Co-working at first hand

Two years ago I wrote a post about co-working spaces and their blossoming popularity with Germany’s freelancers. Though the idea appealed, back then I was still enjoying the quiet and ease of working in my own living room. More recently my feelings changed – why, I am not sure, but the dining table became rather too solitary and the familiarity of the pictures on the wall claustrophobic instead of concentration-inducing.

It was time, it seemed, to get out of the flat at last and rent a desk. My research proved useful. At first, I thought I would look in small office spaces – perhaps one room, shared with a just a few other freelancers. But as I looked around the many desks on offer locally, the large, well-equipped spaces seemed far more attractive. I liked the lofty ceilings, newly installed galley kitchens, and the general buzz and entertainment provided by gang of young, mostly-bearded coders, invariably working for some start up or other, using the same space. Continue reading

Teaching ESL in Germany

I recently finished a two-week stint of teaching intensive English for a company that has been contracted to provide training for unemployed people. The unemployment office sends a lucky few – in this case five people – to take a course that is meant to help make them better candidates for jobs in the future. The intensive English module was part of a 6-month project management course that was paid for my our friendly neighborhood Arbeitsamt, and it is said to cost almost €10,000 for the whole course.

When I accepted the course, I had not yet had the job interview that led to my offer of full-time employment, which is by far the better option for me. Basically I said yes to the English course, and got a job offer about two weeks later. I was not thrilled about having to spend 40 hours per week teaching people English, and that for two weeks straight from 8.30 to 4.30 pm every day. I have no problem with working full time, but how do you keep a bunch of people interested and awake for 8 hours when it comes to learning English?

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Return to Freelancing

I’ve been away from the blog for a while because we moved to Ireland in 2010 for a new job for me. For years I have been working as a technical writer and editor at large corporations (SAP and IBM, to be exact), but as of April, I have returned to my roots in more ways than one. I’m back in Germany and I am back to freelancing, or being self-employed, which are two different things from a tax perspective. Continue reading

Berlin’s desk revolution

“It’s like being interviewed for a shared flat,” my German friend, the freelance TV producer, says to me one Wednesday morning over one of those pungent Berlin coffees. Having left our laptops gently purring on our dining table desks, we are now sitting outside a local cafe reinvigorating our brains with caffeine and a vitamin-C-laden fruit salad. After three years working from home, the washing machine peeps have interrupted the flow of my friend’s creative juices one time too many and she has finally decided to find herself a real desk in a co-working space.

She is not alone: approximately 80,000 people worldwide are currently using co-working spaces, and Berlin is one of the capitals for it. In the post-financial-crisis digital age, swathes of ambitious young people are shunning traditional careers and looking instead to freelance projects or setting up their own business as alternative paths to professional greatness. And it turns out that not all of these digital nomads are happy to work surrounded by last night’s dirty dishes or with the ever-alluring TV in the corner telling them it really is alright to watching two hours of N-TV (the German new channel) every lunchtime because its ‘educational’. Continue reading