The working landscape is changing. With over 1.4million people in the UK now forgoing the typical office environment for a life of freelancing or starting a new business, lockdowns during the Covid pandemic has give us all a severe sense of cabin fever when working from home.
According to a survey conducted by Moneysupermarket.com, Manchester tops the list for the best cities to set-up on your own.
From co-working memberships to coffee shops and hotel lounges, it’s important to find a few freelancer-friendly spots in town for you and your laptop.
They need to have good Wi-Fi, plenty of plug points, affordable drinks and seating that doesn’t prioritise style over comfort. Here are just a few places that meet those needs…
The Alan is perfectly located – just off St Peter’s Square on Princess Street – a short walk to both Piccadilly and Victoria stations. This stylish Manchester hotel lounge is a quiet space to co-work and they offer a generous day pass from Monday to Friday for £20 per guest which includes unlimited tea and coffee (10am to 4pm), lunch served from midday, super-fast Wi-Fi along with curated playlists to keep you energised.
The Pen and Pencil
Perched at the corner of Hilton and Tariff Street, this place takes its name from the New York bar that was populated with journalists and ad men during the Mad Men era. No surprise then that they welcome burgeoning creatives here. There are comfy, leather-like benches at long tables if you like your feet to touch the ground, and window seats for those who prefer their own space. There are also plenty of plug points and food is served all day if you get peckish – or as they put it, ‘need to get your creative juices going’.
Although this is a popular place for after-work drinks, weekend get-togethers and live music, during the day this bar, which runs along Thomas Street, makes a great spot to work. It’s bright and airy and the location, right in the heart of the Northern Quarter, is hard to beat. Grab a seat along the green banquette that lines the window, and you’ll find ample places to plug in by your feet and an opportunity to people watch when you need a break from the screen.
The Foundation Coffee House
Early risers who like to get a head start on the day will love this minimalist cafe on Lever Street as the doors open at 7.30am when you can tuck into toast, crumpets and pastries from £1.50. Due to its size, you’ll never have a problem finding a seat but freelancers and co-workers are a key audience for the Foundation team, and they’ve made a dedicated effort to create a space where people can feel comfortable and inspired. It’s paid-off as they’ve just opened a second place on Whitworth Street.
John Rylands Library
If you want somewhere you don’t need to splash out on caffeine every couple of hours or require an abbey-like silence in order to really knuckle down to some work, then head for John Rylands Library on Deansgate. You certainly won’t be side-tracked by noise in the grand Historic Reading Room, but there’s a good chance the stunning neo-gothic architecture could prove a distraction, as could thoughts you’re having your very own Harry Potter moment. Either way, you’d be hard pushed not to feel inspired.
Ezra & Gil
It’s no secret this café is already a firm favourite with the freelancing crowd. In fact, it’s so popular, hopeful customers often find themselves standing in the doorway, hopelessly scouring the space for a seat before dejectedly retreating onto Hilton Street. In the words of one of the employees, they’re now trying to “police it” by asking solo customers to take one of the window seats during busier hours and recommend avoiding the lunch rush. If you are lucky enough to get a pew, you’ll find great drinks, tasty snacks and a wonderfully bustling atmosphere.
Since opening in 2015, this multi-million pound arts centre at First Street has really proven its worth. There are screenings, theatre productions, exhibitions and a book shop, so just the place to head to if you’re looking for inspiration along with a change of scenery. The ground floor bar and first floor cafe both provide a work space that’s bathed in natural daylight thanks to the floor to ceiling windows and when you’re done working, you can enjoy a wander around to see what’s on.
Whether you want to chill, read a book or crank open the laptop, this café and self-proclaimed ‘creative space’ on Tariff Street welcomes all. Although it’s Nordic-inspired, this is far from sterile. From the communal tables and softly-lit décor to the welcoming, smiley staff, there’s a warmth that permeates as the caffeine peculates. And there’s plenty of that happening as they love their coffee here.