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Ruulmates on the mic #2: Meet the Queen of Coworking, Ece Kurtaraner

Işınsu Unaran
February 20, 2023

This time on our exclusive interview series with our partners Ruulmates on the Mic, we welcome Ece Kurtaraner, a solo Community and Events Consultant based in Manchester. She’s also the host of Leapers Accountability Pod podcast, and the founder of Fora, a brand built on community and collaboration. Along with her own work, Ece Kurtaraner also hosts Ruul Rounds, our semimonthly coworking sessions on our community platform RuulSchool.With Ece, we talked about the importance of having a community as a freelancer, the meaning of productivity and accountability, building a brand as a solo talent and how she got to be known as “Coworking Queen” after hosting hundreds of coworking sessions.Can you tell us about your background and how you became a community strategist? You actually studied Engineering, so how did that twist happen?I worked as a Business Development Specialist in a big corporate company after my graduation, but for a very short time. After that, I found myself in the corporate events sector but with the pandemic, I shifted to online events and community management. I realized community building is very aligned with my skills and values and decided to launch new services around that.Do you think that you utilize your “Engineer mind” in your practice? How do you think you translated your knowledge, skills and experience in engineering to community strategies?I’m both a natural and trained “problem-solver” that gets excited about solutions and possibilities. And I struggle to keep that excitement to myself. I do care about working efficiently, creating structures for sustainability and decision-making based on facts. I’m also a very social and empathetic person. I think all of these combined create a balanced combination of project management and human touch for community building.You are referred to as the “coworking queen” in communities and your Turkish full name actually translates to “Savior queen” in English. Do you have any thoughts on that? Do you think you are destined to be a hero or a life-saving queen?Haha, when I told my name (Ece) means queen, a fellow community member jokingly referred to me as the “coworking queen”. But I don’t think I’m that heroic! I might turn into the “queen-tomato” soon, after being associated with the Pomodoro Technique quite frequently.Can you explain what "mindful productivity" means to you and how it relates to community?I believe that everyone is on their own journey, and what works for one person won’t necessarily work as well, or at all, for another.I had my share of falling into the productivity-hack hole in the past. Until I realized not everyone belongs to the 5 AM clubs. (I can talk about feminine and masculine productivity all day long.)And mindful productivity means constantly reflecting on what works and what doesn’t for us.Communities are great places to learn from others and experiment with the learnings until you find your way. Be aware of the “one-size-fits-all” solution providers pretending as a community though!What are some techniques you find essential for your personal productivity and that you advocate for in your practice?I’m a big advocate of regularly reflecting on my progress and if I’m on track with my values and long-term aspirations.On the Leapers Accountability Pod, a small accountability group for freelancers, we have weekly and monthly review sessions. Those help me go back to “why I’m doing what I’m doing”, especially when I’m lost in day-to-day repetitive tasks.Can you share with us more about your role as a volunteer at Leapers and the impact it has on the mental health of freelancers? How does Leapers support the mental health of freelancers and the self-employed?Leapers is a community project founded by Matthew Knight. I joined Leapers in 2019 and quickly realized it is the loveliest corner of the internet. They create many useful guides that help freelancers, conduct research and help businesses to be more “freelance-friendly”.In 2021 Emma Cragg (another fellow Leapers member), Matthew and I collaborated to launch the Accountability Pod project to be able to form smaller groups and a more structured way to help freelancers that are in need of the support of a team.How do you approach creating a sense of trust and inclusivity within a community?Being an immigrant, I, unfortunately, know there are tons of assumptions and prejudices we have towards new people. I try to ignore or block my assumptions when I welcome a new member of the community.And I do my best to make people feel “I am not alone, there are other people like me here.”Can you share any tips or strategies for businesses looking to build an engaging community for freelancers?I think the most important point is not to mix the audience and community with each other. Community is a many-to-many value creation. Your followers are not necessarily your community members.Another point is that community building, as in all kinds of relationship building, is very slow and needs to be nurtured with care. It’s very hard to do it on your own since you need to show up every day. My suggestion would be to collaborate with others and get help from founding members from the early days.What is accountability? Can you explain the meaning and importance of it?The dictionary definition for “Accountability” is “the fact of being responsible for what you do”.When I first leapt into freelancing, I struggled with isolation and a lack of accountability. Because I needed to make every decision, especially towards building my own business, by myself. And I was responsible mainly for myself. Even though I was a very hard-working student and a great team member, when there is no one around to tell you what you need to do, things can get very overwhelming. The overwhelm turned into a belonging feeling, when I started to get involved in freelancing communities and realized I’m not the only one feeling the lack of accountability. What helped me to overcome the lack of accountability was virtual coworking sessions and sharing my goals with my peers in communities. We kept each other accountable for our longer term business goals with regular check-ins. This habit then evolved into the Leapers Accountability Pod project.Can you tell us about your experience with coworking sessions and how they can benefit freelancers and the self-employed? During the lockdowns, I started inviting some fellow freelancers to work together through video calls, and realized sharing our intentions and goals with each other motivates us and makes it easier to get things done.At the beginning of coworking sessions, I ask everyone “What are you working on today? What are you intending to do during the session?” This allows participants to feel accountable to me and other attendees, which increases motivation and productivity.

Next guest: You!

We thank Ece for joining us on our series Ruulmates on the Mic and giving valuable insights on building healthy communities. You can find Ece on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn with the handle @ecekurtaraner or contact her through her own website.Would you be interested in sharing your solo career journey? We’d love to amplify your voice! Send us an email at blog@ruul.io introducing yourself and your work, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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