coworking space)
2) I am grateful for all the help I’ve gotten getting this started and open for April 1
3) This will have no effect on Breaking Even except our office location.

A bit of background: I (Nicole) have been wanting a coworking location to start in Bar Harbor for literally years.

First I tried talking to ‘rich’ people (well, people who seemed richer than me) about it, telling them I would be the first tenant and recruit others.

Then I joined a few community organizations to try to get it started. The economic development opportunities, the creative use of space, the year round business support, it seemed like a dream project. It got very politely shot down. But everyone agreed it was a good idea before moving on.

And you know that moment you have, when you look around a room, and realize you HAVE it? That you feel called (and yes, I mean in an almost religious way) to do something that may not mean huge piles of cash but would be amazing for all involved? A rush of adrenaline goes through you and suddenly all the colors in the room seem brighter and there is no one in the world that has the clarity that you have right in that moment? I had that about a coworking space in Bar Harbor. And so I started, in actual earnest, about a year ago.

First, I had to talk to people.

I had to talk to community members to make sure there was actual interest and this wasn’t some weird crazy idea. I was met with nothing but support.

In case this was just people being nice (did I mention I am a pretty pragmatic person?), we put out an anonymous survey and spent part of last summer conducting a feasibility study. People will not only enthusiastic but willing to pay money, even though they didn’t know who was even behind it. Coworking spaces in other locations gave us great insights and a better start than we would have got otherwise. Even better.

I had to talk to potential landlords to make sure I could afford a space that could generate enough revenue to cover its costs. Nina St. Germain is a friend and sometimes client got the vision right away. She is leaving money on the table to do this since where we are in the world, she could rent the space by the week and make way more than I’ll be paying her monthly. For that, and several other things that have happened so far, she gets my undying loyalty.

I had to talk to my team to make sure that if I did start this second business and it took me away from Breaking Even at times that we could still handle our workload. They not only understood but all pitched in. Leslie used her skills to revamp our logo. John wrote a press release and WABI came to do a story on us. (See us on television here.) Kassie has taken on an increased workload the last two months as I run around spending time on things I never thought I’d spend time doing. Breaking Even may be the first tenant of Anchorspace but in a very personal way, they are behind this. Just that group conviction has made doing this worth it.

I talked to my CEI business counselor, who is still a little skeptical. (I appreciate being challenged. The quickest way to learn nothing is to just have everyone just agree with you all the time.) She told me to work on letters of interest and we have some in hand now. I also have a 3 years of cash projections and was able to get a commercial loan thanks to her advice.

And I had to talk to my husband since now, mere months after our wedding, he is financially and otherwise on board with this plan. We haven’t been on a honeymoon. Our house isn’t finished yet. And he didn’t even hesitate. “I know this is going to work.” (Full disclosure: I would have hesitated if he came to me with an idea. That’s why I appreciate I am married to someone better than me.)

So we’re opening April 1. Chairs and conference table are in, desks (adjustable stand to sit desks- made in the USA!) got shipped this morning and arrive next week. LLC is set up. 10,000 square feet of wallpaper has been painted over. Cameras have been installed in every room and at the entrance to ensure everyone’s (and everyone’s stuff’s) safety. Internet gets hooked up Wednesday. Sign plans have been submitted. We’ve run an Indiegogo campaign that raised some money but really helped us get the word out. Around 50 people have walked through the space, seeing if they could picture themselves there and are mulling over if Anchorspace will be their home. The MDIYWCA has stepped forward to sponsor the conference room, making a commitment to start and grow women-owned businesses in Bar Harbor. We have insurance. We are getting donations of items needed from the community and have a list we’re updating on our website we get to keep crossing things off of.

The website is here if you want to learn more about the venture: If you want an ‘insider look’ the weekly email newsletter is a good place to get it.

This is the last time I plan to mention it on the Breaking Even blog but I did need to let people know Breaking Even is not going belly up. We just have a lot of energy and now seems a perfect time for this dream to finally become a reality, for me and for the community.

We can still do your website or online marketing, we’ll just be doing it from a slightly different location. And should you decide to come work with us for the day, we’d love to have you over.

Tech Thursday: All about Coworking

Thanks to Old Man Winter, Nicole hosts this Tech Thursday solo. This also means that she is holding down the fort in the office solo, while Kassie works from home. This setup leads us to this week’s topic: Coworking spaces!

Coworking allows people to rent office space that they may not otherwise be able to afford (usually small businesses, startups and freelancers). It’s a way for likeminded professionals to get together and gain access to business resources that they may not have working from home.

If you’re in the Bar Harbor area and want to learn more about Anchorspace, check out the website here:

And finally, some helpful resources about coworking: