As a freelance writer I work from home most of the time. But let’s be honest. Working from one place – let alone one room – day after day can get a little tiring. Not only that but working in the same environment all the time cramps my creativity. So I get around and work from all over. In my search for free Wi-Fi, since an internet connection is crucial to my job, I’ve found some awesome places I return to over and over again. Sure you may have to fork out $4 for a cup of Joe or buy a small food item to be polite, but it’s still far less expensive than paying for mobile internet connections or air cards.
Most of the time this ends up being the Starbucks by my house, but I’ve been known to Starbucks-hop throughout the day. Not because I have to, but because I have the attention span of a squirrel and changing locations every few hours helps me from going nuts. No pun intended. Starbucks has a great and fairly reliable Wi-Fi connection. Is it secure? Let’s put it this way. I do my writing on it. I limit my social media. And I’d never bank on it. But that’s just a security measure you should take any time you work on an unsecured network.
The Starbucks internet connection is usually noted as “AT&T Wi-Fi” or something similar with AT&T in it. You click connect, and then you simply click the option that says something like “I don’t have a code, open a web browser.” You get a nice message from Starbucks subtly saying you should probably buy at least a cup of coffee if you’re going to benefit from their free Wi-Fi, but for the most part you’re in.
Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble also has free Wi-Fi. (Also, if you have a Nook you can read virtually any book for free using their Wi-Fi in-store.) Now, if your location was as colossally stupid as my closest location was they removed the outlets from their cafe area because they didn’t want people to stay so long on their computers. Whoever their marketing department is conducted of, someone needs to get fired. I used to work there and buy 2-4 cups of coffee while I was working, and now I buy one to grab a book or magazine and leave. My guess is many people did this. However, most Barnes & Nobles I know of still have their outlets and welcome human beings who have laptops, work to do, and money to spend on one or two cups of coffee.
Panera Bread is another great location to pick up Wi-Fi at. I love the fact that the environment is always so great inside. It fuels creativity, and I actually like to work with people around me sometimes. The only catch with Panera is that their Wi-Fi is limited to two hours. But let’s face it. There’s nothing stopping someone from logging off after two hours and reconnecting. As is customary, you should probably grab something to eat or drink. I usually get a mocha. If I’m staying for a long time, I grab a mocha and half a sandwich or a bowl of soup. That way if I eat slow enough I can stay longer without looking rude. Either way it’s a delicious and comfortable place to work. And most places have a couple of areas where there are outlets. Hint: the cafe mocha is amazing.
Yeah, I was surprised, too. But Denny’s actually offers free Wi-Fi to those eating there. Since they have a pretty cheap $2-$4-$6-$8 menu (and excellent coffee) you can cheaply use Wi-Fi there for hours. I try to be considerate and not take up a booth during peak hours, though. I know these considerations are mainly me and not a standard rule, but it’s good to be considerate of others. Usually the favor is returned somewhere down the line.
I’m not a huge fan of McDonalds’ food, but their cafe is pretty awesome. Sometimes it’s not the cleanest place to do work, so if you’re dealing with a lot of paperwork you don’t want to get stains all over I might opt to work at one of the other locations. But it’s a really fun place to kick back and dig into your studies or your writing and research.
McDonald’s is a pretty causal environment. Sometimes when I pull out my laptop at Panera I get some odd looks from customers who are likely thinking to themselves that I should take my work to Starbucks. But, at least at my location, the staff has never been anything but friendly to me. Speaking of Starbucks, that coffee shop is pretty much set up for people to work on laptops. It’s the quintessential place to go if you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur, or student, so you’re more likely going to be out of the loop there if you’re not on some type of electronic device. Denny’s is pretty casual, but sometimes if you go during peak hours you get some glares. That’s why I advise going off-peak. Usually I go very early or very late, seeing as they’re open 24-hours. If you’re a night owl, Denny’s is your gig. The workers there are usually happy for your company, and it might just be me but I think the coffee is even better there after 9 at night. McDonald’s is the place to go if you want to get some fun character profiles for a novel, or you’re in your grungy clothes and incognito and just want to bang through some data entry or typing. It gets a little chaotic, though, for my taste, so I only go there when I’m in a really kick back mood. Or I have a desperate craving for a McCafe item.