Catering to Your Niche Customers: Programmers

Freelancers need coffee shops and coffee shops need freelancers. Today, I want to specifically look at how you can attract and accommodate that unique species of freelancer: the programmer.

Computer programmers literally live their lives on computers. They’re the people that are responsible for me being able to type this blog into a Google Doc and also for my boss to then transfer it onto his perfectly curated blog; which allows you access to content and the ability to read it at your leisure! Programmers tell computers what to do, how to do it, and when (like the aforementioned boss with me).

As freelancers, they generally do not have a permanent workspace because they generally work remotely, especially when they’re starting out or literally freelancing: doing various projects for various clients independent of one specific company/boss (just like me and the four other bosses I have in addition to the again aforementioned one–he’s the best though, scout’s honor).

This means that they either work from home or they work from makeshift, spontaneous and convenient spaces outside of their homes, most often, the coffee shop. What makes programmers unique is the amount of time they require on a computer, and, therefore, the amount of time they may require at your coffee shop.

If you’re not careful, this can mean a lot of people sitting around for hours and hours nursing one $4 beverage the entire time. One of the first ways, therefore, to make sure your shop is ready for programmers is to offer drink deals that encourage multiple purchases and to offer foods that go beyond the every-coffee-shop-staple: pastries. Pastries are for people with offices who are almost late to work and need something to cut the bitterness of their quick shot of espresso, or they’re for two friends catching up for an hour and a half by the window. For those customers who want to sit for, perhaps, the entire day, you’ll want to offer substantial food in order to encourage them to stay. I’ve often been caught at a comfortable, accommodating coffee shop, after hours of working finding myself famished with no options other than another blueberry muffin. If I’m already crashing, the last thing I need is a sugar-rush with that inevitable crash. You can consider the reliable sandwich, parfait, mixed nut, and fruit options. You can consider cold salads, particularly with beans or quinoa to offer energizing protein and sustainable fullness. Or you can offer whatever hot items you’d want to prepare.

As for the drink specials, you could offer a happy hour just after lunch, for example, which might encourage those sitting with their morning’s first drink to opt for a fresh one because it won’t hurt their wallet too much. You could also offer a stamp card, meaning that if these guys come into your space regularly, to do some light computer programming, and buy multiple drinks per visit, they’ll be quickly on their way to whatever free or reduced prize is at the end of that stamp card!

As for designing your space, for freelancers, the main consideration is to offer reliable (and fast) WiFi as well as accessible and numerous outlets. For accommodating business meetings and startups I’ve recommended having efficiency and work friendly tables and chairs; but, for freelance programmers, you need to consider the amount of time they’ll likely be spending in your space. For this, I recommend a range of seating options that includes the incredibly comfortable to the efficiency-demanding. My absolute favorite coffee shop to work in has all manner of cushy armchairs and couches, with coffee-style and end tables near each one, as well as the standard harder chairs or benches with individual coffee shop chairs to work at. This means that I can go in for a day-long work session and take my shoes off, cross my legs and scrunch down into a huggin armchair, without having to worry about my rearend getting sore or falling asleep. I have plenty of space to spread out, a table to place notes or to work from if need be, as well as to store my coffee and food. Each seating area has multiple outlets nearby and the WiFi is stellar; they offer everything from soups, bagels, and pastries, to more complex breakfast and lunch entrees, sodas, hard-boiled eggs, and cookies. I could (and have) live there for an entire day and have everything I need.

These are what freelancers are looking for. For programmers, the biggest difference is their probable WiFi needs–if they are website designers, they need WiFi that will move as fast as they can type even with 50 customers using the same server. You can ensure that you can afford such WiFi by only providing the password to paying customers (as in printed on their receipt or a sign at the register) and you should definitely invest in multiple servers, so that your electronics and/or employees don’t get crossed with your customers. When I work for an entire day at a place like this, I buy at least three beverages, and at least two food items, if not more.

Finally, as programmers are modernists/futurists with creative genius flowing through their brains, a cool/chill/hip space is a definite must; you want to give them something inspiring and stimulating, whatever that means to you. Consider, too, that people who stare at computer screens all day have eyes that become sensitive to light. Low/atmospheric lighting (enough to read by, but not lit up like a hospital) will give the semblance of privacy and will be gentler on your computer programming customers!

Originally published at on February 24, 2017.