As a freelancer I’m always ‘hotspotting’. On a daily basis I’ll go searching for wifi networks and as a creature of habit, will often re-visit my favourite tech friendly cafes, parks, libraries or pubs. It’s a daily reminder of modern survival. I need my next fix, wherever that may be, and it needs to be free and publicly available.
While the ‘coffice’ has been around for sometime now and we’re also seeing the rise of shared coworking spaces, what will be the next big thing for freelancers? In one way you could be safe and say working from home, but no matter what your profession, people need people and a creative space to share and learn. Not to mention, that the working from home thing is great and while on the rise doesn’t work too well for most. So perhaps it’s not a focus on freelancers that will be the trend, but rather the way in which places change, evolve and react to technology that will be the next big thing?
In some ways this is already happening based on the level of physical and digital integration a place has emphasised. Let’s take the café for example. I’ve divided it into three models based on how well it adopts digital infrastructure; the espresso, the cappuccino or the flat white.
The espresso: these places are the pioneers, ahead of the rest, connected online and in the ‘real’ world, they find a perfect balance between the needs of customers and delivering quality service, food and interaction. As you would expect from these places, the barrista knows your name, your coffee order and is interesting in what you’re doing on weekend. They also have a twitter account, posting new coffee blends daily, offering free wifi and even the possibility to check out the menu on Instagram before you arrive. These places take technology in their stride and will continue to offer a unique local experience. They attract freelancers, travellers and tech savvy patrons but may annoy customers wanting a break from the office or not needing internet access.
The cappuccino: these places recognise the need to incorporate technology into their offer or brand, but are a little messy in how they deliver it. At times they offer free wifi but aren’t signed up to any social platforms, and at other times they have one or more social media accounts but don’t offer publicly available wifi. It’s an interesting space given the use of social media has been around for a while now and in terms of marketing, the untapped potential of word of mouth, only increased online, is one of the most successful tools in attracting more business or brand awareness. Depending on their services, these places can attract freelancers or customers responding to a promotion through social media.
The flat white: these places reject the use of technology completely but remain true to the original definition of Third Place. They provide a space for human interaction and promote it as such. The return to a local way of life and the hipster trend world wide has re-einforced such places. A sign on the door might even alert you to the rules of the house that discourages the use of technology and promotes pre smart phone etiquette. These places are great for work meetings but not necessarily people craving wifi and a place to tweet, pin, post, update or tag.
While all three models have their benefits, I, and many people like me, need our espresso, and definitely require it for work purposes. But the experience of finding wifi friendly places can be harder than expected especially when visiting a new place or city. In response to this, there are more and more apps connecting people to hotspots, augmented realities for tech savvy businesses and new business models emerging.
Over the coming years, the espresso model will become second nature and more obvious in the public realm. What are your thoughts? Where are the best tech friendly places in your city?