Using Starbucks As Your Office? Here Are Some Tips

When we started our little company, Katie, Liz and I would sit at my neighborhood Starbucks (s sbux) and co-work. That was four years ago. That experience prompted us to start WebWorkerDaily, our blog that is about the dynamically shifting nature of work in the 21st century. My friend Greg Olsen called it “going bedouin”.

Just as cloud services from Amazon (s amzn), open-source software tools and a plethora of technology platforms have helped accelerate the emergence of the lean start-up (something I chronicled back in 2003), the redefinition of the modern workspace has helped catalyze the post-broadband start-up movement.

Our early co-working experience is now commonplace, as many entrepreneurs and the freelance nation use coffee shops to work. More often than not, that coffee shop happens to be the near ubiquitous Starbucks location. Much of it is thanks to free Wi-Fi. Today, Starbucks launched a plan that offers free Internet access at 11,000 locations. Matt Shapiro at the tech blog Xconomy writes that maybe Starbucks should be known as Startbucks. We agree –- in fact we have been on this bandwagon for a long time and had this free service on our wish list for a very long time.

On the eve of the launch of their service, I thought I would offer few lessons we learned while working at Starbucks for almost five months.

  • Almost always favor a single location. It makes it easier for your contacts to drop in for meetings.
  • Learn the names of most of the baristas and also take time to have a conversation with them. It helps build a human connection.
  • Make the baristas involved in your venture – share your news and make them feel part of your struggle.
  • Make sure you buy coffee or something at least three times a day.
  • Tip generously – up to $10 a day will ensure that folks at the store don’t view you as a freeloader and a pest.
  • Don’t spread out your stuff and take up too much space at the store.
  • Invest in great noise-cancelling headphones (to counter the loud background music).
  • Keep your mobile phones on vibrate and leave the store for conversations.
  • Make sure that the number of people attending a meeting is fewer than four so that you can all circle around a single table.

Is this the most complete list of tips for working from a Starbucks? Perhaps not – but it worked for me. It even got me the much-coveted moniker of customer of the week. If I was to do it again, I know where I would hang my first virtual shingle.

P.S. I would love to hear your tips of working at/from Starbucks.