The Ultimate Guide to FREE Co-working: how to work from the world’s most beautiful locations without chasing wifi and wasting time.
June 5, 2018
If you are tired working from coffee shops and running around town, you are not alone. Finding comfortable spots to work can be very daunting and extremely time consuming.
As a nomadic entrepreneur, I don’t have access to an office all the time, so I need to be creative everyday just to do work.
Over time, I learned and now have co-worked from the most epic locations on Earth ranging from Richard Branson’s Necker island to rooftops of luxury hotels.
This guide will give you a complete action plan to stay productive while exploring some of the most epic places at zero cost.
When a room costs $800 a night, it’s not the price for 30sq. m. of space, but all the lavish amenities that come alongside.
My favorite hotels to work from are the W, Ritz Carlton, 4 Seasons and Hyatt. Pretty much any hotel starting at $500 / night will have a great environment for coworking.
You are probably thinking who in his right mind would rent a tiny room for this much. It’s just wasteful, right?
In reality, those hotels are often designed for business travelers with big companies expensing those lavish costs. Same thing happens with air travel, where the business class cabin generates x2-x3 profit per sq. ft. compared the economy cabin.
As a result hotels work really hard to create an optimal environment for their guests to be productive. And that’s exactly where you come in.
So where do you actually work from?
Almost every elite hotel chain has a loyalty program that comes with many perks. The best part of them is a top-floor lounge with great buffet and service.
A few month back I spent almost a week enjoying one of the most expensive skylines in the world, lightning fast wifi and incredible food. All for free. Thank you Grand Hyatt San Francisco.
In order to get into those, you need to have a membership card. But walking in with a group of people has never been easier. I’ve even knocked on the door once to ask someone to let me in. No questions asked.
Business centers at hotels are exactly like a good coworking space: they have meeting rooms, printers and good internet. The main difference is that they are not as busy as most traditional co-working spaces.
Those are incredible to meet people and do creative work. Once you pass the reception, you should be able to find launges dedicated for people to hang out and chill. You can grab a drink (very overpriced obviously), enjoy live music and flow
One of my favorites is in St. Regis at Mexico City.
Lobbies are one of my favorites, because they almost always high tables that I use as a standing task. One of my all time bests is the Palace Hotel San Francisco.
Yeah, you just walk in. No questions asked.
Make sure that you look presentable and dress nice enough.
Best thing of all, I’ve never worried about leaving my stuff at expensive hotels when I need to take a walk or hit the restroom.
If you are traveling to an exotic location and want to justify why you flew thousands of miles from home to be in front of your computer, there is a trick.
Again, find a top hotel in the ridiculous price range somewhere on the beach or on top of a mountain (if you are in the Alps).
Walk in like you own the place and head straight to the beach. Don’t look like a lost puppy, because that’s not going to play in your favour, and you’ll feel uncomfortable (nobody else really cares).
Grab a towel. It has another use that was not mentioned in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (my nerdy reference).
A hotel towel, is about the most massively useful thing an Earthen traveling hustler can have. You can use a hotel towel as a really good “identifier” that makes you look like you are a guest. You can also dry yourself off with it.
Here is how one of my workation spots looks like:
Upscale Apartment complexes 99% of the time have cool areas to work from AND 20-person meeting rooms, private dining areas, movie theaters and gyms.
To find those, go to Google Maps and type in “luxury apartments.” Flip through the pictures to find coworkable places on the same floor as reception. Walk in.
Note: it’s better to go to NEW apartment complexes, because concierges often know residents by their first name and you’ll have a harder time.
It’s considerably harder to get into apartments building, because you need a key card to the right area or talk to the concierge.
I like going to places, where my friends live. They already pay $7k/m rent for a two bedroom in SF and do not mind me using the common area. Just ask!
I’m talking about good (and expensive) ones. Meetups won’t work well here.
You want to co-work from event venues mainly to bump into cool people and get industry-specific networking opportunities.
New professional contacts, prospective business, food and free co-working. Not bad.
First, find good events. You can do it either by googling or by going to the Eventbrite.com discover section. Facebook is not a good option for quality events.
Make sure that you choose events that you are actually interested in for a better experience.
Good events are usually held at either upscale hotels or conference halls. You already know how to work from hotels.
For conference halls, you can get in usually pretty easily. Arrive around lunch time, when attendees are going in and out, and walk straight in.
You can also ask someone who looks like he/she is leaving for the badge. You may need to approach 3-5 people, before you actually get it. It just takes 3-5 min, so don’t sweat it.
I go to almost all $1k+ events for free. A little hustle has never killed nobody.
