The Writer’s Guide to Coffee Shop Etiquette

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The Writer’s Guide to Coffee Shop Etiquette

For the freelance writer who is tired of working by themselves at home, coffee shops are a lifesaver. You get to enjoy human interaction (even if it’s brief), a new environment, and delicious drinks at the ready.

While there are no set rules for working at a coffee shop, there is some basic etiquette to follow that makes life easier for everyone - both the baristas and the other customers around you. Here’s a quick guide on coffee shop etiquette for you to follow.

Do buy a drink every two hours. If you’re planning on spending more than a couple of hours working in one spot, plan on getting multiple drinks. A coffee shop is a great spot for you to work, but it’s also a business too. Thank the owners for giving you an office away from home by adding to their profits.

Don’t take up more space than you need. I know it’s tempting to take a table for four with lots of space to spread out your laptop and notebooks, but don’t be that guy. Settle in at one of the smaller tables and leave larger tables for groups.

Do keep your phone and computer on silent. No one wants to hear an alert every time you get a message so double-check that your phone is on silent and your laptop volume is muted.

Don’t make long phone calls. A quick and quiet phone call out of the blue is usually okay, but don’t schedule long phone calls with your clients or friends while you’re writing at a coffee shop. Save the calls for later and focus on writing.

Do use headphones. Almost every writer I know has a go-to playlist for writing sessions - just use your headphones. Be sure to check that your music isn’t so loud that it’s bleeding out the headphones either.

Don’t hog the WiFi. Free WiFi is always nice, but remember that many people are trying to use it which means there’s limited bandwidth. Avoid larger downloads so that you’re not slowing down the internet for everyone else.

Do offer to share your table. If you notice that the coffee shop is filling up and you see someone else come in who is obviously getting ready for a work session like you, offer to share your table. You might even make a new friend!

Don’t ask the staff to watch your stuff. While they’ll probably say yes if you do ask, they already have a lot of work to do making drinks for customers. My trick is to leave the basics on the table and bring only my most valuable stuff (purse, laptop, and phone) with me.

Do clean up when you leave. Before you go, tidy up the space you were using. Return any dishes, throw out your garbage, and wipe the table with a napkin if necessary. Leave it ready for the next customers coming in.

Don’t forget to tip the staff. Whether you tip through the debit machine or leave cash in the tip jar, don’t forget to show your appreciation to the staff. A couple of extra dollars goes a long way!

If you love working at coffee shops for a change of scenery, then make sure you’re following basic coffee shop etiquette. The last thing you want to do is wear out your welcome at your favourite coffee shop. Essentially, be a respectful human being so you can keep enjoying coffee shops while letting other people enjoy them too.

Robyn Petrik is a freelance writer from Vancouver, Canada, and specializes in writing blog posts and social media content for creative small businesses. Along with writing, she also spends time painting on her iPad, reading, hiking, and eating too much peanut butter. You can learn more about Robyn at and connect with her on Twitter.

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