By Sean Alday
Like any freelancer, I’ve spilled coffee into my keyboard upon being bumped by an excited grad student in a crowded café. This kind of encounter has made me hate The Arcade Fire at times, usually because the excitement is borne out hearing “Wake Up” for the 10,000th time. I want to say “I know that you love this album! So do I and everyone else we could possibly know!”
I met Cody Sullivan and Natalie Chan after an Arts in Bushwick meeting at their clubhouse for freelancers called Bat Haus. Bat Haus is a co-working space for people who don’t have an office or studio and are in need a more professional setting than the usual café or bar scene that freelancers generally populate.
After a quick conversation I learned that Natalie studied philosophy of the mind biology in Austin, Texas. She then moved to New York and studied fine art at SVA. Cody studied analytical philosophy and English Literature in Rhode Island. Then I turned on the recorder:
Natalie: That’s why we hit it off. Asking, “Did you study Kant or…” [laughs].
Cody: We both grew disillusioned with philosophy for similar reasons, lack of employment in the field, having a change of heart.
My main passion is writing fiction. But for work I do copywriting and I had a friend who helped me get a fulltime job in New York copy writing. Then some friends started a clothing company, I did some work for them.
Unfortunately, the company went under and I started doing freelance work. That’s when I got a taste for what it’s like to not have an office or a community of people anymore. I did the café culture, which is great in a way but it’s very unpredictable. Also, if you take yourself seriously as a freelancer, getting work done in a café is tough. There are a lot of distractions, the other thing is, especially in Williamsburg and this area, I’ve gone to four cafés in a row and they’re all filled up. By then you’ve wasted one to two hours of your time. If you do that every day it becomes exhausting.
Natalie: He’d come home and say “I can’t do this anymore.” One day I said, “Let’s do something about it.”
So we did a lot of research and found out about the co-working movement. There’s a lot of support for it, from different cities and they have regular meetings. We went to some and it seemed like a great idea.
I walked down this street (Starr Street) every day to take the subway to work and would look at this building. One day it was open and I looked inside, I thought it was pretty cool.
I used Loopnet, an application for commercial listings and found out that there was one space open on this street. It turned out to be this one, the one that I looked at first.
So we met with the broker and set about securing the space. We almost lost it. We were so upset, wondering who put the deposit down before us. But it turned out that the landlord was more interested in what we wanted to do with it, since we weren’t putting in a restaurant or a bar there would be less things to convert back once the lease was up.
Cody: We jumped on this really fast too. So we aren’t coming into this with our community already formed or anything.
Natalie: We like that though, we wanted the community to form organically via word-of-mouth.
Cody has a writer’s meetup on Wednesdays called Write the Night for example. It’s a good chance for people to form an idea of what this space can be. The people coming to the writer’s meetup don’t necessarily have to be members but they can see what it’s like and meet people who do work here.
It’s a very different feeling than working from home, which we used to do. We have roommates so we know how hard it is to set up a corner office. Or to get work done when the cat jumps in your lap and the kitchen is so close and there’s always a good time to take a nap [laughs].
Cody: If you need that moment of professionalism we have the conference room. Most freelancers can’t bring a client back to their apartment.
Natalie: My friend is a freelance photographer. Try saying to someone, “Hey do you want to come back to my apartment to shoot?” Well no.
I want to offer people a second home base with more professionalism and more support.
[smiling] And we have barbecues.
Bat Haus is located at 279 Starr Street. It is open from 8am until 11pm.