Why freelancing from a café isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

People are always telling me they wished they were a freelancer like me so they could work in cafés all day.

There’s something romantic about the idea of typing to the tune of a coffee grinder and pausing work for banter with the barista and other patrons.

But after freelancing for the past four years, I’ve learnt it’s actually not the right fit for me. I worked from home for the first 12 months and tried out a few cafés in a bid for human interaction, but was disappointed to discover it wasn’t the right fit for me. Here’s why:

1. You feel awkward if you don’t keep buying food and drinks. I could never work out what was a fair amount to buy to “pay” for use of the chair and table so kept buying cups of tea, which leads me to my next cafe-working dilemma.

2. If you need to go to the toilet you have to work out what to do with your computer. Leaving your stuff is a good way of making sure you keep your spot nabbed, but there’s always the risk that it won’t be there when you get back. Sometimes I would ask the staff to watch it for me, but I found myself hurrying through my bathroom business in case they let their eye wander for a moment and my laptop went walking. The best solution I could come up with was leaving my notebook and pens on the table but taking my laptop with me to the loo, which could be cumbersome and awkward if it was a pokey loo, as café ones often are.

3. You end up with caffeine jitters. Again the pressure to consume enough to cover your worth meant a bucketload of green tea. I’d hate to think what I would’ve been like if lattés were my go-to. 

4. The environment is distracting. A lot of people find the background noise of cafés soothing, but I’m too much of a people-watcher to be able to focus. 

5. The seats aren’t ergonomic. When you spend 8-10 hours a day at your computer, your set-up is paramount if you want to avoid RSI or an achy back. My desk has a monitor perched at eye level, a squishy wrist support and an ergonomic mouse pad. And did I mention my chair? I want to marry my special back support chair, and as cute as trendy cafe stools look, they just can’t support me through a work day.

I’ve ended up renting a desk at the Windsor Workshop co-working space – I’ve got my ergonomic set-up, it gets me out of the house and I’m surrounded by like-minded freelancers to shoot the breeze. We’re also surrounded by cafés so if I need a little brain break I can pop out for a quiet herbal tea.