Freelancing in London comes with its own challenges. Housing can be overcrowded and it can be difficult to forge a successful career while working out of coffee shops, walking the thin line of overstaying your welcome, while not breaking the bank.
Videographer Ryan Seville, 30, was facing all of those challenges. After searching all over London for the perfect café, and never quite getting it right, he decided to take matters into his own hands.
He told Eastlondonlines: “I felt lonely and isolated working from home, but going to cafés was expensive and often distracting. If you’re there all day and you buy a few coffees and a sandwich, you’ll have spent the best part of 20 quid, and that’s unsustainable”. After finding the near perfect café, the café closed down. This gave him a business partner and the drive to create his own solution.
The Hackney Workers’ Café feels warm and friendly, there is always someone to greet you by name, usually Seville’s business partner, Andrian Iftodi, 29. The café is split into two, a small café area with free flowing conversation, and a quieter co-working area for its members. The room is bustling with creativity, but there is a member’s cap, so it never feels overcrowded.
The inspiration behind the café came from a trip to Copenhagen. The Danish concept of Hygge was the catalyst. Seville explained the term: “The closest word in English would be cosy, it’s the feeling you get when you’re having a conversation with a friend or a really good cup of coffee”. According to Seville, in Denmark they try to foster that feeling, and he wanted to recreate the same feeling in his life and workplace.
“If you’re part of a community, you are happy to come to work”.
The concept behind the Workers’ Café is the warmth of a café, while still fostering a productive environment, where members can thrive and exchange skills and ideas.
The main inspiration was his own experience: “As a freelancer you often half-work all day, and then feel guilty in the evening and continue working. You have no real structure, and I wanted to create a place that gives myself and other café workers that.”
He met Iftodi, at the last café he worked at, and they soon became friends. He told Eastlondonlines: “The more time I spent there, the more I realised how amazing Andrian was with customers, he makes you feel like you’re coming back home, and it really turned these peoples’ day around”.
“It gave the place a feeling of community”.
After teaming up with Iftodi, the real work started. “This was a real grassroots campaign, we had no funding other than the Kickstarter campaign”. They started the process in November, found a venue and started their Kickstarter campaign, produced a video and they soon funded the café and opened in June.
Seville explained the reason why they decided to focus on Hackney: “We set up in Hackney because it’s a very creative community, and we’ve gotten a really good reception from people. They can see the big picture.”
The Workers’ Café offers members free coffee all day, a quiet working environment and a community. One thing Seville learnt is that freelancers love flexibility: “Freelancers have to compromise a bit on flexibility. For 5 pounds a day you’re paying less than you would in a coffee shop, you get as much coffee as you like and it’s a tax deductible. But in exchange for that, you have to commit to the café as your place to work from.”
Freelance Illustrator Alex, 36, said: “Freelancing from the Workers’ Café gets me into a good headspace and gives my day a better structure compared to working from home where dirty laundry and dirty dishes are waiting for me. I consider the Workers Café my office / studio where I work among like-minded people. I get so much more done here because procrastinating on social media isn’t really an option.”
The space is designed for locals, who want to invest into their community, Seville explains: “We’re looking for locals who really care about this place doing well, we want them to invest in their fellow members, through skill sharing, offering to help, chatting, finding out a little bit what other people are doing.” According to Seville,creating a community space benefits everyone. “Freelancers often stress a lot about work, and whether they’re going to get enough money this month, and it’s quite nice to sit back and know that you have a place, and if you invest in the local community, then that place will reward you and help you out.”
For his day job, Seville works with charities, and he wants to continue this at the Worker’s Café, he explains: “In the future, charities can post jobs and struggling freelancers can give back, while receiving a massive cut in rent”. He also wants to extend this to paying businesses in the future, he explains: “The vision is that this place will become a social enterprise, we’re not trying to make loads of money.” Hackathons and networking events are also on the horizon; the goal is a local community space for freelance workers.
Says Seville: “The dream is to open the doors to familiar faces every day, have a community of friends that all experience the same issues as freelancers in London. So we’re a team, and not just working from home by ourselves.”