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The best cafés for freelance workers

Have laptop, will travel? We rounded up Melbourne's best cafés with WiFi for those without an office

By Cat Woods |
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at Stovetop
Photograph: Graham Denholm

Nothing is more lonely than working in the loungeroom with the distant sound of building construction, the hungover neighbour shouting at his dog and the lurking laundry basket reminding you of all the other things you could be distracted by.

Fortunately, living in Melbourne gives you access to some of the best coffee and street scenery in the world. Whether it’s a hidden alleyway café or a vegetarian café the hipsters have loved and lauded for decades, there’s a place for you to set up your laptop and devices for hours of freelance productivity.

These are the trialled and recommended venues to get a consistently kick-ass coffee, delicious and fresh food and be in excellent company. The necessary requisites we have are WiFi and an open attitude to you setting up a portable office.

Keep in mind, cafes are always going to be under the pump on weekends, so setting up for a few hours – especially in smaller venues – won’t endear you to the owners and staff. The best time to set up a work station is during weekdays, and if you’re going to be there for a few hours, be a good guest and consider having a meal or at least a few coffees to pay your way.

Hungry? Fuel up for your workday with some of the best breakfasts in Melbourne. If you're hitting that afternoon slump, stretch those legs and look for the city's best healthy smoothies

Melbourne cafés for freelancers

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Coffee
Photograph: Jason Wong/Creative Commons

Tusk Café

This Chapel Street venue has just undergone a major revamp to accommodate jazz evenings and more dining space. The café is located on a corner where the tables and chairs weave around trees and provide ample outdoor seating options. There is no power point access outside, but you can plug in inside. The Wi-Fi means you can stay hooked into emails and socials, and the eclectic crowd include local fashionistas, arty types, students from nearby TAFE and local workers from salons, stores, design studios and more.

Time Out tip: Find an outdoor seat and soak up the sounds and sights of the Chapel St scenery.

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The Moat Café
Restaurants

The Moat Café

Melbourne

Beneath the glorious State Library, the Moat is located in a historic, homely bluestone building that attracts literary types, local library, arts and council workers, academics and travellers. Choose to sit on one of the outdoor seats where the street traffic of Little Lonsdale provides an interesting distraction when you need it, or sit inside and observe the happenings at the bar. As the Moat has been a partner of Melbourne Writers Festival, State Library of Victoria, the Wheeler Centre (located upstairs) and the Emerging Writers' Festival, it's likely you'll find someone to talk books with if you feel like a break from work. It has dependable Wi-Fi and friendly staff who are amenable to freelancers.

Time Out tip: As the venue is soaked from top to tail in energetic literary wisdom, if you had an inkling to start a novel, here is the place to at least nail the first line.

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Food at Industry Beans
Restaurants

Industry Beans Fitzroy

Fitzroy

This industrial-chic Fitzroy café is located off Rose Street between Nicholson and the ever-buzzing Brunswick Street. With multiple communal tables and an open-plan kitchen and dining area, it’s not the quietest of venues, but the music of other people’s conversations provides nice background noise for thinking, observing and working. As you might guess from the name, Beans is serious about coffee, and staff will happily talk to you about their different blends, but they’re also discreet and will let you have your own space for a few hours of reading, writing or researching.

Time Out tip: Try the Cold Brew, especially in the hotter weather. Don’t bypass the menu.

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Feast of Merit
Restaurants

Feast of Merit

Richmond

This popular Richmond café attracts a diverse crowd – from locals to nearby workers, mums taking their kids for breakfast and personal trainers from the local gyms and Pilates studios to fellow freelancers seeking a spot to check their emails and go over the newspaper between meetings. Set up at the communal table or find a window spot to set up your laptop and then fuel your optimal performance and potentially improve your typing speed with a double espresso. The menu is hard to overlook, so don’t.

Time Out tip: The windows open to the street when weather permits, so grab a pillow and sit facing the street if you can find a spot.

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Auction Rooms Café
Restaurants

Auction Rooms Café

North Melbourne

This popular North Melbourne café is big, open and always buzzing with breakfast, brunch, lunch visitors and freelancers seeking a funky space to position themselves for a few hours. There are power points aplenty, and the coffee and food are always dependably delicious.

Time Out tip: Don’t go purely for coffee; the menu is divine. If you have doubts, check out Auction Rooms' Instagram.

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three-bags-full-01.jpg
Restaurants

Three Bags Full

Abbotsford

This warehouse-turned-café and dining venue is a favourite of local residents and business in Abbotsford. Far enough from Victoria Street to feel a world away, it’s cosy despite being such a big indoor space. There are a few rooms to choose from, so if one is particularly crowded, take a wander to find your spot. The coffee is always brilliant and the wait staff go above and beyond to look after you. Dependable Wi-Fi and communal tables so you don’t feel like a hermit add to the portable office feel, though there are tables to the side where you can set up solo if you feel so inclined.

Time Out tip: The white chocolate, cranberry and apple muffins are manna from heaven. Don’t think twice.

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Small Block
Restaurants

Small Block

Brunswick East

Brunswick has no shortage of hipster-friendly haunts, and Small Block has consistently won over residents and interlopers from around Melbourne. Though it is, indeed, small, it is delightfully welcoming and embraces freelancers arriving for coffee, food and a few hours of nailing their workload.

Time Out tip: Be prepared to wait for a seat and definitely keep your visit to non-peak hours if you intend to do a few hours of work.

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Stovetop001.jpg
Restaurants

Stovetop

Carlton

This Melbourne Uni campus café is a blessing for bleary-eyed students feeling the brunt of a full day of lectures. With a power outlet under each table and free Wi-Fi, freelancers are invited to power through their work while chowing down a late brekky. 

The eponymous pots for two or four are served black with delicate little china cups. You get the length and earthiness of a filter brew but with the oily sweetness of espresso from the forced extraction. It'll give you the extra oomph you need to power through those hours of work.

Time Out tip: If it's hot, an iced cold drip could be just the ticket to caffeinated happiness.

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Library
Photograph: Eliabe Costa/Creative Commons

North Fitzroy Library

Yes, yes, this one isn't a café, but it's an ideal haunt for freelancers.

Once the little sister to bigger Yarra Libraries, North Fitzroy Library has expanded massively since the recent renovation and contains high ceilinged, light-filled space with ample seating and desk space for working. The parking isn’t ideal for working for hours, with the majority of street parking in the surrounding area two hours maximum. But the tram stops directly outside on St Georges Road. If you need to plug in, there’s power point access and no need for a library membership to access the Wi-Fi, though you might need to ask for a temporary password.

There are two small study rooms for a maximum of four people – both with whiteboards, power points and USB charging. These are on level one and free to use, so first in, best dressed. There are spaces where people can hold meetings and chat within the library, too.

Time Out tip: Take public transport unless you want to be moving your car a whole lot. Nab a study room straight away if that’s what you came for – there’s no way to book them.

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