How to Utilize Free Office Space

You’re a freelancer so being cheap comes natural. It’s the only way you know how.

Work from home?

’Isn’t that nice’ they all say. Sometimes, but not when your efficiency shares a wall with a single parent and four kids. Mom can’t help the noise and there are ways to muffle it, but there’s no denying. You need an office.

Now if you’re like me, you pinch costs at every turn. Maybe it’s a compulsion. Go ahead and call it a problem. You can’t help but feel gouged after your first call to a leasing agent regarding office space.

The obvious question then hits you. All you really need is your laptop, electricity and a Wi-Fi signal. Those things are practically free now. Everywhere.

Now, understanding this isn’t a revolutionary idea, but somehow the thought of free office space just entered my brain about 12 months ago.

Here are four places I find free office space (None of this is a joke and yes I’m a little different).

Fast Food Parking Lots

Having spent many years commuting ungodly distances to work, I value the short drive to work. Highly. On a typical Monday I’ll cruise the half click up the road to a McDonalds. Not wanting to run a ’Super Size Me’ experiment on myself, most days I won’t even eat.

If you park in the SW corner of the lot that place emits one-hell-of-a Wi-Fi signal. Make sure your PC is equipped with a high gain Wi-Fi antenna (12 dBi and above) so you’ll grab those invisible radio waves with impunity.

It’s a good spot to start the day, inside or out fast food restaurants can be used as office space.

Don’t Sleep In/On The Library

The library!

Why isn’t this great public resource used more? Because the library isn’t very fun, that’s why. Libraries work, although sometimes the inconsistent hours don’t jive with a freelance schedule. It’s a great place to go for silence even if you felt the library was better lost to your college days.

Some libraries place time restrictions on public computer usage. Most have unlimited free Wi-Fi available to those with a library card. Watch those fines though, a built up balance and they’ll ban your access.

Bonus tip: Always scout available electrical outlets before settling on your free office space. Nothing cripples an operation like the dead laptop battery. That’s why I always settle near an outlet.

Public Transit

Working on the bus isn’t exactly free, but come on, we’re splitting hairs. I know, I know, public transit is dirty, inconvenient and uncomfortable. Hear me out though. In many places, busses are well equipped with outlets near every seat and free Wi-Fi. Sure the signal is spotty, but it only costs a few quarters.

Some are lucky enough to get a jump on the day from their smart phone or laptop instead of battling traffic.

I live in the Midwest right along I-80 which stretches from coast to coast. In my current line of work I travel a lot, on an extreme budget. So in order to be profitable I often am tasked with finding the cheapest way from point A to point B.

Enter the Greyhound or Megabus. I’m able to file copy on the road thanks to the improvements made to the bus system. The trips are long and soul draining, but with a little discipline you can make the Greyhound your mobile roaming office. Not free, but cheap.

The Pub

The Wall Street Journal ran a delightful piece last month about how the bar has replaced the cafe as freelancing office space. Most bars in 2014 have televisions, food, drink, friendly staff and most importantly, Wi-Fi signals.

Take a two hour lunch tomorrow and work from the pub while sampling a lunch special. It has everything you need as a freelancer.

Keep it professional and understand your surroundings of course. Easy on the boozing, unless you cater to people in the beer and liquor industry. The local tavern can be used in sales with the appropriate client. Nothing loosens buyer beware like a cocktail at happy hour.

It’s about relationships people! The same old networking skills regurgitated by the blogosphere apply when seeking free office space. You must befriend he who controls the space. Be careful though not to overstep your bounds. Keep relationships professional with regulars and staff as if in a ’real’ office environment.

Insider secret: The owner of my particular free office space doesn’t even charge my tab anymore, as long as I write 100 word online reviews about how great the place is for him every time I rent a few hours.

Operating out of shady corner parking lots and the lounge isn’t the classiest thing in the world. There are many benefits in your line of work to having a professional office with your name on the door. In my line of work, these places are where I get things done and they hardly cost anything.

Just be sure to pack your headphones.


Image Credit: lifehack