These days, the concept of the traditional office-based nine-to-five model is continuously being turned on its head, with the flexibility of the freelancer beginning to reign supreme.
But while the idea of slouching on your sofa to crack on with an afternoon of work may seem like bliss, in reality it’s never as good as it sounds.
Luckily, Manchester’s got an abundance of alternatives, with loads of great coffee shops, bars, co-working spaces and libraries right on your doorstep.
Foundation Coffee House
Foundation is a stunning design-led space kitted out by the clever folk of No Chintz. As a result, it’s got a great creative, inspiring vibe, along with a row of window seats that’ll let you look down at the bustling scenes of Lever Street below when your brain needs a breather. The coffee’s good – the sarnies less so – and it’s got such impressive square footage (3,500 sq ft) that you’ll rarely find yourself without a seat.
Ezra and Gil
A beautiful large space in the heart of the Northern Quarter, Ezra and Gil is the freelancing dream, with stripped back décor, seriously good coffee, delicious (though not cheap) food and a mix of small tables, large benches and stools in the window. That said, the people of Manchester have well and truly taken to this joint, meaning that it’s often quite busy… and you’ll often find yourself wandering in from Hilton Street, scouting your way through the room with unconvincing nonchalance, before being rejected out onto Newton Street without even a sniff of a spare seat.
North Tea Power
North Tea Power has always been a beacon of the freelancing world, combining some of the city’s best coffee with a relaxed, stripped-back aesthetic and a gentle atmosphere, making it perfect for knuckling down in comfort. As it’s one of the key players, though, you’ll have to be prepared to battle a small army of glowing Macbooks if you want a seat on the coveted big table, though you’ll usually find a small corner somewhere. You can grab a beer, too, for when you need to properly unwind and help coax those creative juices out.
Pot Kettle Black
Set in the beautiful Barton Arcade, Pot Kettle Black single-handedly proves that Deansgate doesn’t have to be so, er, Deansgate all the time. Striding out above the flashy bars and chain restaurants, this independent coffee shop is packed with charm – from its signature red mugs and long wooden benches to the meticulous latte art that comes with your coffee.
Sebastian Matthes / MANOX
Common’s refit earlier this year may have divided opinion, but there’s no denying that its sleek, spacious and airy reincarnation has made it a haven for freelancers – especially with its fancy new coffee machine. Better still, with those new huge fold-out windows, in the summer you’ll even be able to park yourself in one of several indoor-meets-outdoor spots that benefit from direct sunlight, while having enough coverage to avoid glare on your laptop screen. Sockets may be few and far between but as a tip off, there’s one by the seats next to the kitchen – just as long as you’re strong enough to have the cake selection in your immediate field of vision...
Originally constructed back in the 1930s, the grade II-listed Manchester Central Library closed in 2010 for a four-year renovation project, eventually reopening to unsurprising fanfare as Mancuions welcomed back not only an iconic building, but also a great space for the studious. The building has nooks and crannies to work in throughout, but if you’re in need of getting down to some serious stuff, make a beeline for the grand 300-seat Reading Room on the first floor, which functions as the library’s slightly more formal study and working area.
Takk is a Nordic-inspired artisan coffee shop and creative space on Tariff Street that functions as ‘a welcoming space to work, meet, talk and dream up some big ideas.’ It’s not huge, but the long, benched seating along the wall opposite the counter usually means you can find a pew, and with a row of fitting old school desks, regular art exhibitions and a small library packed mostly with art and design publications, it’s certainly a place to feel inspired. Great coffee, too.
Ziferblat is Manchester’s pay-per-minute café on Edge Street, where you can take them up on a monthly billing system if you want to use it as a co-working space – simply check in and out as you please (with a day cap of £18), before being billed at the end of the month. With a printer, lockers, community events, 100mb WiFi, meeting rooms, and plug sockets galore, you’ll also get to enjoy unlimited free tea, coffee, fruit, cakes and biscuits – and though these may not resemble anything near the artisanal stuff you’ll get elsewhere in the Northern Quarter, just remember that if you got a couple of brews and some snacks anywhere else, it’d easily cost you upwards of a tenner.
The Home of Honest Coffee
Ticking the boxes of ‘Kitchen/Creative Space/Co-Working’, at the heart of Salford’s Kickstarter-funded The Home of Honest Coffee is a dedication to providing a free space for artists and projects, nurturing the freelancing and co-working climate with powerful free WiFi, facilities for filmmakers, a meeting room and more. The coffee, supplied by Chorlton-based Passion Fruit Coffee Roastery, is also echelons above that instant stuff you’ll find lurking in the cupboard at home, and because all of the money generated goes back into creative projects for the community, it’s an undisputed winner all round.
Another box ticker as a bar, canteen, gig venue and night club, Soup Kitchen is also a great shout for an afternoon of knuckling down with some work. An abundance of plug sockets will keep your laptop in power, while great beers on tap will also keep you juiced up, and you can either cosy up next to the general public on the communal benches or take a pew at one of the stools in the window. The menu of soups, sandwiches, jacket potatoes and Caribbean-inspired mains such as goat curry and jerk chicken splits will also keep hunger at bay – no excuses.
See more of Manchester's best cafés with Time Out.