This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.
If you are a typical freelancer, your office may range from your home to your car to the local coffee shop. While I used to inhabit my local coffee shop—to the tune of having my drink waiting for me at the counter before I even got there—I am now a convert of working at my local library.
- Free high-speed WiFi. Yes, my local coffee shop had free WiFi, but it also seemed to have every online movie watcher and gamer there too hogging up the bandwidth. Their “free high-speed WiFi” was usually quite slow and frustrating. This hasn’t been the case at the library.
- A quiet place to work. Coffee shops are usually so loud I can barely think, let alone create. With people talking, orders being shouted, blaring music, and coffee grinding in the background, the cacophony could drive you mad. The library has enforced quietness, which I like.
- It’s free! Yes, you can technically work for free at a coffee shop, but you are expected to order something, making a day in the coffee shop very much not free. The librarian doesn’t care if I sit there for eight hours doing my work and there is no charge — ca-ching.
- It’s healthier. By my third cup of coffee (a pretty much required order if I am sitting in a coffee shop for hours on end), I feel like I need to go sprint around the block to burn off some of the caffeine. At the library there is a strict no food and beverages policy except for bottled water. So no caffeine buzz, no fattening beverages, and no temptation to buy a double chocolate mocha brownie.
- There is more to do than sit and work. At the coffee shop you are limited by the items you bring with you. At the library, I can get up and walk around, peruse some books, read a magazine for inspiration, or check out their classroom to see what is going on. Sometimes variety gets me out of a writing rut.
- I can still meet with people at the library. Our library is divided into a quiet section, a talking is OK section, and private rooms (which you can use for free if you want to have a meeting). Meeting people in a coffee shop is fine except you have no privacy, sometimes it is crowded and you have no place to sit, and sometimes it is so loud you can’t hear your companions speaking.
- I am pretty much forced to work. I associate the library with working (it may have been all of those late nights at the library during college but who knows…). I associate a coffee shop with being social. As soon as I sit down at my table in the library I am instantly in work mode.
- The library is more relaxing. There is always a “buzz” at the coffee shop with people coming and going (or maybe it is just the caffeine). The library seems much more relaxing (maybe it is just the enforced quietness).
- I can’t answer my cell phone. The library has a no cell phone policy too so my phone gets silenced the minute I walk in the door and all calls go to voicemail. At the coffee shop it is always on and when it rings I automatically answer, thus creating interruptions and bumps in my “flow”.
- The people seem nicer. The baristas in my local coffee shop were nice enough, but it is a money-making venture, and I always felt like I was taking up a table that could have been used by higher tipping customers. At the library they seem to be happy to have me there, no tipping required.
Over to You
What’s your preference: coffee shop or library?