Freelancing at the ‘Coffice’

Where do you go to get work done? Do you go to the same place every day, or do you work from different places? Does the place you choose to work affect how much you get done?

One of the challenges about being a freelancer is that you don’t have a regular schedule to keep you on task. Another is finding the right workspace. Some freelancers who work at home have enough space in their houses to make a separate workspace or office. This might be a spare room. a large walk-in closet or a converted garage—whatever it is, it is a space dedicated solely to working where there won’t be as many distractions.

Many people dream about staying at home and working in their pajamas, but the reality of doing so is not the panacea you might think. Even if you do have a good home office, it can be challenging to work from  home and be productive. There can be too many distractions calling out for your attention (e.g., cleaning, kids, cooking, home improvement projects, etc.). In addition, if you always work from home, you begin to feel isolated from the rest of the world, which can be a bit depressing if it goes on for long enough. Sometimes you need the energy that having other people nearby helps generate.

Fortunately, many cafes welcome people to stop in and work. Here are some criteria that make a cafe a good “coffice” (coffee shop + office—not my idea--I borrowed it from somewhere):

  1. Wi-Fi – Most cafes have Wi-Fi these days. The internet can be a distraction, but for most freelancers it is a necessary part of work, for researching and for contacting clients. It is unfortunate that offering Wi-Fi has turned a lot of cafes into mini-Laptopistans, but that is the nature of work in 2011. I plead guilty.
  2. Electric outlets – While some laptops have batteries that will last all day, most don’t, and you don’t want your computer to quit in the middle of a project. It’s hard enough to keep the momentum going on certain projects, and you don’t want to have to pack up and move during the middle of it.
  3. Good coffee – Would you want to spend all day drinking bad coffee? No, thanks. Then again, if the coffee is excellent, you might have a hard time managing your caffeine intake. Be careful with that. It’s hard to type when your hands are shaking.
  4. Space (size matters) – If you go to a cafe and it only has a few tables, unless you plan to buy lots of drinks and food during the day, you are taking up too much valuable real estate. Also, look for a cafe that is big enough so that you don’t have to sit right by the front door. If people are constantly coming in and out of the cafe right next to you, it is hard to keep focused on your work.
  5. Comfortable chairs – You might not think about this one, but if you are going to spend all day sitting in a cafe, you want your chair to be comfortable. It’s hard enough to sit down the whole day—it’s even less fun if your backside hurts. A lot of cafes have plain wooden chairs, which are durable and easy to clean, but they aren’t much fun to sit in. Look for a place with padded chairs if you plan on staying for a while.
  6. Not too loud – When a cafe is rocking out, it’s hard to concentrate. Sure, you can put your headphones in and turn up the classical music, but if you have to turn it up too loud to drown out conversations or the loud music playing in the cafe, it will still be hard to stay focused on what you are doing. Some cafes tend to turn the music up in the afternoons, so it can be more of a challenge to find someplace to work after lunch (The cafe I am sitting in right now, for example, has much louder music than when I came in two hours ago. It was a good place to work when I got here, not so much now).
  7. Location (close to home and/or other cafes)– Long commutes are  essentially wasted time. For freelancers, this time is extra valuable. If you can find a good place that is close to home, you won’t have to spend an hour on the bus each way just going to and from where you work. Also, it’s good to have another place nearby to go, in case you get tired of the shop you are in.

The ideal coffice would have all of these things, though most don’t.  Like everything else in life, you have to do the best with what you have. I’m looking for suggestions about which cafes are good places to work. Any suggestions?