The Coffee Shop Freelance Fraternity

When I tell people I’m freelance and work from home, I usually get one of a few  reactions I’ve become all too familiar with:

  1. Seemingly friendly but with a clear undercurrent of ‘you don’t really work, do you? You watch TV all day in your pants.’
  2. Barely disguised jealousy – usually from someone who doesn’t like their own job.
  3. Understanding, and even a little touch of sympathy, from fellow (or former) freelancers

If you hadn’t guessed already, 3 is the best, because though winding up 1 and 2 a bit can be fun, those wonderful souls of 3 get that it’s not all a glorious sea of productivity from the comfort of your own sofa. Freelancing means control and freedom, but it also means pushing yourself harder than no one else ever would. It means late nights, uncertainty, pressure, and a lot of time alone since your only co-worker is your cat… and mine’s not so hot on the water cooler chat. Breaking up the routine of climbing out of bed, throwing on some sweatpants and not really bothering with much more as long as the work gets done is, for me, vital to keep my writing from becoming stagnant, and to keep me from forgetting why I do this – and the easiest way is to put some real clothes on, get out of the house, and go work at a coffee shop.

Not very long ago I would have been almost able to hear the eyes rolling if I whacked out my laptop in the middle of a coffee shop and started to work, the yummy mummies, coffee break bankers and staff alike seemingly annoyed by my lack of office and the sound of my clearly obscenely loud typing. But things have changed. The coffee shops of Leeds have begun to welcome freelancers with open arms, providing not just the essential jolt of craft caffeine, but also Wi-Fi, sockets, and seating comfortable enough to set up shop for a while. It’s a freelancer’s paradise! Just don’t turn up in your writing sweatpants.

La Bottega Milanese – Bond Court

Photography by La Bottega Milanese

My go-to spot, with my favourite table (no I’m not telling you which one, you might nick it and then where would I be). Great Wi-Fi throughout, and plenty of sockets around the edge of the room. The coffee is smooth, rich and feels fancy without being too expensive to buy that second ‘I’m on deadline’ cup. It’s quiet in the day, and nice and bright. Particularly good in summer when I’ll grab a table outside, swap my laptop for a notebook (though the Wi-Fi does stretch if you’re analogue averse) and do my best Italian-come-tortured-author impression.


Photography by Jazz Jennings

200° is an absolute Tardis of a coffee shop, stretching back into three distinct spaces that I like to think suit three different work situations: the front, for when you’re feeling sprightly and the words are flowing; the very back, for when you need to crawl into a cave and hide until you’ve agonisingly pulled the words onto the page; and my personal favourite, the tall seating opposite the counter in the middle. This is my writer’s purgatory, and I exile myself here when I’m more easily distracted than Dug in Up and need to be facing a wall to prevent my eyes and/or mind wandering off. This wall also happens to be excellently socket-equipped. Excellent quality beans, a gentle hum of low-level conversation and fellow freelancers clacking away, many a nasty writer’s block has been beaten here, and if all else fails they also have a barista school…

North Star Coffee Shop & General Store

Photography by North Star

Leeds’ OG coffee roasters, North Star beans are, in this writer’s (fairly) humble opinion, unparalleled. I use them in my espresso machine at home, I give them as gifts, and when I can face the walk all the way down to Leeds Dock I happily ensconce myself in their beautiful new coffee shop (opened July ’17) and sip straight from the source – you can literally see the roastery through a glass wall. The snacks created by Noisette are also ridiculously good. This is such a happy space, it exudes the vibrancy and passion of the staff and I can’t help but smile as I write, even if what I’m writing is utter bollocks.

Laynes Espresso

Photography by Tom Joy

Laynes always feels to me like Bottega’s English cousin, the same kind of hipster-come-business vibe and airy space, but with less arm waving. A stalwart of the scene and the Leeds Twitterati’s go-to brunch spot it can be a struggle to get a seat. This is the best place to work if you feel the need for some proper hustle and bustle. The food menu is an extensive and welcome distraction, so much so I try not to go when I’m too hungry or I’ll never get anything done.

Bonus – Northern Monk Refectory

Photography by Mark Newton

It’s Friday – whooooo! So why drink coffee when you can drink beer?! I’m a bit of a Northern Monk obsessive, so working in their unbelievably beautiful refectory just as the sunset’s filtering through its oversized windows is honestly magical, and I find adds a certain extra sparkle to my work. I just couldn’t leave them off my list, and they do serve coffee…..

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