Coworking: The freelancers’ sanctuary

This blog post is part of a series about Coworking around North America & is sponsored by The Network Hub. To learn more about The Network Hub, visit


The popularity of the coworking movement in Canada is gaining ground. An alternative to working alone from home or in noisy cafes, coworking spaces allow freelancers to work independently alongside other professionals in a casual environment designed for work. This week we are highlighting one of Canada’s latest coworking spaces, Calgary’s CoworkYYC.

CoworkYYC was launched late last year by a trio of men: Nik Thierry, Jeff Gibson and Quinton Rafuse. Nik, originally from London, England, arrived in Calgary in March 2009 and worked out of his mother-in-law’s basement. “[I was] becoming even paler than in the damp climates of the UK,” he adds.  Jeff is a freelance graphic designer who worked out of his office for a few years. “[I] slowly [started] going stir-crazy with the solitary confinement. But after CoworkYYC, “[ I’ve] been successfully re-learning to speak out loud (and get responses).”  Last but not least, Quinton Rafuse; an oil & gas professional who is interested in innovation and technology worked downtown before CoworkYYC opened. He situated himself at the space to house his energy start-up.

Their reasons for opening up a coworking space are just as diverse as their backgrounds. Through a spectrum of reasons, in the end, it brought them to the same place. “After discussing the idea, we decided that the only way to get things underway was to look around and create the space ourselves. If you want to stay fresh and involved in your work you need a routine, and it really helps if you have a dedicated work environment,” agreed the entrepreneurs. “Our main goal is to create a working environment that gives people the space and social interaction that you can’t get from being home alone.”

Freelancers will find that discipline, focus and productivity are present in a coworking space. “We have discovered here is that people are finding they are getting their work done more efficiently, as the distractions of home (the pile of dishes to be washed, the unmade bed, that 10 minutes of bad morning TV) are being LEFT at home,” Nik points out. “With CoworkYYC based on the edge of the city’s centre, we’ve found that some workers can walk to work, and for those that drive, there isn’t ever any gridlock on the journey in.”

This easily accessible space houses a lot of different skill sets. “The majority are in the creative field, as the world of freelance fits in very well with the creative set,” explains Nik, “We’re pleased, though, to have quite a bit of diversity in our clients’ professions and skill sets – we have graphic designers, front and back-end web designers, an interior designer, a structural engineer and advertising/marketing people. Alongside these we’ve got an HR specialist, two international vocational trainers, a grad student and a communications professional specializing in emergency management plans.” On the whole it seems that almost anyone can use the space. “Though we’d probably draw the line at heart surgeon,” jokes Nik.

With a dynamic collection of creatives in one space, the first collaborative project started just a couple months after their launch when one needed a brand identity, printed stationary and a website. “The people who could do this work [were] sitting only a few desks away. It was a nice short trip across the office to talk the job through and get things underway,” explains Jeff.

The space is almost filled up after half a year into business. “We’ve only got six desks left until we reach capacity in our current floor plan, so we’re already drawing up options for the space to make it more efficient from a business perspective as well as for our clients’ needs,” says Quinton. The most recent announcement at CoworkYYC is a daily drop in rate for people that aren’t able to commit to a whole month or simply want to try the space out. There’ll definitely be a great vibe with the light-hearted and laid-back creative bunch behind it all.