— blending the mix

My Pertuity entry

I like the idea of Pertuity Direct’s fuelmyblog competition – what kind of online business would you open up if you had $25,000? It’s always nice to dream, but on this occasion, you actually win something for your efforts – a Kindle no less. Cool. Just wonder if the surrounding publicity would actually ensure the funding arrived too?!

My idea? Nothing revolutionary in concept to be honest but something which in these hard times would be a big help to a lot of people:

I would use the money to open up a co-working office in my home town of Manchester (UK).

 

Manchester has a thriving, talented digital industry, made up of lots of mid-small sized agencies who rely on the services of an ever-growing army of digital nomads/freelancers to get by. Such is the size and skill-set of these freelancers, they inevitably end up working with all or some of the aforementioned small agencies at some point.

Currently there are a few meet-ups occasionally put on by those who want more contact, but I don’t think these occasional meet-ups are necessarily conducive to idea inspiration, development or problem-solving – innovation basically.

A Low-Cost Creative and Technical Community Centre

My goal would be to create the much-used US idea of creating a drop-in shop for these people. Create a “creative community centre” so to speak. Give them the kind of low-cost working environment in which they and their ideas could thrive – spare bedrooms and shoebox offices only appeal for a small amount of time!

Members (of whatever level) could come to the space to work and, at a turn of a chair ask for a coding problem to be solved, an idea to be sense-checked and an API to be recommended.

The space could also be used for community events – geek-ups, social media cafe’s, etc etc. giving the various local communities somewhere they can call and make their own.

Community-Generated Employment

Peer-to-Peer technical/creative help aside, the community can help itself too. It is frequently the case that freelancers take on or are involved in a project that requires more skills/time than they alone can handle. Mates can help (sometimes), but what if the community could recommend or commission work to the people at the co-working space? Capacity, skills and awareness of work out there is in abundance.

A Talent Pool

Unless agencies are very well connected, they frequently find it difficult to find the right freelancer available at the right time for the right price. Having an ongoing, growing “register” of freelancers, free from recruitment fees ensures the agencies can have a wider pool of talent from which to draw.

So there you have it $25,000 to create a creative and technical communities drop-in centre! Could it work? Would you be interested? Would it work? If not, why not?

27 comments
  1. Stuart Kay says: May 29, 20098:49 am

    Excellent post and think this is a great idea.

    I can only speak from my personal experience but finding good freelancers is hard. Its only through years of building up contacts and referrals that i have a solid roster.

    However keeping this list up to date and relevant takes time which for most of us in this game is at a premium. A place that concentrates this talent would certainly be something i would be interested in and support.

  2. Stuart Kay says: May 29, 20093:49 am

    Excellent post and think this is a great idea.

    I can only speak from my personal experience but finding good freelancers is hard. Its only through years of building up contacts and referrals that i have a solid roster.

    However keeping this list up to date and relevant takes time which for most of us in this game is at a premium. A place that concentrates this talent would certainly be something i would be interested in and support.

  3. Anonymous says: May 29, 200910:13 am

    Hey Stuart, thanks for stopping by! Head of Digital at a Manchester agency and we’ve never met yet…we’ll have to remedy that one soon!

    I’d like to think that the growing pool of talent would be one of the biggest draws for agencies to this concept.

    Far from trying to “be” an agency in itself it would merely provide a base for all the freelancers you would ever need – where the freelancers themselves can learn and share ideas – making them ultimately, more employable

    The other benefit is that it is direct – no agencies, saving you money and time!

  4. paul.fabretti says: May 29, 20095:13 am

    Hey Stuart, thanks for stopping by! Head of Digital at a Manchester agency and we’ve never met yet…we’ll have to remedy that one soon!

    I’d like to think that the growing pool of talent would be one of the biggest draws for agencies to this concept.

    Far from trying to “be” an agency in itself it would merely provide a base for all the freelancers you would ever need – where the freelancers themselves can learn and share ideas – making them ultimately, more employable

    The other benefit is that it is direct – no agencies, saving you money and time!

