home away from home

Coffee shop? Park? Pub? Seven workable “office” locations for the modern freelancer


 We are getting a new kitchen.

Not particularly noteworthy on its own, I grant you - but it means the whole family is packing up and spending the next two weeks gatecrashing various friends, relatives and mid-range holiday cottages while the house is temporarily overrun with dust sheets and extortionate, unpronounceable new cooking appliances.

For a freelancer who works from home, this presents a problem - but also an opportunity.

Because home-working in its most literal sense is not necessarily all it is cracked up to be. OK, the commute is easier, but anyone dreaming of a private haven for productivity where you can knuckle down and get to grips with spreadsheet concatenation from the comfort of your favourite armchair is in for a rude awakening.

For starters, if you have small children, it’s almost impossible to find sanctuary. Anywhere. Favourite armchair? Turned into a My Little Pony palace last week. Kitchen table? OK if you don’t mind pureed banana infiltrating your laptop ports.

The best you can hope for is an office with a serviceable lock, but even that can’t filter out the noise. If, by some miracle, everyone else is out of the house and you have a clear couple of hours, in all probability you will cripple yourself on a rogue bit of Lego before you’ve checked your first email.

If you don’t have kids, then you are probably safe from the Lego - but not from the guilt-laden lie-in or the realisation that a Game of Thrones box-set binge is only a remote control away.

What I am finding is that one needs diversity and discipline to operate effectively as a freelancer. Find a routine, but keep your locations fresh and free from distractions. Here then, are seven options. Mix and match to your heart’s content and find a balance that works for you. I shall be road-testing most of these during my fortnight of homelessness, and will report back on my findings.

You’re welcome.

Seven workable “office” locations for the modern freelancer:

1) Your home - As explored above, there are many potential pitfalls (especially if you are unfortunate enough to share it with OTHER PEOPLE) but your home remains a pretty solid “Plan A” for most well-intentioned freelancers. The biggest issue is temptation. Most offices are soulless and spartan for a reason. Our homes are generally nicer places to be - but those luxurious sofas, well-stocked fridges and pocket-sprung mattresses can come at a dire cost to your output and efficiency. Your best bet is to make your home less comfortable. Make the coffee undrinkable and invite your neighbours around to interrupt you every five minutes and share the one functioning lavatory. Hey presto: Your very own microcosmic British workplace!

2) Somebody else’s home - For clarity, I am not suggesting you break into some stranger’s house and start merrily hooking up to their WiFi. But there can be benefits to a change of scenery once in awhile, so encouraging friends and family members to do an occasional “house swap” is something to consider. Once you’ve finished nosing through their belongings and tutting at their inferior DVD collections, you might even get some work done.

3) Man cave - I confess I am lucky enough to have one of these in our garden. It was something of a deal-breaker for me when we bought the house. I am not usually given to interior design fantasy - but I could immediately picture what I was going to do with it: half-office; half oasis of male solitude (I live with three females, so you will forgive me the gender stereotyping). Among other motivation-sapping attractions are a beer fridge and a dart board, so the temptation to procrastinate and go off and channel my inner Phil “The Power” Taylor can be overwhelming.

4) Shared work spaces - A genuine contender for the more established professional. The miserly among you might immediately baulk at actually PAYING for your independent workspace, but there are some reasonable options out there. The Office Group, among others, offer cheap monthly passes for a variety of central London office buildings. They provide a great compromise for those that need a balance of independence and routine - plus they are good for networking and boosting your social interaction beyond the postman and that weekly call from your mother. Crucially, the constantly changing workforce means you avoid the clock-watching tittle-tattle merchants who immediately tut and roll their eyes when you rock in at 9.45 stinking of booze and wearing yesterday’s shirt.

5) The park - A left-field option, although comprehensively weather-dependent. Success may vary according to location: Inner-city parks have a high dog muck/low tranquility ratio - whereas remote beauty spots have inspirational surroundings but 4G coverage that veers from patchy to non-existent. Find a happy medium and you may well be in business for the three days a year it’s possible to operate electrical equipment outdoors in the United Kingdom.

6) A coffee shop - I find myself somewhat surprised that this is often the clear winner for me. When I have a lot of writing to do, Chesham Caffe Nero is the closest place I have to a private refuge. For the price of a latte and an adequate ham and cheese toastie, I can usually get through a solid three-hour stint invigorated and undisturbed. I don’t even find the people-watching a distraction, or the muzak annoying. Indeed, I wonder if it might, for me, replicate the low hum of activity one finds in a conventional office. I have to be careful not to get too zealous and over-caffeinated though. They don’t like that sort of thing in Buckinghamshire.

7) The pub - One requires a steely-eyed discipline to avoid the obvious enticements, but if you stick to soft drinks (with perhaps a single congratulatory pint of session ale upon completion of a particularly gruelling assignment) a nice pub can be a rewarding way of passing a drizzly Thursday afternoon. It also has the added frisson of naughtiness attached to truancy, until you realise that you are your own boss and you just spent a couple of hour’s salary on crisps and Appletise. Avoid Friday nights, karaoke happy hours and anywhere that offers discounted Jaeger-bombs at three in the afternoon. Above all: Enjoy responsibly.


Photo credit: Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

"Make the coffee undrinkable and invite your neighbours around to interrupt you every five minutes and share the one functioning lavatory "