The picture of a creative freelance lifestyle is a glamorous one – perched over a Macbook and sipping a latte, whilst enjoying the free wireless and soaking up the inspiring ambience of your local coffee shop. Give it a while, however, and the experience becomes something different entirely. Need to download anything over 1MB? Forget it, especially if your neighbors are streaming China’s Got Talent at the same time. Need to make a call or hold a meeting? Sure, as long as you don’t mind the rest of the room listening in. Printing something? OK, well I guess I can just scribble this contract down on the napkin. Suddenly, the ambience of the neighborhood Starbucks becomes less appealing as a working environment. You could start working from home, but then you can say goodbye to your work-life balance and potentially your sanity.
It was this experience that convinced former PR freelancers Irene Ge and Amir Nikoopour to create Cohub, a space for bringing together freelancers working in different fields. They realized that many freelancers lacked the funds for, but still needed a "decent-looking business space" and decided to fill the niche. Situated in in a lane house on Huaihai Middle Road, Cohub is a space with a chilled-out vibe that gives freelancers the benefits of an office with the convenience of a coffee shop.
The setting is a brightly lit, cosy building with modern furniture and adornments mixed with antique pieces, sure to herald an imaginative and productive day. Adding a bit of a Google feel to the office is a record player in the lounge and an XBOX in the meeting room. They’re still waiting on the ball pit and slides, however. The setting is a sure change from the constant buzz of the café, but there's also free coffee, snacks, and a kitchen where you can make your own food.
A multi-purposed wall decoration.
Stare at Mao while you print out your goodies!
More than just creating a space though, Amir is keen to build a creative community. With freelancers from different fields sharing an office, the idea is that they don’t have to spend much time finding the people they need for their projects. Need a web designer to answer a quick question? No need to wait for an email, just turn around and ask your deskmate. It’s certainly not the first shared creative office in Shanghai, nor the world, but Cohub sets itself apart with its focus on making things, learning things, and launching and connecting businesses in an environment of mutual support, curiosity, and creativity. Amir aims to create an online network featuring all of Cohub’s regulars for extra connectivity. “Instead of calling people, you could go straight to the source - pick your own and choose,” says Amir. Pick your own creatives – why not?
Rates start at 20 RMB an hour for use of the lounge, kitchen, Wi-Fi, printing and copying, snacks, drinks, and library and full day rates start at 120RMB. Current inhabitants include Lucy, a photographer, Dragon Events and a fashion designer. So far, they’re enjoying the Cohub experience, working together and particularly rave about the free coffee.
We ventured into Cohub not knowing what to expect- other spaces with similar aims can turn out to be dens of hipsterism, or clinical minimalist boxes where you expect to be scolded for not turning up in a turtleneck. Happily, Cohub is an inviting, hip and cheerful space populated with people you’d actually want to meet and work with. Next time your wifi cuts out and some idiot spills frappucino on your keyboard, you might want to check them out.
The meeting room.
View of lane houses from the backdoor of Cohub.
For more info and availability, email email@example.com or check out their website thecohub.com.
If you are interested in other coop spaces, check out our feature on Hackerspace, a space where people come together to work on various tech projects.
WORDS: LOH, PJ