  5. Paul Carruthers says: May 29, 200910:30 am

    Manchester is surely crying out for something like this and I’d love it to become a reality.

    I’m envious of spaces like The Hub in London (http://the-hub.net) where I’ve been a couple of times to meet people when down in t’smoke. Informal space, meeting rooms available and plenty of people dropping in and out make it a really nice environment. Throw in the coffee bar and you’ve a place you can work all day, quite happily.

    I’m sure there are lots of people around Manchester (like me) who go to coffee shops etc, but miss out on the potential of crossing paths with other freelancers on a more regular basis.

    If this kind of space could also become a ‘location’ for a freelancer talent pool then I all parties would benefit.

    I did contact The Hub to see if they had any Manchester plans, but received no reply. Meh.

    -paul.

  6. Paul Carruthers says: May 29, 20095:30 am

    Manchester is surely crying out for something like this and I’d love it to become a reality.

    I’m envious of spaces like The Hub in London (http://the-hub.net) where I’ve been a couple of times to meet people when down in t’smoke. Informal space, meeting rooms available and plenty of people dropping in and out make it a really nice environment. Throw in the coffee bar and you’ve a place you can work all day, quite happily.

    I’m sure there are lots of people around Manchester (like me) who go to coffee shops etc, but miss out on the potential of crossing paths with other freelancers on a more regular basis.

    If this kind of space could also become a ‘location’ for a freelancer talent pool then I all parties would benefit.

    I did contact The Hub to see if they had any Manchester plans, but received no reply. Meh.

    -paul.

  7. Justin Davies says: May 29, 200910:32 am

    Hi Paul, these kinds of ideas are really good, and we have seen a more traditional twist to them in Perth previously with advertising groups and also with IT groups like the Silicon Beach House. The nebulous to keep these things alive is a core bunch of tenants otherwise they can easily turn into a morgue, and someone also has to drive it.

    The challenges are:
    1. someone has to play landlord, which isn’t the most fun job in the place
    2. the place has to stay full with a compatible bunch of people that aren’t treading on each others toes – self selecting isn’t so much the hard bit of this – it is just keeping the desks full
    3. Each freelancer markets under a different brand, has a different idea of where they are going

    But I do think this idea reflects much more of where we are heading in business, the notion of everyone in the enterprise as a freelancer. Look forward to hearing more on this….

  8. Justin Davies says: May 29, 20095:32 am

    Hi Paul, these kinds of ideas are really good, and we have seen a more traditional twist to them in Perth previously with advertising groups and also with IT groups like the Silicon Beach House. The nebulous to keep these things alive is a core bunch of tenants otherwise they can easily turn into a morgue, and someone also has to drive it.

    The challenges are:
    1. someone has to play landlord, which isn’t the most fun job in the place
    2. the place has to stay full with a compatible bunch of people that aren’t treading on each others toes – self selecting isn’t so much the hard bit of this – it is just keeping the desks full
    3. Each freelancer markets under a different brand, has a different idea of where they are going

    But I do think this idea reflects much more of where we are heading in business, the notion of everyone in the enterprise as a freelancer. Look forward to hearing more on this….

  9. Ross says: May 29, 200910:40 am

    Not a bad idea Paul, although I am not sure you need the 25k, the agencies in Manchester must spend more than that combined on recruitment fees (until they build their roster, which I assume changes due to availability).

    Why not ask the agencies to sponsor the launch, and then come up with a reasonable membership fee for both freelancers and agencies?

    And then once you’re done, if you could follow up with Liverpool 😉

  10. Ross says: May 29, 20095:40 am

    Not a bad idea Paul, although I am not sure you need the 25k, the agencies in Manchester must spend more than that combined on recruitment fees (until they build their roster, which I assume changes due to availability).

    Why not ask the agencies to sponsor the launch, and then come up with a reasonable membership fee for both freelancers and agencies?

