By Lucy Futter, Co-Working blogger and owner of The Workstead

Flourishing in freelance or starting that start-up is a daunting prospect. Going it alone takes guts, and the main drawbacks of lone-working are hard to overcome; Distraction, lack of motivation, stunted networking opportunities and even loneliness can stop you achieving your goals. But the answer is Co-working, and if you’ve not heard of it before, then you need to be doing it. Co-Working gives you the chance to be around other professionals and innovators, as well as offering a stable and productive work environment. And here are 5 steps to take to make it work for you.

1. Find Your Workspace

Whether you decide to find a friend to freelance with at home, set up an office-share or even start hot-desking, finding a workspace that works for you is key. A Co-Working company is the strongest answer; An open plan, open arms office-space designed to bring together creatives and companies alike to work alongside each other or even make a connection. Entering an office environment may have previously made you want to stab yourself in the face with your company appointed headset, but don’t be discouraged – Studies show that the office environment is the best way to encourage productivity and make the most of your most precious resource – Your time. You just need to find the space that works for you. Here’s a clue… It isn’t your dining table.

2. Network

Co-Working gives you the opportunity to meet fellow innovative professionals. Now you could drag yourself to after-work networking events, conferences or to see speakers. Or you could just meet dozens of fellow freelancers simply by working alongside them. We’ve seen many a connection made just by people shaking hands at the coffee station, so maximise the value of the hours you spend working by doing it in a Co-Working office and make those introductions that could equal income. Remember, people love making introductions between their contacts that might be able to help each other. They feel like they’ve done you a favour (which they have) and therefore you now owe them one (which you do) and this is, in essence, the very concept of doing business. Don’t lock yourself in at home and miss opportunities.

3. Use Their Resources

The main physical resources we miss when we become freelancers or contractors are the hardware. Like printers, or the space to meet with clients, contacts or hold interviews and training. Co-Working environments can offer private rooms, equipped with everything you’ll need to hold any event from boardroom meetings with multiple clients to training sessions for up to 20 people. Try pulling that off in your kitchen.

Co-Working spaces create vibrant atmospheres to meet clients and contacts that isn’t elbowing your way past the queue at Starbucks or fighting for a table at your local pub. Which not only makes you look like a functioning professional, but also avoids you missing out on work simply because you couldn’t co-ordinate your pitch properly. Remember – The internet may be closing gaps via Skype and conference calling, but people do business with people. The handshake is becoming far too underrated.

4. Set A Schedule

A lot of people going in to freelance count working from home among the top of the list for perks of the job. But it never lasts; ask any seasoned contractor and they’ll tell you how eye-achingly hard it is to make yourself focus at home. So even if you have kids or other businesses, set up a schedule for Co-Working and stick to it. Even just one or two days a week at “the office” can greatly improve your organisational skills and productivity, a plus for any enterprise.

5. Encourage Events

Most Co-Working spaces host events and seminars that appeal to their members – From Cupcake Classes to Community Fundraising Efforts for charities. Talks on creative writing or teaching you how to use your at-home espresso machine (Does that picture in your coffee actually make it taste better? Well actually, it does.) and as a member, you can not only partake, but turn your own pastime to productivity. Set up a networking event yourself, share your skills! Making the most of what your Co-Working package has to offer and being creative with it can turn your passion in to a CV-filling concept. Thriving within the atmosphere you work makes for a very happy home life, so make the most of your workday and how you use the resources at your disposal.