Tale from a Digital Nomad in Bali
For the past 6 years, I have been working from home which significantly reduces my operating cost. It is also a big plus to be available for any domestic errands and work at flexible hours. And who wouldn’t be happy to get rid of the formal dressing code required in my previous Wall Street job!
But what seems a perfect no-distraction option to crank out your projects turns into a melancholic solo working experience more often than you would expect. I realized distractions keep you awake and people working around you evoke a sense of discipline. My productivity and morale in the long run tampered down and I craved for a sense of community.
For a while, it seemed like there was no winning - you can either have a soul-sucking corporate job or be stuck on your own. So, I started exploring remote working options more seriously. Working from cafes was fun once in a while but eventually, how many cups of cappucinos can you drink and going there everyday turns it into another place with same issues like home.
Eventually, it was my first co-working space experience in Ubud, Bali that opened a new world of possibilities.
My two months working from Hubud, rated one of the best co-working spaces in the world, left a powerful impression on me. Having a place to go to work for motivated me to shower right after breakfast and it worked wonders! For an anti-morning person like me, this added push to be someplace in a non-pajama attire was a blessing. I typically found myself in a cozy desk by 11 am which is early by my standards. This was not like my Wall Street days, there were no morning meetings to dread or a boss to report to. I had my work which I love but, in a place livelier than home.
I started forming a better work routine, including sleeping timely at night. Having other digital nomads working around me added to my sense of discipline and helped if I wanted to get some inspiration over coffee. I met incredibly exciting people in this time; a digital marketing expert who created many online courses in diverse profitable niches. There was another expert on Amazon who determined what books are more likely to be a bestseller and got them ghostwritten, another ex-model from California who ran a leadership programme and so on. Talking to people so unrelated to what I do did wonders to my creativity and power of ideation. I ended up growing my profits by 50% that year.
I would often sit down with other business owners and learn best practices and ideas on pricing that helped me grow my own business. Hubud organized skill sharing sessions, workshops twice a week and few of them were actually very educating. Other than these, karaoke nights, beer pong, lunch networking etc provided good avenues to socialize with. I can imagine these might start getting distracting but in my short stay, I did not feel that way and welcomed the social opportunity. It was easy to find friends for the weekend excursions and explore new places.
On the downside, you are spending more but that only made me more motivated to do better in my business. Sometimes, it gets very crowded and distracting and I ended up working from other cafes on those days or simply taking a break. Overall, I felt the benefits outweighed the cost of it.
In the end, I realized that what I hated about going to office in my full-time employed days was the monotony, uninspired nature of my work, forced participation, office politics and the obligation of it. Now that I do the work I like, and report only to myself, it is productive and uplifting to work from a structured office with proper desk spaces, cafe, proximity to other entrepreneurs and a reliable internet connection.
That said, not all co-working spaces are as attractive as Hubud. Here are five things that make a co-working space successful-
Built aesthetically using bamboo with a lot of open space, it is a beautiful place to simply spend your day in. One of the things I hated in my Wall Street office was the white and grey walls with dark brown carpet that constantly reminded me of a grey afternoon in a rainy month - except that there was no relief of a shower to be expected. Since the people working from co-working spaces are travelers and independent rebellious freelancers, having a lively decor is a key to attract them.
The social company and the opportunity to brainstorm your problems with other likeminded people is a big relief and reason for digital nomads to work from co-working offices. To some extent, people are seeking social support more than efficiency. Many co-working spaces don't get this.
Regus might work for serious professionals but I look for a creative space that uplifts. Add interesting art work, play music once in a while, have a hammock, bean bags to loll around and admin staff that loves to smile. If I was okay seeing grouchy people at work, I would not have left my corporate job.
Easy to overlook but it is crucial to have comfortable and enough number of desks, temperature pleasant to work in and a location that is easy to commute to. If you make it too inconvenient for me to arrive or work, I am likely to bail out soon.
Unfortunately, I have not found such workspaces in India yet and it is partly also the reason that global digital nomads prefer Bali, Thailand, Vietnam etc over India when it comes to remote working. Hopefully, someone will pay heed and open a cool comfy energetic space in a place like Goa and if/when you look for your first customer, do not forget to sign me up!