    And then once you’re done, if you could follow up with Liverpool 😉

  11. Lee Hambley says: May 29, 200911:03 am

    I would love to see something like this come to fruition; as someone who very much values the experience coined from freelance work, and extra curricular development work the whole concept excites me!

    Environment is critical though, and a warm and calming atmosphere would be paramount; no busy busy Starbucks atmosphere. The picture above, and London “thehub” (thanks for the link Paul) look ideal!

  12. Lee Hambley says: May 29, 20096:03 am

    I would love to see something like this come to fruition; as someone who very much values the experience coined from freelance work, and extra curricular development work the whole concept excites me!

    Environment is critical though, and a warm and calming atmosphere would be paramount; no busy busy Starbucks atmosphere. The picture above, and London “thehub” (thanks for the link Paul) look ideal!

  13. Anonymous says: May 29, 200911:08 am

    @Paul, agree with you on all counts mate. Think it would benefit everybody apart from the recruitment agencies!

    Brighton have one called The Werks (http://thewerks.org.uk/space). The only thing that surprises me about The Werks, is that there aren’t more of them, especially with Brighton being such a hive of digital innovation.

    Manchester to be fair DOES have something called OpenSpace (http://www.openspace.coop/location) and Fly The Coop (http://www.flythecoop.co.uk/?page_id=2) which seem to offer something similar – although Fly the Coop seems to have a more collaborative “problem-solving” angle whereas Open Space seems to be the closest to what I am thinking about.

    What I have in mind though is to make the space as much of a meeting place for events that freelancer’s clients may want to hold seminars in – the idea being that holding events would subsidise the monthly cost of having the space in the most convenient location for freelancers.

    @Justin , thanks again for stopping by :-)

    I know what you mean about the landlords…although I think the current economic climate might make them a tad more receptive and flexible!

    On the aspect of mixing different people, I do think this could be the biggest issue – what happens when 2 people go for the same contract and one doesn’t get it – how do you manage the conflict. As nice as it would be to think we are all in this for a greater good – bills still need paying! Likewise, what happens when people piss each other off? How does that get managed?

    What I wouldn’t want it to be is simply a place to bear the costs for the corporation who doesn’t want to stump up fixed location costs – but I think there is some middle ground that benefits everyone.

  14. paul.fabretti says: May 29, 20096:08 am

    @Paul, agree with you on all counts mate. Think it would benefit everybody apart from the recruitment agencies!

    Brighton have one called The Werks (http://thewerks.org.uk/space). The only thing that surprises me about The Werks, is that there aren’t more of them, especially with Brighton being such a hive of digital innovation.

    Manchester to be fair DOES have something called OpenSpace (http://www.openspace.coop/location) and Fly The Coop (http://www.flythecoop.co.uk/?page_id=2) which seem to offer something similar – although Fly the Coop seems to have a more collaborative “problem-solving” angle whereas Open Space seems to be the closest to what I am thinking about.

    What I have in mind though is to make the space as much of a meeting place for events that freelancer’s clients may want to hold seminars in – the idea being that holding events would subsidise the monthly cost of having the space in the most convenient location for freelancers.

    @Justin , thanks again for stopping by :-)

    I know what you mean about the landlords…although I think the current economic climate might make them a tad more receptive and flexible!

    On the aspect of mixing different people, I do think this could be the biggest issue – what happens when 2 people go for the same contract and one doesn’t get it – how do you manage the conflict. As nice as it would be to think we are all in this for a greater good – bills still need paying! Likewise, what happens when people piss each other off? How does that get managed?

    What I wouldn’t want it to be is simply a place to bear the costs for the corporation who doesn’t want to stump up fixed location costs – but I think there is some middle ground that benefits everyone.

  15. David Prior says: May 29, 200911:19 am

    Coffee shop freelancers of the Mancunian world unite…

    Great idea. Probably much more complicated in practice. But something to be strived (striven?) for certainly.

    And how about a proper, localised oDesk to complement it? Let’s get away from the “years to build up contacts” approach and make all this talent accessible and accountable.

