It can be hard to be a freelancer in a big city like Dallas. With so many other photographers, artists, and entrepreneurs, people can easily become isolated as they work from home and don’t interact much with “competitors” – other freelancers trying to secure bookings.
Renting studio space for a photography session can cost an astronomical amount, often $750 to $1,000 for a day, severely limiting a freelancer’s ability to grow his or her business.
Enter WELD – an innovative and modern idea to rethink the way people do business. WELD defines itself as “a freelance community of creators working together.”
Austin Mann, a travel photographer and filmmaker, founded WELD with a distinct vision. “Whether that’s a single image, a film or a full-blown business, WELD is a streamlined hub to help artists create something from nothing,” he said in a guest blog in 2013.
“Austin saw the need for a creative community to spur one another along — to offer real connections with other creators, and just decided to go for it,” said Vince Kelly, WELD’s Business Operations Manager. Austin took an old warehouse and just “WELDified” it, said Kelly.
As you walk around the modern workspace filled with tables, offices, a large studio, and a conference room, the air of excitement just floats in the air. It feels like something big is happening – every single day. Some people are working on laptops, some are animatedly discussing the next project over Chemex coffee, and yet others are rearranging lighting equipment for their next shoot.
WELD also rotates between several local beers on tap. It’s a place that strives to create an environment where members (called WELDERs) can relax and collaborate.
Indeed, WELD has now become so popular that there is a waiting list to join. With membership rates beginning at an affordable $400/month, independent creative professionals are quickly jumping on board to make WELD their office.
Kelly also mentioned the ever-present desire to introduce others from the community into the space. “When the members feel like WELD is theirs, they can’t wait to share it with other people,” he said.
It’s different than just a coffee shop. Rather than a room of people sealed off from the world with their headphones, WELD strives to be an interactive community.
People can use the common tables to work whenever they want (becoming a WELDER gives you access to the building 24 hours a day, 7 days a week), or they can pay a higher rate to have a permanent desk or even an office.
And WELD is intended to be just the beginning – a facilitator for greater things to come for each member. “We want WELD to function as a springboard, not as a ceiling. Our hope is that creatives will come to WELD, be equipped to transform their business into something awesome, and then that business be successful,” said Kelly.
Some WELDERs have done just that. Kelly gave an example of several wedding photographers and videographers who met through WELD and decided to form a company together. He also noted a case in which a photographer collaborated with a graphic/web designer (both WELDERs) to completely overhaul a company’s website and online presence.
Instead of focusing on competition with other artists in Dallas, Kelly wants WELDERs to ask: “How can we make the artistic community of Dallas a force to be reckoned with?”
There’s something special about this place, and Vince Kelly says it best. “WELD is more than a coworking space — it’s a place to connect. It’s a place to belong. It’s a place to stay after hours and make relationships. And it’s a place to get REALLY good coffee.”
First published at Opportunity Lives.