Nairobi, Kenya continues to establish itself as a global business hub for Multinational Organizations, Startups, Entrepreneurs, & Professional Consultants.
In turn, this has made the use of coworking spaces, as a viable office space solution, be mainstream.
According to coworkbooking.com, there are over 35 coworking spaces in Nairobi and more continue to open up within the city and outside of it. Each of them offers a myriad of packages to suit different clients, in different locations.
Coworking is particularly popular with professional consultants, and professional consultants, who might initially be comfortable working from home or from a coffee shop or a restaurant.
However, as convenient as the work from home option is – distractions from stopping by the fridge, taking an unscheduled TV or nap break, a family needing attention, power outages – might start to affect productivity.
On the other hand, cafes tend to be noisy especially at peak times, and rather distracting especially if you are on a call. Not to mention one is likely to build up a bill buying little snacks here and there to legitimize presence.
It is at this point or even before that one should start to consider a workspace that will mitigate these challenges.
A coworking space that offers quiet booths, fully set up meeting rooms, reliable internet access with a backup generator as well as free coffee & tea should be highly considered as a way to manage work and boost productivity.
Apart from being a great way to escape from distractions. There is also the element of the camaraderie of an office that coworking offers, along with the understanding that everyone is ultimately there to work.
A key advantage of coworking that is normally under-stressed is that the spaces are great places to source future clients from. Nairobi Garage for instance is home to over 700+ individual members. That in itself is an ecosystem that is ripe for making connections, pitching your ideas, and growing your business.
There are a few strategies that can easily help you secure new clients as a professional consultant while working from a coworking space.
The best way to get people to want to work with you is through familiarity and trust which is built up by showing up regularly at the workspace.
Few people will remember someone clearly after a single brief meeting. But if they see you every other day, week or even throughout, you’ll become fixed in your fellow coworkers’ minds.
Once you show up consistently, ensure that you also come in when other co-workers are around and make time to talk and interact with people. You need to build the kinds of connections that are necessary to secure the bag.
Take the time to chat and get to know people. Greet those nearby when you arrive and cultivate small talk around weather, weekend plans, and what you’re both working on. These are safe topics as opposed to religion, politics which tend to be divisive unless with people you know well.
Avoid being pushy about pitching your ideas, products & services on the 1st meeting in most cases is a straight turn-off. Instead, be curious, be engaging, ask genuine questions, and focus on building a relationship.
Remember to take the other person’s cues and wrap up a conversation when they’re clearly ready to go back to work.
Coworking gives you an opportunity to experience “watercooler moments” such as when you are pouring yourself a free cup of coffee, warming up your lunch in the kitchen, or waiting in line for the photocopier.
In these moments, you can strike up a conversation with the person next to you. To some, that can be annoying at times but if handled well, by reading cues, you could reap much from it. J
You never know who you might be talking to. They could even be your next dream client or might bring your connection to the person who is.
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A good coworking space should arrange for its members to take part in both social and business networking events.
Any professional consultant should understand the importance of networking when it comes to finding clients. These events give you the opportunity to get to know people better when you are not under time pressure or trying to work at the same time.
Whether it’s a speed networking morning, a happy hour, or a potluck lunch, take the time to attend. But do not just sit at a corner, make an effort to connect with at least one or two other people to make your attendance worthwhile.
In coworking spaces like Nairobi Garage, events form an integral part of our culture. Our events are two-way, those that are member-only based, and those that are open to the public.
We host social events like #AfterOfficeHours, Workshops, and MEETS, all these events give our members and other professional consultants in our community have a chance to connect and learn from each other.
Subscribe to our Newsletter to find out which events we are hosting at our spaces or within our Ecosystems.
Nothing is more frustrating than having a great chat with someone and then not having any easy way of giving them your details.
Keep a stash of business cards in your wallet or handbag when you go to your coworking space. They should include your contact information and the URL of your portfolio website.
There are also a couple of Applications like Ping, Abbyy Business Reader, Blue Smart Card, and many others that can help you get contacts easily from other coworkers and add them directly to your phonebook.
This also goes a long way to simply help you remember your contacts the next time you even meet outside the office.
Also, this goes a long way in helping you wrap up your conversation with a new person, you can say, “it was great to meet you, I’d love to connect on LinkedIn” and hand them your business card with all your contact information.
The aim here is to make yourself memorable by offering to help someone tackle a challenge, but keep it within your means. It doesn’t have to be that your product or service provides the direct solution. It can be that you have a resource that can help, and promise to connect them with that plug.
For example, if you’re a copywriter, can you take 10 minutes out of your day to help a fellow coworker with some proofreading a communication. Or perhaps you’re a computer expert and you can rescue the person next to you from the dreaded Blue Screen of Death.
Helping people out when you have the opportunity will pay dividends many times over. Not only will the people you help think well of you and be more inclined to assist you in return if you ever need anything. They will also think of you if they (or anyone in their network) has a need for the services you offer.
Most coworking spaces have central communication channels like slack where coworkers connect. Be on the look-out for these platforms as most coworkers post short-term opportunities and maybe someone might be in need of your services.
Also, connect with others on the platform, engage in conversations posted, and also post what your work entails and how people can reach you.
When you see a natural way to do so, you can absolutely pitch your services. The way to do it? Focus on the other person’s needs. In other words, you’re not pitching because your services are amazing but because you’ve seen a need that you can help fulfill.
For example, let’s say that you’re a social media marketer. In the course of a conversation, you learn that the person you’re talking to is struggling to promote their business effectively online. You might offer a few free tips, and then say something like, “If you’re interested in bringing in some external help with your marketing, we should talk. Here’s my card.”
Then it’s in the other person’s court. They may follow up and hire you, or they might check out your free content on your blog and then hire you in a year’s time. At the very least, you’ve expanded your network and made someone aware of the ways you can help them.
In conclusion, coworking in Nairobi is fantastic for professional consultants! Ultimately, the rules of landing clients through coworking are the same as in any other context. Be professional, build relationships, avoid the hard sell, and provide value.
Let us know if you used coworking to find freelance clients and how was your experience and tips if so.
Featured Photo by Karimi from Pexels