Freelancers face a conundrum. The seemingly ideal freedom to work from anywhere, meet new people, drink copious lattes and perhaps even go surfing between fulfilling client briefs or set up remotely by a pool in Bali is illusive for the majority of us who a) don’t even like lattes that much, nor are they affordable on a freelancer budget, and b) can’t stand on a surfboard or find a power point anywhere near a beach.
Equally though, working from home can be lonely and filled with dangerous distractions like the kitchen, the laundry basket, the dog begging for a walk, other people and the television.
Coworking spaces are appealing for their ability to provide all the necessary facilities – desk, free coffee, yoga, interesting fellow co-workers and a variety of locations. The big, obvious downside is their expensive fees for hourly, daily, weekly or annual use.
For many freelancers, it’s just not feasible to spend the majority of their (usually not entirely predictable) income on renting space.
Fortunately, there are places in Melbourne’s CBD and surrounds that offer easily accessible venues with power-point access, desks, ability to converse and hold casual meetings, WiFi and sometimes coffee and food too. For free.
One such place is the concourse between Melbourne Central and Emporium. It offers power points and WiFi but be warned, it gets busy with backpackers, students and shoppers taking time to update their social networks with their recent purchases. If you want to get up and distract yourself or treat yourself to coffee or take a walk, you’ll be right in the heart of Melbourne’s shopping and food district.
It’s also minutes to Melbourne Central Station downstairs so wherever you’re travelling to and from, it’s convenient.
Another great place is the City Library. In certain areas it allows conversation and food, and if you want quiet space where you can focus on reading and research, there’s plenty of space for that too. Located in the chic, arty Flinders Lane, there are cafes nearby to duck out and get a coffee if you need a breather from emails. Try Hell’s Kitchen upstairs on Centre Place where you have a window seat to watch the passing foot traffic.
Journal Cafe on Flinders Lane (on the floor above the ground-level cafeteria) is attached to the library. There’s public access to the library WiFi, power-point access and ready access to coffee and food.
The library is an easy walk from Flinders Street Station, or any of the tram routes down Flinders, Elizabeth and Swanston streets.
Docklands Library (with on-site café) has plenty of room and power points, and both libraries hold regular events, such as author talks and workshops. Check the website for special events and opening hours. Meeting rooms can be booked if you need to organise a Skype session or you have a group to accommodate.
The State Library is also full of freelancer-friendly spots to work. While it’s a no-speaking zone under the dome, anywhere outside this area is open for chatting and coworking. There’s an on-site café so coffee and food are mere minutes away whenever you desire it.
Melbourne CBD, for all its bizarre hook-turns and one-way lanes, is alive with WiFi hotspots and there is free WiFi access provided via the Victorian free public WiFi network. Hotspots in the city include Federation Square and the National Gallery of Victoria. The same WiFi network is provided at Melbourne Airport. All the CBD train stations have access to the WiFi network so the one positive aspect of a late train is an extra few minutes on email to finish that quote, invoice, design brief or accept a new contract.