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The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Business: finding free office space


Written by Simon Geraghty.

Part 4: Finding Free Office Space

My final quest in this mini-series has been finding some office space and a desk in Dublin City, gratis. This has been a true hitchhiking marker-scrawl-on-the-cardboard-sign style adventure. Setting out on this mission brought flashbacks to me standing for hours on a roadside out of Saint Etienne in the early 90’s getting pelted by hailstones, and going nowhere for several hours.

As it turned out the opposite was the case.

Why find a desk somewhere else when you can work from a home office as countless millions do? Well in our 3 bed end terrace my wife claimed the third bedroom many moons ago for her photography business. (see her award winning work at: www.erinquinnphotography.com).

Having to float between client premises, the master bedroom in our house and the dining room table has not been ideal. Furthermore, I find two amazingly cute children knocking on the door to offer me their love, showing off their latest design in greeting cards (Hallmark this 2 and half year old is coming for you!) or excitedly asking if they can go out for a cycle a new bike to be hugely distracting.

I needed a real live office space, and the basic criteria I was looking to fulfil were:

  • A desk space
  • Some sunlight, or whatever light the Dublin skies offer up during the day
  • Ideally in Dublin’s City Centre, too long a commute would eat into the working day
  • Wifi connectivity
  • Some inspiring folk to be around….

Not asking for much was I? Knowing what you want is quite easy, just ask your young kids that question in the run up to Christmas, the getting it part is another matter entirely.

Ask and you shall receive

I decided to put out a cri du Coeur on Twitter, afterall if I’m claiming that this social media lark is the bees knees I need to practise what I preach, eat my own lunch, drink the kool-aid or whatever business term is currently in vogue. My overall approach to the hunt for office space kick started my idea to develop a ‘hitchhikers guide to business’ mini-series.

I decided to turn to Twitter for assistance. I typed out my request, retyped it and finally sent out the following 110 character message:

“Can I get a RT? Anyone out there (in Dublin City Centre) with free deskspace for a start up? Thanks #deskfairy

Twitter can be hugely informative, particularly in relation to breaking news stories, giving access to great thought provoking content (music, design, the arts you name it), and very amusing (#biblesongs, #nornirelandpopstars, and it gives you the ability to follow the tweets of your favourite comedian ) but what can it physically give someone who reaches out?

This was an experiment looking to tap into the community spirit of Twitter and the oft discussed and new found ‘we’re all in it together’ spirit that the economic meltdown of this country has brought about, it is certainly ironic that the economic levelling of the country has been delivered by builders and bankers.  But I’m not here to dwell on what was, but what might be….

Having dispatched my tweet I sat back, and waited. At first I felt like Cillian Murphy at the start of ’28 Days Later’, his character  wandering through London repeatedly saying ‘hello’ to streets devoid of life.

But Twitter isn’t devoid of life and Colm from Communicraft (www.communicraft.com ) got back to me within 20 minutes, followed by Dave from Cock and Bull TV ( http://www.cockandbulltv.com/) 20 minutes later.

Business Networks/ Personal Networks

While the message didn’t quite trend that afternoon in Dublin being able to leverage a strong network certainly helped my cause. I asked some heavy weight Irish Twitterati with kind hearts and chunky follower fan-bases to re-tweet my message.

(Thank you in particular to Buzz O’Neill, Leagues O’Toole at Foggy Notions,  Shane Hegarty and Una Mullaley,  at the Irish times and Thumped. Honourable mentions also to Bren O’Flaherty and the gang at Brando Digital, Betty at Pixelated, Paul Kelders at Jump,  Paul, Kathy and Emer at O2, Killian at Mid Century Design, Jonathan at Anewspace Gallery,  Aileen Galvin, and Paddy Hickey).

I made sure not to spam everyone I knew asking for a re-tweet, but I definitely looked to reach out to people I’d some sort of rapport with offline or online. It was really very heart warming to see people who did not know me from Adam offer advice and re-broadcast my message out to their own audience.

All networks are personal in the end, or should be and talking about my online quest face to face with friends has generated further offers of desk space. And now I have 7 offers in total.

These range from two Design Studios, a Web Design company, a Publishing company, an Event Management company, a TV production company and a Media Agency. Not all the offers were ready to materialise immediately and some were just outside the city centre, but all were gratefully received nonetheless.

As I type out this article I’m sitting at a hot desk in the studio of Zero-G, a hugely talented Irish Design agency (www.zero-g.ie). I also plan to spend some time with Cock and Bull TV once they are established in their new digs.

What I set out to find was something quite specific and in return, on the face of it, I was offering nothing. Obviously, once in discussion with anyone on a generous offer of desk-space I have been talking about skill-set barter; some degree of quid pro quo. I have made offers of an introduction to social media, strategic advice, tips on blogging you name it.

All of the desk offers have the potential to drive business, opportunities to share learning and experience. Your Social Network both in its real life and virtual sense is definitely something worth tapping into, some key lessons I learnt from this experience:

  • Ask questions
  • Be clear in what you are looking for
  • Target your message to those who can champion it successfully
  • Be sure you have something to give back to people

Against the back drop of getting off the ground with a company name, website, logo and desk I now have two clients. Onwards.

Please share your thoughts on this brass necked endeavour.