Startups & Corporate Lobby’s
Those areas are designed for quick meetings. They are great for quick sessions, 1-3h.
Here is a cool thing: if you want to get a job at, say, LinkedIn, you have thousands of employees from LinkedIn walking in and out every day. Go make some magic happen.
Speaking of LinkedIn...
Located at LinkedIn HQ, Equators Coffee is one of my favorite pop-in coworking spots.
I love coworking with friends. The atmosphere and energy is just another level.
Not that long ago, I rented out a villa for 5 month in Tulum, Mexico. My bathroom was the size of a studio in San Francisco and had a full-size tree growing in the middle. Chef’s kitchen. Jacuzzi. You name it.
But here is what was missing: productive environment to crush work.
My friends from the area as well as the U.S., Canada and Europe started flying in for a coworkation.
It had changed the game.
I encourage you to start something like this yourself or ask friends, if they would be interested.
Early in his career, Richard Branson turned his first Virgin records store into a hangout spot for everyone just to pop in, listen to music and have conversations. He turned hundreds of people into brand ambassadors. This fun and human-centric approach has helped create one of the most powerful brands in history. Richard, then 21, did the same thing with the Manor Studio, where the Virgin Record’s biggest hits was born. Artists could stay over as long as they wanted and jam. Give give give.
Lastly, many of my friends have private club memberships such as the Battery or Soho House that they use as an office. Definitely get invites to those. They are a lot of fun.
Public libraries are one of the best co-working locations out there, yet least known. They are completely FREE by design. And yes, many of them have good open wifi.
Con: you can’t make phone calls.
Collage libraries also work really really well.
Pro Tip: Luggage & Gym Upgrade
I like going for a little bit of extra hustle.
Have you gone places where you have just 16h in the city after a 12h red-eye?
You are tired, feel nasty, the jet-leg is catching up and you are carrying around 2 extra heavy suitcases. This is when you start re-evaluating your travels and think you should have stayed home.
All those can be solved in about 10 minutes, really. And best of all, you’ll be fresh and ready to explore a cool layover town.
Go to Booking.com or alike and find a 5-star baller hotel (shoot for expensive again). Look for bookings with free cancellations for about 7 days ahead (or whatever the free cancellation policy allows).
Check 5 times before you actually book, because you are at risk of losing $1,000. It’s worth it. I’ve never had problems with cancellations.
Congrats! You’ve just bought yourself a free ticket to everything that comes with an luxury hotel other than that 30sq. m. cell.
When you arrive, go straight to the language folks and leave your stuff with them. They usually don’t ask for your room number. But if they do, say that you are checking in a bit later.
Boom, you no longer have to explore a cool city with your heavy begs.
This is a lot harder to pull off, if you are a backpacker.
Here is where we go for the big close.
Go to the concierge and explain your situation. Be extra kind, friendly and authentic.
You: Hey Shin. I have a reservation with you in a few days from now, but I had to make a quick trip a bit earlier. I just came from a 12h flight from Los Angeles and would love to use the gym upstairs to take a quick shower.
How can I do that?
At this point you should be golden. Again super expensive hotels go out of their way to make their guests happy.
Concierge: Renat, I do not think we could do it, before you are checked in with us.
You: Shin, can you please check what you can do with your supervisor. I’ve unfortunately had to be in a similar situation staying with your sister hotel down in Singapore and there was never a problem.
You guys at the W really know how create an incredible experience for guests. It was a really long flight and I’d like to change.
At this point, the concierge will show you upstairs to the gym, where you can take a shower, exercise and change. Oh yeah, and enjoy the view from the pool on the 40th floor.
This works! The only thing is you will probably feel a bit uncomfortable doing it the first few times.
But you know:
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” — Neale Donald Walsch
Traveler Pro Tip
Want to reset your body clock and feel like a million bucks after a long flight?
Hit the gym the first thing after you land. I am also a bit weird for doing yoga in the airplane bathrooms....
Now you know how to co-work from the coolest locations for free.
Sounds good in theory, right?
Creating opportunities out of nowhere and being creative is a mindset and a lifestyle.
Go try some tomorrow, even if you work at Google that treats you chef food and massages.
Tweet your pictures working from epic locations at @imrenat with hashtag #hackcoworking #lifestyleengineering or comment below.
Advancing humanity through exponential technologies and engineering universal happiness.
Born into a nomadic family of entrepreneurs, I have been exposed to a lot of hustle and perspectives from visiting 60+ countries. From meeting presidents to kitesurfing on the Necker island, I learn from the world’s top performers and seek ways I could create value for everyone I surround myself with and beyond.