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Marlboro Graduate Center offers freelancers an alternative to working from home with new coworking space

BRATTLEBORO—There are many professionals in Windham County who work out of their homes.

But for some, the lure of working in their pajamas and slippers wears thin after a while.

“Not everyone is cut out to work alone,” said Caleb Clark, the Educational Technology Program Director at the Marlboro College Graduate School. “The average person will go nuts.”

But most freelancers and independent contractors can’t afford the expense of renting out an office in downtown Brattleboro, and working out of a café isn’t a long-term option.

The solution? Coworking.

Coworking is a concept where a group of people share a working environment, but unlike a typical office arrangement, they are usually not employed by the same organization.

Clark said that by bringing together people who are like-minded, but working independently on their own projects, a creative synergy will usually follow.

The Grad Center is testing this concept with a space called The Bridge, located on the fourth-floor walkway over Vernon Street. Formerly the office of Putney Pasta, the 40-foot-by-20-foot room has seven desks and huge windows that overlook the Connecticut River.

Clark said the college decided to try the coworking idea when the space became vacant earlier this year.

“We’re doing the shakedown cruise this summer, and hope to have all the spaces filled up by the winter,” he said.

Clark said The Bridge is the first coworking space in downtown Brattleboro, and made it clear that this was different from business “incubator” spaces, like The Cotton Mill.

“An incubator space like The Cotton Mill puts too much pressure on a person to grow their business,” he said. “Some people don’t need to get bigger. Something like this may be just enough space.”

For $150 a month, a tenant gets a bare desk and chair, wi-fi, a parking space, and use of the Grad Center’s conference rooms when needed. Tenants have 24-hour-a-day access to the space.

But aside from the wi-fi connection, a tenant is on his or her own when it comes to technology. In other words, it’s a bring-your-own arrangement.

“If you’re a laptop worker already, this is ideal,” said Clark.

And, according to Kelly Fletcher, the coordinator of The Bridge, it solves the biggest problem for freelancers.

“Home is your home, and it’s hard to work there sometimes,” she said. “With coworking, you can have a separate space to work, and your home can stay your home.”

Fletcher said there are three tenants now, and as word gets out about the coworking concept, the rest of the spaces should fill up.

“If we have seven people renting desks, it would be the equivalent of having one tenant in this space,” said Clark. “We should at least break even, or even make a slight profit.”

The biggest key to making the coworking concept be successful, said Clark, is maintaining good etiquette and a cooperative culture.

“If people aren’t considerate, or don’t get along, you’re going to have problems,” he said.

Those interested in learning more The Bridge may contact Fletcher at 802-258-9202 or by e-mail.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #115 (Wednesday, August 24, 2011).

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