by Katharine Mears
A couple of weeks ago I attended my first Jelly; an informal co-working event where freelancers and small business owners can bring their laptops, and work, chat and collaborate with others. The UK Jelly website defines co-working as, “Meeting up with like-minded people to work together in a different environment, to exchange help and advice, and maybe come up with a new idea to collaborate on”. It differs from a networking event in that the primary purpose of a Jelly isn’t to find new clients or promote your business, although of course this often happens indirectly.
The Jelly I attended was held in a local pub in St Albans (which is, conveniently, the city I live in!). It was free to attend, in line with Jelly’s ethos that their events are accessible to all. We had our own room allocated to us so we weren’t disturbed by other customers and we were given free use of the Wi-Fi. The only thing that needed to be paid for was food and drink.
So, how did I find it?
The highlight for me was undoubtedly having the opportunity to meet other local freelancers and getting to know them as we worked. Any co-working I have undertaken in recent years has been solely with other translators, so I did wonder whether there would be as much scope for discussion with freelancers from other fields. I couldn’t have been more wrong! There were around ten people at the Jelly, including the founder of Popdance, an IT consultant, a PA and a children’s outdoor activities coordinator. I was also pleasantly surprised to see another local translator that I had recently met, as well as an old friend I had worked alongside in my previous career in the charity sector. A friendly and chatty atmosphere quickly developed between all of us. There are so many advantages to freelancing from home but this event really made me realise how much I’d missed having colleagues to chat to on a day-to-day basis. It was also clear that some real friendships had developed among those who had been attending for a while.
It wasn’t only the social aspect and the novelty of getting out of the house that appealed to me. I also found I learned a great deal from others that may prove to be of use to my business. I was introduced to Periscope, a live video streaming app, and we even conducted a live Periscope broadcast from the Jelly! I also found out about an active Facebook page for local businesses in St Albans and about other Jelly and networking events. Tapping into this local knowledge was extremely useful and something that can be hard to come by at translation events.
The only downside to the morning I spent at the event was that I only got about half the amount of work done that I would normally have achieved. I think this was partly because it was the first Jelly I had attended and I was keen to get to know people. There would have been little point in going if I had just tapped away on my laptop all morning without speaking to anyone! Should you decide to go along to a Jelly near you, I would recommend having an admin day rather than taking along a translation you really need to focus on or working to meet a deadline, as it can be difficult to concentrate. That said, perhaps I have just got too used to the silence!
What about you? Do you attend co-working events? Is there anything similar on offer where you live? Let us know in the comments below.
For those interested in a more regular co-working arrangement, take a look at Claire Harmer’s blog post on the subject from back in April.