I was approached by a professor from a local university who works with students in the Arts Management department to talk to 25 high school students in a summer program about my shared workspace and creative careers.
I wasn’t sure what to say to 17 year old creatives who were thinking about their future careers so I took some notes before they came in. As usual I remembered to say some things but not others so I thought I’d write the three things I wanted to say here:
If you want help, be specific.
Opening a coworking space, it’s easy to think of the high cost items. The $750 conference room table. The $250 chairs (and how many you need to buy to get that price break). But what people (including myself) always forget is the coffee maker. The trash cans (yes, you need more than one). All those small things that add up.
If you need a digital SLR camera to take your photography next level, put it out to your friend group you are looking to get a used one for a good price. Someone might give one to you. Your uncle’s friend might have a second camera and sell it to you for $100 so as not to have to hassle with eBay/Craigslist. Ask but ask specifically for what you’re looking for. “Any help you can give me” is not something I can hold in my mind. “Small business clients who need 60 second Instagram videos” is a lot easier for me to act on, and actually generate ideas for.
Be flexible to solve problems… and wait for them to actually come up.
As a business owner, I lie awake at night producing problems that never happen. It is much cheaper to wait for problems to show up, then solve them.
So as a coworking space owner, my minimum viable product is a comfortable clean space with great internet, places to park in the parking lot, and a working printer. Any problems related to this I can presolve, I do because this is what people expect.
Many more problems are not the minimum viable problem. Wait for a member to request a paper shredder. Cover the giant carpet stain with a $200 area rug versus putting down brand new wall to wall carpet in your rented building. There are infinite ways to solve a problem, some of which are free or cheaper than the first thought you have, but waiting for real problems will save you time and money… and being flexible about how they get solved will means they’ll actually get solved.
Some people have more money than time or creativity. You can help them.
It’s really easy to think ‘Oh, a client can do this themselves.’ or ‘We’re not in the same league financially.’ I find myself going there sometimes, thinking of myself as a young 20 something bootstrapper.
But I’m kind of almost 40.
I’m a grown up and I can act like it by offering my services for money that can help another person or company. That insurance company needs video to be able to advertise on Youtube and if you think Jen in Accounting is going to bring in her iPhone some Tuesday and give it a shot, you are delusional. Offer, don’t predict what they’ll say or that they won’t be interested. That’s silly negative self talk.
If someone doesn’t want it, they’ll say no. Don’t assume they can’t or won’t afford it because they’re a grad student, a startup, or have never seemed to care about that thing you offer until now.
Anyway, I hope those kids got the message. And like whenever I see a young person, I always think both of how exciting their future is and how you couldn’t pay me to start over. Here’s hoping they learned something on the tour; I really enjoyed the chance to show them around.