Hi folks! Another week, and that means another Coworking Values Podcast is up! And every week we learn more and more about the coworking community all over the world or across Europe, for now.
And this time we have Elina Jutelyte, past president of MPI Belgium and founder of Endo-Exo. Not only that, she is also the founder of the Freelance Business Community — the first independent network for freelancers in Belgium.
Elina talks about their incoming event happening in October at Belgium about how the freelance community can discuss and collaborate on ideas on how to transform themselves and work on ideas or projects together. She also talks about how going digital to adapt to the current normal is the best idea, not just for coworking communities but also for any industry.
Elina also shares about how participating in the European Freelancers’ Week can gain you more than just knowledge but also build a connection with people.
What do you think is going to happen to the freelance movement in the next few months?
Yeah, that’s a good question. If you look at any industry, there is a big transformation going on: remote working or people getting laid off, so they have to find new ways of earning money.
That’s what we’ve seen more and more from everyone we are in contact with is that the number of independent professionals will be growing.
From a corporate perspective or from HR or recruiting: they’re also now re-focusing on going more into a flexible workforce.
So that means the number of questions such as how to handle a new type of resources, how to work with them, how to form the relationship, how to train them, how to onboard them, off board them and you know, all sorts of things that come along.
So with the event in October, we not only want to focus amongst freelancers and talk about the struggles and issues we’re having, but also bring that side of the sector, to get them familiar with this new wave of future of work to help them to be comfortable and also start hiring more freelancers, and professionals. I think it’s just a natural thing to do.
And if we start doing it now for next year, we will be in a stronger position to create the ecosystem, including those who are hiring freelancers.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:03
Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to this week’s exciting event driven edition of the Coworking Values Podcast the podcast of the European Coworking Assembly.
Zeljko Crnjaković 0:12
This episode is brought to you by Cobot, a leading management software for coworking spaces, office hubs and flexible workspaces around the world. You know one of the best things about Cobot is that it is produced by people who manage a coworking space and know the ins and outs of the main problems and issues, bugging coworking managers. So if you want more time for your co-workers and community, check out Cobot at cobot.me and take your coworking management to the next level.
Bernie J Mitchel 0:50
And Zeljko can’t make it this week. He’s taken up a whole course of skydiving and doing high altitude low opening drops. So he’s away this week, but it’s just me. And I’ve got our friend, Elina, who’s joined the European Coworking Assembly family this year to help us deploy European Freelancers Week. So, what are you known for? And what would you like to be known for? What’s exciting at the moment?
Well, hello, everyone. Good to be here. I’m an event consultant. I run events for corporates associations, for any groups, or size and form. And specifically now in the last month, I’m focusing a lot on digital experiences at events. Also, because part of my past experience was very much involved with technology or technology companies. So that period of time, the six or seven months of craziness actually helped me to realize my strongest points and I’m very grateful for the experience I’ve gotten in the past to be able to now bridge this crisis in a better shape. And I’m also running a freelance community, Freelance Business Community and this is how we are associated I guess, within the same industry
Bernie J Mitchel 2:12
What’s that little thing you’re doing in Belgium?
Yeah, that little thing is an online conference that I’m producing for independent professionals. The goal is to provide them the platform where they can exchange with each other alone, listen to each other, create their own discussions to see how they can transform themselves, maybe find new ideas, new projects, assignments. So all that will be happening on October 31, where we will simulate this boost of energy, with freelancers in Belgium and beyond.
Bernie J Mitchel 3:00
What do you think is going to happen to the freelance movement in the next few months? And why that’s popping into my head is because I was just on a call with other coworking spaces in London and we were debating about how many people are going to become self-employed suddenly without realizing it. What are you picking up as you put that event together in Belgium?
That’s a good question, because if you look at any industry, there is a big transformation going on, remote working, or people getting laid off. So, they have to find new ways of earning money. And I believe, and that’s what we’ve seen more and more from everyone we’re in contact with, is that the number of independent professionals will be growing, it’s already growing. So, this is one thing from a corporate perspective, or from HR or recruiting. They’re also now focusing into going more into flexible work. So, that brings a number of questions, such as how to handle these new types of resources, how to work with them, how to form the relationship, how to train them, how to onboard them, and all sorts of things that come along. With the event in October, we not only want to focus amongst freelancers and talk about the struggles or issues we’re having, but also bring that side of the sector to get them familiar with this new wave of future of work, as they call it, to help them to be comfortable and also start hiring more freelancers and independent professionals. I think it’s just a natural thing to do. And if we start doing it now for next year, we will be in an even stronger position to create the ecosystem including those who are hiring freelancers.