  16. David Prior says: May 29, 20096:19 am

    Coffee shop freelancers of the Mancunian world unite…

    Great idea. Probably much more complicated in practice. But something to be strived (striven?) for certainly.

    And how about a proper, localised oDesk to complement it? Let’s get away from the “years to build up contacts” approach and make all this talent accessible and accountable.

  17. Anonymous says: May 29, 20091:20 pm

    @Ross – know what you mean about perhaps not needing the £25k and very true – I could perhaps see a way for the agencies to take part without necessarily needing to be a part of it.

    As nice “in principle” as it would be that all members of the community would/could help each other, the reality would be that they would still rely on agencies fill ALL of their time. To preclude them completely might be a risk.

    @Lee totally agree on environment mate. The picture above (which I should have credited to Tara at Citizen Agency, whose Citizen Space is the inspiration behind the idea!)is exactly the kind of place I had in mind, but I guess the functionality or model for how the co-working space would and should work re: needing conference space too, should not be governed by how it looks.

    That said, a well-lit, convenient, relaxed, peaceful (well, peaceful-ish!) chilled and friendly atmosphere are core to it. Ultimately, a bunch of people who might only know each other’s Twitter ID’s would have to find it all acceptable! Put it this way, it’d be a nice decision to have to make in these early stages!

    @David thanks (as they do to all of you) for your comments. Totally agree on the coffee shop angle, although the test will be if it would be affordable over and above the amount of coffee someone might buy in a day or wifi they may end up having to pay for over a month in various coffee shops!

    At the same time, there could be group-buying benefits on things like licenses or machines etc. etc. We’ll see!

  18. paul.fabretti says: May 29, 20098:20 am

    @Ross – know what you mean about perhaps not needing the £25k and very true – I could perhaps see a way for the agencies to take part without necessarily needing to be a part of it.

    As nice “in principle” as it would be that all members of the community would/could help each other, the reality would be that they would still rely on agencies fill ALL of their time. To preclude them completely might be a risk.

    @Lee totally agree on environment mate. The picture above (which I should have credited to Tara at Citizen Agency, whose Citizen Space is the inspiration behind the idea!)is exactly the kind of place I had in mind, but I guess the functionality or model for how the co-working space would and should work re: needing conference space too, should not be governed by how it looks.

    That said, a well-lit, convenient, relaxed, peaceful (well, peaceful-ish!) chilled and friendly atmosphere are core to it. Ultimately, a bunch of people who might only know each other’s Twitter ID’s would have to find it all acceptable! Put it this way, it’d be a nice decision to have to make in these early stages!

    @David thanks (as they do to all of you) for your comments. Totally agree on the coffee shop angle, although the test will be if it would be affordable over and above the amount of coffee someone might buy in a day or wifi they may end up having to pay for over a month in various coffee shops!

    At the same time, there could be group-buying benefits on things like licenses or machines etc. etc. We’ll see!

  19. mark says: May 30, 20099:04 pm

    paul – I think its a great idea – and one that in theory should be a no brainer

    when I did the numbers on it a couple of years ago though (when we first moved to Manchester) – I couldn’t make it work (certainly if it was only 25k I’d be tempted to risk the $$) – there’s plenty of cheap space but the admin and overhead are surprisingly onerous

    feels like ross’s idea of a collaborative effort between agencies would be a better route

  20. mark says: May 30, 20094:04 pm

    paul – I think its a great idea – and one that in theory should be a no brainer

    when I did the numbers on it a couple of years ago though (when we first moved to Manchester) – I couldn’t make it work (certainly if it was only 25k I’d be tempted to risk the $$) – there’s plenty of cheap space but the admin and overhead are surprisingly onerous

    feels like ross’s idea of a collaborative effort between agencies would be a better route

  21. Anonymous says: May 30, 20099:22 pm

    Hey Mark, thanks for your thoughts. Very interesting that you’ve already taken a look at this. As I alluded to in my post, there is some distance left in the Agency route, although I’m not sure how receptive the freelancers would be to “corporate” involvement.

    That said, I wonder if/how the agencies the freelancers would work for might get involved. Might help with the ongoing costs.

