As a freelance web designer, I like to work at coffee shops during the day instead doing all my work in my home office. My IKEA desk set is a nice work space, but there’s something about being outside of my home that spurs me to work. Getting started is always the hardest part of the day for me. I put off checking my email and digging into the day’s problems as long as possible, but once I get started I build momentum which carries through the rest of the day. Getting out of the house gets me started. I typically spend 2-3 hours at a coffee shop and then come back home to finish the work day there.
My monthly coffee bill is cheaper than renting a co-working space, and I actually have a coffee budget for the month which I keep track of. Honestly, I feel like I’m paying the coffee shop for their electricity, wi-fi, and desk space and they provide me with a free drink as a bonus. I’ve thought about writing off my coffee expense on my taxes, but I haven’t, mostly because when I have that conversation in my head with an IRS auditor he laughs at me and charges me back taxes.
After years of experience, I’ve perfected the necessary survival gear required when I work outside of the home. Here are the bare necessities you’ll need if you decide to make a coffee shop your second office.
A backpack or messenger bag with several pockets to store stuff is a must-have. Get something sturdy and fairly waterproof in case you get stuck in the rain. I’m not sure how much I paid for this backpack, but it was worth every penny because I’ve had it for 12 years and it’s still in one piece. It’s survived college, three corporate jobs, and three years of freelancing. They’re not kidding when they say it’s “Everlast.” I prefer a backpack because it leaves my hands free to carry coffee back to my seat.
Laptop or tablet computer and power cord
It pretty much goes without saying that you’ll need to bring a laptop or tablet computer. Don’t forget your power cord in case your battery runs low. I recommend fully charging your computer before leaving the house in case the other coffee shop patrons are hogging all the electric outlets. It will give you time to sit and stalk until someone unplugs, giving you the chance to pounce on their vacated seat.
I do a lot of design work, so I prefer to use a mouse. It’s easier and more precise to use than a touch pad. A mouse only costs about $10, so it’s easier to buy one just for your coffee shop kit instead of using the same one at home and on the go.
Protect the aural sanctity of your workspace. Bring headphones! They will prevent you from being forced to listen to inane conversations or whatever CD Starbucks is selling this month. They also ward off small-talkers who would distract you when you have work to get done. I have a little bag to store my ear buds in so they don’t get tangled up with anything else.
The temperature inside a coffee shop varies widely. Sometimes they’ve been steaming enough milk to make the place a sauna. Sometimes the air conditioning is cranked up to frozen mocha levels. Bring a sweater or hoodie so you can stay warm. I prefer a hoodie because it offers additional protection if you have to run through the rain to your car. Be warned though, any garments you keep in your coffee shop survival kit will reek of coffee so strongly that people will think you work at a roast house.
Wrist warmers Fingerless gloves
For similar reasons, it’s good to keep a pair of
wrist warmers fingerless gloves with you. If you’re working on a computer your hands are away from your body so they’ll get colder quicker than the rest of you. These wrist warmers fingerless gloves were knitted by the fabulous Debbi at Knit. Run. Reap. Eat.
Just in case the hoodie is not enough, I keep a small umbrella in my backpack for when there are torrential rains.
Keep this handy to wipe that dust off your computer that you only see when the light hits it in a particular way at that one coffee shop.
I keep a USB cord handy in case I need to copy photos from my phone to my computer. It also lets me tether my phone to my laptop to use it as an internet connection if the wi-fi goes down. There’s something intensely satisfying about staying online when everyone else in the coffee shop is refreshing their browsers to no avail. I tie a ribbon around the cord so it’s easier to find when I’m searching through my backpack. If you keep more than one cord with you, tie different colored ribbons around them and they’ll be easier to differentiate.
There you go! Those are the essential items I bring with me whenever I work at a coffee shop. One item your might also consider bringing is a power strip. It allows you to plug in if all the electric outlets are otherwise full, but might lead to awkwardness when you need to leave and other people are plugged into your strip. Be sure to put your name on it so no one thinks you’re stealing.
Oh, and also bring cash so you can buy some actual coffee.