The Freelancer’s Guide to Coffee Shop Etiquette

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As freelance writers, we have the freedom to work wherever a strong WiFi signal is present. Fortunately, many coffee shops are courteous enough to offer free WiFi access to customers. In exchange, it’s imperative for freelancers to follow proper coffee shop etiquette.

Wait. You didn’t know there were rules to follow?

While the rules of coffee shop etiquette are mostly unspoken, they are still important to follow. Otherwise, you run the risk of being a rude customer.

The next time you work out of your favorite local coffee spot, keep these guidelines in mind.

Order First, Then Find a Table

When you enter, your first move might be to plop your bag down on a table and claim your territory. Nope! Think again.

See that line at the register? All those patrons were here first. They have a right to a table before you do.

Imagine if you walked up to order a drink with several tables still available. As you’re ordering, a group walks in and fills them all up before ordering. Do you see how frustrating this would be for those who have been waiting in line?

Proper coffee shop etiquette states customers should order first before claiming a table with their belongings.

Do Not Overstay Your Welcome

Coffee shops are warm, cozy, and have a massive supply of coffee. What’s not to love? While studies show coffee shop ambiance improves productivity, it’s best not to overstay your welcome.

Let’s revisit the table scenario once more.

You’ve ordered your drink and now there’s nowhere to sit. You decide to wait a little while to see if anyone packs up and leaves … but they don’t … for hours. Annoying, right? And, the coffee shop misses out on potential customers who see how packed the shop is and decide to visit another establishment. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.

If you do need to stay for an extended period of time, make sure you order another drink or snack.

Headphones Are Your Friend

No one enjoys listening to your music or videos in public, especially in a quiet coffee shop.

Always bring and use headphones if you must listen to music or are working on a project which requires audio.

Limit Calls and Video Meetings

I understand some calls and video chats are unavoidable. You can’t always control when a client needs to chat.

However, use your headphones and speak at a quiet volume. Do not shout over the phone or spend a copious amount of time chatting it up. Not to mention, the coffee shop noise may be irritating to whoever is on the other end of the call.

When a client requests a call, try to schedule it around your coffee shop visit if possible.

Leave Your Office at Home

Have you ever seen the episode of “What Would You Do?” where the woman brings her entire office to a coffee shop? Unless you’re paying the coffee shop’s monthly rent, do not be this person!

Only bring the essentials including your laptop, headphones, mouse, power cable, a notebook, and a pen. And, don’t take up more than one seat. If single seats are not available and only a full table is open, invite other freelancers or remote workers to sit with you.

Be Friendly to the Baristas

If you’re looking to make a coffee shop your regular “spot,” be polite and respectful to the baristas. Remember their name, start up a conversation, and follow typical coffee shop etiquette. Baristas appreciate loyal customers who also respect the shop and other customers.

Plus, who knows? Maybe you’ll make a new friend along the way!

Be a Great Freelancer and Follow Coffee Shop Etiquette

Doing your work at a coffee shop is an enjoyable and productive experience for freelance writers. But, if you don’t follow proper etiquette, you could end up ruining that experience for other customers and freelancers.

During your next working coffee shop visit, remember to adhere to the freelancer’s guide to coffee shop etiquette.


As freelancers, we have the option of choosing where we would like to work. However, we need to respect everyone, baristas and patrons alike, if we choose to work at a coffee shop. We can't treat it like a home office. While following coffee shop etiquette, we can show respect to others and still have a productive experience at the same time.

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