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A sneak peek at the new Ziferblat Media City branch

Freelance Folk has been a big fan of Ziferblat since the start of our Freelance Friday coworking sessions in their Edge Street space back in March 2015.

A concept originating in Russia (apparently "Ziferblat" is Russian for clock face) you pay for the time that you spend inside and then everything else is free. That includes tea, coffee, cake, biscuits, cereal, snacks and more (sometimes there are scones if you're lucky). 

Currently the rates are 8p per minute, but there's a four-hour day cap, so the most you'll ever pay for a day is £19.20. With fast wifi and lots of plug sockets, it's a great place to work from if you're freelance like me and fancy a change of scenery, but without feeling like you have to buy a cup of coffee every hour. 

 Pay for your time and everything else is free 

Pay for your time and everything else is free 

They've been busy bees in the last couple of years, and after opening additional branches in Liverpool they've come back to their roots and have just opened a new Manchester branch in Media City (although technically, it's in Salford, which is not the same as Manchester). 

Being a nosey person, I naturally wanted to come along on their first day of opening and so I took myself into the big city and navigated the Metrolink, feeling quite like a tourist as I went beyond my Northern Quarter comfort zone. On my walk from the tram stop, I spotted a handily located Booths store that would be perfect to pop out and get a nice lunch from (at Ziferblat you can bring your own food in and they even have a microwave and a little oven if you need to heat anything up). 

 The kitchen area at the Media City branch

The kitchen area at the Media City branch

Stepping into the Tomorrow Building you can tell that it's a different type of location to the original Edge Street branch, and at first I was slightly concerned that it might have lost its charm when transported to a more shiny, corporate environment. Luckily, those worries soon subsided as I turned the corner into the main sitting area and I immediately felt at home. They've done a very good job of working with the space whilst retaining the quirky vibe from the Northern Quarter branch. There are the familiar mismatched sofas and chairs, along with some longer tables that would be perfect for coworking. 

 Mark and Simon from  Bamboo Manchester  at the coworking tables

Mark and Simon from Bamboo Manchester at the coworking tables

There are also some new additions based on lessons learned from earlier branches and feedback from the people at Edge Street (including the Freelance Friday community) so there are more plug sockets and smaller private meeting spaces for up to four people. Of course, being Ziferblat, they aren't boring meeting rooms. At the edge of the ground floor space there are two cute little "Ziferhuts" which are decked out with fairy lights; one has a TV screen and the other has a whiteboard. After blogging just yesterday about the amazing day I had in a beach hut in Lytham St Anne's, I'm excited to use one of these little spaces! 

 The Ziferhuts, which are perfect if you need a bit more privacy 

The Ziferhuts, which are perfect if you need a bit more privacy 

Another noticeable change is the addition of a mezzanine, which can be hired out separately for events. One of the issues that they had at Edge Street was one of capacity; if someone wanted a large space then they would have to close the branch for public access, so having the upper level (which also has breakout rooms) means that this space can be used privately whilst members of the public can still come and use the ground floor.

They could easily have put a full width second level in, but by only using half of the available space for the mezzanine, both areas feel really light and airy. The massive glass windows also contribute to this, and I didn't feel too much like I was in a fishbowl as there isn't currently loads of passing foot traffic. 

 Looking down from the mezzanine

Looking down from the mezzanine

They've kept the classroom and Russian dining room themed meeting rooms from the Edge Street branch, which are on the upper level and hold between 14 and 28 people, plus on the ground floor, in addition to the Ziferhuts there's a "Secret Study" behind the front desk which fits up to 18 people. Due to the location, it feels sensible to have such flexible meeting space and coworking options. There's a Premier Inn in the same building and it's right by some of the main points of interest in the area so it'll be interesting to see what the balance is between business use and people popping in for a cup of tea.

In terms of our coworking sessions, we'll keep the well established Freelance Friday afternoon group going at Edge Street (2-5pm every Friday) but at some point it'd be fun to do a monthly coworking get together here at Media City. It's felt a bit like coming on holiday as it's not somewhere I'd usually visit, and because they've taken our comments into account it's actually slightly better set up for coworking than the Northern Quarter branch. 

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Katy Carlisle