Bernie J Mitchel 5:03
It’s sort of halfway between devastating and really exciting at the moment. And maybe you definitely had the same experience like when COVID hit, and suddenly everyone started working from home and working remotely. I was, and I don’t want to sound stupid here, but I was I was amazed at how many people didn’t really get that you could work online. And there are people I’ve known for a decade and they were calling me up to ask me how to use Zoom, and if it’s okay to do this, and I have been doing this for like, a decade now. I remember when I first went to Argentina and had this romantic image of myself as a digital nomad, working from my mother-in-law’s house, and it all failed dismally, and we didn’t have the tech, and that made me spend a long time working with people all over Europe and I just thought it was normal. And now people talk about this new way of working…
That is exactly how it’s been. And that’s what we see. And everyone is talking about that, we’ve been talking about that for at least a decade now. And those who did not make an effort to transform themselves, or at least adapt to this new way of working, left so much behind right now. So for them, it’s really a struggle to catch up. Talking, for instance, with coworking spaces, if you were not building your community digitally, by now, probably you find yourself in a very, very bad situation. Because you can co-work digitally and you don’t need a space for that. You rent your space just because it’s physical. But you can also rent other services which are digital. And we’ve seen some coworking spaces that are working in that direction, step by step. So it’s definitely touched upon.
Bernie J Mitchel 7:08
I’ve been running meetups nonstop for a decade. And mentally I think, Oh, it’s a meet up. And we have to meet here like we’ve done the Right Club in London for five years, where a group of people meet for two hours every week in a coworking space and just write. And we’ve been running London Bloggers Meet Up for over a decade now. And that’s always been physical. And we’ve just never, even though we can do digital events, we just never did digital events. And I found it quite hard to get my head around the fact that you can run meet-ups online and we haven’t done anything. So, if I’m a coworking space where I’ve always been very physical and in person, what are the first steps I could take to be digital? Obviously there’s software, like Cobot, Exodus and Office RnD app that enables some of that, and Slack groups, and WhatsApp, but going beyond that little bit. And then can you say something about digital events because that’s, as I’ve got to know you this year, something I’ve been following is your madness, crazy, passion and massive belief in how online digital events can get people connected and moving forward.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, it can be looked at from different perspectives and as a matter of fact, to run an event online is not a big deal. And actually, it’s much easier than producing a life event, to be honest. There are different forms and shapes of online events. And you don’t need to go to the most difficult one which would be absolutely immersive experience with a show type broadcasting on all the social media channels and stuff like that. You don’t need to do that if the purpose is to connect people. You can do it via Zoom, but there are other tools that do similar things. And they actually provide slightly more creative options. And I’ve seen people doing actually fantastic things on these platforms, they are becoming so creative, running those online events that you wouldn’t feel like it’s a boring webinar anymore. So when you go about it, the easiest way is to start with something simple. Think through the process of how you can get people to engage with you during this online event. So that means you’re not going to run a webinar where you are just sitting and talking. That would be a bit more like getting people to discuss things or work together on something or run a practical master class where you discuss an issue and then help them to solve right there, or during that master class or get a very experienced MC who can run this for you. That will cost a little bit more money, but that would make total sense if you want to create something out of it. Then talking about the conference, for instance, if you put together a conference, again, there will be different sets of tools that you can use and different platforms that can help you from running your session properly to powerful artificial intelligence matchmaking where people can connect with each other depending on their interest. So, you can start simply with that.
When I work with organizations, corporate organizations or associations for instance, we do the digital health check, which includes how the infrastructure is prepared to run the project online, because events is marketing, right? So, if you have your marketing stack, technology stack is ready in your company already. And it functions and data flows from, let’s say, from your website into marketing automation to CRM, and so forth, then you are in a better position to have smarter meetings and smarter events. But that is kind of already a second stage of evolution for events. I think for coworking spaces to start with, I would just run a smaller workshop type events to connect people and I would recommend also to do it regularly. Once a week, every two weeks for instance. Why? Because then you create the repetition in your members’ heads and they know that they get back every, let’s say at first though, every Friday to connect with like-minded people and learn something new or do something new. That’s a very short recommendation.
Bernie J Mitchel 12:03
That’s great. The thing I’m really interested in, and this is kind of affected me, and we’ve changed the way we’ve done a lot of the group calls. Every week we run group calls and we didn’t use Zoom rooms for a lot. And now we get people to things. Even if there are 20 people on the call, we will then break into smaller groups because it’s easier to talk in a small group. Probably people like you and me are confident on record, and can talk about it. And there’s other people that just aren’t comfortable speaking up in a room or on a call in front of a big group of people. So, how could people make sure people get connected? Because that’s very hard to understand unless you’ve been doing it a long time. How to get people to feel heard, and connected, and present on the online event?
It is a very good topic. And I think I hear that so often because the issue is not only related to online events, it’s for any event that is like that. And that is due to the fact that we are all different people, we have different characters and personalities. And some people like you mentioned, outspoken and they connect easily, and some others prefer just to listen, and that’s totally fine. But if we want to really engage them, like you really want to talk to every single one of them, then you would think of creating small events really, because you can limit to like 5/10 people and that’s how you get to know them really well. And that’s how they would, share their opinions. Once you go more than 20, as I experienced it’s more difficult to let people express themselves unless you call them by name. We had several meetings like this when I was actually like, you know, Asians are typically very, very quiet, so I had to just ask them to mention, or to share their opinion. They did very shortly and then they would disappear forever. So, it really depends also on cultures and characters. But as we’ve talked about communities, and if you’re serious about supporting and developing your community, I think first and foremost, you would try to learn about them before you even go into events. So, you would call to them, you would talk to them, you would ask how they’re doing, then you would invite them to this event and that’s how they feel more part of the community and they would be willing to share.
