7 places freelancers can work for free or cheap outside their home

After a few weeks, the magic of working from home as a new freelancer tends to fade. In fact, up to 40% of self-employed people say they’ve felt lonely at some point, and the effect that feeling isolated can have on your health and wellbeing isn’t something to ignore.

While working from home is the cheapest way to start your business, long term, it’s much better to get out the apartment and work around other people. Even if you don’t spend much time talking to them, working in different environments with different people can provide inspiration and stimulate your creativity.

Let’s look at 7 free or cheap places freelancers can work outside the home.

1. Cafes

It’s the cliché image of a freelancer – from New York to London to Tel Aviv – working in a trendy café in a hip neighborhood sipping on a flat white and using the free Wi-Fi. True, you’ll feel obliged to buy more than one coffee if you’re working there all day, and bringing your own lunch is a big no-no. All the same, cafes are easy to find and so long as there are enough power sockets for your laptop, cafes remain a firm favorite for freelancers.

2. Hotel Lobbies

Hotel lobbies are quiet, spacious, the internet is usually free and the seats are comfy. Unlike cafes, you’re unlikely to be surrounded by noisy groups or have to listen to bad music. Hotel lobbies also make awesome locations to meet (and impress) new clients. Just make sure you introduce yourself to the receptionists – and maybe order a coffee or two.

3. University Campuses

If you live in a college town, campus provides an ideal spot for freelancers to work for free. Most college libraries will provide guest passes to visitors who just want to use the space, and there are also normally bars, cafes and other spaces designed for quiet working dotted around campus.

4. Your local public library

Often overlooked by freelancers, local libraries offer an awesome spot for quiet work. They’re always free and they’re usually in the city center – so you can easily nip out for lunch or to meet your customers at their offices.

5. Bookstores

Where better to write that article, design that brochure or build that website than in a local bookstore. More often than not there’s coffee on tap, people are usually quiet, and you can flick through the Dummies guide book section if you’re struggling at all…

6. Co-working space

OK, so this one isn’t free, but it’s a lot cheaper than hiring out a full office. There’s ever more co-working spaces popping up in larger cities around the world, and the competition is driving prices down.

7. Museums

Many museums have some form of learning or study center which are either free to use, or which can be hired at a low cost. The Wi-Fi’s normally good, and what better inspiration is there than being surrounded by the works of the great and the good?

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Len is a tech and business writer who covers small business and startup advice and has appeared in many print and digital publications. He lives in London, UK, where he's also a sub editor on a national newspaper. He loves to travel and has lived in France, Spain, Senegal and Rwanda.

Mindfully Upset

No, the title of this article is not a mistake. It is possible to feel upset – or a range of other emotions – and yet remain mindful, just the same. The working world can sometimes leave us feeling unhappy, defensive, blue, or otherwise in low spirits. We don’t have to automatically discount those emotions, nor do we have to pretend that we don’t feel the way we do.

It is said that our true potential is best demonstrated by what we do when we are required to handle difficult situations or people. When feeling upset, we might do any number of perfectly understandable things. We may lash out…choose to give up…or react with anger.

There is an alternative. It’s possible to be mindful while dealing with unwanted emotions. Here are the steps involved:

1. We can start by acknowledging that we feel bad. We have a tendency not to want to feel unpleasant emotions. We are taught that “big boys and girls don’t cry”, or that we should just “suck it up, buttercup”. While we do have to sometimes carry on in the face of whatever is going on, there’s nothing wrong with recognizing that we are feeling something we don’t want to feel.

2. Next, name that feeling. Is it sadness, confusion, disappointment, frustration…? This might be harder to do than it seems. After years of pushing our emotions aside, as we are taught to do, we may have become somewhat disengaged with them. Take a minute or two to wait this out. Sit with the slight discomfort of actually FEELING something, in order to name it.

3. Once we name it, we can be mindful about our emotion. We can silently repeat a mantra of “I am feeling (blank).” This mantra isn’t a judgment. It’s just a statement of fact. It’s a deliberate way to accept the emotion, without reacting in a rash way, or compounding negative feelings with self-blame.

4. After naming the emotion, we can check in with the body, to see where we can physically sense it, and exactly what it feels like. Does this feeling create a heaviness, a burning sensation, a tension, or something else? We can listen to the interior monologue of what the emotion is telling us.

5. As time permits, we can spend a little while sitting in silence, and waiting to hear what the emotion has to say. This can often yield a surprising bit of information. A quietly mindful approach to emotions and feelings can provide us with a successful tool to receive whatever message needs to be transmitted.
It may also be that, given a few moments for mindful reflection, we can recognize the baseline reasons why we have this feeling. It may be other than what we have initially thought was the cause.

6. Once we’ve finished being mindful of the emotion, we can take several deep breaths. When possible, we can journal anything that arises from this mindfulness exercise.
These steps don’t need to take too long to fit into your workday, and can be immensely helpful in terms of self- awareness, regulating your reactions, and staying present. All of these skills can make us better co-workers, managers, or leaders.

Don’t Be A Freelancer

Here’s my list of the top three most disposable things in an office.

1) Last week’s leftovers in the fridge
2) Loose staples
3) Freelancers

It doesn’t matter if you’re a writer, designer, or programmer. You’re there because you’re cheaper than a full time employee. You’re also easily replaceable by some other freelancer.

The upshot of it is, because you are completely dispensable, it’s easy to get bullied into accepting less than you think you’re worth.

Now, let’s flip it around, because here is my list of three most indispensable things in a business.

1) Today’s lunch
2) Great team
3) Trusted partners/vendors

That’s right. When businesses find the right partners and vendors, it allows them to focus on growing their business, while the vendors and partners play a critical supporting role.

So here comes the million dollar question. What’s the difference between a freelancer and a trusted partner?

What Are You?

A few weeks ago I ran a completely unscientific survey asking people in my Freelance Writers Facebook group if they considered themselves freelancers or B2B service providers. For those who responded, there were follow-up questions about rates and income.

By and large, this is a group that creates marketing content for business clients. They aren’t writing magazine articles for Atlantic Monthly, or proofreading academic papers for individuals.

I expected that people who viewed themselves as B2B service providers would have higher hourly rates and incomes than freelancers. What I didn’t expect was the of the 23 people who responded, only 2 (plus me) viewed themselves as service providers. 92% of my respondents viewed themselves as freelancers.

Clearly, there wasn’t enough data to compare income levels between the two groups, but it was telling that so many freelancers never really stopped to consider the job they do within the business ecosystem.

Simply put, they are a business, even if they are a one-man show. Their clients are businesses. They provide a writing service. By definition, they are business-to-business service providers. But they’ve told themselves they are freelancers.

Becoming a B2B Service Provider

So how do you break out of the freelancer mold, and become the valued service provider your clients can’t live without? Here are a few steps to get you started.

Change Your Mindset – The biggest thing holding you back is probably the idea that you are a freelancer. Until you understand and internalize that you are providing valuable services to your customers, your customers won’t understand it either.

Change Your View of the Project – Stop looking at freelance projects as standalone pieces. Find out where the project stands in your client’s scope of work, and see how you can expand into larger areas of the project. This might mean contributing something outside the scope of your engagement, but if you do it, you’ll find your client starts to look at you differently. And you could find yourself brought into other areas of the project.

Market Yourself Like a Company – This doesn’t mean go beyond your budget, but it does mean stop using generic URLs like www.wordpress.com/I-write-for-you, and start promoting yourself as a business. Invest in a URL, website, and logo. Write quality blogs, and create infographics or brochures (or go to Fiver and hire someone to do it for you) for your marketing efforts.