With so many businesses offering free wifi in their establishments, more and more freelancers are enjoying the freedom and ease of mobile offices. Unfortunately, some are abusing this privilege and shedding a not so flattering light on freelancers. Don’t be one of “those” people!
Here is my list of ten rules of mobile office etiquette. It will help you be a more professional, better received freelancer and far less likely to get asked to leave. Following these rules will help you stay in the good graces of those powers that keep you supplied in free wifi and a comfy place to work.
- Spend some money – Yes, they have free wifi and no, they don’t actually post that you must purchase something from them, but, come on, you know that the wifi is for their customers – their paying customers. Even if they don’t require it, you know it is the right thing to do. Before you sit down with your laptop belly up to the counter and purchase a coffee, tea, hot chocolate, drink, and maybe a little snack. Hey, freelancing is hard work, you need to keep up your strength!
- Be friendly – A little courtesy never hurt anyone. Be friendly, smile, greet the employees. This is especially true if you are a regular. Believe me, they notice you. After a few times they will probably even know the vehicle you drive. Don’t fool yourself, you can’t slide in undetected then slink back out. So just be nice, chat a little. They are working too so you aren’t likely to get sucked into a lengthy conversation, but a little friendly courtesy goes a long way.
- Be mindful of busy times – Stay observant to what is going on around you and be aware when the busy times roll around. This is more relevant for smaller establishments with limited seating or places that get very busy. If you see booths and tables filling up with paying customers and you’ve been nursing the same cup of coffee for four hours it is either time to lay some money on the table or take a break until the rush is over. You don’t have a right to the seat just because you have been sitting there – that paying customer does.
- Be respectful of the establishment – Keep the noise down, don’t leave the restroom a mess, don’t park in the spots by the door, you know, all those little courtesy rules that your mom taught you. When you walk in that establishment that may be your office, but it is not your house. Don’t put your feet on the furniture (unless it is obviously OK). Don’t be destructive, don’t curse (especially loudly), don’t be anything but the professional that you are. You are representing you and you never know when your next client will sit at the table next to you. Keep your professional face on the entire time you are out in public, especially in your mobile office.
- Offer a freebie – If the company is small, they may appreciate your services. Offer them a freebie, especially if you are a regular. Talk to the manager or owner, thank them for providing such a beautiful, comfortable, you get the point, place and thank them for the free wifi (this is also a great time to compliment them on their awesome coffee, food, or whatever). Then offer them a little something like a blog post, photos for their walls, whatever you do offer them something. They may take you up on it and the may not. Whatever the case, they are going to remember that you extended the offer. And who knows, you do the freebie and they become loyal customers – it can happen!
- Pick up after yourself – Do not, I repeat, Do Not leave your trash lying around when you leave! Your mother doesn’t work there, pick up after yourself. If you eat or drink, toss your trash in the garbage can before you leave. If you spill something, clean it up. You are not a normal customer who comes in, makes a purchase, sits down to consume it then leaves. If you are using this place as a mobile office then you are there for an extended period of time. The fastest way to make yourself unwelcome is to leave your areas a pig sty with trash lying around. It takes just a moment to pick up after yourself.
- Don’t overstay your welcome – There is extended stay and then there is homesteading. If you stay and work a few hours, make a purchase or two and follow the other rules then there probably won’t be a problem. However, when you basically set up camp, spread your stuff all around and take up more space than is polite then stay and stay and stay, you become more of a nuisance and not a professional. Leaving for a while then returning is better than just camping out for hours on end.
- Silence your phone – You don’t need your phone turned on the loudest ringer (especially if it is some weird ringtone or obnoxious music or something). Set your phone to vibrate and, while you are at it, turn off all the sounds for social media notifications, messages, even when you press the buttons. You want to blend in, not stand out and you definitely do not want to disturb the establishment’s paying customers. Show some courtesy and silence it all.
- Take your calls outside – And while we are on the subject of phones, when you get a call, step outside or somewhere private. No one wants to hear your conversations and, no, they don’t make you look cool or important, just unprofessional. And even when you go outside, keep your voice at a normal tone. You don’t need to talk loud and, I don’t care what business you are in, cursing is unprofessional. It just makes you look common and low class. So if you feel the urge to curse on the phone or anywhere else that potential clients may be, keep it professional.
- Introduce friends to the business – This is a two-fold rule. If a client meets you at the business purchase something for them, a drink, coffee, something. That way, you are introducing them to the establishment and giving that business a potential new customer. Also, when you aren’t working bring your friends in. Introduce them to the business. If it is good enough for you to spend your time working there it is good enough to bring a friend to and buy them a cup of coffee.
So, what do you think of my rules? Do you have any additions you’d like to add? Anyone from the business aspect of this want to chime in? I am breathless with anticipation.