Working from a coffee shop [THE ULTIMATE GUIDE 2019] - Main image


Working from a coffee shop [THE ULTIMATE GUIDE 2019]

Read our Ultimate Guide for Working from a coffee shop for 2019 - after reading it you will want to become a freelancer immediately.

Kiti Korošec Cirman - CodeBrainer
Kiti Korošec Cirman
14 min read

The whole CodeBrainer team is a huge coffee fan. So it was only logical to write an article about the advantages of working from a coffee shop. We are all social beings. Well some of us aren't, isn’t that right all you Grinches out there?! :) And we all need some sort of social interaction.

For us, freelancers, this is always a challenge, because we are used to working on our own, but that means that all our ideas and inspirations need to come from thin air, and some times, thin air is just not working for us. And where do we go, if we need to see other human beings - that is right - a coffee shop. It is probably your closest and cheapest office.

Even if you don't speak to other people in there, you have a feeling of being connected. I love spending a few hours working from a coffee shop every couple of days. After visiting a lot, and I do mean a lot of coffee shops out there, let me tell you what the essential things to look for when choosing a good one are.

Here is what you should know about Working in a coffee shop:

  • WiFi is a must for working from a coffee shop
  • What and how much to drink while working
  • How long should you stay and work from a coffee shop
  • Charging your devices
  • It can be loud in a coffee shop - How to focus
  • I have a feeling someone's watching me while I’m working from a coffee shop for free
  • I need to use the toilet
  • Coffee shops are a great place get motivation
  • Coworking cafes are best to work from

Think about working from a coffee shop


WiFi is a must for working from a coffee shop

You know exactly which coffee shops have the best WiFi, don't you? So do I, don't worry, you are not alone in this fight. It is a fact that the shop owner who understands customers and is not from the 1980s will always have a good wifi connection.

Still, there are a few shops left which use basic WIFI, with limited data, so do your research. Luckily most of them decide, that stronger, faster and reliable WIFI is a must in their coffee shops. By my experience from travelling around the world, you usually find better Wifi in coffee shops near schools, near office buildings, and around bigger bus and train stations. Hipster oriented parts of town, where youth go and gather, are usually modern as well.

You can't work without WIFI, even if your work is mostly based offline, you need the lifeline of the internet, to respond to emails and questions from your clients. And there is always something you need to research or discover online, and let’s be clear: #WeJustNeedFreeWIFI It goes without saying; it must be free. We become so used to our modern connected life. Our motto should be, free fast WIFI for all of us! No WIFI no coffee.  

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What and how much to drink while working from a coffee shop

I admit, I am one of those people, who drink their tea or coffee for far too long. I often forget I have it beside me. But I also visit places where they are used to me and other people working on their laptops for long periods of time. We are there almost every day. I get a terrible feeling sometimes that they are not earning that much on my behalf, as they could be. If I come there at 10 AM, work till 1 PM and only drink two flat whites, I can understand that there is not much in it for them. But, on the other hand, I usually keep all of my meetings there and bring new people who will spend their money in these coffee shops. And let's not forget all the cakes, toasts, sandwiches, that I order there during lunchtime.

And the answer to the question “what to drink” is usually straightforward. Whatever you want! Let's be fair and tell it as it is - flat white and tea lasts longer than espresso. I have another suggestion for you. I learned a long time ago, not to order sticky things, like Coffee with whipped cream, caramel, and chocolate sauce on top of it. It will get everywhere, EVERYWHERE! Don’t come crying, when your keyboard gets stuck to your fingers :) Note: We love to brainstorm and work from coffee shops, so, do not forget to tip your waiter! We all love them! 


How long should you stay and work from a coffee shop

Knowing how long you should stay at a coffee shop is kind of tricky. Every cafe has its policy and waiters who are patient or not. They will probably not kick you and throw your laptop out of the cafe if you overstay. But you also need to be fair. A cafe is not your office! You should have your own office/table/place anyway. You can rent a space, or make space for your work at home. In a coffee shop you usually only pay for your drink, and that is it.

That is why you need to play fair. Remember that when you are working form a coffee shop form a coffee shop, they can't use the table you are using. So, be fair, have in mind that 2-3 hours is plenty of time. Usually, you can feel the vibe of the shop, if the owners are sympathetic to people who use their coffee shop to work in. If they are, then you surely can see many people working on their devices.

But don’t you forget what your folks thought you about common courtesy. Be polite, ask the staff if it is OK for you to work there and use their WIFI for a few hours. You will see, most of the time the answer will be: Yes. Playing it fair, means that you make it worthwhile for them. So order more than one coffee, from time to time eat if possible and remember to tip them a little bit more, at least once a week. That should guarantee you a beautiful and pleasant stay there. 

How long should you stay and work from a coffee shop


Charging your devices

Coffee shops that decide they will give people with computers space to work, most have enough plugs for computers. They put electricity sockets all around the place, sometimes even extension cords. Usually most of the cafes, only have a few electric outlets, which are used for lights, around the place. Don't be the person, who unplugs something from electricity without asking the staff or the people around. You are a guest there, no matter how many times you visit this cafe.

There is a great saying: It doesn't cost one cent to be polite! So ask around, and maybe you’ll meet some people in between. Plan ahead, if you know you will be working from a coffee shop for a few hours, make sure, you charge your devices, it's better to be prepared than in stress later when your battery starts to die on you. Pack a longer cord as well and some USB splitters, to share the juice.


