The freelancer’s paradise involves not much more than a hot cup of coffee, good food, and his or her own table—bonus points for an accompanying outlet!—at a bustling neighborhood coffee shop.
Lucky for most, these types of shops run abound and have quickly become a haven for those who seek more stimulus than their apartment confines can provide, or don’t have an office or co-working space to head to each morning. There’s even an app for crowdsourcing the best coffee shops to work from in more than 1,250 cities worldwide.
Estimates indicate that the freelancers comprise 35 percent of the total U.S. workforce—a figure that is predicted to balloon to 40 percent by 2020. With a large share of the 55 million freelancers relying on coffee shops as mobile workspaces, these businesses have been shifting their approaches to create more freelance-friendly environments. But what can (and should) freelancers be doing to return the favor?
We spoke with managers at some of the busiest cafes in Brooklyn to get insight into what constitutes the proper etiquette for freelancers who spend their days camped out amid the warm aromas and acoustic soundtrack of their favorite neighborhood coffee shop.
Be kind to your baristas
You know the ever-friendly person serving up your latte behind the counter? Their skills stretch far beyond that kickass latte art. (Though, we would like to meet the creative mastermind behind this glorious unicorn latte, found at East Williamsburg’s The End coffee shop.)
Connan Moody, manager of the popular coffee shop Freehold, explains that most baristas find their passion in other places. “Many of us are designers, actors, artists or students,” he says. Who knows? Beyond starting the day with a smile and a friendly face, taking the time to get to know your barista could help motivate or inspire your next project.
“I’ve been able to connect freelancers and designers with people who need their services, and I love that,” says Moody. Plus, if you start developing friendships with staff, they’ll be more inclined tell you about hidden outlets or give you a free cup of joe.
Sharing is caring, so scooch on over
In many ways, a local coffee shop reflects its own contained community. Sharing your space with others and exercising courtesy at the most fundamental level will help ensure that the good vibes keep flowing from dawn to dusk.
The notion of sharing becomes very clear when applied to a cafe’s most-coveted resource: the rare and valuable power outlet. Although some coffeeshops are built with a remote workforce in mind—Brooklyn’s Gotan seems to have more outlets than coffee beans—most only have a few outlets to share among dozens of patrons.
The basic rule, according to Jonathan Dreszer, General Manager at the uber-trendy Devocion: If you’re lucky enough to nab an outlet, try not to hog it, and unplug after you’re fully charged. While Dreszer says he loves all of the creative regulars that come through his doors everyday, he admits that “people connecting their laptops while running wires through the space” can be a pet peeve.
In general, the “take what you need and leave the rest” rule applies to any resource or space at a coffee shop that is intended to be shared among all patrons. Refrain from laptop-spreading across multiple chairs and tables and you might just meet a like-minded freelancer who is down to collaborate on a new business venture. If not, perhaps your new table-mate will kindly watch your stuff when it’s time for a bathroom or walking break.
In summary, use your common sense
As a self-employed person or entrepreneur, it’s likely you didn’t get there by ignoring your gut instincts or alienating people along the way. Of course, as a hustler you know how to leverage all a coffee shop has to offer to help you knock out that awesome pitch email or newsletter design with time to spare for side-hustles two and three.
That said, use your common sense. Keep your phone or Skype conversations to a low volume—and keep them short. Be polite to waitstaff. Clean up your area when you’re done for the day. Tip your barista. Smile, share and don’t be afraid to chat up your neighbors. You’d be surprised at what’s out there when you lift the Beats by Dre from your ear.
While coffee shops can feel more relaxed than an office, Freehold’s Moody emphasizes that it’s important to respect them as shared spaces that are home to different types of people who are there for different reasons. Bustling cafes thrive off of the camaraderie of people chatting and chilling out, but that must coexist with the readers and quiet workers among us.
Once you start appreciating your local cafe as more than a hub for free WiFi and a quick caffeine fix, you’ll realize that these businesses are unique and core to the freelance lifestyle. Respect the coffee shop; respect the hustle.