the life freelance in phnom penh….workspace?

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Working from home...yes it looks peaceful, until the jackhammers start across the street!

You know those old adages….we should strive to work to live vs. living to work? Well – when you’re freelancing those two views pretty much get jumbled.  And more so – freelance consulting may also mean that your living spaces get mixed up with your workspaces – especially in Phnom Penh.

With the onset of the financial recession and efforts to reduce overhead, there’s a heck of a lot more freelancers here now.  And moreover – quite a few don’t have office space.  What then?  Well we have an office at our flat.  It’s a pretty nice one too and we do have a mobile broadband modem, so web access isn’t really a concern. But I just can’t work at home!  It feels so sacreligious!  I was never even able to study at home either so I don’t see work happening there.  Plus the desk that came with our place just isn’t right.  I’m very much a Goldilocks when it comes to office furniture.

Café Living Room on a quiet day. You can pretty spot the freelance consultants from a mile away.

So where then?  Well, there’s been an explosion in café culture in Phnom Penh.  A couple of years ago – freelancers with their MacBooks would usually congregate at Café Living Room (House #9, street 306 in BKK1) with their yummy food, quality coffees and free wi-fi.  I have literally spent entire days there working.  From 9 till 5.  It’s also a very comfy and well designed lovely place to work.  But sadly – they don’t have air conditioning which means the hot season can get pretty intense there. And it’s now considered on the slightly more expensive end of cafés cum offices.  Nonetheless – it is still a great place to eat, drink, work and network – you never know who you’ll see there!

Brown Coffee & Bakery...not bad and you can get a frequent customer card!

If it’s more of a Starbucks-type location you’re looking for, you really don’t need to look far.  Since 2010, Western-style cafés have exploded in the city.  Prior to this, the city was more or less segregated with expatriates and Cambodians hanging out in separate enclaves.  With all of these new cafés and increased economic power among many Cambodian households, those walls have pretty much been dashed.  Now everyone with a Macbook or iPad is practically hanging out at Brown Coffee & Bakery (various locations on streets 57, 51 and 214).  Although it is a little loud for my taste, Brown has great coffee, free and dependable WI-FI, an abundance of electrical outlets for your laptops and also a great vibe to work from during the day.  It can get pretty busy though – you never know when there will be a massive Chinese tour group occupying the booths, or when it seems that everyone is having a work meeting there.  So timing is key!

Café Namu - I just love the bright setting and cute fluffy cold drinks!

But if it’s a quieter nook that you’re after – we just discovered a great one.  Café Namu (#28B, Street 310 x 57) is fantastic!  I love their big array of cute seating arrangements, the great coffees, teas, brunches and baked goods available at affordable prices and generally lightness and brightness.  Though the power and free WI-FI do go on and off at times, I still think it makes for a great workspace and in general a great café to hang out in.  Definitely do check it out!

Otherwise, I’ve been lucky that my last two employers have found me workspace at their offices.  But there’s sometimes a caveat.  I can’t believe I’ve just had my first work-related injury!  Pinched nerve due to a bad chair! Ugh.  Time to find a new workspace.

All photos in this post, unless otherwise noted, by infinitiff.  Please do not reproduce or use without permission).


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