Eun-Ji Byun on Productivity and Co-working Spaces
2017 was a very challenging and enlightening year for me. It's the first full year that I decided to experiment with being 100% self-employed as a web/graphic designer and writer. It's both an empowering and terrifying feeling to be completely responsible for finding clients, handling all communications with them, scheduling, doing the actual work, invoicing, doing the books - everything. Naturally, solo entrepreneurs have to be on point when it comes to productivity, or they risk missing deadlines, mismanaging projects, or just spinning their wheels. After a couple of months, something really surprised me about working from home. It was sooo easy to get distracted compared to the days that I worked from a coffee shop. I was not necessarily sitting on my ass watching Netflix, but some days I would occupy myself with other chores around the house instead of finding new work.
It seems I'm not the only one that struggles with this. Co-working spaces have surged in popularity in recent years, providing freelancers and other entrepreneurs with a dedicated space to get shit done. This week I'm happy to share an interview with Eun-Ji Byun, a fellow solo entrepreneur who is bringing us all together. She leads a co-working meetup in New York where all sorts of creatives come together to, well, get shit done. As someone who is all too familiar with the challenges of working alone, I was very curious to hear more about the meetup and EJ's insight on productivity as a solopreneur.
Hi EJ, thanks so much for taking some time to answer some questions! Starting off, what is Baebu and how did you come about running it in NYC?
Baebu means ‘sharing out’ in Korean, and it’s my minimal viable product to test my business idea. I want to share tools to take mindful actions that help creators bridge the gap between strategy and execution. Creators are often sidelined to executing, with limited involvement in higher-level strategic processes. Having a design background, I found that they were often times seen as executers and not as thinkers – even though they were as invested in the project as other stakeholders. There was a moment when I realized that in order to solve meatier problems, I had to take a step back, move away from the pixels and into the world of strategy and planning.
Can you tell us a little bit about the scrum technique? It may sound kinda like a martial arts finisher move to the uninformed.
Scrum framework helps teams communicate in an efficient way. It tracks the tasks and process by answering 3 questions quickly. Daily scrum is the most common one that the participants use. We answer what we were working on, what we will be working on, and obstacles that block our progress.
Co-working spaces are still a relatively new phenomenon. What is the value in these spaces and who do you think can benefit from them the most?
I am also a solopreneur and it’s been really hard working alone from the house and cafes. It’s a lonely path and there are so many obstacles mentally and physically. Depends on what kind of co-working space you go to, but they don’t only provide a space to work, they also provide a community where people come knowing there are other people like them working on their own passion. My community supports each other because we all know our abilities and progress through the framework we use. You get to meet passionate people and it’s exciting to see everyone’s product or service grow.
What sorts of people come to your co-working sessions? How does the average session go down?
Members are coming from various fields. We have a plant-based coach, product developer, project manager, designer, writer, etc. People come back because of the working energy they get from the session and they come to get things done. One session takes about 35-40 minutes depending on how short the scrum is. Original members have about 5-8 sessions and beginners do around 4-5 sessions.
What are some common obstacles that block your own productivity, and what advice can you give to others who are struggling with the same obstacles?
Stress from business is the big one. Sometimes you are not sure about the business direction, people mock about your product, you don’t get the paycheck like a regular job, people don’t get your vision, etc. It’s a constant battle and your business can’t grow without hard work. If you are passionate you won’t give up on it either. My recommendation is to stay healthy mentally and physically. Separate your personal and career life to balance them well.
Anyone in a creative profession is well aware of creative blocks. Do you have any advice for breaking through these?
I have a list of non-business related things I do to take a break from my work. These things help me to have a fresh look at my work and boost my productivity. It’s important to balance out between work and personal life.
Can you identify some issues that the traditional 9-to-5 workplace has that affect productivity negatively?
I really didn’t like how I wasn’t able to work flexibly. You work in a consistent environment that might lead to limiting your creativity and opportunities. You are in the same pattern for days and there is nothing new in your work life.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing a creator who wants to start working for themselves full-time? How can they overcome this?
Having a clear vision and purpose before jumping into their new lifestyle. There will be so many obstacles and failures in this work life and passion will be the main key to overcome this.
What are your future plans for Get Shit Done Scrum and Baebu? How can interested solopreneurs in the NYC area reach you?
We are planning to get a better space for our members and have a membership plan. Our future event & workshop ideas are “Give n’ Get Feedback”, “Find Your Why Workshop”, and “Dinner/Beer Perfect Pitch Night”. People can reach us at www.thisisbaebu.com and join the Meetups.
The floor is yours! Do you have any final advice for the entrepreneurs out there?
Show your interests to people, listen to what they say, ask questions, give them value, and leave with passion.