Bernie J Mitchel 14:42
I really agree with that. I put so much effort into the years, like connecting with people before, during and after the event. And when you have like 300 people workshops and it gets crazy. So, a lot of things we do now are making it smaller and smaller because I find more now than ever I find that we got 400 people on our call, I’m exhausted just reading how many people are there and when probably the only thing we’re going to do where there’s a lot of people will be our webinar about the 15 minutes city in a few weeks and that is deliberately an event that is a webinar but everything else is small groups connecting because a lot of our community have been used to going into Coworking Europe and the German Coworking Federation and Coworking Spain and Coworking Co-living, and we’re missing that in-person connection. So, getting that back online is really important. So, what can you tell us about European Freelancers Week? What do you hope for, because this is your first year being involved in that and you’re our event Jedi. The main messages for coworking spaces, like we’ve done for the last four years is for coworking spaces to run events for freelancers. And obviously that mechanism or that model is completely up in the air now. What would you be encouraging us in the direction of?
Yeah. Well, as a matter of fact, we were not partners but I think we started working with European Freelance Week two years ago when we launched First Freelance Business Day in Belgium. We just added our conference to the listing and since then I was in close contact with Marc on the rest. What I would say for upcoming freelance week is that I would encourage everyone to produce an event. Get the community together in October, discuss what sort of help they need or maybe try to talk to them up front and feature certain topics that they would like to discuss and get some experts to cover this. Be part of Freelance Business Month, of course I cannot not promote that one. It’s a free conference for freelancers and we are happy to accommodate anyone who is willing to share with us or just participate. And if you can meet physically, depending on which country you’re located, I think there are some limitations in certain countries, but please do. It only helps you and helps independent professionals also to feel that they’re not alone. Because that’s how it looks right now. Like we all sitting in our houses, or apartments, trying to earn money, or make something different. But together, we’re stronger.
Bernie J Mitchel 18:02
Exactly. Because I heard you say something about if people are all in the same city, and they’re doing an online event that will be different from individual coworking spaces to run and run an event, so, if I’m in the same city as a group of coworking spaces, what do you think we could do there?
Well, for me, we’re all going after the same public, plus minus, and I only believe in synergy, even if you are competition as such, you are only stronger when you’re together. So, I would probably recommend get together with other coworking spaces and create something together and make it nice and beautiful for everyone around it. Why not?
Bernie J Mitchel 18:44
I didn’t think of it that way until you brought it up the other day. It was a very obvious thing. So, we will put links in the show notes to all the events and bits we’ve talked about here today and what we’d encourage you folks to do is, this this is going to be airing on Tuesday, so, in a few days’ time, there is the First Friday Call, where we’re encouraging the first Friday of every month, the European Coworking Assembly runs a big online group call. I’m scared to say that after what we’ve just been talking about, and in this one we’ll be encouraging people from all the different countries around Europe to come and see how they can get involved in European Freelancers Week and ideal people will come for that if you’re really involved in the coworking industry in your country, or you run a group of freelancers like in the UK, there’s Cotech and there’s the Freelance Heroes group and in France, there’s Happy Dev always come and support us and in Belgium, there is Smart. So, we will gradually over the next eight weeks build this community that will help all those freelancers, both new and established, and well, what else do you call people? Because I found this over the years of people in different countries, people don’t think of themselves as freelancers. They’re like independent economic agents or consultants. What kind of terminology to use Elina?
I actually agree. Freelancers has a little bit of a connotation of someone like your Uber driver or deliver which is totally fine, but I prefer to call them independent professionals. For marketing reasons, though, I still use freelancers, because that’s how people Google things, apparently. We call it freelancers, independent, professional, self-employed, and whatever variations in Dutch and French and we use different words here in Belgium.
Bernie J Mitchel 20:51
I looked it up once and freelancer, the traditional use of it going back to the middle ages is ‘warrior without a king’. So, I kind of like that. I’ve gone off topic, folks. Sorry. So we’ll put links in the show notes to everything. We’re including the First Friday Call. So if you’d like to get involved in, you don’t have to run anything, you just have to turn up and find out how to spread information around Europe to freelancers, independent economic agents, independent professionals, consultants, and all the rest. Along with what you said, Elina, is there anywhere people can particularly find you online?
Well, they can find me on LinkedIn, by first name, last name. Freelancebusiness.edu is the website where you can find more information. Yeah, and all the channels, social media, Instagram, Twitter. I’m all over
Bernie J Mitchel 21:47
Thank you very much for your time today. And ladies and gentlemen, fire yourself off to coworkingassembly.edu and sign up for our weekly email newsletter where you can hit reply there and get in touch with the team and ask questions and make suggestions. And as always, we’re looking for stories to write about or record with you about how you are developing coworking in your local area and how you’re developing your freelance career. So anything you need to know, we’re connected to everyone who’s excited about coworking across Europe, and we’d love to be part of the gang. So join in, stay safe and be careful out there. Thank you.