Coffee Shop Etiquette For Freelancers: The Simple Guide
I’m going to start this blog post off with a life story, so if you are just here for the guide, skip to The Guide.
Since mid-October, my life has taken a major turn, a major turn for good that is. I’d been experiencing freelancing of some level ever since I launched Paul Shirey Tech back on December 8th, 2011, but all it really consisted of what a few hours of content creation and marketing every day. There really wasn’t much in the way of revenue either. I was just doing it for fun, and had other sources of revenue. Flash forward nine or so months down the road, and I realized that I had no job and the money I did have saved up was running dry. I’m a geek after all, I like buying toys. I had just renewed the hosting for Paul Shirey Tech, and needed to think of a way to generate revenue fast.
Fast forward another month, and it was thanks to the advice of a good friend of mine, Lisa Mason, that I am now a freelancer, generating revenue that I can consider a living considering I’m still in high school and have to do that for most of the day. Believe me, I haven’t slept in almost 2 months.
Alright, so being a freelancer getting as much work as possible, and still having to attend school 7 hours a day, I’m working, and I’m working a lot. I soon realized that I hate working in my house (all the time at-least) . I’ve heard of other freelancers experiencing this as well. When you are in your own home working, you know and feel like you are at home. If you live by yourself, it can be even worse when you put in the lonely factor. The fact of the matter is that even though the whole point of freelancing is having the luxury of working from home, that doesn’t always work out that well when we have a ton of work to get done.
I ran into that situation. I had received my biggest job of all time. I had to complete 6 audio transcriptions, a total of around 8 hours of work. Oh yeah, and I had just 72 hours to do it on top of oh yeah, going to school.
There is a coffee shop super close to my house. Not a Starbucks, not a Pete’s, an independent neighborhood coffee shop. I’ve walked in there in the past and seen multiple people working on their laptops, so I thought they would most likely be alright with me doing the same, as long as I bought something. I bought a premium drink at the cost of a little over $4, and sat down to work for 3 hours. When I told them I would be back the next day, they said they were looking forward to me. However, not all coffee shops support what some would consider soliciting sitting around for several hours on a single cup of coffee. Most won’t have a problem with it, especially the neighborhood coffee shops, but there are some obvious rules you should follow.
Buy Well, Tip Well
Think of it this way, if you go to a coffee shop to work, you are basically using that coffee shop as your office. You would pay several hundred or even thousand dollars a month to rent office space depending on how much, so you should have no problem with buying a premium drink and leaving a decent tip if you are going to be staying for several hours, with the intent to work. If you plan on staying all day, buy a lunch or dinner if they have them.
Don’t be the Abuser
I witnessed a guy in the coffee shop yesterday buy a $2.75 bottomless mug. He was there reading for the 3 hours I was there. Now, it’s only plain coffee, and the coffee shop is able to produce it at an extremely low-cost, but in the 3 hours I was there he filled up his bottomless mug 8 times. That’s only $0.34 a mug. You’re lucky if you can get a can of soda out of a vending machine for $0.50 anymore. Now, while it is a bottomless mug, that’s all the guy got in his 3 hours of being there. If it were me, I would at least have left a tip. There is a difference between pumping from the spring, and diverting the spring into a lake
Don’t be the fort builder
If it takes you more than one table to do the work you need to do by yourself, you should be renting an office at that point. All you should really need is your laptop, your phone, your drink, and maybe a pad of paper. If you are using a tablet instead, you will require even less space.
No matter how empty the shop may be, it’s always bad practice to pull up another table simply for yourself.
Don’t be the rock band
If you are going to be doing something with audio, wear headphones. That one is obvious. Even though a coffee shop is a place for conversation, treat it as a library in regards to the work you are doing.
Don’t overstay your welcome
If the coffee shop isn’t that full, or most people are just coming in and out, and taking their drinks elsewhere, feel free to sit down for a couple of hours. However, if it gets extremely busy, and a lot of people are there wanting to sit down and have conversations and space is getting low, go outside if possible. The weekend nights are the most busy in most coffee shops.
Don’t bring your whole office
You are there to accomplish a specific task. Maybe you have to put together or read a large document. You don’t need to bring your TV, boardroom table, and a whiteboard.
Coffee shops are a great place to get work done, and a heck of a lot cheaper than renting office space. Remember that even though it might seem expensive at times, it’s a cheap option. As a freelancer, you are an entrepreneur. It’s good for you to support other fellow entrepreneurs, such as coffee shop owners.
Make sure to buy well and tip well. In most coffee shops, the general rule is that one premium drink such as a latte or mocha = a good two hours. If you are going to be there for longer than 3, definitely at-least purchase a soda, juice, or regular coffee.
Lastly, tip well. When I am going to a coffee shop with the intent to work, I will generally drop 50 cents to a dollar in the tip jar, as sort of a service fee. I’m not a normal customer, I’m there with the intent to do work, while enjoying a coffee or smoothie.
Have fun, and be courteous. Your regularity (especially at a smaller shop) won’t go unnoticed. Mine has a table where they allow regulars who come in to do work to place their business cards at no cost. Have fun, and enjoy the lifestyle of freelancing!