Attract Digital Nomads To Your Coworking Space
Digital Nomads. It is a hot topic in the coworking industry and beyond. The idea of travelling whenever you feel like it, living in exotic coastal towns, starting your day on a surfboard and working from a hammock – it has the image of ultimate freedom. It is appealing to the average co-worker, the ultimate goal. But how do you bring these roamers to your coworking space? How do you attract digital nomads to make your coworking space their preferred one.
I have hosted unconference sessions about this topic at various events. Many coworking space owners are intrigued by digital nomads, but when asking ‘what is a digital nomad?’ only a few seem to have an answer. If you don’t know who they are, you won’t know what they need and therefore it will be hard to attract them.
Location Independent Professionals
The truth is, I don’t believe there is one single definition for this term. It is about freedom and since that means something different to everyone, every digital nomad reinvents his or her own life in his or her own way. But of course, there are some common characteristics.
First of all, digital nomads are not backpackers in the sense that they don’t have a job somewhere in a bar or at a farm to earn some money, then travel to the next destinations until they run out of money and find another gig. Digital nomads have their own jobs wherever they go, and those jobs can be freelance, as a remote employee or they work on their own company.
Contrary to what some people seem to think, digital nomads are not all necessarily poor. Sure, some are struggling and can only afford to live in south east Asia, but the majority of people I met so far are actually very successful in what they do, take their work seriously and earn accordingly. This is why I, personally, prefer the term ‘location independent professional’ to ‘digital nomad’ – we’re not all about the full moon parties in Thailand.
Strictly speaking, a ‘nomad’ doesn’t have a home, but in reality, many travellers I meet along the way do have a home base and are just on the road for a couple of months. Or they don’t have a home base, but they tend to stay 3-6 months in any place they go and are therefore ‘slow travellers’.
Bring Inspiration To Your Space
But why would you bother to put in the effort and make your new guests part of your community, if you know they will leave again after 3 months? As said before, many people are intrigued by the idea of being a digital nomad. It seems to be the ultimate form of freedom. By bringing them into your space, you give your regular members access to a huge source of information on how to create a similar lifestyle for themselves. Hearing about those people’s experiences, journeys, wins, and mistakes will be an enormous inspiration and motivational boost.
In addition, digital nomads are not all coders; they have so many odd jobs and random skills, that they make great hosts for workshops, mastermind groups and skill-sharing events. Tap into those resources; your members will appreciate it!
Last but not least, the digital nomad scene is a small world and very well connected with each other. After only one year of living this lifestyle, I’m already at the point that wherever I seem to go, there will be at least one other person that I already know online. The result is that when you have a few digital nomads who are excited about your space, word will spread fast and you can expect more people to follow. Also, although people may not stay for the long term, they may return every year or so and become loyal to you in their own way. I’m currently at Coworking Bansko and although I’ve never stayed with them longer than 2 weeks, this is the 4th time I’m visiting them this year and I can’t even count the times I have recommended the place to others.
Know their needs and give them exactly that
As with any business, it comes down to two things. First, understand their needs and offer them exactly that. Second, make sure they are aware of your offerings.
Fight the loneliness
Although it doesn’t fit the romantic picture of working with others from a tropical beach, an occasional sense of loneliness is not unfamiliar among digital nomads. After all, you’re far away from family and old friends, friendships are made all the time, but often stay superficial and relationships, both romantic and platonic, are hard to maintain on a deeper level. So, where ‘community’ seems to be key to successful coworking spaces in general, it is even more essential to this specific group. The community needs to be welcoming to new, temporary members and open to inviting them to activities – from organized events to spontaneously grabbing a few drinks after work. If most of your members come in in the morning, work, and rush after work back to their families, that’s probably not the ideal culture to make the nomads feel at home.
Something I noticed during my transition into this lifestyle, is that where the average person can get slightly selfish about materialistic things, nomads get selfish with time. Most of them will have no problem sharing their transportation, food and laptop chargers, but don’t force them to spend their time in a certain way, because time equals experiences and those are basically sacred. How you can cater to these needs? By being flexible in types of memberships, opening/access hours (they are likely to have clients in other time zones and Skype meetings at midnight are not exceptions for some), but also: encourage them to participate in activities but don’t enforce it. They are often very independent and know what they want and do not want to do.
Make it easy
Since time is so highly valued by most nomads, especially the ones making a bit more money tend to be willing to pay for ease and comfort. So offer coliving or make deals with local guesthouses, hostels, and hotels, so they don’t have to figure out what the best accommodation in the space’s surrounding is. Make it easy to get from the airport to your coworking space, for example by offerings transfers or by listing the public transport options in your welcome email.
Get The Word Out
When you offer all the right things, make sure the nomads are aware of it! There are several things you can do to get the word spread. The first place to start would be by being active in digital nomad groups on Facebook, like Digital Nomad Girls, Digital Nomads Hub and Digital Nomads Around The World. In there, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to widen your network among digital nomads.
Another great way to spread the word is by teaming up retreat organizers. For example, Sun and Co in Javea, Spain, hosts the Digital Nomad Girls retreat, giving them an enormous amount of exposure in this 12,000-member group.
What some spaces do as well, is offering voluntary spots for digital nomads. They get free access to the coworking space and accommodation for 2-4 weeks, in exchange for writing articles, working the social media channels and other PR and marketing activities. If that’s not a good fit for your space, then consider writing blog articles yourself on interesting websites. You could, for example, write a travel guide about your town, drop in the name of the coworking space, and get it published on a travel website.
However, the most important way to get the word spread is by word of mouth. Offer more than the members expect and they will happily refer their friends to you.
It can be very interesting for your regular members to have digital nomads come in. Make sure you understand what they need, make that your offer, and make sure they are aware of it.word