In the company of others

As regulars will know, the idea that you can be totally independent, but being part of a tribe goes right to the heart of the KindredHQ philosophy.

We see this every week when we run our regular London-based Pop-Up Coworking sessions, our take on the ‘jelly’ phenomenon.

It’s a fact that even if you love the control of working for yourself, we humans are social creatures and sometimes need the company of others to thrive.

Of all the questions that come into KindredHQ, by far the most common is ‘is there a friendly place nearby where I can work?’

On the surface of it, the answer depends on where you live, obviously, with major cities likely to have more formal paid for coworking hubs.  But we’re also interested in exactly what that freelancers and independents need.

Because we believe that what people really seek is the feeling of being part of something.

Even if you haven’t ever worked in an office, you’ll have days where you crave to speak to someone, bounce an idea, resolve a mini problem with your google apps account.  Feel that you aren’t alone. Swop stories.  Here’s a funky little US video that the people behind LinkCoworking in the US made.

So, here’s our take on working with others if you are a freelancer or independent in the UK.  Please contribute your ideas too, and we’ll update this in a few months.

1.  Cafes, gyms and hotel lobbies.

For many, this is the best way to get a fix of buzz and energy, and we don’t mean from the caffeine!  Just being around others will help lift your mood and many of us find that the noise actually contributes to helping us concentrate on the task in hand.  In the UK, several of the chains offer free wifi, like Pret a Manger, Caffe Nero, Leon, Starbucks and McDonalds.  Don’t bother with Costa, who limit you to half an hour.

Of the independents, most offer free wifi and a cosy less hurried environment, and they’ll be happy for you to sit and work as long as you buy something.  Our favourites in London are Bill’s, The Fleet River Bakery, the 5th View café at Waterstone’s in Piccadilly, and the Foyle’s Café in Charing Cross Road, but many of you will be shouting yours at the PC right now.  Add them to the comments at the bottom of the page!

Hotel and gym lobbies can be a bit hit and miss.  Most offer wifi in their public areas, but it is restricted to guests or you may only get wifi for a short period.  However, they are often slightly less busy than cafes, and if you need to squeeze in a meeting then it can be a better option.

2.  Public and open spaces

These free to use spaces are part of the democratic fibre of our society, and often offered by cultural organisations as a way to engage people in their wider programmes.  For example, buying a very affordable membership for less than £50 per year to the Southbank Centre gives you access to their Members’ Area.  It’s busy much of the time, but it has inspiring views and great energy, lots of plugs and wifi that works most of the time.  The British Library also offers space to work for free without being a member.

3.  Paid for coworking spaces

These are popping up all over the place.  The Hubs at Islington, Kings Cross and now at Westminster are good old favourites of the socially minded crowd and have beautiful environments to work in.  Central Working which started just off Tottenham Court Road and is now at Google Campus in London where it plays to the technology and start up community.  They have plans to expand to other cities soon.  Near Desk is opening up spaces all over the country with an innovative ‘passport-style’ membership card.  Club Workspace has some great spaces too.

Regus is getting in on the act, although we wonder whether they really ‘get’ that successful coworking isn’t just about providing a desk in a nice interior.

It remains to be seen whether the paid for coworking model is right for the majority of freelancers.  It isn’t always a cheap option if you want to use in often, and anecdotally, many freelancers and independents tell us that there’s no much socialising outside of the organised events – it’s ‘headphones in, chatter out’.

4. Jelly (or pop-up coworking as we call it)

Jelly was a term coined by a couple of New York based freelancers some years ago and it’s now a global movement.  The idea is simple.  Someone offers to organise and host a jelly event, and persuades a friendly nearby space to give a small group of people wifi and access to refreshments and there you have it.  Jellies are a fantastic option where there are fewer formal spaces and we’ve seen an explosion in the numbers of jellies run in smaller towns and more remote areas around the country.  Shropshire Jelly and CamJelly are very popular, but if you don’t have one nearby, why not start one?

You will find Jellies are very social events, although they are not ‘meetups’ or networking events per se.  In fact, overt business card swopping is slightly frowned upon.  That’s not to say that they aren’t a great place to meet potential new clients or partners, just that you need to be respectful of others desire to get some work done.  The vibe tends to be like a busy studio, with a few conversations going on and others with their heads down at their laptops.

It’s our time to plug Kindredjelly!  We run very popular pop-up coworking sessions in London.  We’re on a mission to offer pop-up coworking spaces to freelancers and independents every day of the week all over the country, so let us know if we can help

5.  DIY coworking

There’s a growing trend towards loosely organised small groups working together.  One of our readers, food blogger and cook, Miriam Nice told us that she, a friend who is an writer/animator and her partner who is an actor have a regular ‘study day’ when they work together at home and motivate each other

6.  Apps to connect

Recognising the need to help pull people together, there are a few must have apps for your smartphone that will connect you so someone for you nearby.  Beautifully designed Coffee & Power is brand new, and allows you to check in with a question, meaning you can find help really easily.  Freelancing Map is a UK tool helping you connect with other local freelancers, and the ever handy Worksnug is a great guide to the nearest freelancer friendly wifi enabled temporary workspot.





Who is Alex Butler

Hello, I'm Alex Butler and I founded the KindredHQ community and blog back in 2011 after I re-started a freelance career. I LOVE freelancing and I wouldn't swop the freedom, control and joy of working for myself for anything. But I realised how much I missed the company and energy of other people - of having a team around me. So, I got a few people together one day with our laptops, a jar of coffee and some jelly babies and we sat and worked together one afternoon. We've been doing that every week in London, UK since then! I am still 100% freelance and I like to share the everyday highs and lows of being a freelancer here on the blog.


  1. taragh Reply →

    Our Kindred Jellies have given me a taste for working away from my desk at home so this article has given me some ideas of where to go on days when there are no meetups and I’m checking out the apps. Thank you.

  2. hoogli Reply →

    Thanks for this info. Does the 5th-floor cafe at Waterstones have plentiful electricity sockets and tolerate those of us who only really want one coffee and then camp out and hog a table for the day?

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