It can be loud in a coffee shop - How to focus

The music, people talking, coffee being made, doors opening and closing and letting in the noises from the street. We all know, working from a coffee shop can be loud. Sometimes they are so loud; you really can't even focus.

Remember, you visit coffee shops mostly to get inspiration, to feel the vibe. Times, when you can't focus, are usually the times when you are not feeling the task you are trying to tackle. There is always a day or a period, you just can't get on top of things. Maybe you feel sick, overwhelmed with work, or just can't find your inspiration. There are always projects; you simply don't feel like doing.

But on the other hand, sometimes, you could work right next to a building that is being torn down with explosives and bulldozers, and you don’t even flinch. It all comes down to your personal focus. Try some breathing exercises, when you find yourself in the “everything is bothering me” mode? Or try to walk outside for 1 minute and get some fresh air- I could even suggest some office exercises like squats, but, you are in a coffee shop, don't be weird- do this at your office or home.


Use of headphones when working from a coffee shop

You can see a lot of the people working from a coffee shop using headphones. Using headphones can make you feel spaced out in a zone. There are some pretty high tech ones out there for a reasonable price. You can also try the noise cancelling ones (they are not that cheap from 200€ and forward), at first it is a weird feeling, you kind of feel like you are in a cotton ball, but after you get used to them you will find them very helpful and want to use them all the time.

There is an ongoing discussion, what kind of headphones to use wireless or wired, the ones who cover the whole ear, or the ones you merely stick in your ear. There are so many choices, but in the end, it all comes down to what suits you best. In the end, it comes down to “how do you feel today”, will you be able to work with music in your ears, or can you focus on your work with the cafes background noise. 


I have a feeling someone's watching me while I’m working from a coffee shop for free

Coffee shops are usually small places, where you can't be really “alone”, and your screen with all of the content is not entirely private. It can't be, if there are 20 other people around, sitting behind and beside you. They can just stretch their neck and see what are you working on. But don’t be so scared most of the time, people have other worries on their mind.

Most freelancers have this unwritten rule, if it is not on your computer, it is not your business, so usually, they will not take peek. We have all been there; we know how it feels to have someone snooping. And that is why we try not to sneak and peek, right? :D

But why do some people glance at my screen, you might ask? Well, people are curious, we get a thrill when we see something we shouldn't and get new material to talk or think about. So choose wisely. Decide if the content you are working on, is appropriate for a public space, or rather do it in the privacy of your own home/office.

Still scared? If you research you can find a special foil, that will make your screen hard to read from all angles but one, the one you are working from. Also bringing down brightness and tilting screen helps a lot.  

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Using the toilet

Oh, the dilemma... What to do when you are working from a coffee shop, and you need to use the restroom, but all your most prized possessions are on the table, you are in the middle of work, the coffee is still hot, but nature is calling, you just can't leave everything there and go away for few minutes. Or can you? What to do?

We all heard about the dream cafes in Japan that are known for their safety. Where all the people are friendly, where you can leave everything and go away for a few minutes, and everything will still be there when you return. It is the same with lots of coffee shops around the world, don't worry, the world is not that bad.

But be smart about it, if you leave everything displayed on the table, you are looking for potential problems. Take as many things with you at least your phone, wallet and cover your bag with a coat or a scarf. But I would advise you to have a handy bag with you to put all prized possessions with you (notebook, wallet, phone).

The use of magic the word PLEASE can go a long way. Ask someone at the next table if they can pay some attention to your things. When you come back, thank your friendly neighbour and offer to guard their things when they need to go. It is hard to ask the staff to take care of your things. They are to busy and can't watch your things all the time. Mostly they will, but if the coffee shop is larger, it is even harder for them to do that, so be considerate.  


Coffee shops are a great place to get motivation

Like I said before, working from a coffee shop, helps me meet new people. Because I meet new people almost every day, I get to know about different types of professions. From time to time I meet a coder/developer. Yes, they are strange creatures who rarely come out of their caves, but every time I meet one I am fascinated by what they do. I mostly meet web developers and mobile app developers.

So, a couple of months ago, meeting all those exiting people gave me the motivation to start learning how to code. I don’t want to change my profession, but it would expand my horizon and give me the possibility to work on new projects. Because of my line of work, learning web development was the obvious choice.

Helping CodeBrainer with social media is absolutely a big advantage because I have access to the online Web development course. Learning in a cafe and being surrounded by the clicking noise of keyboards, the presence of all the coders gives me the extra motivation needed to learn. It’s also great because now I have more things in common with those creatures.

One of the big pluses of coffee shops is, if I get stuck at an assignment, there's usually a developer sitting at the next table. :D Learning to code in a coffee shop gave me an opportunity to make new cool friends and a couple of new business opportunities.

Coffee shops are a great place to get motivation


Coworking cafes are best to work from

We can see an increase in this type of cafes that offer a coworking space. You can see different working cafes being open all over. They usually have free and reliable WIFI and are entirely dedicated to business. (like have extra outlets, better lighting, no screaming kids,...)

In coworking cafes, you have people around you, with the same mindset and are there to work and not talk.

Some coworking spaces have membership fees but don’t take this for a bad thing as they will have more things to offer, like meeting rooms, presentation rooms with projectors...

The great thing about working from a coffee shop like this is, that the staff doesn't look at you as a criminal who is taking their precious sitting space, but welcome you and encourage you to spend as much time there as possible. They become valuable offices outside the offices. If you are looking for something new, you should definitely check Coworking cafes and if they are in your country.