When I Google-image’d for “jelly”, I didn’t only get the type of thing usually inedible by vegetarians, because Jelly is also a coworking/networking/working event.
Essentially it’s designed for self-employed individual types, who spend all day on their own at home, fighting the urge to switch on the Xbox, and trying to motivate themselves to keep working, without going mad from the loneliness, or the distractions of cats, children, or a sudden desire to do something incredibly mundane (that never looked remotely interesting until you weren’t supposed to be doing it).
The idea is to get together in a shared space, and occasionally talk to one another.
There is some networking opportunity there, but you don’t go just to swap business cards, and there’s no requirement to stand up and talk about yourself for 60 seconds (people will look at you very oddly if you do).
Just because you meet a PR guru doesn’t mean you can only use/recommend them for all future PR needs, and you don’t have to get up for it at 5am, pay membership to join a bloody “chapter” or learn a secret handshake, either.
At the ones I’ve been to, there was even free tea/coffee and biscuits.
The majority of people who have attended the ones I’ve been to so far, are either web designers or web developers (possibly due to it being arranged via Twitter). I’m not either.
My current circumstances are as follows:
1. I work part-time at weekends, in a crappy job in a petrol station. This is tediously boring, involves working in the middle of the night, is bad for my health (mental and physical), and it isn’t paying my bills either, which is why…
2. I’m looking for another job. It’s pretty boring, and hard to keep at it, when the economic odds seem massively stacked against me, and every news report tells me there aren’t any jobs left.
3. While I wasn’t working for part of 2008 and 2009, I came up with an idea for a business. I’ve been working on this for a while, and I attended workshops at City of Bristol College in Business Startup, but it’s hard to keep both the motivation and confidence in the idea going, with little validation from people who aren’t friends/family.
4. I’ve a fascination with the media, especially writing and radio. However, it is fiendishly hard to get into, easy to fall out of, and the radio industry seems to be stuck in a rut at the moment of thinking that listeners just want back-to-back music (and adverts), with little-to-no personality from presenters (assuming they still employ presenters, and aren’t running 10-hours-a-day of automation).
When I first heard about Jelly, I thought it was a great idea, and commented about it on Twitter.
I was immediately invited, but felt I wouldn’t quite fit with it, given how little I was accomplishing at home. The idea of doing whatever you do at home, with other people, would have involved me mostly drinking tea and feeling slightly sorry for myself.
Lee Cottier (who organises the Bristol/Bath Jelly Coworking events under the guise of @CoWorkingWest) practically insisted I come along, and talked me into it.
I wasn’t sure I met the “for creatives” brief that the event had chosen, but Lee thought my radio stuff would. Bizarrely, I didn’t even think about that side, as it is something that has not yet made me any money whatsoever, so I’d disregarded it altogether.
At the first meeting, I was very late. It starts at 9.30, and as I left home very late, got lost, and nipped into the busiest Post Office in the world to send a “quick” parcel (more of my worldly goods, eBayed), it was nearly noon by the time I got there.
This wasn’t an issue. The venue is booked all day, but there is no requirement to start at the start, or end when the organisers end.
I thought I’d feel a bit of a fraud, because I thought that all the people there would be moderately successful. While this is true, they weren’t all financially supported by what they were doing at Jelly.
I spent a lot of time talking to an author, who despite having already been published, couldn’t afford to live purely off of that.
There were two tables – one big with lots of people sat round, one small with two people sat round. Feeling a bit unconfident, I took a seat at the smaller table.
I did some work, wound up chatting to some very interesting people about publishing, and although on paper all I did was send some emails, post some forum messages and tidy/type up some radio/script notes, there was no denying that it had inspired me to go on and do more.
I set some things in motion that day, which would give me more constructive things to carry on with, afterwards.
It also gave me a small amount of hope.
Spending all day on your own, watching the news, listening to the radio, and looking for a job that seems more unobtainable by the hour, you can really get quite depressed.
While the economy is undoubtedly screwed, these were all people who were making a living at doing something. They were all able to attend a coworking event on a weekday, so had flexible working hours.
Just getting out of bed, getting dressed and going to an office, was brilliant for motivation. Never mind that it wasn’t MY office, I wasn’t getting paid for my work, and I wasn’t working WITH any of these people. Together, we were all working…separately.
Yesterday I went to my second Jelly meet.
I came on leaps and bounds with EatInBristol (my business project, aka #3 above), and met some more interesting people.
In the space of seven hours, I got a major task completed that I had been putting off for a long time and sent some important emails, someone else filmed an advert for the Doritos King of Ads competition, and we’re all a lot more clued up on UK recruitment law thanks to a completely unplanned cross-table discussion.
For more information on Jelly:
– See http://workatjelly.com (for how it started)
– See http://wiki.workatjelly.com for information on one local to you
– And if you live in Bristol/Bath, contact @coworkingwest on Twitter, for information about when/where the next one takes place.