5 things to consider when working in coffee shops

I have been free of formal corporate desks for nearly two years now. In this time, I have often used coffee shops as my office. It was sometimes by choice (I needed some inspiration), sometimes by chance (oh, look! A new coffee shop!) and sometimes as a lifesaver (arrhhh, my phone just died and I need to download that email!) Although the life of a ‘digital nomad” often relies on good internet connection, good manners should be your starting point to freelance etiquette in shared spaces.

  1. For starters, be friendly:

You might be chasing a deadline, have issues with your internet at home, or close to depression and feeling down (hence you escaping your messy kitchen to join the digital nomads in your local coffee shop), but there is no excuse for being demanding or rude, especially to the staff. They do not OWE you internet, they do not owe you a fast line. Unless they market themselves as THE BEST wifi spot in town. Then, maybe. But still, it is a coffee shop, first and foremost. I have seen the worst of the worst with coffee shop owners trying to help set up connectivity for the incapable.  Just be friendly and polite and have a coffee. It is a bonus if the internet works and is up to your acquired speed.

  1. Don’t be a cheapskate, ADD to your bill:

I have a general rule for using a coffee shop:

  • Anything under 30min – a coffee will do.
  • 30 – to one hour – you have to order something small to eat.
  • Over an hour – a larger meal and about two drinks.
  • 3 hours – this is getting weird. Can I meet your family?
  1. POWER:

Although I have often been forced to use power supply in a coffee shop, I try to get there with a fully charged device. The café can save the day before a big meeting and help you recharge, but shouldn’t be your main source of power, internet or your lifeline.


As an independent worker, we are often left to our own devices (and noises in our heads) during the normal 9-5. It makes sense to connect a little with others in the same boat as you, and coffee shops can be social spaces to connect. Some of us want to work, though.

Keep your noise levels down. Editing a video? Put on your headphones. Taking a call? Step outside. Skype? Debatable if this should happen in a wifi hotspot.


I travel with my own mobile wifi dongle and would often alternate between the free wifi and my own device. This way I can still enjoy the space even on a day when they are down or the internet is slow. And PS. Do I need to even mention that wifi zones are NOT for music or movie downloads?

  1. BONUS TIP for great Karma: Pay it forward

You have enjoyed the vibe, and trendy tunes, you have had a creative burst and caught up with your work. You are high on caffeine and high on life. While you are at it, why not pay it forward? Take a pic of your cup of coffee if you must, or the interior, or your friendly waiter, or the sign outside the shop AND post it, tag them and spread the news via the free WIFI you’ve just used. And try NOT to mention ONLY the internet abuse, but compliment them in a unique way like their service, friendliness or if all else fails, their great location.

Spread the love.

On that note, all photos in the post was taken in the very friendly space of the RED GALLERY CAFE in Nelson, New Zealand. The staff is really sweet, welcoming and the space quiet and relaxing amongst the art on the one side and the view of the street through the window on the other.

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