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!

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21 Comments

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  1. I assume the writer of this blog is a certified digital nomad. 🙂 The article written above is so me. I prefer going to coffee shops for work with a stable net connection and peaceful location. And of course, a cup of coffee will complete my day.

  2. Hi, thanks for the post. It’s really great info for coffee shop owners, who are wanting to attract programmers to their shop. And I like the idea of offering more substantial food for customers who would like to stay longer without having to leave because they’re hungry.

  3. Amazing post! Freelancers specially programmers need a peaceful environment, where they can convert their ideas into working code… I salute the coffee shops who provide suitable environment to the programmers…

  4. Interesting!
    A lot of programmers like coffee so much that they named one of the most popular programming languages on coffee!! maybe because for them it’s a symbol for concentration!
    so, It’s smart for coffee shop managers to make use of this fact to attract programmers by spending some effort like providing wi-Fi and other tips mentioned here, Thanks!

  5. Catering for programmers can be a bit tricky sometimes.
    First and foremost you have to have great internet access that can support multiple connections running at the same time. Also, you have to be ready for greater electricity bills, since the devices the programmers use need to be charged often.
    Besides, as you mentioned in the text, there has to be a special menu that encourages people to order more drinks, so you don’t end up with a full cafe and no profit from it.
    Finally, since most programming works require longer hours to complete, food is a must, because they have to eat something so they can complete their work, and not have to stop and go out to buy food at another place.
    All in all, catering to programmers requires great dedication and attention from business owners, but in return is welcomed with great appreciation.

  6. the number of programmers is increasing every day, that’s why when you enter a coffee shop you see a lot of them sitting there working. I think a coffee shop should be calm to help them concentrate, and as mentioned in the article a reliable wifi is essential to attract them and calm music would help as well.

  7. I know how long a programmer can sit and how comfortable they like to be…as we have a family friend that has been known to spend many an hour upon our couch, using our WiFi. Yikes! Now I wish I had a coffee shop so that I could entice him to buy my coffee and sandwiches while doing the very important work of a programmer. And if I ever decide to follow in his footsteps, I think I’ll find a coffee shop that caters to this niche, instead of camping out on a friend’s couch. haha!

  8. I think the idea of a punch card is great! I would love it if the shops I frequent offered something like that. Programmers aren’t really a niche that most shops consider, but I think that implementing the things like free Wi-Fi to customers would be something that would benefit all groups.

  9. This post is a little relatable as I have been without internet at my own home before and found myself in need of a place to hunker down for a day. I will say that considering food allergies is a major bonus. I’m gluten intolerant, so often things like sandwiches and pastries are not an option for me. However, parfaits and soups are great!

  10. I think letting people pay for staying for an hour or the whole day while giving them a complimentary drink or meal is the best way to let this kind of customers in your cafe without getting bankrupt. Having a napping station is also a good way to foster that little office space where the programmer can take a step back and have a quick power nap when he or she is feeling a little bit burnt out with his or her workload.

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