    Equally, outside event/seminar hosting would help subsidise costs? One to ponder!

  22. paul.fabretti says: May 30, 20094:22 pm

    Hey Mark, thanks for your thoughts. Very interesting that you’ve already taken a look at this. As I alluded to in my post, there is some distance left in the Agency route, although I’m not sure how receptive the freelancers would be to “corporate” involvement.

    That said, I wonder if/how the agencies the freelancers would work for might get involved. Might help with the ongoing costs.

    Equally, outside event/seminar hosting would help subsidise costs? One to ponder!

  23. mark says: June 3, 200910:18 am

    my sense is – if freelancers viewed it as a route to more work – they’d soon get over any “corporate” issues(!)

    Terms of the model – I don’t think you’d need to quantify it for an agency too much – so long as they understood the advantages of having a pool of tame freelancers – in an increasingly “now” world – the attraction of keeping overhead might well be enough

    Outside of the agency route – the problem is getting over the “cheaper from home” mentality – if the business model requires you taking £20 a day+ from people who could otherwise work in their spare bedroom then it doesn’t work

    you either need to add serious value (to enable high prices) or make it so cheap that the core advantages of collaboration and community are enough – finding that critical figure – how much a month someone is prepared to have this service for just the collaboration and community would be an interesting first metric – perhaps trying to find that out could be a follow up post?

  24. mark says: June 3, 20095:18 am

    my sense is – if freelancers viewed it as a route to more work – they’d soon get over any “corporate” issues(!)

    Terms of the model – I don’t think you’d need to quantify it for an agency too much – so long as they understood the advantages of having a pool of tame freelancers – in an increasingly “now” world – the attraction of keeping overhead might well be enough

    Outside of the agency route – the problem is getting over the “cheaper from home” mentality – if the business model requires you taking £20 a day+ from people who could otherwise work in their spare bedroom then it doesn’t work

    you either need to add serious value (to enable high prices) or make it so cheap that the core advantages of collaboration and community are enough – finding that critical figure – how much a month someone is prepared to have this service for just the collaboration and community would be an interesting first metric – perhaps trying to find that out could be a follow up post?

  25. Anonymous says: June 3, 20091:45 pm

    @mark- – hey buddy, cheers for the thinking! Feel like I’ve got a business plan developing in the public eye. Would that be a first? at least then, the very people to whom it is aimed can tailor the service to what they like I guess!

    I totally agree with you on the cost front. The facilities and community benefits (whichever ones pull everybody’s strings) would have to be compelling enough for people to want to pay to leave their homes, although I am pretty sure that the drop-in aspect would be pretty popular.

    At the same time, there’s plenty of scope to provide a start-up environment which could be charged at higher than freelancer rates for additional support (which in turn secures the residency for longer but indirectly subsidises the freelancers costs a little bit).

    In terms of costs, I think that holding paid-for events or providing outside businesses with a place to come and hold their own small events (paid for) will also help pay for the fixed costs. Nice in principle but not sure how long it could last!

  26. paul.fabretti says: June 3, 20098:45 am

    @mark- – hey buddy, cheers for the thinking! Feel like I’ve got a business plan developing in the public eye. Would that be a first? at least then, the very people to whom it is aimed can tailor the service to what they like I guess!

    I totally agree with you on the cost front. The facilities and community benefits (whichever ones pull everybody’s strings) would have to be compelling enough for people to want to pay to leave their homes, although I am pretty sure that the drop-in aspect would be pretty popular.

    At the same time, there’s plenty of scope to provide a start-up environment which could be charged at higher than freelancer rates for additional support (which in turn secures the residency for longer but indirectly subsidises the freelancers costs a little bit).

    In terms of costs, I think that holding paid-for events or providing outside businesses with a place to come and hold their own small events (paid for) will also help pay for the fixed costs. Nice in principle but not sure how long it could last!

  27. […] My Pertuity entry – My entry to the Fuelmyblog Pertuity Direct Kindle competition […]

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